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ver. 2.0.17.07.23
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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Hebrews 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

Hebrews 5:1-3

Every high priest taken from among men

The high priesthood of Christ

I.
CHRIST’S PARTICIPATION OF OUR NATURE, AS NECESSARY TO HIM FOR DISCHARGING OF THE OFFICE OF A HIGH PRIEST ON OUR BEHALF, IS A GREAT GROUND OF CONSOLATION UNTO BELIEVERS, A MANIFEST EVIDENCE THAT HE IS, AND WILL BE, TENDER AND COMPASSIONATE TOWARDS THEM.

II. IT WAS THE ENTRANCE OF SIN THAT MADE THE OFFICE OF THE PRIESTHOOD NECESSARY.

III. IT WAS OF INFINITE GRACE THAT SUCH AN APPOINTMENT WAS MADE. Without it all holy intercourse between God and man must have ceased. For neither

1. Were the persons of sinners meet to approach unto God; nor

2. Was any service which they could perform, or were instructed how to perform, suited unto the great end which man was now to look after; namely, peace with God. For the persons of all men being defiled, and obnoxious unto the curse of the law, how should they appear in the presence of the righteous and holy God (Isaiah 33:14; Micah 6:8).

IV. THE PRIEST IS DESCRIBED BY THE ESPECIAL DISCHARGE OF HIS DUTY, OR EXERCISE OF HIS OFFICE WHICH IS HIS OFFERING. BOTH GIFTS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN.

V. WHERE THERE IS NO PROPER PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE THERE IS NO PROPER PRIEST. Every priest is to offer sacrifices for sin; that is, to make atonement.

VI. JESUS CHRIST ALONE IS THE HIGH PRIEST OF HIS PEOPLE. For He alone could offer a sacrifice for our sins to make atonement.

VII. IT WAS A GREAT PRIVILEGE WHICH THE CHURCH ENJOYED OF OLD, IN THE REPRESENTATION WHICH IT HAD BY GOD’S APPOINTMENT, OF THE PRIESTHOOD AND SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. IN THEIR OWN TYPICAL PRIESTS AND SACRIFICES.

VIII. MUCH MORE GLORIOUS IS OUR PRIVILEGE UNDER THE GOSPEL SINCE OUR LORD JESUS HATH TAKEN UPON HIM, AND ACTUALLY DISCHARGED THIS PART OF HIS OFFICE, IN OFFERING AN ABSOLUTELY PERFECT AND COMPLETE SACRIFICE FOR SIN. Here is the foundation laid of all our peace and happiness.

IX. WHAT IS TO BE DONE WITH GOD ON THE ACCOUNT OF SIN, THAT IT MAY BE EXPIATED AND PARDONED, AND THAT THE PEOPLE OF GOD WHO HAVE SINNED MAY BE ACCEPTED WITH HIM AND BLESSED, IS ALL ACTUALLY DONE FOR THEM BY JESUS CHRIST THEIR HIGH PRIEST, IN THE SACRIFICE FOR SIN WHICH HE OFFERED ON THEIR BEHALF. (John, Owen, D. D.)

Compassion on the ignorant

Divine compassion

There was no person in the Hebrew economy that was so revered as their high priest. He became more corrupt in the political times preceding Christ; but the name high priest, as interpreted by the whole history of the Hebrew people, was one that was not only reverenced, but loved. He was ordained, it is said, to have compassion; he was their highest ideal of purity; he stood in the grandeur of a supposed inspiration; he represented God, or, still better, he represented the people to God; he was their advocate; he stood in their place officially, and in every way helped to bring men up without any oppression; he was a minister of mercy to them; and you could not have struck a bell that would roll through the air with such melodious sound as by saying that Jesus Christ stood as a high priest to the people, and that compassion was the great attribute of Jesus; that He not only represented the people in their wants, but that He was a forthcomer of the very God Himself, and represented God to mankind as far as men obscured by the flesh are capable of understanding God. You cannot measure the infinite wisdom, and you cannot measure the eternal glow and glory of love, and you cannot in the infirmities of human life in all its relationships have any satisfying representation of the richness and infinite element of the Divine nature. So, in searching for some emblem the apostle strikes through to the centre, and says that Jesus Christ is a High Priest to represent--what? On the one side to represent the infirmities of men. He is clothed with them Himself; He is touched with a feeling of our infirmities; lie knows the height, and depth, and length and breadth of human experience and human need, and He is gone up to stand before God, our High Priest there; and not only to represent the wants of mankind, but in doing that He represents to us what is the interior character of God Himself, and what is the economy of the Divine love. In the earlier periods of the world’s history God was revealed in those aspects that would be most powerful to restrain animalism. The revelation of God’s motive power was toward the part that the man could understand; it was a physical manifestation of God as a God that governs the material world, which has certain fixed laws that cannot be broken without penalty immediate or remote; and so He was represented in the earlier periods of the world as the all-compelling Governor of the world. Pain in this world and suffering are God’s merciful ministers to keep men in the road. “So,” says God, “I will by no means count it a matter of indifference whether a man lives right or wrong. He shall live right or he shall suffer, because I am a God of mercy and love.” So the Old Testament had a sublime conception of God, but when you come down to the prophets, when lust immeasurable threatened to overwhelm society, when the great curse of idolatry was licentiousness, then God says: “I will not relax one particle of My eternal law; I will wait till the crooked grows straight, till the inferior is exalted, I will have compassion on men; when they are transgressing their own nature and My moral law and all things pure and holy, I will still have patience, that I may bring them back again.” There is the ideal of the Old Testament. But, coming down to a later period, when men were brutal they needed a little thunder, and the prophets gave it to them. They developed the regent character of God. “I abhor wickedness and My fury shall burn to the lowest hell, I will not tolerate it; I have not built the world for this: wicked men and devils shall not desecrate it; I will put forth a hand of strength, and I will clothe Myself in garments of blood! I will walk forth so that the land shall tremble in My indignation; wickedness shall not prevail; purity in manhood and Divine excellence shall prevail.” And so the thunder of God’s justice and the threatenings of God’s law were sounded out continually because men were on so low a plane that they needed just that development of the Divine nature. But that has given a disproportionate idea of God’s character. Men have been taught that He is the implacable thunderer. Another reason is that it is easier for us to thunder than it is to love. But it was not until the sun rose at the Advent that there came a morning outburst that gave us sight, not of the administration of God’s government among men, but of the heart of God Himself in Jesus Christ. There we see the inside of God; and what was that? If Calvary does not teach it, if His walk among the poor and needy does not teach it, if all the acts of mercy do not inspire you with the knowledge, if you need it shaped into a doctrine, then hear it here. He represents that the inner nature of God, as represented by Jesus Christ acting in place of the high priest, was one that could “have compassion on the ignorant and on those that are out of the way”--all error, all stumbling, all sin, all violation of the ideal of duty. The infinite bounty of Divine love is not savage nor partial, it is universal, it is intense beyond description. What is infinite? That beyond which the thought of man cannot go; that that has, to our thought, no boundary, extent beyond ending. What is infinite compassion? That that would wrap this globe round and round a thousand times, like the folds of a garment round the body, with Divine thoughtfulness, Divine mercy, Divine love. What is infinite love? What is a mother’s love? The purest and tenderest thing that is known on earth is the overhanging heart of a mother upon the cradle that has in it that little nothing which we call a babe, that can give nothing back, that receives everything arid returns nothing. Yet the love of the mother is but one drop of the ocean as compared with the love of the great Father of mankind--infinite, infinite! (H. W. Beecher.)

Compassion on the ignorant

I. COMPASSION AND FORBEARANCE ARE TWO THINGS WHICH ANY MAN WHO WOULD DO GOOD TO HIS FELLOW-MEN OUGHT TO POSSESS TO A VERY LARGE DEGREE.

1. You will have plenty of use for all the compassion and all the tenderness that you can possibly command, for this will help to draw around you those who are ignorant and out of the way. Love is the queen bee, and where she is you will rind the centre of the hive.

2. By this same spell you will hold those whom you gather, for men will not long remain with an unloving leader, even little children in our classes will not long listen to an unsympathetic teacher. The earth is held together by the force of attraction, and to the men upon it that same power is exercised by love and compassion.

3. Compassion in your heart will be greatly useful in moving sinners to care for themselves. Mr. Knill at one time was distributing tracts at Chester, and went out where there was a company of soldiers. Many received the tracts, but one man tore the little book in pieces before the good man’s eyes; and on another occasion the same individual said to the soldiers, “Now make a ring round him.” The men stood round the preacher, and then the wicked fellow cursed him in such a frightful manner that Mr. Knill burst into tears to hear such awful sounds. The sight of Knill’s tears broke the heart of the blasphemer: nothing else could have touched him, but he could not bear to see a strong man who was at least his equal, and, probably, his superior, weeping over him. Years after he came forward to own that the tender emotion displayed by Mr. Knill had touched his inmost soul, and led him to repentance.

4. You want great compassion to insure your own perseverance, for if you do not love the children of your class, if you do not love the people whom you try to benefit as you go from house to house, if you have no compassion on the dying sinners around you, you will soon give up your mission, or go about it in a merely formal manner.

5. Compassion of heart can alone teach you how to speak to others.

6. Now, there are many reasons why we should have a great deal of compassion and forbearance. Think what patience God had with you, all those years before your conversion, and multitudes of times since; and if He has had patience with your, should not you have patience with your fellow sinner even to the end? There is one reflection which may help you. Remember that these poor souls who sin as they do should be looked upon by you as persons who are deranged, for sin is madness. And do recollect this--if you do not have compassion you cannot do them good. If you become weary of them, and speak sharply, you cannot bless them; and, perhaps, if you are not the means of blessing them, nobody else may be. Ah, is it your own husband? Wife, win him. Do not drive him from bad to worse by scolding. Sister, is it your brother? Woo him and win him to Christ. Do not vex him by becoming acid and sour.

II. COMPASSION AND FORBEARANCE PRE-EMINENTLY DWELL IN JESUS CHRIST.

1. He has compassion on the ignorant. Very many persons are wilfully ignorant of Christ. Is not this enough to move the Lord to anger? And yet His patience continues. Come to Him just as you are and confess your wilful blindness, and He will put it away, and enable you to understand the things which make for your peace. Stone are ignorant, however, because they have been cast where they could not well know; they were born in an ungodly family, or, what is much the same, among those who have only a mere formal religion. They do not know the truth, but they can scarcely be blamed for it. Well, Christ is able to teach you. Come and sit at His feet, for He will have compassion on your ignorance.

