Hebrews 12:1
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
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(1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about.—Rather, Therefore let us alsosince we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesseshaving put away all encumbrance and the sin . . . run with patient endurance the race that is set before us, looking, &c. (In so difficult a verse as this we need an exactness of translation which might not otherwise be desirable.) It is plain that the chief thought is, “Let us run our race with patient endurance, looking unto Jesus the Author . . . of our faith;” so that here again we have the thought which the writer is never weary of enforcing, the need of faith and patience for all who would inherit the promises. The connection is chiefly with the last verses of Hebrews 11, which are, indeed, a summary of the whole chapter. The purpose of God has been that those who throughout the past ages obtained witness of Him through their faith should not reach their consummation apart from us. To that consummation, then, let us press forward. Present to us in the view of Christ’s accomplished sacrifice, it is all future in regard of personal attainment. As those who have preceded us reached the goal, each one for himself, by faith and patient endurance, so must we. The thought of persevering effort crowned by a recompence of reward (Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 10:35-39) very naturally suggested the imagery of the public games (by this time familiar even to Jews), to which St. Paul in his Epistles so frequently alludes. (See 1Corinthians 4:9; 1Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:12-14; 1Timothy 6:12; 2Timothy 4:7-8; comp. Hebrews 10:32-33.) In these passages are called up the various associations of the great national festivals of Greece—the severe discipline of the competitors, the intenseness of the struggle, the rewards, “the righteous judge,” the crowd of spectators. Most of these thoughts are present here (Hebrews 12:1-2; Hebrews 12:4), and new joints of comparison are added, so that the scene is brought vividly before our eyes. It has been often supposed that the word “witnesses” is used in the sense of spectators of the race. To an English reader this idea is very natural (as “witnesses” may simply mean beholders), but there is no such ambiguity in the Greek word (martyres). The Greek fathers rightly understood it to signify those who bear witness, and the chief point of doubt seems to have been whether the sense is general, or whether the word bears its later meaning—martyrs, who have borne testimony with their blood. Those who thus encompass us, a countless “host (a “cloud” of witnesses), have had witness borne to them through their faith, and in turn stand forth as witnesses to faith, bearing testimony to its power and works. One and all ‘they offer encouragement to us in our own contest of faith, and for this reason they are mentioned here. That the idea of the presence of spectators may be contained in the other words, “compassed about with so great a cloud,” is very possible; but no interpretation must be allowed to interfere with the chief thought—that the runner’s steadfast gaze is fixed on Him who has Himself traversed the course before us, and is now the Judge and Rewarder.

Every weight.—The Greek word was sometimes used by Greek writers to denote the excessive size and weight of body which the athlete sought to reduce by means of training; but may also signify the encumbrance of any burden, unnecessary clothing, and the like. It is here best taken in a general sense, as denoting anything that encumbers, and thus renders the athlete less fitted for the race. In the interpretation we might perhaps, think of the pressure of earthly cares, were it not that the writer seems to have in mind the special dangers of the Hebrew Christians. The “divers and strange teachings” spoken of in Hebrews 13:9, in which would be included the Judaising practices which they were tempted to observe (such as St. Peter described as a “yoke” too heavy to be borne), will probably suit the figure best.

And the sin which doth so easily beset us.—The last six words are the translation of a single adjective, which does not occur elsewhere. The Greek commentators, from whom we might expect some light cm. the phrase, seem to be entirely reduced to conjecture. Chrysostom, for example, adopts in various places two altogether different meanings, “sin which easily (or, completely) surrounds us,” “sin which is easily overcome.” To these Theophylact adds a third, “sin through which man is easily brought into danger.” The prevailing opinion amongst modern writers appears to be that the word signifies well (or, easily) surrounding; and that the writer is comparing sin with a garment—either a loosely fitting garment by which the runner becomes entangled and tripped up, or one that clings closely to him and thus impedes his ease of movement. This view of the meaning is taken in our earlier English versions, which either follow the Latin (Wiclif, “that standeth about us;” Rhemish, “that compasseth us”), or render the words, the sin that hangeth on, or, that hangeth so fast on. The sense is excellent, but it is very doubtful whether the Greek will admit of such a rendering. Though the exact word is not found elsewhere, there are words closely allied as to the meaning of which there is no doubt Analogy clearly points to the signification much admired (literally, well surrounded by an admiring crowd). It is not impossible that even with this meaning the words “lay aside” or put away (often applied to putting off clothing) might still suggest a garment; if so, the allusion might be to a runner who refused to put off a garment which the crowd admired, though such an encumbrance must cause him to fail of the prize. It is more likely that the writer speaks of sin generally as an obstacle to the race, which must be put aside if the runner is to contend at all. If we look at the later exhortations of the Epistle, we shall find repeated mention of the reproach which the followers of Christ must bear. Even in the history of Moses (Hebrews 11:26) there are words which suggest the thought. (See also Hebrews 10:33; Hebrews 13:13). So in the next verse we read of the cross of Jesus and the shame which He despised. Over against this “reproach” is set the sin which is sure to win man’s favour and applause—the sin of which we have read in Hebrews 10:26 (comp. Hebrews 11:25), which, seemingly harmless in its first approaches, will end in a “falling away from the living God.” The rendering with which the Authorised version has made us familiar is full of interest, but cannot (at all events as it is commonly understood) be an expression of the sense intended. Whatever view be taken of the one peculiar word, it does not seem possible that the phrase can point to what is known as a “besetting sin,” the sin which in the case of any one of us is proved to possess especial power.



Hebrews 12:1THE previous clauses of this verse bring before us the runner’s position as ‘compassed about with a cloud of witnesses,’ and his preparation as ‘laying aside every weight and.., sin.’ The text carries us a stage further in the metaphor, and shows us the company of runners standing ready, stripped, and straining at the starting-post, with the long course stretching before them.

The metaphor of the Christian life as a race is threadbare, so far as our knowledge is concerned, but it may be questioned if it has sunk deeply enough into the practice of any of us. It is a very noble one, and contains an ideal of the Christian life which it would do us all good to hold up by the side of our realisation of it. It might stimulate and it would shame us. What is the special note of that metaphor? Compare with the ‘kindred one, equally well-worn and threadbare, of a journey or a pilgrimage. The two have much in common. They both represent life as changeful, continuous, progressive, tending to an end; but the metaphor of the race underscores, as it were, another idea, that of effort. The traveller may go at his Leisure, he may fling himself down to rest under a tree, he may diverge from the road, but the runner must not look askance, must not he afraid of dust or sweat, must tax muscle and lungs to the utmost, if, panting, he is to reach the goal and win the prize, So, very significantly, our writer here puts forward only one characteristic of the race. It is to be ‘run with patience,’ by which great word the New Testament means, not merely passive endurance, noble and difficult as that may be, but active perseverance which presses on unmoved, ay, and unhindered, to its goal in the teeth of all opposition.

But, whilst that is the special characteristic of the metaphor, as distinguished from others kindred to it, and of the ideal which it sets forth, I desire in this sermon to take a little wider sweep, and to try to bring out the whole of the elements which lie in this well-worn figure. I see in it four things: a definite aim, clearly apprehended and eagerly embraced; a God- appointed path; a steady advance; and a strenuous effort. Now let us ask ourselves the question, Do they correspond to anything in my professing Christian life?

We have here, then

I. A definite aim, clearly apprehended and eagerly embraced.

Most men have aims, definite enough, in regard lower things, and if you ask the average man out of the ruck what he is living for, he will generally be able to answer curtly and clearly, or at any rate his life will show, even if he cannot put it into words. But all these are means rather than ends; ‘I am living to make a big business.’ ‘I am living to make a fortune.’ ‘I am living to found a family.’ ‘I am living to learn a science, an art, a profession.’ ‘I am living for enjoy-merit,’ etc., etc. Yes, and then suppose somebody perks up with the exceedingly inconvenient further question, ‘Well, and what then?’ Then, all that fabric of life-aims rushes down into destruction, and is manifest for what it is-altogether disproportionate to the man that is pursuing it. Such shabby, immediate’ aims’ are not worth calling so. But my text sets forth far beyond, and far above them, the one only goal which it is becoming, which it is natural which it is anything else than ludicrous, if it were not so tragical, that any man should be pursuing. And what is that mark? You can put it in a hundred different ways. Evangelical Christian people generally say salvation, and a great many so-called Evangelical Christian people have a very low, inadequate, and selfish idea of what they mean by the word. Let us put it in another form. The only aim that it is worthy of a man to live for, as his supreme and dominant one, is that he shall be completely moulded in character, disposition, nature, heart, and will into the likeness of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God, and that he shall pass into no Nirvana of unconsciousness, but into that blessed union with the divine nature, which is not absorption into it, or the Weakening of the individual, but the making a man tenfold more himself because he lives in God, as the taper plunged into the jar of oxygen, which burns the brighter for its surroundings, and unlike the taper, is unconsumed by burning. Thus the complete development of human character into the divine image, and the complete union of the human with the divine, is the aim that Christianity sets before us.

