Text in purple indicates Fr. Mac’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.
18. For you are not come to a mountain that might be touched, and a burning fire, and a whirlwind, and darkness, and storm.
(Your sanctity should be greater, as the religion which you profess is the more holy and exalted); for, you have not approached the material tangible
mountain (Sinai), nor the fire kindled on its summit, nor the impetuous winds, nor the dense clouds, nor the storm of rain, thunder, and lightning;
Some Commentators say, that the object of the Apostle, in contrasting here the New with the Old Testament, was, to anticipate or answer an objection which the Hebrews might make against the New Law, on the ground, that its promulgation was not attended with the splendid phenomena, which ushered in the Old. The Apostle, according to their view, admits the many distinguished marks of divine sanction which characterised the Old Testament; but still, he shows the New was marked by still greater (verse 22). Others, more probably, maintain, that the comparison between both laws was instituted for the purpose of showing the heinousness of desertion from the New Law; for, if the violators of a less perfect law were punished so severely, how much more so will be the apostates from Christianity? which is the conclusion drawn (verse 25). “Approached the mountain which could be touched.” “Approach,” is a term signifying religious worship generally (v.g. 11:6); here, it signifies embracing a religion. The two laws are designated by two mountains, Sinai and Sion. “Which could be touched,” i.e., the material and corporeal, or tangible mountain, as opposed to the incorporeal and spiritual one (verse 22). All the solemnities which accompanied the promulgation of the Old Law are mentioned (Exodus, chap 29.) “And a burning fire.” Sinai “appeared hke a furnace” (Exodus 29.) “To a whirlwind, and darkness, and storm” (Exodus 29., and Deut 4.)
19. And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which they that heard excused themselves, that the word might not be spoken to them.
Nor the sound of a trumpet through which were uttered the words of the angel, which the Jews hearing, exclaimed: “Let not the Lord speak to us, but
Moses, lest we die.”—(Exodus 20:19).
“And the sound of a trumpet, and (i.e.), the voice of words,” since it was by a trumpet the angel spoke. “Which they that heard excused themselves,” saying, “speak thou to us let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die.”—(Exodus 20:19).
22. But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels,
But you have approached the spiritual Mount Sion, or the Church of Christ founded on Sion, and the city of the living God. the heavenly Jerusalem,
and the joyous assemblage of many thousands of angels, not arrayed in terror, like the angels of Sinai, but celebratmg an eternal festival of joy;
22. “They are come to Mount Sion,” i.e., they embraced the religion or Church of Christ, founded on Mount Sion. This refers to the Church militant. “And to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” which refers to the Church triumphant, whereof the earthly Jerusalem was a figure. The Apostle, then, alludes, in this verse, to the entire Church, militant and triumphant, regarded here, as one by him; the Church militant here below, is the entrance to the Church triumphant in heaven, which it continually peoples with blessed spirits, between whom and us. here on earth, there is a constant, unceasing communion. They communicate their merits to us, and present our petitions to God, and act as our intercessors with him in heaven.
23. And to the church of the first-born, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect.
And to the Church of the first-born, i.e., of the Apostles, Martyrs, and primitive faitiful, who, having been hist regenerated in Christ, and having received the first fruits and abundance of the spirit, are now enrolled as citizens of heaven, in which they reign with Christ, and to God the Judge of all, who will reward your fidelity and punish your persecutors; and to the
spirits of the just of the Old Testament, who now, after performing prodigies of faith, are possessed of consummate felicity, in the enjoyment of the beatific vision of God;
He here, more fully and in detail, points out the inhabitants of the heavenly
Jerusalem, with whom we are associated. “To the Church of the first-born,” who are enrolled as citizens of heaven, (vide Paraphrase). In the Greek -πανηγυρει και εκκλησια (panēguris kai ekklesia)-to the general assembly and church of the first-born. Others, by “first-born,” understand all the elect, selected out of the mass of creation; and chosen, as the sons of God, to the
inheritance of the first-born, “(God the Judge of all.” This is said to console them, because God will reward them, and, as is just, will punish their persecutors (2 Thess 1:6). “And to the spirits of the just made perfect.” This is, more commonly understood of the just of old, who, having performed glorious works, were still not perfected until now, when Christ opened the gates of heaven—(chap 11:40).
24. And to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh better than that of Abel.
And to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament (on the part of God promising eternal rewards to such as observe the conditions of the testament, and on the part of men, enabling them by the grace which he has merited, to observe the law), and to the sprinkling of the blood of Christ (typified by the sprinkling of the blood of the legal victims), speaking better than that of Abel (the blood of Abel cried aloud for vengeance, that of Christ, for peace and mercy).
Jesus is the Mediator of the New Testament, because he holds out promises on the part of God; and on the part of man, merits the graces necessary for fulfilling the conditions of the promises, that is to say, the proper observance of the law. The Apostle makes a similar allusion to the mystical signification of Sinai and Jerusalem, in his Epistle to the Galatians (4:24).