2. He will have compassion upon those that are out of the way. Who are these people? Some are out of the way because they never were in it and never knew it. Many are in a very emphatic sense out-of-the-way sinners.. They have gone to such extravagances that they are out of the way of common morality, and quite startle their careless comrades. Well, my Lord Jesus will have compassion on you out-of-the-way sinners. However far you have gone, only turn to Him, for pardon is freely published. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The human sympathies of Christianity

Every religion professes to reveal to us the supernatural; every philosophy professes to teach u, moral duty; but Christianity alone has, together with these, approached man with tender and helpful sympathy. Even Judaism did not. Assuredly infidelity does not; it may be very philosophical, it may inculcate a very pretentious morality, but it has no tenderness and sympathy; it has nothing like the Christian ideas of human brotherhood, and Divine Fatherhood. And yet, is not this precisely what we need? Not stern injunctions to be good, but sympathy and help in trying to be good. What is it, think you, that makes your destitute neighbour, who lives in a garret, and dines upon a crust, and shivers in the cold, and writhes in his pain, talk calmly of his condition, uttering no word of complaint, looking rather at the alleviations of his sorrow, than at his sorrow itself; speaking of mercies even where you can hardly discover them. Is it religious cant, think you? If it be, this cant is a very wonderful thing. It can do what nothing else save Christianity can do: it can make a suffering and poverty-stricken man patient through long weary years. What is it, again, that enables the tradesman when misfortune comes upon him, or the husband, when the mother of his children is smitten down, and his house is darkened, to kneel down before God with a breaking heart, and to rise up calm and comforted; what is it, but this very Christianity teaching him, not only that his sins are forgiven, but that God, even while he lives on earth, is his Heavenly Father; watching over his life, and appointing every experience of it, solely intent upon doing him the greatest possible good? Let us look a little, then, at these human sympathies of Christ and Christianity. You will see from the chapter that the apostle is speaking of the necessary qualifications of a high priest; and he says that one of these is, that he should be full of human sympathies--“Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way.” And these requisites, he goes on to say, are very eminently found in Christ. Here, then, we encounter “the great mystery of godliness,” the great fundamental fact of Christianity, upon which all its cardinal doctrines rest, that “God was manifest in the flesh”; that He was essentially Divine, became also properly human--the “Emmanuel, God with us.” I call this the most wonderful, the most practical, and the most powerful thought that the world has ever conceived. Why did He become Incarnate? The general answer is--that by “compassing Himself with infirmity He might have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way.” Let me show you this in three things. We are ignorant of God’s righteousness, and out of the way through our guilt. We are ignorant of God’s holiness, and out of the way through our sinfulness. We are ignorant of God’s happiness, and out of the way through our misery. And to have compassion on us in each of these respects, Christ became incarnate--compassed Himself with infirmities; for our pardon, for our purity, and for our peace. And these are our three great human necessities.

1. First, the apostle tells that He became incarnate to procure our pardon. “He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”--that He might be capable, that is, of suffering death. A wonderful thought that--the express purpose for which the Divine Son took our nature was that He might die for us! “Herein is love.” “In this the love of God is manifested.” Other persons come into the world to live; Jesus Christ came into the world to die. In the very midst of His transfiguration glory “He spake of the decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” In the very midst of His resurrection triumph, He told His disciples that “thus it was written, and thus it behoved Him to suffer.” And so perfectly were they filled with the idea of His death, that they described themselves as preachers, not of Christ’s teaching, although He “spake as never man spake” not of Christ’s life, although He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners”--but of Christ’s death: “We preach Christ crucified.” And why this strange and exclusive theme of preaching? Plato’s disciples preach his doctrine--Moses’ followers preached his laws. Why do Christian preachers preach only Christ’s death?--glory in a cross? Why, just because we are “ignorant and cut of the way,” and this Cross precisely meets our first great need as transgressors; it is Christ’s first great proof of redeeming compassion, the first great reason for which He compassed Himself with human infirmity that He might have compassion upon our guilt. It was not merely that He humbled Himself, but that He humbled Himself m this manner, did for us by taking our nature what He could not have done in any other way, and laid down His life for us.

2. And then Christ, as our merciful High Priest, has compassion upon us in our impurity, and takes upon Him our nature that He may set us an example of holiness. Here is a second great reason for His being “compassed with infirmities”--a man like ourselves. He shows us how pure and perfect, and obedient, and patient human life may be. “He learned obedience by the things that He suffered.” “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He did not permit either temptation or suffering to sway Him in His obedience: He would fast in the wilderness rather than sin, He would endure the bitter anguish of Gethsemane rather than oppose His Father’s will. And having such experience of duty and temptation and suffering, He learned how arduous human virtue is--how much grace and strength it requires. Do you not see, then, how great and precious a purpose of His incarnation this is, to set us a perfect human example? He does not enjoin holiness merely, or describe it in a book--He embodies it in His life; He comes into our sinful world and homes, not as a holy God, but a holy Man; so that if we would be holy, we have only to “consider Him,” to “walk even as He walked,” to “follow His steps.” We learn duty from His obedience; love from His tenderness. We clasp His hand, we walk by His side, we witness His life, the beautiful and perfect exhibition in Him of the moral possibilities of a sanctified manhood.

3. He can have compassion upon us in our sorrows. And for this again He was “compassed with infirmities.” It is not without deep significance that He is called “the Man of sorrows,” and said to be “acquainted with grief,” as if grief were His familiar acquaintance. Emphatically is He “the Man Christ Jesus,” “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh”; “both He that sanctifieth and they that are satisfied are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” In all His earthly experience of duty, and temptation and sorrow He is never less, He is never more than a proper Man, “A Brother born for the day of adversity.” Oh! how wonderful this is, and yet how precious, that He “the Creator of the ends of the earth, who fainteth not neither is weary,” should incarnate Himself in the weakness of a little child and in the woes of a sorrowful man! And yet this is precisely what we needed; it is an assurance that comes home to our deepest hearts. Do you not often feel the unspeakable worth of a friend who understands your trials and difficulties and sorrows, who can lovingly enter into all your experiences, and give you counsel and sympathy? Then must it not be infinitely more precious to go to One, who, while on the human side of His nature He can thus be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities, because in all points tempted as we are,” is also on the Divine side Almighty to help, and loving to pity? (H. Allon, D. D.)

Our compassionate High Priest

Often, when we are trying to do good to others, we get more good ourselves. When I was here one day this week, seeing friends who came to join the church, there came among the rest a very diffident, tenderhearted woman, who said many sweet things to me about her Lord, though she did not think that they were any good, I know. She was afraid that I should not have patience with her and her poor talk; but she said one thing which I specially remember: “I have to-day put four things together, from which I have derived a great deal of comfort,” she told me. “And what are they, my sister?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “they are those four classes--‘the unthankful and the evil, the ignorant and those that are out of the way.’ Jesus ‘is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil,’ and ‘He can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way,’ and I think that I can get in through those four descriptions. Though I am a great sinner, I believe that He will be kind to me, and have compassion upon me.” I stored that up; for I thought that one of these days I might want it myself; I tell it to you, for if you do not want it now, you may need it one of these days; you may yet have to think that you have been unthankful and evil, ignorant and out of the way, and it will give you comfort to remember that our Lord Jesus is kind to the unthankful and to the evil, and that He “can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way.”

I. THE SORT OF SINNERS FOR WHOM OUR HIGH PRIEST IS CONCERNED.

1. The people who claim Christ’s aid are generally those who have a very low opinion of themselves. The proud and self-satisfied cannot know His love; but the poor and distressed may ever find in Him comfort and joy, because of His nature, and by means of His intercession.

2. As with the high priest of old, amongst those who come to our High Priest are many whose fear and distress arise from ignorance.

But now let us look at the more exact meaning of the text.

II. THE SORT OF HIGH PRIEST WITH WHOM SINNERS HAVE TO DEAL.

1. He is One who can bear with ignorance, forgetfulness, and provocation.

2. He is One who can feel for grief, because He has felt the same.

3. He is One who lays Himself out tenderly to help such as come to Him.

4. He is One who never repelled a single person.

III. Now, I want to speak to those of you who are the people of God. I want to remind you that there may be a blessing even in your weakness; and that this may be the more clearly seen we will look, in the third place, at the SORT OF INFIRMITY WHICH MAY BE SANCTIFIED AND MADE USEFUL. The high priest of old was compassed with infirmities, and this was part of his qualification. “Yes,” says one, “but he was compassed with sinful infirmities; but our Lord Jesus had no sin.” That is quite true, but remember that this does not make Christ less tender, but more so. Anything that is sinful hardens; and inasmuch as He was without sin, He was without the hardening influence that sin would bring to bear upon a man. He was all the more tender when compassed with infirmities, because sin was excluded from the list. We will not, then, reckon sin in any form as an infirmity likely to be turned to a great use, even though the grace of God abounds over the sin; but let me speak to some of you who wish to do good, and set forth some of the things which were sore to bear at the time, and yet have been rich in blessing since.

1. First think of our struggles in finding mercy. If you have not had a certain experience, you cannot so well help others who have; but if you were compassed with infirmity at your first coming to Christ, you may use that in helping others to come to Him.

2. Again, our grievous temptations may be infirmities which shall be largely used in our service. You cannot be unto others a helper unless you have been compassed with infirmities. Therefore accept the temptations which trouble you so much, as a part of your education to make you useful to others.

3. Our sickness may turn out to be in the same category.

4. Our trials, too, may thus be sanctified.

5. Our depressions may also tend to our fruitfulness. A heart bowed down with despair is a dreadful thing. “A wounded spirit who can bear?” But if you have never had such an experience you will not be worth a pin as a preacher. You cannot help others who are depressed unless you have been down in the depths yourself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The compassionate High Priest

I. COMPASSION AND FORBEARANCE, WITH MEEKNESS, IN THOSE FROM WHOM WE EXPECT HELP AND RELIEF, IS THE GREAT MOTIVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT UNTO FAITH, AFFIANCE, AND EXPECTATION OF THEM.

II. We live, THE LIFE OF OUR SOULS IS PRINCIPALLY MAINTAINED, UPON THIS COMPASSIONATENESS OF OUR HIGH PRIEST namely, that He is able to bear with us in our provocations, and to pity us in our weaknesses and distresses. To this purpose is the promise concerning Him (Isaiah 40:11). There are three things that are apt to give great provocations unto them that are concerned in us.

1. Frequency in offending.

2. Greatness of offences.

3. Instability in promises and engagements.

These are things apt to give provocations, beyond what ordinary moderation and meekness can bear withal; especially where they are accompanied with a disregard of the greatest love and kindness. And all these are found in believers, some in one, and some in another, and some in all.

III. Though every sin hath in it the whole nature of sin, rendering the sinners obnoxious unto the curse of the law; yet as there are several kinds of sins, so THERE ARE SEVERAL DEGREES OF SIN, some being accompanied with a greater guilt than others.

1. There is a distinction of sins with respect unto the persons that commit them. But this distinction ariseth from the event, and not from the nature of the sin itself intended. Regenerate persons will, through the grace of God, certainly use the means of faith and repentance for the obtaining of pardon, which the other will not; and if they are assisted also so to do, even they in like manner shall obtain forgiveness. No man therefore can take a relief against the guilt of sin from his state and condition, which may be an aggravation, and can be no alleviation of it.

2. There are degrees of sin amongst men unregenerate, who live in a course of sin all their days. All do not sin equally, nor shall all be equally punished.

3. In the sins of believers there are different degrees, both in divers, and in the same persons. And although they shall be all pardoned, yet have they different effects; with respect

IV. OUR IGNORANCE IS BOTH OUR CALAMITY, OUR SIN, AND AN OCCASION OF MANY SINS UNTO US.

V. SIN IS A WANDERING FROM THE WAY.

VI. NO SORT OF SINNERS ARE EXCLUDED FROM AN INTEREST IN THE CARE AND LOVE OF OUR COMPASSIONATE HIGH PRIEST, BUT ONLY THOSE WHO EXCLUDE THEMSELVES BY THEIR UNBELIEF.

VII. IT WAS WELL FOR US, AND ENOUGH FOR US, THAT THE LORD CHRIST WAS ENCOMPASSED WITH THE SINLESS INFIRMITIES OF OUR NATURE.

VIII. GOD CAN TEACH A SANCTIFIED USE OF SINFUL INFIRMITIES, AS HE DID IN AND TO THE PRIESTS UNDER THE LAW. (John Owen, D. D.)