And that aim it becomes every one of us professing Christians clearly to apprehend, and keep ever in view as the thing to which we are not merely tending, but to which we are striving. Clearly apprehended, and eagerly embraced, this conception of the purpose of our lives must be if we are not to make them ignoble and conscious or unconscious hypocrisies. But remember that such an aim may be pursued through, and requires for its attainment, all those lower aims and ends which monopolise men’s efforts without regard to anything beyond. What we want most is a Christianity which, recognising that great, supreme purpose, follows it persistently and doggedly through all nearer and lesser pursuits. We want our Christian principle to penetrate into all the tissues of our lives, and to bring there healing, purging, and quickening. And if we suppose that the greatest of all aims is contrary to any of these lesser ones, except such of them as are sinful, then we misapprehend both the highest blessedness and good of the nearest objects that are set before us, and still more fatally misapprehend the very genius and intention of that Christianity, which is not unworldliness but the secret of making the world and all its fading sweets subservient to this highest end.

Now, need I say one word as to the nobleness and blessedness of a life which is consistently and thoroughly ordered with a view to this great aim? Think of the unity that thus will be blessedly breathed over all the else bewildering diversity of earthly conditions and occupations. As the moon gathers into one great tidal wave the heaped waters of the shoreless ocean, and mastering currents, and laughing at the opposing powers of the tempest, carries the watery wall round the earth, so the white, pure beam of that aim shining down on the confused welter of our earthly life will draw it all after itself. Think, too, of the power that comes into a life from this unity. A man of one aim is always formidable, and high above all other aims in its absorbing power is this one that a Christian man only deserves his name if-he sets and keeps before him. Such a unity will, if I may so say, gather together the whole power of our nature, and bring it into a point, and it will heat it as well as concentrate it. If you take a bit of blunt iron, cold, and try to bore a hole in a ten-inch plank, you will make little progress; but if you sharpen it to a point, and heat it red-hot, then it will penetrate anything. So my life gathered up into one, and heated, by the very fact of its being concentrated, will pierce through all obstacles, and I shall be strong in the proportion in which ‘ this one thing I do,’ and do it through all other things.

I need not remind you, either, of the blessedness which is involved in this unity of aim, clearly apprehended and eagerly embraced, in so far as it will act as a test of all lower pursuits and objects Wherever there comes a little rill of fresh water down upon the coral reef the creatures that build it die, and the reef disappears, and thus a great aim will kill all lower ones that work in the dark, creeping and crawling, and that are contrary to itself.

Further, this supreme aim is supremely blessed, because it will shine ever before us. There is a blessedness in having an object of pursuit which we never reach. It is better to steer straight to the pole-star, though we never get there, than to creep like the old mariners, from headland to headland, and leave behind us sinking on the backward horizon, purpose after purpose, hope after hope, aim after aim. Better to have it shining ahead. Let me point out the second idea contained in this metaphor, that of

II. A God-appointed path.

The race is ‘ set before us.’ Set before us by whom? The course is staked out and determined by the Judge of the games. And that may well be applied in two directions. My duties are appointed by God, and if only we realise that, and bring the thought of His will continually into connection with the smallest of the sets which circumstance, relationships, occupations and the like constitute our duties, how different they all become! It is an entirely different thing to say, ‘Being where I am, I must do so-and-so’; or ‘Right and wrong being what it is, I must do so-and-so; or to say,’ This and that man prescribes ‘so, and-so for me’; and to say. ‘Thou hast prepared a path for us, and ordained that we should walk therein.’ That elevates, that sweetens, that calms us, that smooths the road, makes the rough places plain and the crooked things straight. We want with the clear vision of the aim the equally clear and abiding persuasion that God has appointed the path. A modern thinker said that religion was morality touched by emotion. No, religion is morality transfigured into obedience to the law of God. Bring your duties into connection with His appointment, and they will all be easy; and when the path stretches gloomy before you, and it seems that you are called upon to do some hard thing, say: ‘Created unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.’

Then there is the other thought that, as the duties are appointed by Him, so the circumstances are appointed, too. You know what they call an obstacle-race, in which the intention is to accumulate as many difficulties in the course as can be crowded into it; I fancy that is a good deal like the race that is set before all of us, by God’s wisdom. There are many fences to be climbed, many barriers to be crept under, many deep ditches to be waded through, many bad bits of road studded with sharp points, through which we have to pick our way. We say as to ourselves, and as to our friends, ‘What does it all mean?’ And the answer is, ‘He has set the race before for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness.’

Again, we have here the notion of

III. A steady progress.

Continual advance is the very salt of the Christian life, and unless there be such progress there is something fatally wrong with the Christianity. An unprogressive Christianity is very apt to become a moribund and then a dead Christianity. Of course that is so because the aim of which I have been speaking is, in its very nature, inaccessible and yet capable of indefinite approximation. ‘Alps upon Alps arise.’ Neither in regard to the intellectual or spiritual apprehension of the deep things of God, nor in regard to the incorporation of His likeness into itself, will human nature ever be able to say, ‘Lo, I have passed through the land, and know it all.’ But an indefinite approximation to an eternally unreached point is a description of a geometrical figure, and it is the description of the Christian life. And, therefore, at no point must we stop, and at no point is it safe for us to say, ‘I have apprehended and attained.’ Our nature, quite as much as the divine nature towards which we tend, demands this continuous progress, for the human spirit is capable of an indefinite expansion, and the seed of the life kindred to God which is lodged in every believing soul, though it be at the beginning ‘less than the least of all,’ must grow into a great tree.

Ah, brethren! what a sad contrast to this unbroken progress our lives present to our own consciousness! How many Christian people there are who have almost lost sight of the notion, and have certainly ceased from the practice of an unbroken advance in either of the directions of which I have been speaking, likeness to God or communion with Him! Ask yourselves the question, ‘Am I further on than I was this day last year, this day ten years, this day twenty years?’ The Japanese gardeners pride themselves on having the secret of dwarfing forest trees, and they will put an oak into a flower-pot; and there it is, only a few inches high, in age a patriarch, in height a seedling. And that is what a great many of you Christian people are doing, dwarfing the tree; even if you are not distorting it. And now the last thing that I point out here is

IV. The strenuous effort, I have already said a word or two about that as being the differentia, the special characteristic, of this metaphor.

And I may just refer for one moment to the fact that the word rendered here ‘race,’ and quite rightly so rendered, literally means a contest - ‘Let us run the contest that is set before us.’ What does that say? Why, just this, that every foot of advance has to be fought; it is not merely ‘running,’ it is conflict as well. And then, pointing in the same direction, comes the selection in the text, which I have already touched upon, of the one qualification that is necessary - patient endurance, which suggests antagonism. Opposition - where does the opposition come from? The Apostle asked the Galatians that once. ‘Ye did run well; what did hinder you?’ And the answers are diverse: flowers by the roadside, golden apples flung across the course, siren voices tempting us, the force of gravity holding us back, the pressure of the wind on our faces. Yes, and my own self most of all That is what hinders, and that is what has to be fought against by myself. Effort, effort, effort is the secret of all noble life, in all departments, and it is the secret of advancing Christian life.

Now, let us understand aright the relations between the faith of which the New Testament makes so much and the effort of which this metaphor makes so much. A great many Christian people seem to fancy that faith supersedes effort. Not so! It stimulates and strengthens effort. If I trust, I receive the power to run, but whether I shall really run or not depends on myself. God gives the ability in Jesus Christ, and then we have to use the ability, and to turn it into an actuality. They have invented a movable platform at the Paris Exhibition, they tell me, on which a man steps, and having stepped upon it is lazily carried to his destination in the building without lifting a foot or moving a muscle. And some people seem to think that Christianity is a platform of that sort, a ‘living way,’ on which, if once they get, they may be as idle as they like, and they will reach their journey’s end. Not so! Not so! By faith we enter on the race; through faith we receive the power that will make us able to run and not be weary, and to walk and not faint. But unless we run we shall not advance, and unless we advance we shall not attain. Understand, then, that faith is the basis of effort, and effort is the crown of faith. If we will thus trust ourselves to that Lord, and draw from Him the power which He is infinitely willing to give, then the great vision of the prophet will be fulfilled in our case, and we shall find stretching across the low, swampy levels of this world ‘a highway,’ and it shall be ‘a way of holiness, and no ravenous beast shall come up therein, but the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’



Hebrews 12:1THERE is a regular series of thoughts in this clause, and in the one or two which follow it, ‘Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us - looking unto Jesus.’ That is to say, If we would run well, we must run light; if we would run light, we must look to Christ. The central injunction is, ‘Let us run with patience’; the only way of doing that is the ‘laying aside all weights and sin’; and the only way of laying aside the weights and sins is, ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Of course the Apostle does not mean some one special kind of transgression when he says, ‘the sin which doth so easily beset us.’ He is speaking about sin generically - all manner of transgression. It is not, as we sometimes hear the words misquoted, ‘that sin which doth most easily beset us.’ All sin is, according to this passage, a besetting sin. It is the characteristic of every kind of transgression, that it circles us round about, that it is always lying in wait and lurking for us. The whole of it, therefore, in all its species, is to be cast aside if we would run with patience this appointed race. But then, besides that, there is something else to be put aside as well as sin. There is ‘every weight’ as well as every transgression- two distinct things, meant’ to be distinguished. The putting away of both of them is equally needful for the race. The figure is plain enough. We as racers must throw aside the garment that wraps us round - that is to say, ‘the sin that easily besets us’; and then, besides that, we must lay aside everything else which weights us for the race - that is to say, certain habits or tendencies within us.

We have, then, to consider these three points ; - First, There are hindrances which are not sins. Secondly, If we would run, we must put aside these. And lastly, If we would put them aside, we must look to Christ.

