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William Burkitt (1650-1703) on Hebrews 2:9 and 14

June 18, 2009

Burkitt:

1) Hebrews 2:9:

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man

Observe here, 1 The wonderful humiliation and abasement, the exinanition and deep depression, of the glorious Jesus: he was made for a little time lower than the angels: that is, he was made man, and mortal, and did suffer death. Observe, 2 The manner of our Lord’s death: he tasted it, he did really taste of it, and but taste of it; he tasted death, that is, he died really, and not in appearance only, he lasted it. Implying that he underwent the bitterness of it: he found out experimentally what death was by dying, as a man finds out the bitterness of a thing by tasting. Again, he did but taste of it, he was not finally overcome and vanquished by it; he continued but a short time under it, it was not possible that he should be long holden of it; the dignity of his person rendered a short continuance of him under the power of death sufficient for our redemption. Observe, 3. The persons for whom he tasted death, or died: for others, not for himself; that is, for their room and stead; he underwent that death in our stead, which we should have undergone in our own persons. Observe, 4. The extent of Christ’s death; he tasted death for every man; that is, Christ by his death has made God propitious to every man, made sin remissible, and every man saveable; the death of Christ renders God willing to be reconciled unto all sinners; faith renders him actually reconciled. The reason why every man doth not obtain salvation, is not for want of a sufficient propitiation. Observe, 5. The moving cause which inclined God to deliver up Christ to death, and to transfer our punishment upon him, and that was his own grace and free good-will, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Observe, 6. The glorious reward of our Lord’s sufferings with reference to himself. We see Jesus, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor. As Christ’s meritorious sufferings for us, so shall our patient suffering for him, be rewarded with the highest glory in heaven, 1 Pet. V. 10. “The God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect,” &c.   William Burkitt, Expository Notes With Practical Observations on the New Testament (Philadelphia: Published by Thomas Wardle, 1835), 2:586-587.589. [Some spelling modernized, italics original, and underlining mine.]

2) Hebrews 2:14-15:

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.

Observe here, 1. The reality of Christ’s assuming the human nature asserted: “As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” Which is in effect the same he had asserted in the foregoing verse, that he that sanctifies, and they that are sanctified, are all of one, that is, of one nature and original. Observe, 2. A twofold reason assigned, why Christ thus condescendingly assumed the human nature, namely, that he might destroy the devil, who has the power of death, and deliver his people that were under the slavish fear of death. Here note, 1. The devil described in a very formidable manner, as one that had the power of death; not the supreme, but a subordinate, power of death; a power of death, as God’s executioner to inflict it: the devil has the power of death, just as the hangman has the power of the gallows, to put those to death whom the judge condemns only. Note, 2. Him that has thus the power of death, has Christ destroyed, that is, disarmed and disabled; not destroyed his being, but disarmed him of his power and authority over the children of God. Note, 3. That Christ did this by his own death: through death; that is, by his own dying, he destroyed him that had the power of death: it was upon the cross that he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly; Christ by dying conquered death. The second reason of Christ’s appearing in our flesh and nature, was to deliver his people from the slavery and bondage of the sinful and servile fears of death. Here note, 1. That there is a natural fear of death, which is not sinful. Art thou afraid of death? Thou wert not a man if thou didst not fear it: there cannot but be in nature an aversion to its own dissolution; and nature will always act like itself. Note, 2. That there is a servile, slavish fear of death, which hath both sin and torment in it; a fear of death as penal, and drawing after it everlasting punishment. Note, 3. That unregenerate men. if a senseless stupidity has not benumbed them, and a spirit of slumber fallen upon them, are in bondage under the servile and slavish fear of death. It will daunt the stoutest man that ever lived to look upon death, when he can see nothing but hell beyond it. Note, 4. That Jesus Christ, by dying, has freed ail his children from this servile and tormenting fear of death. 1. Christ has taken away the true reason of the fear of death, namely, the curse and condemnation of the law of God. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law”: death has its wounding power from sin, and sin has its condemning power from the law. 2. Christ has assured believers that they shall not be losers, but gainers, yea, great gamers, by death; considering the private evils treed from, and the positive good they shall rest in.   William Burkitt, Expository Notes With Practical Observations on the New Testament (Philadelphia: Published by Thomas Wardle, 1835), 2:588-589. [Some spelling modernized, italics original, and underlining mine.]

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