Tenderness

Our relation to the things under us is the most certain touchstone of our character. Here we display quite freely what we are. We embody, on a small scale, as it may be, the spirit of fathers or the spirit of despot. We employ our superiority of power, whatever it is, either to bring to a clearer light the signs of God’s counsel in external nature which wait for our interpretation, or to assert ourselves in the impotence of caprice as able to preserve, or to deface, or to destroy that which it., indeed, God’s work. We either use that which is at our disposal arbitrarily for our own pleasure, or we deal with it as representing some fragment of a complicated order of life. We depress our dependents and our subordinates, the weaker men who come within our influence, that we may be isolated in the splendour of a lonely tyranny, or we strive to lift them little by little towards our own level, that in the great day of revelation we may be seen standing by the throne in the midst of many brethren; for, when we speak of the things under us, we must give to the phrase a much larger meaning than we commonly attach to it. It reaches far beyond the men who are under us. The revelation which has been made to us of the Divine plan of creation shows that we are placed in a world over the whole of which we have to exercise dominion, charged, as the true ruler must be charged, with a responsibility towards every part of it. We have from the first a responsibility towards the material fabric of the world, no less than towards the hosts of sentient beings by which this material fabric is peopled. And then, as the ages go forward, our responsibility increases. The feebler races which fall behind in the development of life become subject to the stronger, and the feebler men to those who in any respect have been endowed with the prerogative of command. Thus the sphere of the responsibility of those to whom power is given becomes indefinitely varied, but in each case the position of authority brings with it the burden of noble cares. We all must and do exercise dominion for good or for evil, and we all need the spirit of tenderness that our dominion may he a blessing. Tenderness is for dominion what sympathy is for fellowship. Tenderness pierces through the surface to the heart of things. It is true of tenderness, in every application of the pregnant figure, that it “will not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax.” It discerns the element of strength in that which is most frail, and the element of life in that which is darkest. It sees in forms transitory and common Divine gifts to be handled reverently. It sees in simple and subject types of life memories, as it were, the promises of a great plan slowly fulfilled from stage to stage. It sees in the rudest human mind a mirror for reflecting, however imperfectly, the image of a Father in heaven; and, as we trust the varied vision, new thoughts pass into our own souls, and we become conscious of hidden forces about us which are able to still the sorrowful impatience of our eager desires. Tenderness in each direction quickens our spiritual sensibility, and under inspired teaching, nature and creaturely life and even man’s failures disclose mysteries of hope. It springs out of our Christian faith. It is the obvious expression of our Christian faith in regard to the things under us. There is, I say, a tenderness towards material things which belongs to the Christian character. And this tenderness, born from the recognition of God in His creatures, shows itself both in use and in contemplation. There is something of touching solemnity in the form of the Jewish thanksgiving over bread and wine, which may go back even to the apostolic age, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe.” The words remind us that the least and commonest comes from Him who sways the whole. He Himself is seen in His gifts, and in that presence there can be no wastefulness, no carelessness, no ungrateful discontent. Even light and food may be dishonoured by reckless indifference; and we may miss, by blind prodigality, the teachings which come through trivial acts to tender souls. It is, perhaps, yet more obvious how tenderness finds a place in the contemplation of material things. To the hard and the impatient there is no sanctity in the purple mountain-side, no beauty born of murmuring sounds, no majesty in the light of setting suns. The silence that is in the starry sky, the sleep that is among the lonely hills, have for them no particular message; but, none the less, sanctity, beauty, majesty, tidings of great truths are there, and the quiet eye can gather the spiritual harvest. Thus we can see how tenderness has its scope and blessing in mute, insensate things; but perhaps it is most called for in our dealings with animals. These lie in our power in a peculiar sense, and-we need to school ourselves that we may fulfil our duty towards them, for we have a duty towards them. They are not only for our service or for our amusement, they are committed by God to our sovereignty, and we owe to them a considerate regard for their rights. Our responsibility in this respect is easily forgotten. We have all felt, I fancy, something of that irrational pleasure in the capricious use of power which Browning has analysed in his portraiture of Caliban. The boy strikes down the butterfly, the man shoots the swallow on the wing, simply because he can and because he chooses. But these wanton acts are not indifferent. They tend to reveal and to mould character. They break the righteous conditions of our sovereignty. The thought has a wide and a pleasant application, for, looking at the question from this light, I do not see bow the pursuit of amusement can justify the slaughter of animals, or how the pursuit of knowledge can justify their torture. Neither amusement nor knowledge is an end for man. Both must be followed in full view of the supreme aim of life, and in remembrance of the abiding character on which each action leaves its mark. But it may be said we shall gain an insight into the hidden causes of disease, and a mastery over them, through the sufferings which we deliberately inflict on the creatures which are within our control. So far as I can ascertain, the expectation has not been justified by facts, nor can I discover the least reasonable ground for supposing that we shall learn any secrets of life which it is good for us to know by the way of calculated cruelty. If the world were the work of an evil power, or if it were the result of a chance interaction of force and matter, it would be at least possible that we might have gained results physically beneficial to ourselves by the unsparing sacrifice of lower lives. But if He who made us made all other creatures also--if they find a place in His providential plan--if His tender mercies reach to them--and this we Christians most certainly believe--then I find it absolutely inconceivable that He should have so arranged the avenues of knowledge that we can attain to truths it is His will that we should master only through the unutterable agonies of beings which trust in us. If we have guarded the spirit of tenderness in our bearing towards the material world and the animal world, we shall be prepared to apply it also towards weaker races and weaker men who are in a greater or less degree brought within our influence. Every one holds a position of superiority as parent or employer, as richer than others in experience or knowledge, as endowed with authority by years or position; and every one knows the daily vexations which come through the thoughtlessness, or ignorance, or indifference, as it seems to us, of those whom we wish to help in the fulfilment of their duty. Every one, again, has suffered from the temptation which bids the stronger assert his will by his strength, and overbear what he thinks to be an unintelligent opposition, and claim deference as an unquestionable right. At such times we are on our trial, and sympathetic tenderness alone will save us from falling; for tenderness will trace back the wayward act to some trait of natural character which gentle discipline can mould to good. It will discern that involuntary ignorance is to be dealt with as a form of intellectual distress. It will win respect before it claims deference for the authority with which it is entrusted. It will, in a word, turn stumbling-blocks into stepping-stones, and find, by them, the way into many hearts. But it is in dealing with the poorest that tenderness will help us most; and when I speak of the poorest, I mean those who are poorest in thought, in feeling, in aspiration even more than those who are poorest in earthly things. The poor man needs relief--the poor in virtue no less than the poor in money. The bankrupt in noble thoughts is set up again only when he sees the good for which he was made, and sees that it is still within his reach. This prospect tenderness can disclose to him--a tenderness which in view of the saddest spectacles of human failure, kindles in the believer a fire of piety, a light of natural affection, and reveals in the brother for whom Christ died the possibility and the hope of service; for tenderness, no less than reverence and sympathy, flows from Christ only as an inexhaustible source. (Bishop Westcott.)

Compassion qualifies for helpful service amongst men

The following beautiful tradition about Moses is handed down to posterity:--He led the flock of his father-in-law. One day while he was contemplating his flock in the desert, he saw a lamb leave the herd, and run further and further away. The tender shepherd not only followed it with his eyes, but went after it. The lamb quickened his step, hopped over hill, sprang over ditches, hastening through valley and plain; the shepherd unweariedly followed its track. At last the lamb stopped by a spring at which it eagerly quenched its thirst. Moses hastened to the spot, looked sadly at the drinking lamb, and said: “It was thirst, then, my poor beast, which tormented time, and drove thee from me, and I didn’t understand; now thou art faint and weary from the long, hard way, thy powers are exhausted; how then couldst thou return to thy comrades? “After the lamb had quenched his thirst and seemed undecided what course to take, Moses lifted it to his shoulder, and bending under the heavy burden, strode back to the flock. Then he heard the voice of God calling to him, sating: “Thou hast a tender heart for My creatures, thou art a kind, gentle shepherd to the flocks of man--thou art now called to feed the flocks of God.” (Jewish Messenger.)

Our Lord’s sympathy

Human sympathy, we must remember, may, and in many cases does, from its very fulness become weakness. The sympathy of a mother for a child will too often prevent her from inflicting necessary punishment. The sympathy of the benevolent for the poor and suffering may, without caution, tend to the encouragement of vice. Sympathy is essentially a woman’s virtue, but the quickness of feeling which overpowers judgment is also a woman’s infirmity. There is, in fact, no virtue which more powerfully demands law and limitation before it, can safely be yielded to. But the dignity of our blessed Lord’s sympathy is as remarkable as its depth. He sympathised with the shame of the sinner whom He pardoned, but He never excused the offence. “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go, and sin no more,” are the words which have touched the human heart, and worked repentance and amendment of life in thousands since the days when they were first spoken; but no one could ever claim them as an encouragement to sin. The dignity of our Lord’s sympathy was, in fact, shown by His obedience to the law which bade Him exhibit God’s perfection. He never allowed one virtue to interfere with another. Mercy and truth might meet together, righteousness and peace might kiss each other, but the one never entrenched upon the province of the other; if it had there would have been no perfection. And if we, like Christ, would rightly sympathise; if we would in our degree bear the griefs of our fellow-creatures, without any weakness of judgment or absence of due proportion, we must view those sorrows as Christ viewed them, and soothe them in His spirit. To relieve all anguish, to remove all pain, that is not to be our object. If it were, we might well in sorrow close our doors to the suffering, and, shutting out their misery from our view, give ourselves up to our own enjoyment. For sympathy is pain. When we feel with and for another, we must in a measure suffer; and, looking at the sad amount of wretchedness in this fallen world, we may, perhaps, at first sight be pardoned if we deem it better to be without sympathy--neither to require it for ourselves, nor to offer it to others. The loss on the one side may, we may well think, be counterbalanced by the gain on the other.

Compassion on the ignorant

Men who are ignorant should not be met with scorn, nor fault-finding, nor neglect, for they need compassion. We should lay ourselves out t,, bear with such for their good. A disciple who has been taught all that he knows by a gracious Saviour should have compassion on “the ignorant.” A wanderer who has been restored should have compassion on “them that are out of the way.” A priest should have compassion on the people with whom he is one flesh and blood, and assuredly our Lord, who is our great High Priest, has abundant compassion upon the ignorant.

I. WHAT IS THIS IGNORANCE? It is moral and spiritual, and deals with eternal things.

1. It is fearfully common among all ranks.

2. It leaves them strangers to themselves.

3. It leaves them unacquainted with the way of salvation.

4. It leaves them without the knowledge of Jesus. They know not His person, offices, work, character, ability, readiness to save.

5. It leaves them strangers to the Holy Spirit.

(1) They perceive not His inward strivings.

6. It is most ruinous in its consequences.

II. WHAT IS THERE IN THIS IGNORANCE WHICH IS LIABLE TO PROVOKE US, AND THEREFORE DEMANDS COMPASSION?

1. Its folly. Wisdom is worried with the absurdities of ignorance.

2. Its pride. Anger is excited by the vanity of self-conceit.

3. Its prejudice. It will not hear nor learn; and this is vexatious.

4. Its obstinacy. It refuses reason; and this is very exasperating.

5. Its opposition. It contends against plain truth; and this is trying.

6. Its density. It cannot be enlightened; it is profoundly foolish.

7. Its unbelief. Witnesses to Divine truth are denied credence.

8. Its wilfulness. It chooses not to know. It is hard teaching such.

9. Its relapses. It returns to folly, forgets and refuses wisdom, and this is a sore affliction to true love.

III. How OUR LORD’S COMPASSION TOWARDS THE IGNORANT IS SHOWN.

1. By offering to teach them.

2. By actually receiving them as disciples.

3. By instructing them little by little, most condescendingly.

4. By teaching them the same things over again, patiently.

5. By never despising them notwithstanding their dulness.

6. By never casting them off through weariness of their stupidity. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Ignorance

It is a sad thing for the blind man who has to read the raised type when the tips of his fingers harden, for then he cannot read the thoughts of men which stand out upon the page; but it is far worse to lose sensibility of soul, for then you cannot peruse the book of human nature, but must remain untaught in the sacred literature of the heart. You have heard of the “iron duke,” but an iron Christian would be a very terrible person: a heart of flesh is the gift of Divine grace, and one of its sure results is the power to be very pitiful, tender, and full of compassion. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Ignorance is the devil’s college. (Christmas Evans.)