In the first place, there are hindrances which are not sins. The distinction which the writer draws is a very important one. Sin is that which, by its very nature, in all circumstances, by whomsoever done, without regard to consequences, is a transgression of God’s law. A ‘weight’ is that which, allowable in itself, legitimate, perhaps a blessing, the exercise of a power which God has given us - is, for some reason, a hindrance and impediment in our running the heavenly race. The one word describes the action or habit by its inmost essence, the other describes it by its accidental consequences. Sin is sin, whosoever does it; but weights may be weights to me, and not weights to you. Sin is sin in whatever degree it is done; but weights may be weights when they are in excess, and helps, not hindrances, when they are in moderation. The one is a legitimate thing turned to a false use; the other is always, and everywhere, and by whomsoever performed, a transgression of God’s law.

Then, what are these weights? The first stop in the answer to that question is to be taken by remembering that, according to the image of this text we carry them about with us, and we are to put them away from ourselves. It is fair to say then, that the whole class of weights are not so much external circumstances which may be turned to evil, as the feelings and habits of mind by which we abuse God’s great gifts and mercies, and turn that which was ordained to be for life into death. The renunciation that is spoken about is not so much the putting away from ourselves of certain things lying round about us, that may become temptations; as the putting away of the dispositions within us which make these things temptations. The other is, of course, included as well; but if we want to understand the true depth of the doctrine of self-denial and serf-sacrifice which is taught here, we must remember that the sin and the weights alike lie within our own hearts - that they are our feelings, not God’s perfect gifts - that they are our abuse of God’s benefits, not the benefits which are given to us for our use. We shall have to see, presently, that By the power which we possess of turning all these outward blessings of God’s hands into occasion for transgression, God’s most precious endowments may become weights - but let us observe that, accurately and to begin with, the text enjoins us to put away what cleaves to us, and is in us, not what is lying round about us. Then, if it be mainly and primarily, legitimate feelings and thoughts, abused and exaggerated, which make the weights that we are to lay aside, what are the things which may thus become weights? Oh, brethren! a little word answers that. Everything. It is an awful and mysterious power that which we all possess, of perverting the highest endowments, whether of soul or of circumstances, which God has given us, into the occasions for faltering, and falling back in the divine life. Just as men, by devilish ingenuity, can distil poison out of God’s fairest flowers, so we can do with everything that we have, with all the richest treasures of our nature, with the hearts which He has given us that we may love Him with them; with the understandings which He has bestowed upon us, that we may apprehend His divine truth and His wonderful counsel with them; with these powers of work in the world which He has conferred upon us, that by them we may bring to Him acceptable service and fitting offering; and, in like manner, with all the gladness and grace with which He surrounds our life, intending that out of it we should draw ever occasions for thankfulness, reasons for trust, helps towards God, ladders to assist us in climbing heavenward. Ah! and because we cleave to them too much, because we cleave to them not only in a wrong degree but in a wrong manner {for that is the deepest part of the fault}, we may make them all hindrances. So, for instance, in a very awful sense is fulfilled that threatening, ‘A man’s foes shall be they of his own household,’ when we make those that we love best our idols, not because we love them too well, but because we love them apart from God; when instead of drawing from those that are dear to us - our husbands, and wives, and children, and parents, and friends, and every other tender name - lessons of God’s infinite goodness, and reasons why our hearts should flow perpetually with love to Him - we stay with them, and hang back from God, and forget that His love is best, His heart deepest, and His sufficiency our safest trust. That is one single instance; and as it is in that sacredest of regions, so is it in all others. Every blessing, every gladness, every possession, external to us, and every faculty and attribute within us, we turn into heavy weights that drag us down to this low spot of earth- We make them all sharp knives with which we clip the wings of our heavenward tendencies, and then we grovel in the dust.

And now, if this be the explanation of what the Apostle means by ‘weights’ - legitimate things that hinder us in our course towards God - there comes this second consideration, If we would run we must lay these aside. Why must we lay ‘them aside? The whole of the Christian’s course is a fight. We carry with us a double nature. The best of us know that ‘flesh lusts against spirit, and spirit against flesh.’ Because of that conflict, it follows that if ever there is to be a positive progress in the Christian race, it must be accompanied, and made possible, by the negative process of casting away and losing much that interferes with it. Yes! that race is not merely the easy and natural unfolding of what is within us. The way by which we come to ‘the measure of the stature of perfect men’ in Christ, is not the way by which these material bodies of ours grow up into their perfectness. They have but to be nourished, and they grow. ‘The blade and the ear, and the full corn in the ear,’ come by the process of gradual growth and increase. That law of growth is used by our Lord as a description, but only as a partial description, of the way by which the kingdom of Christ advances in the heart. There is another side to it as well as that, The kingdom advances by warfare as well as by growth. It would Be easy if it were but a matter of getting more and more; but it is not that only. Every step of the road you have to cut your way through opposing foes. Every step of the road has to be marked with the blood that comes from wounded feet. Every step of the road is won by a tussle and a strife.

There is no spiritual life without dying, there is no spiritual growth without putting off ‘the old man with his affections and lusts.’ The hands cannot move freely until the bonds be broken. The new life that is in us cannot run with patience the race that is set before it, until the old life that is in us is put down and subdued. And if we fancy that we are to get to heaven by a process of persistent growth, without painful self-sacrifice and martyrdom, we know nothing about it. That is not the law. For every new step that we win in the Christian course there must have been the laying aside of something. For every progress in knowledge, there must have been a sacrifice and martyrdom of our own indolence, of our own pride, of our own blindness of heart, of our own perverseness of will. For every progress in devout emotion, there must have been a crucifying and slaying of our earthly affections, of our wavering hearts that are drawn away from God by the sweetness of this world. For every progress in strenuous work for God, there must have been a slaying of the selfishness which urges us to work in our own strength and for our own sake. All along the Christian course there must be set up altars to God on which you sacrifice yourselves, or you will never advance a step. The old legend that the Grecian host lay weather-bound in their port, vainly waiting for a wind to come and carry them to conquest; and that they were obliged to slay a human sacrifice ere the heavens would be propitious and fill their sails, may be translated into the deepest verity of the Christian life. We may see in it that solemn lesson - no prosperous voyage, and no final conquest until the natural life has been offered up on the altar of hourly self-denial. That self-denial must reach beyond gross and undoubted sins. They must be swept away, of course, but deeper than these must the sacrificial knife strike its healing wound. If you would ,run with patience, ‘you must ‘lay aside every weight,’ as well as ‘the sin which so easily besets you.’

So much for the why; well, then, how is this laying aside to be performed? There are two ways by which this injunction of my text may be obeyed. The one is, by getting so strong that the thing shall not be a weight, though we carry it; and the other is that feeling ourselves to be weak, we take the prudent course of put-ring it utterly aside. Or, to turn that into other words: the highest type of the Christian character would be, that we should, as the Apostle says, ‘use the world without abusing it’ - that’ they who possess should be as though they possessed not; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not.’ The noblest style of a Christian would be a man, who exercising all the faculties which God had given him, and enjoying all the blessings wherewith God had surrounded him, walked his Christian course like some of those knights of old, lightly bearing his heavy mail, not feeling it a burden, but strong enough to bear the massive breastplate and to wield the ponderous sword, and fitted for his rough warfare by it all. It would be possible, perhaps, some day for us to come to this - that inasmuch as it is the feelings within us which make the weights, and not the objects without us - we should keep and enjoy the blessings and the gladness that we possess, and yet never thereby be thwarted or stayed in our journey heavenward. It would be the highest condition. I suppose we shall come to it yonder, where there will no longer be any need to maim ourselves that we may ‘ enter into life,’ but where all the maimings that were done in this world for the sake of entering into life shall be compensated and restored, and each soul shall stand perfect and complete, wanting nothing.

But, alas! though that course be the highest, the abstract best, the thing for which we ought to strive and try; it is not the course for which the weakness and inaptness of the most of us makes us strong enough. And therefore, seeing that we have a nature so weak and feeble, that temptations surround us so constantly, that so many things legitimate become to us harmful and sinful - the path of prudence, the safe path, is absolutely and utterly to put them away from us, and have nothing to do with them.

Of course, there are many duties which, by our own sinfulness, we make weights, and we dare not, and we cannot if we would, lay them aside. A man, for instance, is born into certain circumstances, wherein he must abide; he has ‘a calling whereunto he is called.’ Your trade is a weight, your daily occupations are weights. The spirit of this commandment before us is not, ‘Leave your plough, and go up into the mountain to pray; Again, a man finds himself surrounded by friends and domestic ties. He dare not, he must not, he cannot, shake himself free from these. There are cases in which to put away the occupation that has become a weight - to sacrifice the blessing that has become a hindrance - to abstain from the circumstances which clog and impede our divine life, is a sin. Where God sets us, we must stand, if we die. What God has given us to do, we must do. The duties that in our weakness become impediments and weights, we must not leave.

But for all besides these, anything which I know has become a snare to me - unless it be something in the course of my simple duty, or unless it be some one of those relations of life which I cannot got rid of - I must have done with it! It may be sweet, it may he very dear, it may He very near thy heart, it may be a part of thy very being : - never mind, put it away! If God has said to you, There, my child, stand there, surrounded by temptations! - then, like a man, stand to your colours, and do not take these words as if they said I am to leave a place because I find myself too weak to resist - a place in which God, for the good of others or for the good of myself, has manifestly set me. But for all other provinces of life, if I feel myself weak I shall be wise to fly. As Christ has said, ‘If thy hand offend thee,’ put it down on the block there, and take the knife in the other, ‘and cut it off’: it is better, it is better for thee to go into life with that maimed and bleeding stump, an imperfect man, than with all thy natural capacities and powers to be utterly lost at the last! And some of us, perhaps, may feel that these solemn lessons apply not only to affection and outward business. I may be speaking to some young man to whom study, and thought, are a snare. I know that I am saying a grave thing, but I do say, In that region too, the principle applies. Better be ignorant, and saved, than wise, and lost. Better a maimed man in Christ’s fold, than a perfect man, if that were possible, outside of it.