The sin of ignorance

In that the ignorant are here brought in as an instance of such sinners as were to have sacrifices offered up for their sins, the apostle giveth us to understand, that ignorance is a sin. It is expressly said, “That if any soul sin through ignorance, he shall bring a sin-offering” Numbers 15:27-28).

1. Ignorance is a transgression of the law of God, for it is contrary to that knowledge which the law requireth: but every transgression is sin (1 John 3:4).

2. Ignorance is a defect of that image of God, after which God at first created man; for knowledge was a part of that image (Colossians 3:10).

3. Ignorance is an especial branch of that natural corruption which seized upon the principal part of man, namely, his understanding.

4. Ignorance is the cause of many other sins (Galatians 4:8; 1 Timothy 1:13). Therefore it must needs be a sin itself.

5. Judgments are denounced against ignorance, as against a sin (Ho 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

6. Ignorance is a punishment of other sins (Isaiah 6:10; John 12:40). Though ignorance be a sin, yet ignorant persons are here brought in as a fit object of compassion. Christ renders this ground of His praying for the Jews that had a hand in crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). And Peter allegeth it as a ground of His tendering mercy unto them (Acts 3:17). Ignorance is a spiritual blindness, so as they see not the dangerous course wherein they walk, and in that respect are the more to be pitied. (W. Gouge.)

Ignorance causes neglect of religion

It’s ignorance of the price of pearls that makes the idiot slight them. It’s ignorance of the worth of diamonds that makes the fool choose a pebble before them. It’s ignorance of the satisfaction learning affords that makes the peasant despise and laugh at it; and we very ordinarily see how men tread and trample on those plants which are the greatest restoratives, because they know not the virtue of them; and the same may justly be affirmed of religion, the reason why men meddle no more with it is--because they are not acquainted with the pleasantness of it. (Anthony Horneck.)

Ministers must remember the ignorant

When I preach I sink myself deep down. I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom are here in this church above forty; but I have an eye to the multitude of young people, children, and servants, of whom are more than two thousand. I preach to those, directing myself to them that have need thereof. Will not the rest hear me? The door stands open unto them; they may begone. (M. Luther.)

Offer for sins

The great sacrifice

I. THE ABSOLUTE HOLINESS AND SPOTLESS INNOCENCE OF THE LORD CHRIST, IN HIS OFFERING OF HIMSELF, HAD A SIGNAL INFLUENCE UNTO THE EFFICACY OF HIS SACRIFICE, AND IS A GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT UNTO OUR FAITH AND CONSOLATION. No other sort of high priest could have done what was to be done for us. Had He had any sin of His own He could never have taken all sin from us. From hence it was that what He did was so acceptable with God, and that what He suffered was justly imputed unto us, seeing there was no cause in Himself why He should suffer at all. And we may see herein

1. Pure unmixed love and grace. He had not the least concern in what He did or suffered herein for Himself. This was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich, for our sakes He became poor. And will He not pursue the same love unto the end?

2. The efficacy and merit of His oblation, that was animated by the life and quintessence of obedience. There was in it the highest sufferings, and the most absolute innocency, knit together by an act of most inexpressible obedience.

3. The perfection of the example that is set before us (1 Peter 2:21-22).

II. WHOSOEVER DEALETH WITH GOD OR MAN ABOUT THE SINS OF OTHERS, SHOULD LOOK WELL IN THE FIRST PLACE UNTO HIS OWN. There are four ways whereby some may act with respect unto the sins of others, and not one of them wherein they can discharge their duty aright, if in the same kind they take not care of themselves in the first place.

1. It is the duty of some to endeavour the conversion of others from a state of sin. How can they press that on others, which they neither know what it is, nor whether it be or not, any otherwise than as blind men know there are colours? By such persons are the souls of men ruined, who undertake the dispensation of the gospel unto them, for their conversion unto God, knowing nothing of it themselves.

2. It is our duty to keep those in whom we are concerned, as much as in us lieth, from sinning, or from actual sin. With what confidence, with what conscience can we endeavour this towards others, if we do not first take the highest care herein of ourselves?

3. To direct and assist others in the obtaining pardon for sin is also the duty of some. And this they may do two ways

4. To administer consolation under sinning, or surprisals with sin, unto such as God would have to be comforted, is another duty of the like kind.

And how shall this be done by such as were never cast down for sin themselves, nor ever spiritually comforted of God?

III. No DIGNITY OF PERSON OR PLACE, NO DUTY, NO MERIT, CAN DELIVER SINNERS FROM STANDING IN NEED OF A SACRIFICE FOR SIN. THE HIGH PRIEST, BEING A SINNER, WAS TO OFFER HIMSELF.

IV. IT WAS A PART OF THE DARKNESS AND BONDAGE OF THE CHURCH UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT, THAT THEIR HIGH PRIESTS HAD NEED TO OFFER SACRIFICES FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR OWN SINS. It is a relief to sinners that the word of reconciliation is administered unto them, and the sacrifice of Christ proposed, by men subject unto the like infirmities with themselves. For there is a testimony therein, how that they also may find acceptance with God, seeing He deals with them by those who are sinners also. But these are not the persons who procure the remission, or have made the atonement which they declare. Were it so, who could with any confidence acquiesce therein? But this is the holy way of God. Those who are sinners declare the atonement which was made by Him who had no sin. (John Owen, D. D.)


Verses 1-14

Verses 4-6

Hebrews 5:4-6

No man taketh this honour unto himself.

The ministerial calling from God

A calling is most requisite in all things we take in hand, especially in the ministry. Who will meddle with the sheep of a man unless he be called to it? and shall we meddle with Christ’s sheep without a calling? As for our calling.

1. It is of God. We have God’s seal to our calling, because He hath furnished us in some measure with gifts for it.

2. We are called by the Church, which, by imposition of hands representing God’s hand, hath separated us to this office. Let every one be assured of his calling. A lamentable thing to consider, what a number of intruders there be that have thrust themselves into this holy calling. In Jeroboam’s time every one that would consecrate himself became one of the priests of the high places. Shall we have them to make cloth that have no skill in clothing? Will any make him his shepherd that knows not what belongs to sheep? And wilt thou deliver Christ’s sheep into the hands of a blind and ignorant shepherd? Wilt thou have him to build thy house that hath no skill in building? Wilt thou make him the schoolmaster of thy child that hath no learning? But any is good enough for the ministry. If men did look as well to the charge as to the dignity of the office; if Onus were as well considered as Bonus, men would not make such haste to it as they do. They watch over the souls of the people, as they that must give an account. The day of taking in our profits is sweet, but the counting day will be terrible, when Christ will require every lost sheep at our hands. Therefore let none take this honour to himself, but see that he be called of God, as Aaron was. (W. Jones, D. D.)

Order in ecclesiastical institution

In human doings and human productions we see everywhere manifestations of order. Well-ordered stones make architecture; well-ordered social regulations make a constitution and a police; well-ordered ideas make good logic; well-ordered words make good writing; well-ordered imaginations and emotions make good poetry; well-ordered facts make science. Disorder, on the ether hand, makes nothing at all, but un-makes everything. Stones in disorder produce ruins; an ill-ordered social condition is decline, revolution, or anarchy; ill-ordered ideas are absurdity; ill-ordered words are neither sense nor grammar; ill-ordered imaginations and emotions are madness; ill-ordered facts are chaos. (J. S. Blackie.)

The ministerial office

I. Here let us first learn THAT BOTH IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR ANY MAN WITHOUT A CALLING TO TAKE UPON HIM THE MINISTRY NEITHER YET ANY CALLING OUGHT TO BE, WHICH IS NOT ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD: for, seeing the ministry is honourable, and he is justly honoured that executeth it faithfully, how can I exalt myself, but of right I ought again to be brought low, and instead of glory, have shame? For what do I in this but rob Christ of His glory, who is Head of His Church, and appointeth ministers whom He will, who ruleth in the house of Jacob, and ordaineth officers at His own pleasure? If in an earthly kingdom subjects would presume to take offices at their own choice, were it not extreme confusion, utter reproach and shame unto the prince? How much more to bring this confusion into the Church of Christ?

II. THE SECOND THING TO BE LEARNED IN THESE WORDS IS THAT WE HAVE ALL SUCH A CALLING AS WE MAY BE SURE IT IS OF GOD FOR WE MUST BE CALLED OF GOD, AS AARON WAS. No minister ought to be called in the Church but he whose calling may be known to be of God. Hereof I may first conclude, touching the person of the minister: that because in all places, by the prophets, by the apostles, by our Saviour Christ, God always requireth that His ministers be of good report, well grounded in faith, able to teach His people; therefore if ignorant men, and not able to teach, be chosen unto this office, I dare boldly affirm it, their calling is not allowed of God. Now, touching the office whereunto God appointeth the ministers of His gospel, is it not this: to preach His Word, and minister Sacraments? Other governors of His Church, are they not for the people’s obedience unto this Word, and for provision of the poor? (E. Deering, B. D.)

Of the honour and function of the high priest

It here declareth that the high priest’s function was an honourable function, which is thus manifested.

1. The solemn manner of inaugurating, or setting them apart thereto Exodus 29:1).

2. His glorious apparel (Exodus 28:1-43.).

3. The great retinue that attended him: as all sorts of Levites, together with sundry inferior priests (Numbers 3:9; Numbers 8:19).

4. The liberal provision made for him out of the meat-offerings, sacrifices, firstfruits, tenths, and other oblations (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 5:13; Leviticus 7:6; Deuteronomy 18:3).

5. The difficult cases that were referred to him.

6. The obedience that was to be yielded to him.

7. The punishment to be inflicted on such as rebelled against him Deuteronomy 17:8-10, &c.).

8. The sacred services which they performed, as to be for men in things pertaining to God: to offer up what was brought to God (verse 1), and to do other particulars set clown (Hebrews 2:11). In such honourable esteem were high priests, as kings thought them fit matches for their daughters 2 Chronicles 22:11).

9. The west principal honour intended under this word was that the high priest, by virtue of his calling, was a kind of mediator between God and man. For he declared the answer of the Lord to man, and offered up sacrifices to God for man. (W. George.)

Of the honour of the ministerial calling

1. Their Master is the great Lord of heaven and of earth. If it be an honour to be an especial minister of a mortal king, what is it to be the minister of such a Lord?

2. Their place is to be in the room of God, even in His stead--ambassadors for Him (2 Corinthians 5:20).

3. Their work is to declare God’s counsel (Acts 20:17).

4. Their end is to perfect the saints (Ephesians 4:12).

5. Their reward is greater than of others (Daniel 12:3). Thus hath the Lord honoured this function that it might be the better respected, and prove more profitable. Ministers in regard of their persons are as other men, of like passions with them, and subject to manifold infirmities, which would cause disrespect were it not for the honour of their function. (W. George.)

Divine designation

I. IT IS AN ACT OF SOVEREIGNTY IN GOD, TO CALL WHOM HE PLEASETH UNTO HIS WORK AND ESPECIAL SERVICE AND EMINENTLY SO WHEN IT IS UNTO ANY PLACE OF HONOUR AND DIGNITY IN HIS HOUSE.

1. Because every call is accompanied with choice and distinction.

2. Because, antecedently unto their call, there is nothing of merit in any to be so called, nor of ability in the most, for the work whereunto they are called. What merit was there, what previous disposition unto their work, in a few fishermen about the Lake of Tiberias, or Sea of Galilee, that our Lord Jesus Christ should call them to be His apostles, disposing them into that state and condition, wherein they sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel? So was it ever with all that God called in an extraordinary manner (see Exodus 4:10-11; Jeremiah 1:6; Amos 7:15-16). In His ordinary calls there is the same sovereignty, though somewhat otherwise exercised. For in such a call there are three things

(a) An inclination of their hearts, in compliance with His designation of them unto their office.