I know that there is a large field for misconception and misapplication in the settlement of the practical question - Which of my weights arise from circumstances that I dare not seek to alter, and which from circumstances that I dare not leave unaltered? There is a large margin left for the play of honesty of purpose, and plain common-sense, in the fitting of such general maxims to the shifting and complicated details of an individual life. But no laws can be laid down to save us that trouble. No man can judge for another about this matter. It must be our own sense of what harms our spiritual life, and not other people’s notions of what is likely to harm either theirs or ours, that guides us. What by experience I find does me harm, let me give up! No man has a right to come to me and say, There is a legitimate thing, an indifferent thing; it is not a sin; there is not in it, in itself, the essential element of transgression; but you must forsake it, because it is a weight to other people! To my own master I stand or fall. The commandment is, Have no weights! But the way to fulfil that commandment - whether by rejecting the thing altogether, or by keeping it, and yet not letting it be a weight, that is a matter for every one’s own conscience, for every one’s own judgment and practical prudence, guided by the Spirit of God, to determine. The obedience to the commandment is a simple matter of loyalty to Christ. But the manner of obedience is to be fixed by Christian wisdom. And remember that on both sides of the alternative there are dangers. There is danger in the too great freedom which says, I am strong; I can venture to do this thing - another man cannot - and I will do it! There is a danger On the other side in saying, We are all weak, and we will forsake all these things together! The one class of moralists axe apt to confound their own unsanctified inclinations with the dictates of Christian freedom. The other class are apt to confound their own narrowness with the commandments of God. The one class are apt to turn their liberty into a cloak of licentiousness. The other class are apt to turn their obligation into a yoke which neither they nor their disciples are able to bear. The Apostle pointed out the evils which these two ways of dealing with things indifferent are apt to foster when he said to those who adopt the one, ‘Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not’; and to those who adopt the other ‘Let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth.’ That is to say, on the one hand, beware of the fancied superiority to the weaknesses and narrowness of your more scrupulous brother, which is prone to creep into the hearts of the more liberal and strong. Remember that perhaps the difference between you is not all in your favour. It may be that what you call over-scrupulous timidity is the fruit of a more earnest Christian principle than yours; and that what you call in yourself freedom from foolish scruples, is only the result of a less sensitive conscience, not of a more robust Christianity. Then for the other class, the lesson is, ‘Let not him which eateth not, judge him that eateth.’ Judge not from the height of your superior self-denial, your brother who allows himself what you avoid. Your besetting sin is self-righteous condemnation of those who perhaps, after all, are wiser as well as wider than you, and who in their strength may be able to walk as near to God on a road, which to you would be full of perils, as you are in the manner of life which you know to be needful for you. Let us all remember, besides, that a thing which to ourselves is no weight, may yet be right for us to forsake, out of true and tender brotherly regard to others who, weaker than we, or perhaps more conscientious than we, could not do the same thing without damaging their spirits and weakening their Christian life. ‘Him that is weak in the faith, receive.’ Him that is weak in the faith, help. And in all these matters indifferent, which are weights to one and not weights to another, let us remember, first, for ourselves, that a weight retained is a sin; and let us remember, next, for others, that they stand not by our experience, but by their own; and that we are neither to judge their strength, nor to offend their weakness.

And now, in the last place: This laying aside of every weight is only possible by looking to Christ. That self-denial of which I have been speaking has in it no merit, no worthiness. The man that practises it is not a bit better than the man that does not, except in so far as it is a preparation for greater reception of the spiritual life. Some people suppose that when they have laid aside a weight, conquered a hindrance, given up some bad habit, they have done a meritorious thing. Well, we are strengthened, no doubt, by the very act; but then, it is of no use at all except in so far as it makes us better fitted for the positive progress which is to come after it. What is the use of the racer betaking, himself to the starting-post, and throwing aside every weight, and then standing still? He puts aside his garments that he may run. We empty our hearts; but the empty heart is dull, and cold, and dark: we empty our hearts that Christ may fill them. That is not all: Christ must have begun to fill them before we can empty them. ‘Looking to Jesus’ is the only means of thorough-going, absolute self-deniaL All other surrender than that which is based upon love to Him, and faith in Him, is but surface work, and drives the subtle disease to the vitals. The man that tries, by paring off an excrescence here, and giving up a bad habit there, to hammer and tinker and cut himself into the shape of a true and perfect man, may do it outwardly. He will scarcely do that, but it is possible he may partially. And then, what has he made himself? ‘A whited sepulchre’; outside, - adorned, beautiful, clean; inside, - full of rottenness and dead men’s bones! The self that was beaten in the open field of outward life, retires, like a defeated army, behind broad rivers; and concentrates itself in its fortresses, and prepares hopefully for a victorious resistance in the citadel of the heart.

My brother, if you would ‘run with patience the race that is set before you,’ you must ‘lay aside, every weight.’ If you would lay aside every weight, you must look to Christ, and let His love flow into thy soul. Then, self-denial will not be self-denial. It will be blessing and joy, sweet and easy. Just as the old leaves drop naturally from the tree when the new buds of spring begin to put themselves out, let the new affection come and dwell in thy heart, and expel the old. ‘Lay aside every weight’ - ‘looking unto Jesus.’ Then, too, you will find that the sacrifice and maiming of the old man has been the perfecting of the man. You will find that whatever you give up for Christ you get back from Christ, better, more beautiful, more blessed, hallowed to its inmost core, a joy and a possession for ever. For He will not suffer that any gift laid upon His altar shall not be given back to us. He will have no maimed man in His service. So, the hand that is cut off, the eye that is plucked out, the possessions that are rendered up, the idols that are slain - they are all given back to us again when we stand in God’s own light in glory - perfect men, made after the image of Christ, and surrounded with all possessions transfigured and glorified in the light of God. ‘There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Hebrews 12:1. By a bold but rhetorical figure, the apostle, in the beginning of this chapter, represents the patriarchs, judges, kings, prophets, and righteous men, whose faith he had celebrated in the preceding chapter, after having finished their own labours, combats, and sufferings with honour, as standing round and looking on the believing Hebrews while running the Christian race. He therefore exhorts them to exert themselves strenuously in the presence of such spectators. But, above all, to fix their attention on Jesus, whom also he represents as looking on, because his graces, virtues, and sufferings were far more remarkable, and far more worthy of imitation than those of the ancients, whose great actions he had celebrated. Wherefore seeing we also — Or even we. The apostle joins himself with these Hebrews, not only the better to insinuate the exhortation into their minds thereby, but also to intimate, that the strongest believers stand in need of the encouragement here given; are compassed about — Like combatants in the Grecian games; with so great a cloud — So great a multitude; of witnesses — Of the power of faith; even of all the saints of the Old Testament, who, as it were, stand looking on us in our striving, running, wrestling, and fighting; encouraging us in our duty, and ready to bear witness to our success with their applauses. Let us lay aside every weight — As all who run a race take care to do; let us throw off whatever weighs us down, or damps the vigour of our souls, especially all worldly afflictions and delights; all worldly hopes, fears, cares, and friendships; whatever would encumber us in running, would impede our progress, or draw us from our duty; and the sin which doth so easily beset us — Namely, the slavish fear of men, or of any loss or suffering that may befall us; or the sin of our constitution, the sin of our education, or that of our profession. The original expression is, literally, the sin which stands conveniently around us, or the well-circumstanced sin; which is well adapted to our circumstances and inclinations; consequently is easily committed; let us run with patience — And perseverance, as the word υπομονη also signifies; the race — Of Christian experience, duty, and suffering; that is set before us — And is necessary to be run by us before we can obtain the prize.

12:1-11 The persevering obedience of faith in Christ, was the race set before the Hebrews, wherein they must either win the crown of glory, or have everlasting misery for their portion; and it is set before us. By the sin that does so easily beset us, understand that sin to which we are most prone, or to which we are most exposed, from habit, age, or circumstances. This is a most important exhortation; for while a man's darling sin, be it what it will, remains unsubdued, it will hinder him from running the Christian race, as it takes from him every motive for running, and gives power to every discouragement. When weary and faint in their minds, let them recollect that the holy Jesus suffered, to save them from eternal misery. By stedfastly looking to Jesus, their thoughts would strengthen holy affections, and keep under their carnal desires. Let us then frequently consider him. What are our little trials to his agonies, or even to our deserts? What are they to the sufferings of many others? There is a proneness in believers to grow weary, and to faint under trials and afflictions; this is from the imperfection of grace and the remains of corruption. Christians should not faint under their trials. Though their enemies and persecutors may be instruments to inflict sufferings, yet they are Divine chastisements; their heavenly Father has his hand in all, and his wise end to answer by all. They must not make light of afflictions, and be without feeling under them, for they are the hand and rod of God, and are his rebukes for sin. They must not despond and sink under trials, nor fret and repine, but bear up with faith and patience. God may let others alone in their sins, but he will correct sin in his own children. In this he acts as becomes a father. Our earthly parents sometimes may chasten us, to gratify their passion, rather than to reform our manners. But the Father of our souls never willingly grieves nor afflicts his children. It is always for our profit. Our whole life here is a state of childhood, and imperfect as to spiritual things; therefore we must submit to the discipline of such a state. When we come to a perfect state, we shall be fully reconciled to all God's chastisement of us now. God's correction is not condemnation; the chastening may be borne with patience, and greatly promote holiness. Let us then learn to consider the afflictions brought on us by the malice of men, as corrections sent by our wise and gracious Father, for our spiritual good.Wherefore - In view of what has been said in the previous chapter.

Seeing we also are encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses - The apostle represents those to whom he had referred in the previous chapter, as looking on to witness the efforts which Christians make, and the manner in which they live. There is allusion here, doubtless, to the ancient games. A great multitude of spectators usually occupied the circular seats in the amphitheater, from which they could easily behold the combatants; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In like manner, the apostle represents Christians as encompassed with the multitude of worthies to whom he had referred in the previous chapter. It cannot be fairly inferred from this that he means to say that all those ancient worthies were actually looking at the conduct of Christians, and saw their conflicts. It is a figurative representation, such as is common, and means that we ought to act as if they were in sight, and cheered us on. How far the spirits of the just who are departed from this world are permitted to behold what is done on earth - if at all - is not revealed in the Scriptures. The phrase, "a cloud of witnesses," means many witnesses, or a number so great that they seem to be a cloud. The comparison of a multitude of persons to a cloud is common in the classic writers; see Homer II.:4:274, 23:133; Statius 1:340, and other instances adduced in Wetstein, in loc.; compare notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Let us lay aside every weight - The word rendered "weight" - ὄγκον ogkon - means what is crooked or hooked, and thence any thing that is attached or suspended by a hook that is, by its whole weight, and hence means weight; see "Passow." It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The word is often used in the classic writers in the sense of swelling, tumour, pride. Its usual meaning is that of weight or burden, and there is allusion here, doubtless, to the runners in the games who were careful not to encumber themselves with anything that was heavy. Hence, their clothes were so made as not to impede their running, and hence, they were careful in their training not to overburden themselves with food, and in every way to remove what would be an impediment or hindrance. As applied to the racers it does not mean that they began to run with anything like a burden, and then threw it away - as persons sometimes aid their jumping by taking a stone in their hands to acquire increased momentum - but that they were careful not to allow anything that would be a weight or an encumbrance.

As applied to Christians it means that they should remove all which would obstruct their progress in the Christian course. Thus, it is fair to apply it to whatever would be an impediment in our efforts to win the crown of life. It is not the same thing in all persons. In one it may be pride; in another vanity; in another worldliness; in another a violent and almost ungovernable temper; in another a corrupt imagination; in another a heavy, leaden, insensible heart; in another some improper and unholy attachment. Whatever it may be, we are exhorted to lay it aside, and this general direction may be applied to anything which prevents our making the highest possible attainment in the divine life. Some persons would make much more progress if they would throw away many of their personal ornaments; some, if they would disencumber themselves of the heavy weight of gold which they are endeavoring to carry with them. So some very light objects, in themselves considered, become material encumbrances. Even a feather or a ring - such may be the fondness for these toys - may become such a weight that they will never make much progress toward the prize.

And the sin which doth so easily beset us - The word which is here rendered "easily beset" - εὐπερίστατον euperistaton - "euperistaton" - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly means, "standing well around;" and hence, denotes what is near, or at hand, or readily occurring. So Chrysostom explains it. Passow defines it as meaning "easy to encircle." Tyndale renders it "the sin that hangeth on us." Theodoret and others explain the word as if derived from περίστασις peristasis - a word which sometimes means affliction, peril - and hence, regard it as denoting what is full of peril, or the sin which so easily subjects one to calamity. Bloomfield supposes, in accordance with the opinion of Grotius, Crellius, Kype, Kuinoel, and others, that it means "the sin which especially winds around us, and hinders our course," with allusion to the long Oriental garments. According to this, the meaning would be, that as a runner would be careful not to encumber himself with a garment which would be apt to wind around his legs in running, and hinder him, so it should be with the Christian, who especially ought to lay aside everything which resembles this; that is, all sin, which must impede his course. The former of these interpretations, however, is most commonly adopted, and best agrees with the established sense of the word. It will then mean that we are to lay aside every encumbrance, particularly or especially - for so the word καὶ kai "and," should be rendered here "the sins to which we are most exposed." Such sins are appropriately called "easily besetting sins." They are those to which we are particularly liable. They are such sins as the following:

(1) Those to which we are particularly exposed by our natural temperament, or disposition. In some this is pride, in others indolence, or gaiety, or levity, or avarice, or ambition, or sensuality.

(2) those in which we freely indulged before we became Christians. They will be likely to return with power, and we are far more likely from the laws of association, to fall into them than into any other. Thus, a man who has been intemperate is in special danger from that quarter; a man who has been an infidel, is in special danger of scepticism: one who has been avaricious, proud, frivolous, or ambitious, is in special danger, even after conversion, of again committing these sins.

(3) sins to which we are exposed by our profession, by our relations to others, or by our situation in life. They whose condition will entitle them to associate with what are regarded as the more elevated classes of society, are in special danger of indulging in the methods of living, and of amusement that are common among them; they who are prospered in the world are in danger of losing the simplicity and spirituality of their religion; they who hold a civil office are in danger of becoming mere politicians, and of losing the very form and substance of piety.

(4) sins to which we are exposed from some special weakness in our character. On some points we may be in no danger. We may be constitutionally so firm as not to be especially liable to certain forms of sin. But every man has one or more weak points in his character; and it is there that he is particularly exposed. A bow may be in the main very strong. All along its length there may be no danger of its giving way - save at one place where it has been made too thin, or where the material was defective - and if it ever breaks, it will of course be at that point. That is the point, therefore, which needs to be guarded and strengthened. So in reference to character. There is always some weak point which needs specially to be guarded, and our principal danger is there. Self-knowledge, so necessary in leading a holy life, consists much in searching out those weak points of character where we are most exposed; and our progress in the Christian course will be determined much by the fidelity with which we guard and strengthen them.

And let us run with patience the race that is set before us. - The word rendered "patience" rather means in this place, perseverance. We are to run the race without allowing ourselves to be hindered by any obstructions, and without giving out or fainting in the way. Encouraged by the example of the multitudes who have run the same race before us, and who are now looking out upon us from heaven, where they dwell, we are to persevere as they did to the end.


Heb 12:1-29. Exhortation to Follow the Witnesses of Faith Just Mentioned: Not to Faint in Trials: To Remove All Bitter Roots of Sin: For We Are under, Not a Law of Terror, but the Gospel of Grace, to Despise Which Will Bring the Heavier Penalties, in Proportion to Our Greater Privileges.

1. we also—as well as those recounted in Heb 12:11.

are compassed about—Greek, "have so great a cloud (a numberless multitude above us, like a cloud, 'holy and pellucid,' [Clement of Alexandria]) of witnesses surrounding us." The image is from a "race," an image common even in Palestine from the time of the Greco-Macedonian empire, which introduced such Greek usages as national games. The "witnesses" answer to the spectators pressing round to see the competitors in their contest for the prize (Php 3:14). Those "witnessed of" (Greek, Heb 11:5, 39) become in their turn "witnesses" in a twofold way: (1) attesting by their own case the faithfulness of God to His people [Alford] (Heb 6:12), some of them martyrs in the modern sense; (2) witnessing our struggle of faith; however, this second sense of "witnesses," though agreeing with the image here if it is to be pressed, is not positively, unequivocally, and directly sustained by Scripture. It gives vividness to the image; as the crowd of spectators gave additional spirit to the combatants, so the cloud of witnesses who have themselves been in the same contest, ought to increase our earnestness, testifying, as they do, to God's faithfulness.

weight—As corporeal unwieldiness was, through a disciplinary diet, laid aside by candidates for the prize in racing; so carnal and worldly lusts, and all, whether from without or within, that would impede the heavenly runner, are the spiritual weight to be laid aside. "Encumbrance," all superfluous weight; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and even harmless and otherwise useful things which would positively retard us (Mr 10:50, the blind man casting away his garment to come to Jesus; Mr 9:42-48; compare Eph 4:22; Col 3:9, 10).

the sin which doth so easily beset us—Greek, "sin which easily stands around us"; so Luther, "which always so clings to us": "sinful propensity always surrounding us, ever present and ready" [Wahl]. It is not primarily "the sin," &c., but sin in general, with, however, special reference to "apostasy," against which he had already warned them, as one to which they might gradually be seduced; the besetting sin of the Hebrews, UNBELIEF.

with patience—Greek, "in persevering endurance" (Heb 10:36). On "run" compare 1Co 9:24, 25.Hebrews 12:1-4 An exhortation to patience and constancy enforced by the

example of Christ.

Hebrews 12:5-13 The benefit of God’s chastisements.

Hebrews 12:14-17 Exhortation to peace and holiness.

Hebrews 12:18-24 The dispensation of the law compared with the

privileges of the gospel.

Hebrews 12:25-29 The danger of refusing the word from heaven.

The Spirit proceeds in this chapter in his exhortation or counsel unto duties worthy of the former doctrine of Christ, and suitable to the foregoing examples, enumerated Hebrews 11:1-40.

Wherefore seeing; he introduceth it with an illative particle, toigaroun seeing all those worthies finished their course through faith, and received not the promise since made good to us, therefore is there something to be inferred.