(b) An especial blessing of their endeavours for the due improvement of their natural faculties and abilities, in study and learning, for the necessary aids and instruments of knowledge and wisdom.

(c) The communications of peculiar gifts unto them, rendering them meet and able unto the discharge of the duty of their office, which in an ordinary call is indispensably required as previous to an actual separation unto the office itself.

3. He ordereth things so as that a person whom He will employ in the service of His house shall have an outward call, according unto rule, for his admission thereinto. And in all these things God acts according to His own sovereign will and pleasure. And many things might hence be insisted on. As

II. THE HIGHEST EXCELLENCY AND UTMOST NECESSITY OF ANY WORK TO BE DONE FOR GOD IN THIS WORLD WILL NOT WARRANT OUR UNDERTAKING OF IT, OR ENGAGING IN IT, UNLESS WE ARE CALLED THEREUNTO.

III. THE MORE EXCELLENT ANY WORK OF GOD IS, THE MORE EXPRESS OUGHT OUR CALL UNTO IT TO BE.

IV. IT IS A GREAT DIGNITY AND HONOUR TO BE DULY CALLED UNTO ANY WORK, SERVICE, OR OFFICE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. (John Owes, D. D.)

Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest

Christ, as Son of Man, called and perfected to be our High Priest

Twice already the apostle has referred to Christ as our High Priest, and he now enters on the development of the central theme of his Epistle--Christ a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. But in order to explain the priesthood on which Christ entered after His death and resurrection, and of which not Aaron but Melchizedek was the type, it is necessary for him to show how the Lord Jesus fulfilled all that was typified of Him in the Levitical dispensation, and possessed in perfection all the requirements which, according to Divine appointment, were needed in the high priest, and which could not be possessed in perfection by sinful men like the Aaronic priests. In the first place, the priests were as sinful as the people whom they represented. It was on account of sin that Israel felt the need of a mediator. But Aaron and the priests were only officially holy; they were not in reality spotless and pure. Hence they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins and infirmities, as well as for those of the people. Secondly, the mediator ought not merely to be perfect and sinless man, he ought also to be Divine, in perfect and full communion with God, so that he can impart Divine forgiveness and blessing. Only in the Lord Jesus, therefore, is the true mediation. He who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, hath made us kings and priests unto God. The two qualifications of the Aaronic high priest, that he was from among men and that he was appointed by God, were fulfilled in a perfect manner in the Lord Jesus. But in considering these two points, we are struck not merely by the resemblance between the type and the fulfilment, but also by the contrast.

1. Aaron was chosen from among men to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Jesus was true man, born of a woman and made under the law; He became in all things like unto His brethren. But whereas the Jewish high priest had to offer for himself, as he was a sinner, the Lord was harmless and undefiled, pure and spotless. His mediation was therefore perfect. The Aaronic high priest was able to have compassion on the ignorant and on them that were out of the way, knowing and feeling his own infirmities and transgressions, and knowing also the love of God, who desireth not the death of the sinner, but that he should turn and live. But this compassionate regard for the sinner can exist in perfection only in a sinless one. This appears at first sight paradoxical; for we expect the perfect man to be the severest judge. And with regard to sin, this is doubtless true. God chargeth even His angels with folly. He beholds sin where we do not discover it. He setteth our secret sins in the light of His countenance. And Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, like the Father, has eyes like a flame of fire, and discerns everything that is contrary to God’s mind and will. But with regard to the sinner, Jesus, by virtue of His perfect holiness, is the most merciful, compassionate, and considerate Judge. Beholding the sinful heart in all, estimating sin according to the Divine standard, according to its real inward character, and not the human, conventional, and outward measure, Jesus, infinitely holy and sensitive as He was, saw often less to shock an,t pain Him in the drunkard and profligate than in the respectable, selfish, and ungodly religionists. Again, He had come to heal the sick, to restore the erring, to bring the sinner to repentance. He looked upon sin as the greatest and most fearful evil, but on the sinner as poor, suffering, lost, and helpless. He felt as the Shepherd towards the erring. Again, He fastened in a moment on any indications of the Father’s drawing the heart, of the Spirit’s work:

2. The high priest is appointed by God. No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. The high priesthood of Christ is identified here with His glory. “Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.” Blessed truth, that ,he glory of Christ and our salvation are so intimately connected, that Christ regards it as His glory to be our Mediator and Intercessor! This is Christ’s glory, even as it is the reward of His suffering, that in Him we draw near to the Father, and that from Him we receive the blessings of the everlasting covenant. He rejoices to be our High Priest. God called Him to the priesthood. The calling of Jesus to the high priestly dignity is based on His Sonship. Because Jesus is Son, He is the Prophet, perfectly revealing God; because He is Son, He is the true Sacrifice and Priest; for only the blood of the Son of God can cleanse from all sin, and bring us nigh unto God; and only through Christ crucified and exalted can the Father’s love and the Spirit’s power descend into our hearts. Here the comparison and contrast between the Lord and Aaron ends. The apostle now enters on that which is peculiar to our Saviour Jesus. The types and figures of the old covenant could not be perfect and adequate; for that which is united in Christ had necessarily to be severed and set forth by a variety of figures. The priests offered not themselves, but animals. Now the obedience, the conflict, the faith, the offering of the will as the true, real, and effective Sacrifice could not possibly be symbolised. Nor could any single symbol represent how Jesus, by being first the Sacrifice, became thereby the perfect, compassionate, and merciful High Priest. Christ was the victim on the Cross. The Son of God, according to the eternal counsel, came into the world to be obedient even unto death. “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” His obedience was characterised throughout by such continuity, liberty, and inward delight, that we are apt to forget that aspect of His life on which the apostle dwells when he says, that though Christ was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. Real and great were His difficulties, temptations, and sorrows; and from the prayers and complaints ascribed to Messiah in the psalms and prophets, we can understand somewhat of the burden which weighed on His loving and sensitive heart, and the constant dependence with which He leaned on the Father, and obtained from Him light and strength. Jesus believed; He lived not merely before, but by the Father. Thus is Jesus the Author and Finisher of faith. He went before the sheep. He is the forerunner. He has experienced every difficulty, and last, d every sorrow. He knows the path in all its narrowness. (A. Saphir.)

Christ glorified not Himself

As the Pope doth, who will needs be styled Pontifex Maximum, the greatest high priest. Pope Hildebrand especially, whom, when no man would advance to Peter’s chair, he gad up himself. Said he, “Who can better judge of me than myself?(J. Trapp)

The difference between the priesthood and the high priesthood of Christ

I. The priest and the high priest did not minister in the same PLACE. AS a priest, Christ ministered on earth; as high priest, He ministers in heaven.

II. The priest and the high priest did not perform the same WORK.

1. As priest, Christ sacrificed Himself.

2. As high priest, He

III. The priest and the high priest did not appear in the same DRESS. Christ as a priest was made like unto His brethren: wore the simple dress of humanity. Christ as high priest of eternity is clothed with all the glories of immortal life.

IV. The priest and the high priest did not occupy the same POSITION. The one was a sub-officer, the other the supreme judge of the land and the president of the Sanhedrin. Christ as High Palest is the highest officer in the kingdom of God. (H. Marries.)