We also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses; we, I Paul, and you Hebrews, having enjoyed the better things provided by God for us, we are so much the more obliged; as also having such a multitude of witnesses of so vast worth and dignity, as all the Old Testament believers were, distilling, like a cloud, abundant influences, from their example, in doing and suffering for God, through faith, on our souls, to make us persevering in the faith to the end, as they did; and so compassing us about, as we cannot want either direction or encouragement to it, whenever we look into their histories for it.

Let us lay aside every weight; like the Grecian and Roman racers, who laid aside their cumbersome garments, so as they might more easily and lightly run their race; in allusion to which, it is the concern of every Christian to lay aside, or put away, all his worldly cumbrances, which would clog him in his race, his corrupt self, the world, &c., Matthew 16:24 Luke 21:34 1 Timothy 6:9-11 2 Timothy 2:4.

And the sin which doth so easily beset us: the evil weight inward is the old man, the corrupt nature, which remaineth in every Christian, styled by Paul, the body of death, Romans 7:24; but especially each Christian’s own personal iniquity, which sticks and cleaves nearer to him than his garments, and which made David so careful about it, in Psalm 18:23; that which is so compassing and clasping him about, that he is so far from running, he cannot move for it, 1 Corinthians 9:27 Colossians 3:5. This they are to mortify in them.

And let us run with patience the race that is set before us; how distant soever the goal is, which finisheth the race of a Christian’s life, yet the way passing to it, though it be troublesome and long, and being set to us by God himself, must be patiently, strenously, and constantly run, that they may obtain it, Psalm 119:32,33 Lu 13:24 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Galatians 5:7 Philippians 3:13,14 2 Timothy 4:7. The cloud of witnesses have so run it before them for their direction and encouragement.

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about,...., As the Israelites were encompassed with the pillar of cloud, or with the clouds of glory in the wilderness, as the Jews say; See Gill on 1 Corinthians 10:1, to which there may be an allusion, here, since it follows,

with so great a cloud of witnesses; or "martyrs", as the Old Testament saints, the instances of whose faith and patience are produced in the preceding chapter: these, some of them, were martyrs in the sense in which that word is commonly used; they suffered in the cause, and for the sake of true religion; and they all bore a noble testimony of God, and for him; and they received a testimony from him; and will be hereafter witnesses for, or against us, to whom they are examples of the above graces: and these may be compared to a "cloud", for the comfortable and reviving doctrines which they dropped; and for their refreshing examples in the heat of persecution; and for their guidance and direction in the ways of God; and more especially for their number, being like a thick cloud, and so many, that they compass about on every side, and are instructive every way. Hence the following things are inferred and urged,

let us lay aside every weight; or burden; every sin, which is a weight and burden to a sensible sinner, and is an hinderance in running the Christian race; not only indwelling sin, but every actual transgression, and therefore to be laid aside; as a burden, it should be laid on Christ; as a sin, it should be abstained from, and put off, with respect to the former conversation: also worldly cares, riches, and honours, when immoderately pursued, are a weight depressing the mind to the earth, and a great hinderance in the work and service of God, and therefore to be laid aside; not that they are to be entirely rejected, and not cared for and used, but the heart should not be set upon them, or be over anxious about them: likewise the rites and ceremonies of Moses's law were a weight and burden, a yoke of bondage, and an intolerable one, and with which many believing Jews were entangled and pressed, and which were a great hinderance in the performance of evangelical worship; wherefore the exhortation to these Hebrews, to lay them aside, was very proper and pertinent, since they were useless and incommodious, and there had been a disannulling of them by Christ, because of their weakness and unprofitableness. Some observe, that the word here used signifies a tumour or swelling; and so may design the tumour of pride and vain glory, in outward privileges, and in a man's own righteousness, to which the Hebrews were much inclined; and which appears in an unwillingness to stoop to the cross, and bear afflictions for the sake of the Gospel; all which is a great enemy to powerful godliness, and therefore should be brought down, and laid aside. The Arabic version renders it, "every weight of luxury": all luxurious living, being prejudicial to real religion:

and the sin which doth so easily beset us; the Arabic version renders it, "easy to be committed"; meaning either the corruption of nature in general, which is always present, and puts upon doing evil, and hinders all the good it can; or rather some particular sin, as what is commonly called a man's constitution sin, or what he is most inclined to, and is most easily drawn into the commission of; or it may be the sin of unbelief is intended, that being opposite to the grace of faith, the apostle had been commending, in the preceding chapter, and he here exhorts to; and is a sin which easily insinuates itself, and prevails, and that sometimes under the notion of a virtue, as if it would be immodest, or presumptuous to believe; the arguments for it are apt to be readily and quickly embraced; but as every weight, so every sin may be designed: some reference may be had to Lamentations 1:14 where the church says, that her transgressions were "wreathed", "wreathed themselves", or wrapped themselves about her. The allusion seems to be to runners in a race, who throw off everything that encumbers, drop whatsoever is ponderous and weighty, run in light garments, and lay aside long ones, which entangle and hinder in running, as appears from the next clause, or inference.

And let us run with patience the race that is set before us. The stadium, or race plot, in which the Christian race is run, is this world; the prize run for is the heavenly glory; the mark to direct in it, is Christ; many are the runners, yet none but the overcomers have the prize; which being held by Christ, is given to them: this race is "set before" the saints; that is, by God; the way in which they are to run is marked out by him in his word; the troubles they shall meet with in it are appointed for them by him, in his counsels and purposes; the mark to direct them is set before them in the Gospel, even Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, whom they are to look unto; the length of their race is fixed for them, or how far, and how long they shall run; and the prize is determined for them, and will be given them, and which is held out for their encouragement, to have respect unto: and it becomes all the saints, and belongs to each, and everyone of them, to "run" this race; which includes both doing and suffering for Christ; it is a motion forward, a pressing towards the mark for the prize, a going from strength to strength, from one degree of grace to another; and to it swiftness and agility are necessary; and when it is performed aright, it is with readiness, willingness, and cheerfulness: it requires strength and courage, and a removal of all impediments, and should be done "with patience"; which is very necessary, because of the many exercises in the way; and because of the length of the race; and on account of the prize to be enjoyed, which is very desirable: the examples of the saints, and especially Christ, the forerunner, should move and animate unto it.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, {1} let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which {a} doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

(1) An applying of the former examples, by which we ought to be stirred up to run the whole race, casting away all hindrances and impediments.

(a) For sin besieges us on all sides, so that we cannot escape.

Hebrews 12:1. Conclusion from the total contents of chap. 11.

In the animating summons expressed Hebrews 12:1-2, the addition διʼ ὑπομονῆς, appended to the main verb τρέχωμεν, has the principal stress; comp. Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 11:1. Of the participial clauses, however, the first and third are of the same kind, and are distinguished in equal degree from the second; as accordingly the former are introduced by participles of the present, the latter by a participle of the aorist. The first and third contain a ground of animation to the διʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν; by the second, on the other hand, the historic preliminary condition to the διʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχειν is stated. The euphonious τοιγαροῦν elsewhere in the N. T. only 1 Thessalonians 4:8.

καὶ ἡμεῖς] we also, namely, like the saints of the Old Covenant described chap. 11.

τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων] since we have so great a cloud of witnesses around us, or: since so great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us. ἔχοντες περικείμενον is intimately connected together, and is a periphrasis of the mere verbal notion, inasmuch as a genitive absolute: τοσούτου περικειμένου ἡμῖν κ.τ.λ., might have been employed instead. νέφος is a figurative designation (also of frequent occurrence with classical writers) of a densely compact crowd. Theodoret: πλῆθος τοσοῦτον, νέφος μιμούμενον τῇ πυκνότητι. Comp. Hom. Il. 4:274: ἅμα δὲ νέφος εἵπετο πεζῶν, al. Eurip. Hec. 901 f.: τοῖον Ἐλλάνων νέφος ἀμφί σε κρύπτει. Phoeniss. 1328 ff.: πότερʼ ἐμαυτὸν ἢ πόλιν στένω δακρύσας, ἣν πέριξ ἔχει νέφος τοσοῦτον, ὥστε διʼ Ἀχέροντος ἰέναι; Herod, viii. 109: νέφος τοσοῦτον ἀνθρώπων. Similarly also is the Latin nubes employed. Comp. e.g. Li v. 35. 49: rex contra peditum equitumque nubes jactat.

Those meant by the τοσοῦτον νέφος μαρτύρων are the persons mentioned chap. 11. When, however, these are characterized as a cloud of witnesses, the author does not intend to imply that these witnesses are present as spectators at the contest to be maintained by the readers (Hammond, Calmet, Böhme, Paulus, Klee, Bleek, Stein, de Wette, Stengel, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Bisping, Hofmann), but represents them thereby as persons who have borne testimony for the πίστις which he demands of his readers,[113] and who consequently have become models for imitation to the readers as regards this virtue.

[113] The supposition of Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 757), Alford, Maier, and Moll, that in μαρτύρων, ver. 1, the idea of “spectators” blends with that of “witnesses to the faith,” bears its refutation upon the face of it. For the combining of that which is logically irreconcilable is not exegesis.

To this signification of μαρτύρων points with necessity the whole reasoning immediately foregoing. For as διʼ ὑπομονῆς, Hebrews 12:1, attaches again the discourse to ὑπομονῆς γὰρ ἔχετε χρείαν κ.τ.λ., Hebrews 10:36, so also the contents of chap. 11, which stand in close connection with the latter, are recapitulated by the words: τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων. On account, however, of this close connection of the first participial clause, Hebrews 12:1, with chap. 11., μαρτύρων cannot be otherwise interpreted than after the analogy of the characterization there made: μαρτυρηθέντες διὰ τῆς πίστεως, Hebrews 11:39; ἐν ταύτῃ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν, Hebrews 11:2; διʼ ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη, Hebrews 11:4; and μεμαρτύρηται, Hebrews 11:5, in that only the slight distinction is made, justified in a natural manner by the varying form of designation, that while the persons named were before represented as those to whom a laudatory testimony was given in scripture on account of the πίστις manifested by them, they now appear as those who, by their conduct, have delivered a testimony in favour of their virtue of πίστις, and consequently have become patterns of the same for others. On account of this intimate coherence of the first participial clause, Hebrews 12:1, with chap. 11, a more nearly-defining addition, τῆς πίστεως to μαρτύρων, was, moreover, superfluous. That, however, μαρτύρων is in reality employed with reference to the πίστις which the author demands of his readers, is further shown by τῆς πίστεως, Hebrews 12:2, from which it is clearly apparent that the notion πίστις is still before the mind of the writer at Hebrews 12:2. It is therefore to be supposed that the discourse turns round to the figure of the race—to which, indeed, περικείμενον would already be appropriate, but to which this participle is not at all of necessity to be referred—only with ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι κ.τ.λ.

ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα] having put off every hindrance (opposed to the context, Bengel and others: every kind of pride or arrogance; Hofmann: all earthly care and sorrow). The man contending in the race avoided, in order to keep his body light, oppressive clothing and the like. In the application, the clinging of the readers to external Judaism is certainly, in particular, thought of as the hindrance. Yet the expression is quite general, and sin in the strict sense of the term, which is immediately after quite specially emphasized, is likewise included thereunder. For καί is not, with Grotius and others, to be taken explicatively, but further brings into relief, in the form of a parallel classification, a definite species, taken, on account of its special importance, out of the before-named genus.

Sin is termed εὐπερίστατος. This adjective exists only here in the whole range of Greek literature. It is most naturally derived from the middle voice: περιΐστασθαι, to place oneself round, or encompass. The sense is therefore: sin, which easily surrounds us and takes us captive. So the majority. Others derive εὐπερίστατος from the active περιΐστημι, then taking the word either in a passive or active sense. The explanation of Ernesti (ad Hesych. gloss. sacr. p. 140 sq.), that “as περίστατον denotes that which is thronged about by people who come to admire it, and ἀπερίστατος is said of a man about whom others do not stand, thus, who is destitute of friends; so εὐπερίστατος characterizes sin as rich in friends and patrons, as generally esteemed and liked,” has against it the consideration that from εὐπερίστατος, in this acceptation, the idea of that which is public and manifest is inseparable; but this idea is out of keeping with the notion of sin, which is just as often perpetrated in secret as in public. The interpretation: sin, which is easily to be gone round, encircled, or avoided (Chrysostom: ἢ τὴν εὐκόλως περίστασιν δυναμένην παθεῖν λέγει· μᾶλλον δὲ τοῦτο· ῥᾴδιον γάρ, ἐὰν θέλωμεν, περιγενέσθαι [get the better of] τῆς ἁμαρτίας; Pseudo-Athanasius, de parabol. Script. quaest. 133: εὐπερίστατον εἶπε τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, ἐπειδὰν μόνιμον στάσιν οὐκ ἔχει, ἀλλὰ ταχέως τρέπεται καὶ καταλύεται; Clericus, Morus, Ewald p. 172), would yield an unsuitable thought, since it could not possibly be the design of the author to represent the power of sin as small. The active explanation: seductive or enticing (Carpzov, Schulz, Stein), has against it the fact that all the other derivatives from ἵστημι, such as στατός, ἄστατος, etc., have an intransitive or passive signification. Others, again, in their explanations of εὐπερίστατος, follow the significations of the substantive περίστασις: sin, which easily plunges us into danger (Er. Schmid, Raphel, Bengel, Storr; comp. already Theophylact: ἢ διʼ ἣν εὐκόλως τις εἰς περιστάσεις ἐμπίπτει· οὐδὲν γὰρ οὕτω κινδυνῶδες ὡς ἁμαρτία); which brings with it many hindrances (Kypke, Michaelis, Dindorf, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Bloomfield); which has circumstantias (surroundings), whereby it commends itself and seduces us (Hammond); quae bonis utitur rebus circumstantibus, i.e. quae habet suisque affert bonam fortunam atque voluptates (Böhme).

The ἁμαρτία is sin in general; not specially: the sin of apostasy from Christianity. On account of ἀποθέμενοι, the ἁμαρτία is thought of as a burden which we bear within us as a propensity, or about us as an encumbering garment.

τρέχειν ἀγῶνα] to run a race. Comp. Herod. viii. 102; Dion. Hal. vii. 48; Eurip. Orest. 875.

διʼ ὑπομονῆς] Romans 8:25.

Hebrews 12:1-13. In possession of such a multitude of examples, and with the eye uplifted to Jesus Himself, are the readers with stedfastness to maintain the conflict which lies before them, and to regard their sufferings as a salutary chastisement on the part of that God who is full of fatherly love towards them.

Hebrews 12:1. Τοιγαροῦν καὶ ἡμεῖς.… “Wherefore, as we have so great a cloud of witnesses encompassing us, let us likewise lay aside every encumbrance and sin that clings so close and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to the leader and perfecter of faith, even Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured a cross despising shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” τοιγαροῦν, “wherefore then” more formal and emphatic than the usual, διὰ τοῦτο, διὸ, ὅθεν, οὖν. καὶ ἡμεῖς, we in our turn, we as well as they, and with the added advantage of having so many testimonies to the good results of faith. νέφος used frequently in Homer and elsewhere, as “nubes” in Latin and “cloud” in English to suggest a vast multitude. μαρτύρων, “witnesses,” persons who by their actions have testified to the worth of faith. The cloud of witnesses are those named and suggested in chap. 11; persons whose lives witnessed to the work and triumph of faith, and whose faith was witnessed to by Scripture, cf. Hebrews 11:2; Hebrews 11:4-5. This cloud is περικείμενον, because, as the writer has just shown, look where they will into their history his Hebrew readers see such examples of faith. It is impossible to take μάρτυρες as equivalent to θεαταί. If the idea of “spectator” is present at all, which is very doubtful, it is only introduced by the words τρέχωμενἀγῶνα. The idea is not that they are running in presence of spectators and must therefore run well; but that their people’s history being filled with examples of much-enduring but triumphant faith, they also must approve their lineage by showing a like persistence of faith. ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα, ὄγκος, a mass or weight or burden (= φόρτος), hence a swelling or superfluous flesh [cf. especially Longinus, iii. 9, κακοὶ δὲ ὄγκοι καὶ ἐπὶ σωμάτων καὶ λόγων. and from Hippocrates in Wetstein, καὶ γὰρ δρόμοι ταχεῖς, καὶ γυμνάσια τοιαῦτα, σαρκῶν ὄγκον καθαίρει.] The allusion therefore is to the training preparatory to a race by which an encumbering superfluity of flesh is reduced. The Christian runner must rid himself even of innocent things which might retard him. And all that does not help, hinders. It is by running he learns what these things are. So long as he stands he does not feel that they are burdensome and hampering. καὶ f1τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν. Of the difficult word εὐπερ. Chrysostom gives two interpretations; “which is easily avoided,” and “which easily encompasses or surrounds us”. In the sense of “avoid” the verb περιϊστάσθαι occurs in 2 Timothy 2:16 and Titus 3:9, but it is scarcely credible that in the present context such an epithet could be applied to sin. The second interpretation has been generally accepted [“circumstans nos peccatum” (Vulg.); “qui nous enveloppe si aisément”; “die Sünde, die immer zur Hand ist” (Weizsäcker)]. This meaning suits the context and the action enjoined in ἀποθέμενοι, suggesting, as it does, the trailing garment that encumbers the runner. The article τὴν does not point to some particular sin, but to that which characterises all sin, the tenacity with which it clings to a man. We might suppose from the word itself that it alluded to sin as an enemy encompassing from well-chosen points of vantage, but this does not suit the figure of the race nor the ἀποθέμενοι. [Porphyry, de Abstin., says γυμνοὶ δὲ καὶ ἀχίτωνες ἐπὶ τὸ στάδιον ἀναβαίνωμεν ἐπὶ τὰ τῆς ψυχῆς Ὀλύμπια ἀγωνισόμενοι. “Ut cursores vestimenta non solum abjiciunt, nudique currunt, verum etiam crebris exercitationibus, ne corpus nimis obesum et ineptum reddatur, efficiunt: ita et vos omnia impedimenta in studio virtutis, et tarditatem vestram crebris meditationibus vincite” (Wetstein).] διʼ ὑπομονῆς, after the negative preparation comes the positive demand for endurance, cf. Hebrews 10:36. τρέχωμενἀγῶνα, as in Herod, viii. 102, πολλοὺς ἀγῶνας δραμέονται οἱ Ἕλληνες. προκείμενον, [frequent with ἀγών, as in Arrian’s Epict., iii. 25, οὐ γὰρ ὑπὲρ πάλης καὶ παγκρατίου ὁ ἀγὼν πρόκειται. Cf. Orestes of Eurip., 845, and Ignatius to Eph., c. 17. τοῦ προκειμένου ζῆν.] appointed, lying before us as our destined trial. This let us run, not waiting for a pleasanter, easier course, but accepting that which is appointed and recognising the difficulties as constituent parts of the race. Success depends on the condition attached ἀφορῶντεςἸησοῦν, fixing our gaze on Him who sets us the example (ἀρχηγὸν) of faith, and exhibits it in its perfect form (τελειωτής), who leads us in faith and in whom faith finds its perfect embodiment. ἀρχηγός properly means one to whom anything owes its origin (cf. Hebrews 2:10), but here it rather indicates one who takes the lead or sets the example most worth following. Jesus is the ἀρχηγὸς τῆς πίστεως because he is its τελειωτής. In Him alone do we see absolute dependence on God, implicit trust, what it is, what it costs, and what it results in. (Hence the human name Ἰησοῦν.) On Him therefore must the gaze be fixed if the runner is to endure, for in Him the reasonableness, the beauty, and the reward of a life of faith are seen. Faith manifested itself in Jesus, especially in His endurance of the cross in virtue of His faith in the resulting joy beyond. ὃς ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶςἀντί here as in Hebrews 12:16 denotes the price paid, or reward offered, “in consideration of”. There was a joy set before Jesus, which nerved Him to endure. This joy was the sitting in the place of achieved victory and power, not a selfish joy, but the consciousness of salvation wrought for men, of power won which he could use in their interests. This hope or confident expectation so animated Him that He endured the utmost of human suffering and shame. The shame is mentioned αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας, because His despising of it manifests a mind fixed on the glory that was to follow and filled with it.