Christ not a self-elected, but a God-appointed priest

At length the priesthood of Christ, already three times alluded to, is taken up in earnest, and made the subject of an elaborate discussion, extending from this point Hebrews 10:18. The writer begins at the beginning, setting forth first of all that Christ is a legitimate priest, not a usurper; one solemnly called to the office by God, not self-elected. The chief thing in his mind here is the call or appointment; the sympathy is referred to, in connection with its source, personal infirmity, as explaining the need for a call, so as to suggest the question, Who, conscious of the infirmity which is the secret of sacerdotal mildness, would dream of undertaking such an office without a Divine call? Jesus assuredly undertook the office only as called of God. He was called to the priesthood before His incarnation. He came to the world under a Divine call. And during the days of His earthly life His behaviour was such as utterly to exclude the idea of His being a usurper of sacerdotal honours. All through His incarnate experiences, and especially in those of the closing scene, He was simply submitting to God’s will that He should be a priest. And when He returned to heaven He was saluted High Priest in recognition of His loyalty. Thus from first to last He was emphatically One called of God. What is said of the sympathy that becomes a high priest, though subordinate to the statement concerning his call, is important and interesting. First, a description is given of the office which in every clause suggests the reflection, How congruous sympathy to the sacerdotal character! The high priest is described as taken from among men, and the suggestion is that, being a man of like nature with those for whom he transacts, he may be expected to have fellow-feeling with them. Then he is further described as ordained for men in things pertaining to God, the implied thought being that he cannot acquit himself satisfactorily in that capacity unless he sympathise with those whom he represents before God. Lastly, it is declared to be his special duty to offer sacrifices of various sorts for sin, the latent idea being that it is impossible for any one to perform that duty with any earnestness or efficiency who has not genuine compassion for the sinful. Very remarkable is the word employed to describe priestly compassion. It does not signify to feel with another, but rather to abstain from feeling against him; to be able to restrain antipathy. It is carefully selected to represent the spirit which becomes a high priest as a mean between two extremes. On the one hand, he should be able to control the passions provoked by error and ignorance, anger, impatience, disgust, contempt. On the other hand, he must not be so amiable as not even to be tempted to give way to these passions. Ignorance and misconduct he must not regard with unruffled equanimity. It is plainly implied that it is possible to be too sympathetic, and so to become the slave or tool of men’s ignorance or prejudices, and even partaker of their sins--a possibility illustrated by the histories of Aaron and of Eli, two high priests of Israel. The model high priest is not like either. He hates ignorance and sin, but he pities the ignorant and sinful. The ignorant for him are persons to be taught, the erring sheep to be brought back to the fold. He remembers that sin is not only an evil thing in God’s sight, but also a bitter thing for the offender; realises the misery of an accusing conscience, the shame and fear which are the ghostly shadows of guilt. The character thus drawn is obviously congenial to the priestly office. The priest’s duty is to offer gifts and sacrificies for sin. The performance of this duty habituates the priestly mind to a certain way of viewing sin: as an offence deserving punishment, yet pardonable on the presentation of the appropriate offering. The priest’s relation to the offender is also such as demands a sympathetic spirit. He is not a legislator, enacting laws with rigid penalties attached. Neither is he a judge, but rather an advocate pleading for his client at the bar. Neither is he a prophet, giving utterances in vehement language to the Divine displeasure against transgression, but rather an intercessor imploring mercy, appeasing anger, striving to awaken Divine pity. But the special source to which sacerdotal sympathy is traced is the consciousness of personal infirmity. “For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” The explanation seems to labour under the defect of too great generality. A high priest is no more human in his nature and experience than other men--why, then, should he be exceptionally humane? Two reasons suggest themselves. The high priest was officially a very holy person, begirt on all sides with the emblems of holiness, copiously anointed with oil, whose exquisite aroma typified the odour of sanctity, arrayed in gorgeous robes, significant of the beauty of holiness, required to be so devoted to his sacred calling and so dead to the world that he might not mourn for the death of his nearest kin. How oppressive the burden of this official sanctity must have been to a thoughtful, humble man, conscious of personal infirmity, and knowing himself to be of like passions and sinful tendencies with his fellow-worshippers! Another source of priestly benignity was, I imagine, habitual converse in the discharge of duty with the erring and the ignorant. The high priest had officially much to do with men, and that not with picked samples, but with men in the mass; the greater number probably being inferior specimens of humanity, and all presenting to his view their weak side. He learned in the discharge of his functions to take a kindly interest in all sorts of people, even the most erratic, and to bear with inconsistency even in the best. The account given of priestly sympathy prepares us for appreciating the statement which follows concerning the need for a Divine call to the priestly office (Hebrews 10:4). No one, duly impressed with his own infirmities, would ever think of taking unto himself so sacred an office. A need for a Divine call is felt by all devout men in connection with all sacred offices involving a ministry on men’s behalf in things pertaining to God. The tendency is to shrink from such offices, rather than to covet and ambitiously appropriate them. Having stated the general principle that a Divine call is necessary as an inducement to the assumption of the priestly office, the writer passes to the case of Jesus Christ, whom he emphatically declares to have been utterly free from the spirit of ambition, and to hare been made a high priest, not by self-election, but by Divine appointment. It is difficult to understand, at first, why the text from the second Psalm, “My Son art Thou,” is introduced here at all, the thing to be proved being, not that Messiah was made by God a Son, but that He was made a Priest. But on reflection we perceive that it is a preliminary hint as to what sort of priesthood is signified by the order of Melchizedec, a first attempt to insinuate into the minds of readers the idea of a priesthood belonging to Christ altogether distinct in character from the Levitical, yet the highest possible, that of one at once a Divine Son and a Divine King. On further consideration, it dawns on us that a still deeper truth is meant to be taught; that Christ’s priesthood is coeval with His sonship, and inherent in it. From the pre-incarnate state, to which the quotations from the Psalter refer, the writer proceeds to speak of Christ’s earthly history: “Who, in the days of His flesh.” He here conceives, as in a later part of the Epistle he expressly represents, the Christ as coming into the world under a Divine call to be a priest, and conscious of His vocation. He represents Christ as under training for the priesthood, but training implies previous destination; as an obedient learner, but obedience implies consciousness of His calling. In the verses which follow (7, 8) his purpose is to exhibit the behaviour of Jesus during His life on earth in such a light that the idea of usurpation shall appear an absurdity. The general import is: “Jesus ever loyal, but never ambitious; so far from arrogating, rather shrinking from priestly office, at most simply submitting to God’s will, and enabled to do that by special grace in answer to prayer.” Reference is made to Christ’s Sonship to enhance the impression of difficulty. Though He was a Son full of love and devotion to His Father, intensely, enthusiastically loyal to the Divine interest, ever accounting it His meat and drink to do His Father’s will, yet even for Him so minded it was a matter of arduous learning to comply with the Father’s will in connection with His priestly vocation. For it must be understood that the obedience here spoken of has that specific reference. The aim is not to state didactically that in His earthly life Jesus was a learner in the virtue of obedience all round, but especially to predicate of Him learning obedience in connection with His priestly calling--obedience to God’s will that He should be a priest. But why should obedience be so difficult in this connection? The full answer comes later on, but it is hinted at even here. It is because priesthood involves for the priest death (Hebrews 10:7), mortal suffering (Hebrews 10:8); because the priest is at the same time victim. And it is in the light of this fact that we clearly see how impossible it was that the spirit of ambition should come into play with reference to the priestly office in the case of Christ. Self-glorification was excluded by the nature of the service. The verses which follow (9, 10) show the other side of the picture: how He who glorified not Himself to be made a priest was glorified by God; became a priest indeed, efficient in the highest degree, acknowledged as such by His Father, whose will He had loyally obeyed. “Being perfected,” how? In obedience, and by obedience even unto death, perfected for the office of priest, death being the final stage in His training, through which He became a Pontifex consummatus. Being made perfect in and through death, Jesus became ipso facto author of eternal salvation, the final experience of suffering, by which His training for the priestly office was completed, being at the same time His great priestly achievement. The statement that through death Jesus became ipso facto author of salvation, is not falsified by the fact that the essential point in a sacrifice was its presentation before God in the sanctuary, which in the Levitical system took place subsequently to the slaughtering of the victim, when the priest took the blood within the tabernacle and sprinkled it on the altar of incense or on the mercy-seat. The death of our High Priest is to be conceived of as including all the steps of the sacrificial process within itself. Lapse of time or change of place is not necessary to the accomplishment of the work. The death of the victim, the presentation of the sacrificial blood--all was performed when Christ cried τετέλεστει. Translated into abstract language, Hebrews 10:10 supplies the rationale of the fact stated in Hebrews 10:9. Its effect is to tell us that Christ became author of eternal salvation because He was a true High Priest after the order of Melchizedec: author of salvation in virtue of His being a priest, author of eternal salvation because His priesthood was of the Melchizedec type--never ending. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)


Verses 7-11

Hebrews 5:7-11

With strong crying and tears

The exercise of the Son of God in His agony

I.
In the first place we shall illustrate the definition of THE SEASON OF THE AGONY OF THY, SON OF GOD in these words: “The days of His flesh.” In general, it may he observed that the application of the term “flesh” to the mystery of His incarnation is remarkable. By the application of this term something more is expressed than the subsistence of our nature in His person.

1. The beginning of these days is at His birth. In His birth the Son of God entered into the infirmities of our flesh, and, for our sakes, exposed Himself not only to sufferings attending ordinary births, but unto hardships peculiar to the circumstances of His own extraordinary birth.

2. These days ended at His resurrection. The human nature subsisting in the person of the Son of God, was the same nature after His resurrection that it had been before His death. But the likeness, or appearance, was different. Before His death it had “the likeness of sinful flesh”; after His resurrection it appeared in the original glory of human nature subsisting still in His person.

3. The number of these days is not exactly known. The Author of revelation is the Judge of what is proper to appear in the witness which He hath testified of His Son, and what is proper to be concealed.

4. These were the days of His sufferings and temptations. At their beginning, the Son of God entered into His sufferings, and suffered every day until their end.

5. Toward the close of these days He suffered an agony. Day after day, all the days of His flesh, He waded deeper and deeper in the ocean of sorrow, and toward the last the waves rose high and broke over Him in the fury and vengeance of the curse.

6. These were the days of His supplication, prayers, and tears.

II. But in regard our text refers unto THE PRAYERS AND SUPPLICATIONS WHICH IN THE CLOSE OF THE DAYS OF HIS FLESH HE OFFERED UP, under His agony, we proceed to the second head of our general method, and shall illustrate these words of the text: “When He had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him who was able to save Him from death.”

1. “Offering up prayers and supplications” is the action of the Son of God under His agony in the close of the days of His flesh. In our nature, He is “the High Priest of our profession”; and His suffering and dying for our sins are represented in many texts of Scripture as actions of a priest offering sacrifice, and making atonement and reconciliation for sins.

2. “To Him who was able to save Him from death,” is the description of the object unto whom the Son of God, under His agony, in the days of His flesh, offered up prayers and supplications. In our nature, and in that station wherein the Son of God stood, He considered His righteous and holy Father as possessing sovereign power ever Him with respect to life and death, and executing the curse upon Him according to the penalty of the law; He considered Him as able, not to deliver Him from dying-this is not the object of His prayers--but to uphold His suffering nature in conflicting with the pangs and sorrows of death, and to save Him from the mouth of the lion, and from the horns of the unicorn, or from being overcome by the prince of this world who had the power of death; and He considered Him as able to loose the cords and pains of death, and, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, to bring Him again from the dead by a glorious resurrection on the third day.

3. “Strong crying and tears” are expressions of the fervency with which the Son of God, under His agony, in the close of the days of His flesh, offered up prayers and supplications to His righteous Father, who was able to save Him from death.

III. We proceed to illustrate His ACCEPTANCE, which is affirmed by the apostle in the latter part of our text: “Heard in that He feared.”

1. The nature of that fear, which is ascribed to the Son of God under His agony, is to be ascertained. The term used by the apostle, and translated “fear,” signifies godly fear, accompanied with weakness and feelings in the present frame of our nature. Impressions of the holiness of His Father, together with sensations of His displeasure, sunk deep into His soul, and affected every member of His body, exciting that fear which is the sum of obedience and the essence of adoration, and which, in His state, was accompanied with infirmities and feelings of flesh and blood. Obedience and adoration were in His prayer; and His agony itself, in one consideration, was suffering affliction, and, in another, subjection to the will and obedience to the commandment of His Father.

2. We shall collect several principles which gave force to the operation of fear in the Son of God under His agony in the days of His flesh.

3. The sense in which the Son of God under His agony, in the days of His flesh, was heard is to be ascertained and illustrated.

IV. After illustrating the several parts of our text, SOME APPLICATIONS are proper for reproof, correction, and instruction, unto the peculiar people who are in the fellowship of God’s dear Son in the first place; and, in the second, unto the children of disobedience who will not enter into this holy fellowship.

1. “Holy brethren, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” Consider His infirmities, consider His temptations, consider His conflict, consider His example, consider His acceptance, and consider His divinity.

2. After these considerations which have been addressed unto the peculiar people who are in the fellowship of the mystery of godliness, we would have the children of disobedience to consider the existence and holiness of God; the provocation which they have given Him; the necessity of reconciliation; the access to the benefit of the reconciliation which the merciful and faithful High Priest of our profession made for the sins of the people; and the penal and certain consequences of refusing the benefit of this reconciliation. (Alex. Shanks.)

The mental sadness of Christ

I. HIS MIND WAS THE SUBJECT OF INTENSE EMOTIONS.

II. A DREAD OF DEATH SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN ONE OF HIS MOST DISTRESSING EMOTIONS.

III. UNDER THIS MOST INTENSE EMOTION HE SOUGHT RELIEF IN PRAYER.

IV. HIS PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED IN CONSEQUENCE OF HIS PIETY. The dread was taken away and strength given to bear it. (Homilist.)

The benefit arising to Christ from His own sufferings

I. His CONDUCT UNDER HIS SUFFERINGS. Never were the sufferings of any creature comparable with those of Christ. His bodily sufferings perhaps were less than many of His followers have been called to endure--but those of His soul were infinitely beyond our conception (Psalms 22:14, Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44). Under them He poured out His heart in prayer unto His heavenly Father. He never lost sight of God as His Father, but addressed Him with the greater earnestness under that endearing title (Mark 14:36). Not that He repented of the work He had undertaken; but only desired such a mitigation of His sufferings as might consist with His Father’s glory and the salvation of men. Nor did He desist from prayer till He had obtained His request. Him the Father always heard; nor was an answer now denied Him. Though the cup was not removed, He was not suffered to faint in drinking it. His sufferings indeed could not be dispensed with; but they were amply recompensed by

II. THE BENEFIT HE DERIVED FROM THEM.

1. Personal. It was necessary for Him, as our High Priest, to experience everything which His people are called to endure in their conflicts with sin and Satan (Hebrews 2:17). Now the difficulty of abiding faithful to God in arduous circumstances is exceeding great. This is a trial which all His people are called to sustain. Though as the Son of God He knew all things in a speculative manner, yet He could not know this experimentally, but by being reduced to a suffering condition. This therefore was one benefit which He derived from His sufferings. He learned by them more tenderly to sympathise with His afflicted people, and more speedily to succour them when imploring His help with strong crying and tears (verse 18).

2. Official. As the priests were consecrated to their office by the blood of their sacrifices, so was Jesus by His own blood. From that time He had a right to impart salvation.

III. LEARN

1. What we should do under sufferings, or a dread of God’s displeasure. We should not hastily conclude that we are not His children (Hebrews 12:6). We should rather go with humble boldness to God as our Father Luke 15:17-18). We should plead His gracious promises (Psalms 51:15).

2. Whither to go for salvation. The Father was “able to save His Son from death.” And doubtless He can save us also. But He has exalted His Son to be a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31). To Christ therefore we are to go, and to the Father through Christ (Ephesians 2:18). In this way we shall find Him to be the author of eternal salvation to us (Hebrews 7:25).