1–3. An exhortation to patient steadfastness

1. Wherefore] The Greek word is a very strong particle of inference not found elsewhere in the N. T. except in 1 Thessalonians 4:8.

seeing we also are compassed] The order of the Greek is “Let us also, seeing we are compassed with so great a cloud of witnesses … run with patience.”

a cloud] A classical Greek and Latin, as well as Hebrew, metaphor for a great multitude. Thus Homer speaks of “a cloud of foot-soldiers.” We have the same metaphor in Isaiah 60:8, “who are these who fly as clouds” (Heb.). Here, as St Clemens of Alexandria says, the cloud is imagined to be “holy and translucent.”

of witnesses] The word has not yet fully acquired its sense of “martyrs.” It here probably means “witnesses to the sincerity and the reward of faith.” The notion that they are also witnesses of our Christian race lies rather in the word περικείμενον, “surrounding us on all sides,” like the witnesses in a circus or a theatre (1 Corinthians 4:9).

let us lay aside every weight] Lit., “stripping off at once cumbrance of every kind.” The word “weight” was used, technically, in the language of athletes, to mean “superfluous flesh,” to be reduced by training. The training requisite to make the body supple and sinewy was severe and long-continued. Metaphorically the word comes to mean “pride,” “inflation.”

and the sin which doth so easily beset us] The six words “which doth so easily beset us” represent one Greek word, euperistaton, of which the meaning is uncertain, because it occurs nowhere else. It means literally “well standing round,” or “well stood around.” (1) If taken in the latter sense it is interpreted to mean (α) “thronged,” “eagerly encircled,” and so “much admired” or “much applauded,” and will thus put us on our guard against sins which are popular; or (β) “easily avoidable,” with reference to the verb peri-istaso, “avoid” (2 Timothy 2:16; Titus 3:9). The objections to these renderings are that the writer is thinking of private sins. More probably it is to be taken in the active sense, as in the A. V. and the R. V. of the sin which either (α) “presses closely about us to attack us;” or (β) which “closely clings (tenaciter inhaerens, Erasmus) to us” like an enfolding robe (statos chiton). The latter is almost certainly the true meaning, and is suggested by the participle apothemenoi, “stripping off” (comp. Ephesians 4:22). As an athlete lays aside every heavy or dragging article of dress, so we must strip away from us and throw aside the clinging robe of familiar sin. The metaphor is the same as that of the word apekdusasthai (Colossians 3:9), which is the parallel to apothesthai in Ephesians 4:22. The gay garment of sin may at first be lightly put on and lightly laid aside, but it afterwards becomes like the fabled shirt of Nessus eating into the bones as it were fire.

with patience] Endurance (hupomonç) characterised the faith of all these heroes and patriarchs, and he exhorts us to endure because Christ also endured the cross (hupomeinas).

the race that is set before us] One of the favourite metaphors of St Paul (Php 3:12-14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Hebrews 12:1. Περικείμενον) properly, lying around. The Greeks often use the verb, κεῖμαι, and its compounds, as presently at Hebrews 12:2, and in various senses; wherefore the word, lie, here, must not be too closely pressed. But the preposition, περὶ, very emphatically implies a cloud almost surrounding us, pressing close upon us: περὶ in εὐπερίστατον, on the opposite side, accords with it.—νέφος) The word, cloud, is used on account of the great multitude, and the holy velocity with which they go upwards. Clemens Alex. has called it, νέφος ἅγιον καὶ διειδὲς, a holy and pellucid cloud, lib. 4. Strom.—μαρτύρων of witnesses) ch. Hebrews 11:39, note.—ὄγκον) ὄγκος (from ἔγκω, ἐνέγκω), weight; and when it is applied to the mind, haughtiness, pride. Themistius, Or. 4, says, αὐτοὶ μὲν μέτριοι φύσει εἰσὶν, ἐγὼ δὲ αὐτοὺς ὄγκου ἐμπίπλημι καὶ χαυνότητος, “They are naturally modest, but I fill them with pride and vain conceit.” Hesychius: ὄγκος, φύσημα, ὑπερηφανία, ἔπαρσις, μέγεθος. Such ὄγκος as this is most unfavourable to spiritual moderation, and is very nearly allied to madness.—τὴν εὐπερίστατον) περίστασις, τὸ περιεστηκός; thence, by Synecdoche of the species, τὸ δύσκολον, danger, disadvantage: hence εὐπερίστατος. Hesychius: τὴν εὐπερίστατον, τὴν εὔκολον, i.e. very easily putting difficulties in the way, and placing in danger. ואליך תשוקתו, Genesis 4:7, Sin is around thee (lieth at the door). On the other hand, ἀπερίστατον ἓλκος, in Galen, an ulcer unattended with danger: ἡ ἁμαρτία, sin, the genus; ἡ εὐπερίστατος ἁμαρτία, unbelief, the species, because its danger is immediate, and because this sin, if it be committed, incurs the greatest risk of destruction; ch. Hebrews 3:12, etc.; Nehemiah 6:13.—διʼ ὑπομονῆς, with patience) This refers to ch. Hebrews 10:36. To this patience ὄγκος is opposed in respect to excess; and ἡ εὐπερίστατος ἁμαρτία, in respect to defect. Both of these spiritual diseases are characteristic of the Jews. Ὀλιγωρεῖν, to despise, corresponds to the former; ἐκλύεσθαι, to faint, to the latter; Hebrews 12:5, note.—τρέχωμεν, let us run) let us finish the race, in which we are contesting for the prize. So Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

Hebrews 12:1Therefore (τοιγαροῦν)

An emphatic particle, strongly affirming the facts on which the following exhortation is based.

We also are compassed (καὶ ἡμεῖς)

According to this the sense would be, those described in ch. 11 were compassed with a cloud of witnesses, and we also are so compassed. Wrong. The we also should be construed with let us run. "Therefore let us also (as they did) run our appointed race with patience."

Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses (τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων)

Lit. having so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us. Νέφος cloud, N.T.o , means a great mass of cloud covering the entire visible space of the heavens, and therefore without definite form, or a single large mass in which definite outlines are not emphasized or distinguished. It thus differs from νεφέλη, which is a detached and sharply outlined cloud. Νέφος is therefore more appropriate to the author's image, which is that of a vast encompassing and overhanging mass. The use of cloud for a mass of living beings is familiar in poetry. Thus Homer, a cloud of footmen (Il. xxiii. 138): of Trojans (Il. xvi. 66). Themistocles, addressing the Athenians, says of the host of Xerxes, "we have had the fortune to save both ourselves and Greece by repelling so great a cloud of men" (Hdt. viii. 109). Spenser, F. Q. i. 1, 23:

"A cloud of cumbrous gnattes doe him molest."

Milton, Par. L. i.:340:

"A pitchy cloud of locusts."

Witnesses (μαρτύρων) does not mean spectators, but those who have born witness to the truth, as those enumerated in ch. 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer's picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having born witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rests watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid. How striking the contrast of this conception with that of Kaulbach's familiar "Battle of the Huns," in which the slain warriors are depicted rising from the field and renewing the fight in the upper air with aggravated fury.

Weight (ὄγκον)

N.T.o , olxx. Lit. bulk, mass. Often in Class. Sometimes metaphorically of a person, dignity, importance, pretension: of a writer's style, loftiness, majesty, impressiveness. Rend. "encumbrance," according to the figure of the racer who puts away everything which may hinder his running. So the readers are exhorted to lay aside every worldly hindrance or embarrassment to their Christian career.

And the sin which doth so easily beset (καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν)

Καὶ adds to the general encumbrance a specific encumbrance or hindrance. Ἑυπερίστατος N.T.o , olxx, oClass. From εὐ readily, deftly, cleverly, and περιΐ̀στασθαι to place itself round. Hence, of a sin which readily or easily encircles and entangles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his limbs. Beset is a good rendering, meaning to surround. In earlier English especially of surrounding crowns, etc., with jewels. So Gower, Conf. Am. i. 127.


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