3. What is to be our conduct when He has saved us? Jesus died “to purchase to Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” We must therefore obey Him, and that too as willingly in seasons of severe trial as in times of peace. We must be content to be conformed to the likeness of our Lord and Master. Let us be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). (Theological Sketch-Book.)

Our sympathising High Priest

I. First, that we may see the suitability of our Lord to deal with us in our cares and sorrows, we shall view Him as A SUPPLIANT.

1. The text begins with a word which reveals His weakness: “Who in the days of His flesh.” Our blessed Lord was in such a condition that He pleaded out of weakness with the God who was able to save. When our Lord was compassed with the weakness of flesh He was much in prayer.

2. In the days of His flesh our Divine Lord felt His necessities. The words, “He offered up prayers and supplications,” proved that He had many needs. Men do not pray and supplicate unless they have greater need than this world can satisfy. The Saviour offered no petitions by way of mere form; His supplications arose out of an urgent sense of His need of heavenly aid.

3. Further, let us see how like the Son of God was to us in His intensity of prayer. The intensity of His prayer was such that our Lord expressed Himself in “crying and tears.” Since from His lips you hear strong crying, and from His eyes you see showers of tears, you may well feel that His is a sympathetic spirit, to whom you may run in the hour of danger, even as the chicks seek the wings of the hen.

4. We have seen our Lord’s needs and the intensity of His prayer; now note His understanding in prayer. He prayed “ unto Him that was able to save Him from death.” The expression is startling; the Saviour prayed to be saved. In His direst woe He prayed thoughtfully, and with a clear apprehension of the character of Him to whom He prayed. It is a great help in devotion to pray intelligently, knowing well the character of God to whom you are speaking. Jesus was about to die, and therefore the aspect under which He viewed the great Father was as “ Him that was able to save Him from death.” This passage may be read in two ways: it may mean that He would be saved from actually dying if it could be done consistently with the glorifying of the Father; or it may mean that He pleaded to be saved out of death, though He actually descended into it. The word may be rendered either from or out of. The Saviour viewed the great Father as able to preserve Him in death from the power of death, so that He should triumph on the Cross; and also as able to bring Him up again from among the dead.

5. It will further help you if I now call your attention to His fear. I believe our old Bibles give us a correct translation, much better than the Revised Version, although much can be said for the latter, “With strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.” That is to say, He had a fear, a natural and not a sinful fear; and from this fear He was delivered by the strength brought to Him from heaven by the angel. God has implanted in all of us the love of life, and we cannot part from it without a pang: our Lord felt a natural dread of death.

6. But then notice another thing in the text, namely, His success in prayer, which also brings Him near to us. He was heard “in that He feared.” O my soul! to think that it should be said of thy Lord that He was heard, even as thou a poor suppliant, art heard. Yet the cup did not pass from Him, neither was the bitterness thereof in the least abated.

II. Behold our Lord as A SON. His prayers and pleadings were those of a son with a father.

1. The Sonship of our Saviour is well attested. The Lord declared this in the second Psalm: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” Thrice did the voice out of the excellent glory proclaim this truth, and He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” So, when you are put to great grief, do not doubt your sonship.

2. Being a Son, the text goes on to tell us that He had to learn obedience. How near this brings our Lord to us, that He should be a Son and should have to learn! We go to school to Christ and with Christ, and so we feel His fitness to be our compassionate High Priest.

3. Jesus must needs learn by suffering. As swimming is only to be learned in the water, so is obedience only learned by actually doing and suffering the Divine will.

4. The Lord Jesus Christ learned this obedience to perfection.

5. Our Lord learned by suffering mixed with prayer and supplication. His was no unsanctified sorrow, His griefs were baptised in prayer. It cost Him cries and tears to learn the lesson of His sufferings. He never suffered without prayer, nor prayed without suffering.

III. Behold the Lord Jesus as A SAVIOUR.

1. As a Saviour He is perfect. Nothing is lacking in Him in any one point. However difficult your case may seem, He is equal to it. Made perfect by suffering, He is able to meet the intricacies of your trials, and to deliver you in the most complicated emergency.

2. Henceforth He is the author of salvation. Author! How expressive! He is the cause i,f salvation; the originator, the worker, the producer of salvation. Salvation begins with Christ; salvation is carried on by Christ; salvation is completed by Christ. He has finished it, and you cannot sad to it; it only remains for you to receive it.

3. Observe that it is eternal salvation: “ the author of eternal salvation.” Jesus does not save us to-day and leave us to perish to-morrow; He knows what is in man, and so He has prepared nothing less than eternal salvation for man.

4. Furthermore, inasmuch as He has learned obedience and become a perfect High Priest, His salvation is wide in its range, for it is unto “all them that obey Him.”

5. Note, that He is all this for ever, for He is “a priest for ever.” If you could have seen Him when He came from Gethsemane, yon think you could have trusted Him. Oh! trust Him to-day, for He is “ called of God to be an High Priest after the order of Melchizedec,” and that order of Melchizedec is an everlasting and perpetual priesthood. He is able today to plead for you, able to-day to put away your sins. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ in the infirmity of the flesh

I. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF HAD A TIME OF INFIRMITY IN THIS WORLD. It is true His infirmities were all sinless, but all troublesome and grievous. By them was He exposed unto all sorts of temptations and sufferings, which are the two springs of all that is evil and dolorous unto our nature. And thus it was with Him not a few days, nor a short season only, but during His whole course in this world.

1. It was out of infinite condescension and love unto our souls, that Christ took on Himself this condition (Philippians 2:6-8).

2. As He had other ends herein, for the-e things were indispensably required unto the discharge of the sacerdotal office, so He designed to set us an example, that we should not faint under our infirmities and sufferings on their account (Hebrews 12:2-3; 1 Peter 4:1).

II. A LIFE OF GLORY MAY ENSUE AFTER A LIFE OF INFIRMITY. We see that it hath done so with Jesus Christ. His season of infirmity issued in eternal glory. And nothing but unbelief and sin can hinder ours from doing so also.

III. THE LORD CHRIST IS NO MORE NOW IN A STATE OF WEAKNESS AND TEMPTATION THE DAYS OF HIS FLESH ARE PAST AND GONE. With His death, ended the days of His flesh. His revival or return unto life, was into absolute, eternal, unchangeable glory.

IV. THE LORD CHRIST FILLED UP EVERY SEASON WITH DUTY, WITH THE PROPER DUTY OF IT. The days of His flesh, were the only season wherein He could offer to God; and He missed it not, He did so accordingly. It is true, in His glorified state, He continually represents in heaven, the offering that He made of Himself on the earth, in an effectual application of it unto the advantage of the elect. But the offering itself was in the days of His flesh. Then was His body capable of pain, His soul of sorrow, His nature of dissolution, all which were necessary unto this duty.

V. THE LORD CHRIST, IN HIS OFFERING UP HIMSELF FOR US, LABOURED AND TRAVAILED IN SOUL, TO BRING THE WEEK UNTO A GOOD AND HOLY ISSUE. A hard labour it was, and as such, it is here expressed. He went through it with fears, sorrows, tears, outcries, prayers, and humble supplications.

1. All the holy, natural affections of His soul were filled, taken up, and extended to the utmost capacity, in acting and suffering.

2. All His graces, the gracious qualifications of His mind and affections were, in a like manner, in the height of their exercise. Both those whose immediate object was God Himself, and those which respected the Church, were all of them excited, drawn forth, arid engaged. As

3. He did so also with respect to that confluence of calamities, distresses, pains, and miseries, which was upon His whole nature. And that in these consisted no small part of His trials, wherein He underwent and suffered the utmost which human nature is capable to undergo, is evident from the description given of His dolorous sufferings both in prophecy (Psalms 22:1-31.;

Isaiah 53:1-12.) and in the story of what befell Him in the evangelists. And in this manner of His death, there were sundry things concurring.

(a) Of that of him who was hanged on a tree, as cursed of the Lord Deuteronomy 21:22).

(b) Of the brazen serpent which was lifted up in the wilderness (John 2:14), with respect whereunto He says, that when He is lifted up, He would draw all men to Him (John 12:32).

(c) Of the wave-offering, which was moved, shaken, and turned several ways, to declare that the Lord Christ in this offering of Himself, should have respect unto all parts of the world, and all sorts of men (Exodus 29:26).

VI. THE LORD CHRIST, IN THE TIME OF HIS OFFERING AND SUFFERING, CONSIDERING GOD WITH WHOM HE HAD TO DO, AS THE SOVEREIGN LORD OF LIFE AND DEATH, AS THE SUPREME RECTOR AND JUDGE OF ALL, CASTS HIMSELF BEFORE HIM WITH MOST FERVENT PRAYERS FOR DELIVERANCE, FROM THE SENTENCE OF DEATH AND THE CURSE OF THE LAW.

1. HOW great a matter it was, to make peace with God for sinners, to make atonement and reconciliation for sin. This is the life and spirit of our religion, the centre wherein all the lines of it do meet (Philippians 3:8-10; 1 Corinthians if. 2; Galatians 6:14).

2. A sight and sense of the wrath of God due unto sin, will be full of dread and terror for the souls of men, and will put them to a great conflict with wrestling for deliverance.

VII. IN ALL THE PRESSURES THAT WERE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, IN ALL THE DISTRESSES HE HAD TO CONFLICT WITHAL IN HIS SUFFERING, HIS FAITH FOR DELIVERANCE AND SUCCESS WAS FIRM AND UNCONQUERABLE. This was the ground He stood upon in all His prayers and supplications.

VIII. THE SUCCESS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, IN HIS TRIALS, AS OUR HEAD AND SURETY, IS A PLEDGE AND ASSURANCE OF SUCCESS UNTO US IN ALL OUR SPIRITUAL CONFLICTS. (John Owen, D. D.)

Christ’s sufferings

In this one sentence there is more for us to learn than either eye hath seen or ear hath heart or all flesh in this life shall attain unto: it is the depth of the glorious gospel which the angels do desire to behold.

I. We have to learn by the example of our Saviour Christ in this place, THAT IN ALL TEMPTATIONS WE SHOULD APPROACH UNTO OUR GOD, and make our complaints unto Him, who is only able and ready for to help us. In all miseries we are not sunken so deep in sorrow as He that for our sakes made prayers end supplications, with strong cryings and with tears, and was delivered from His fear.

II. The second point that we have here to learn in this example of our Saviour Christ is, TO KNOW UNTO WHOM WE SHOULD MAKE OUR PRAYERS IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE, which the apostle testifieth in these words: that Christ made His prayers unto Him that was able to deliver Him from death. It followeth in the text: with great crying and with tears.

III. Here we have to NOTE, IN WHAT MEASURE OUR SAVIOUR CHRIST WAS AFFLICTED, even so far, that He cried out in the bitterness of His soul. Who hath been ever so full of woe, and who hath been brought so low into the dust of death? His virtues were unspeakable, and righteous above all measure, yet was He accounted among the wicked. And if these were the causes that Christ had to complain, then think not that His cryings were above His sorrow; to see so near unto His heart, even in His own person, innocence blamed, virtue defaced, righteousness trodden down, holiness profaned, love despised, glory contemned, honour reviled, all goodness ashamed, faith oppugned, and life wounded to death; how could He yet abstain from strong crying and tears, when the malice of Satan had gotten so great a conquest? His grief was exceeding to see all virtue and godliness so trodden under feet and Satan to prevail against man, to his everlasting condemnation. No creature could ever bear such a perfect image of a man of sorrow. But the height and depth of all miseries was yet behind: the sin that He hated He must take it upon His own body, and bear the wrath of His Father, that was poured out against it. This is the fulness of all pain that compassed Him round about, which no tongue is able to utter, and no heart can conceive.

IV. But let us now see what the apostle further teacheth us, and while our Saviour Christ is in these great extremities, WHAT FRUIT OF WELL-DOING HE HATH LEARNED BY IT. It followeth, and although He were the Son, yet learned He obedience by the things He suffered. Lo, this was no little profit of all His troubles; He learned thereby, how and what it was to obey His Father; He might have great boldness that His obedience was perfect. The shame of the world, the afflictions of the flesh, the vexations of the mind, the pains of hell, when these could make Him utter no other words but,” Father, as Thou wilt, so let it be done,” what hope, what faith did He surely build on, that His obedience was precious in the sight of His Father? This example is our instruction. We know then best how we love the Lord, when we feel by experience what we will suffer for His sake. So faint not in your mournings, but endure patiently; you know not the happiness of that which seemeth your misery; let this be the first cause why we should be glad of temptations. Lo, these are the healthful counsels of the Lord toward us, that we should be made like unto His Son Christ in many afflictions, that at the last we might be also like Him in eternal glory. Thus far we have heard two special causes why we ought to rejoice in all temptations: the one, that so we learn true obedience; the other, that by them we be made like unto Christ. The third cause at this time which I will touch, is this: God sendeth us sundry chastisements, and especially that which is most grievous of all other, the anguish of spirit, and affliction of the soul; for this purpose, that we should be warned in time how to turn unto Him and be free from the plague when it cometh. It followeth in the apostle: “And being consecrate, He was made the author of salvation to all them that obey Him.”

V. In these words we are taught, WHAT FRUIT AND COMMODITY WE HAVE THROUGH THESE BITTER SUFFERINGS OF OUR SAVIOUR CHRIST, AND ALSO BY WHAT MEANS WE ARE MADE PARTAKERS OF IT. The fruit is eternal salvation, the means to go unto it is obedience. In the first we learn that all promise and hope of life is in Christ alone; He hath alone the words of life, and he that dwelleth not in Him, shall see no life: but the wrath of God abideth on him. Take hold of Christ, and take hold of life; reach forth thine hand to any other thing, and thou reachest unto vanity which cannot help. (E. Deering, B. D.)

Distractions in prayer

Such is the pattern which He, who is our pattern, gives us of acceptable effectual prayer. What are our prayers? Heavy, for the most part, and earthly; often we are unwilling to begin them, readily falling in with some plea, why we should not pray now, readily ceasing. And well may we have no pleasure in prayers such as we too often offer. Or of those she really desire to pray, how many have their minds so little controlled at other times, or so thronged with the things of this life, that the thoughts of the world pour in upon them, when they would pray. Step by step, we sunk amid the distractions of the world, and step by step only may we hope that our Father will raise us out of the mire wherein we plunged ourselves. Rut our first step, the very beginning and condition of our restoration, is to unlearn the distractions whereby we have been beset. In seeking to remedy our distractions, our first labour must be to amend ourselves. Such as we are at other times, such will our prayers be. A person cannot be full of cares, and riches, and pleasures, and enjoyments, and vanities of this life, up to the very moment when he falls down at God’s footstool, and leave these companions of his other hours behind him, so that they will not thrust themselves in with him into the holy presence. We cannot keep our thoughts disengaged at prayer, if they are through the day engaged; we cannot keep out vain thoughts then, if at other times we yield to them. We must live more to God, if we would pray more to God; we must be less engrossed with the world, if we would not have the world thrust itself in upon our prayers and stifle them. But still further, even when we would serve God, or do our duty in this life, we must see that we do our very duties calmly. There is a religious, as well as a worldly, distraction. We may mix up self in doing duty, as well as when we make self our end. Religious excitement, or excitement about things of religion, may as effectually bar our praying as eagerness about worldly things. We may be engaged about the things of God, yet our mind may all the while centre in these things, not in God. Holy Scripture joins these two together, calmness or sobriety and prayer; “ Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Peace is the beginning and end of prayer; its condition and its reward. Resign yourselves, that ye may pray, and God will guard your thoughts, and hold them to Himself. If, also, you would guard against wandering in prater, you must practise yourself in keeping a check upon your thoughts at other times. In this busy age, in which every one would know about everything, and, like the Athenians, our occupation seems to be to know some new thing, and what conveys news is thought the instrument of knowledge, and knowledge of every sort is thought a good, it is not a light matter, but one to which we must take great heed; what we hear, and admit into our minds. Our minds are holy things: they are the temples of God; and so, for His honor’s sake who has so hallowed them, we should be on our guard what we allow to enter there. Be not curious about things which concern you not: what happens in the street, or passes by you, or befalls a neighbour, unless charity requires it of you. These things waste the mind more than you can well think. Rather recollect that your concern is not with the world; your home, your hopes, your abiding-place, is not here, but in God; your citizenship is not on earth, but in the heavens; your places here shall shortly know you no more; the earth shall contain no more of you than the dust of your bodies, in keeping for you against the resurrection. Then, on the other hand, as we seek, during the day, to weaken the hold which the world has upon us and our thoughts, so must we by His grace to strengthen our own capacity of turning to God. Away from the world and to God! Commit to Him thoughts, words, and works, to be “ordered by His governance, to do that is righteous in His sight”; to be “begun, continued, and ended” in Him. So when you come to your fuller and more set devotions, you may hope that He, whom you serve continually, will keep you then also, and will vouchsafe Himself to visit you, and be in your thoughts, which you would fain make His, and will shut out the world by filling your thoughts with Himself. It is the infrequency of prayer which makes prayer so difficult. It is not a great effort now and then, which makes the things even of this life easy to us; it is their being the habit of our bodies or our minds. It was by continued exercise which we were not aware of, that our bodies, as children, were strengthened; it was by continued practice that we learnt anything. By continued gazing at far-off objects, the eye sees further than others; by continued practice the hand becomes steadied and obeys the motions of our mind. So and much more must the mind, by continual exercise, be steadied, to fix itself on Him whom it cannot grasp, and look up to Him whom it cannot see. Yea, so much the more exceedingly must it with strong effort fix itself by His grace on Him, because we cannot see Him or approach to Him, but by His revealing Himself and coming down to us, and giving us eyes to see and hearts to comprehend; and this He will do only to the earnest and persevering, and to us severally, as we are such. They then will pray best, who, praying truly, pray oftenest. This, also, is one great blessing of the practice of ejaculatory prayer, that is, prayer which is darted up from the mind in the little intervals which occur, whatever we are doing, Nothing goes on without breaks, to leave us space to turn to God. Amid conversation there is silence; in the busiest life there are moments, if we would mark them, when we must remain idle. We are kept waiting, or we must bear what is wearisome; let prayer take the place of impatience. In preparing for business, let prayer take the place of eagerness; in closing it, of self-satisfaction. Are we weary? be it our refreshment! Are we strong? let us hallow our strength by thanksgiving! The very preparation or close of any business brings with it of necessity a pause, teaching us by this very respite to begin and end with prayer; with prayer beforehand for His help, or at the end thanksgiving to Him who carried us through it, or for pardon for what has been amiss in it. Such are some of the more distant preparations for prayer, such as it should be, fixed and earnest; to strive to make God, not the world, the end of our lives; not to be taken up even with our duties in the world, but amid them to seek Him; to subdue self, and put a restraint upon our senses at other times, that we may have the control over them then; to lift our thoughts to Him at other times, so will they rise more readily then. These are, in their very nature, slowly learnt. Yet as, if wholly learnt, it were heaven itself, so is each step, a step heavenwards. Yet there are many more immediate helps, at the very time of prayer. Neglect nothing which can produce reverence. Pass not at once from the things of this world to prayer, but collect thyself. Think what thou art, what God is; thyself a child, and God thy Father; but also thyself dust and ashes, God, a consuming fire, before whom angels hide their faces: thyself unholy, God holy; thyself a sinner, God thy Judge. Then forget not that of thyself thou canst not pray. We come before Him, as helpless creatures, who need to be taught what to ask for, and knowing, to be enabled to ask, and a-king, to be enabled to persevere to ask. Then watch thyself, what helps or hinders thee to fix thy mind on God. Then as to the words of our prayer: we should beware how we pass hastily over any of our prayers. It is not how much we say, but what we pray, which is of real moment. Then, the best models of prayer consist of brief petitions, as suited to men in need; for when they really feel their need, they use not many words. “Lord, save us, we perish,” is the cry of need. And so the petitions of the pattern of all prayer, our Lord’s, are very short, but each containing manifold prayers. So are the Psalms in prayer or praise: “Blot out all mine iniquities,” “Create in me a new heart,” “Cast me not away from Thy presence,” “Save me by Thy Name.” In this way we may collect our strength and attention for each petition, and so pray on, step by step, through the whole, resting at each step on Him, who alone can carry us to the end, and if, by human frailty, we be distracted, sum up briefly with one strong concentrated effort what we have lost by wandering. In public prayer the case is different. For here, if we wander, the prayers meanwhile go on, and we find that we have lost a portion of our daily bread; that God’s Church on earth has been praising with angels and archangels and the Church in heaven, while we have been bringing our sheep and our oxen and our money-changing, the things of this life, into God’s presence and the court of heaven. Yet the remedies are the same, and we have even greater helps. The majesty of the place may well awe us with devotion, and will aid us to it, if we waste not its impressiveness by our negligence or frivolity. Come we then calmly to this holy place, not thinking or speaking, up to its very threshold, of things of earth, but as men bent on a great service, where much is at stake; coming to a holy presence, from whom depends our all. Pray we, as we enter it, that God would guard our thoughts and compose oar minds and fix them on Him. Employ we any leisure before the service b, gins, in thought or private prayer; guard we our eyes from straying to those around us; listen we reverently to His holy word; use the pause before each prayer to ask God to enable us to pray this prayer also; and so pray each separate prayer, as far as we can, relying on His gracious aid. Yet we are not to think that by these or any other remedies distraction is to be cured at once. We cannot undo at once the habit, it may be, of years. Distraction will come through weakness, ill-health, fatigue: only pray, guard, strive against it; humble yourselves under it, and for the past negligences, of which it is mostly the sad fruit; rely less upon yourself, cast yourself more upon God, hang more wholly upon Him, and long the more for that blessed time, when the redeemed of the Lord shall serve Him day and night without distraction. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Begging prayers

A little boy, one of the Sunday-school children in Jamaica, called upon the “missionary and stated that he had lately been very ill, and in his sickness often wished his minister had been present to pray with him. “But Thomas,” said the missionary, “I hope you prayed.” “Oh yes, sir.” “Well, how did you pray?” “Why, sir, I begged.” (Henry T. Williams.)

The grace of tears

“Lord Jesus, give me the grace of tears.” (Augustine.)

Tears a safety-valve

The safety-valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on. (Albert Smith.)

Yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.

Suffering the school of obedience

I. GOD HAS LAID EVEN UPON SORROW THE DESTINY OF FULFILLING HIS PURPOSES OF MERCY. In the beginning, sorrow was the wages of sin, penal and working death; by the law of Christ’s redemption, it is become a discipline of cleansing and perfection. To the impenitent, and such as will not obey the truth, it is still, as ever, a dark and crushing penalty; to the contrite and obedient it is as the refiner’s fire, keen and searching, purging out the soils, and perfecting the renewal of our spiritual nature. It is the discipline of saints, and the safest, though the austerest, school of sanctity; and that because suffering, or, as we are wont to say, trial, turns our knowledge into reality. There is laid upon us a mighty hand, from whose shadow we cannot flee. All general truths teem with a particular meaning, and speak to us with a piercing emphasis. Equally true this is, also, of all bright and blessed truths: they also are quickened with a living energy. The promises of heaven, and the times of refreshing, and the rest of the saints, and the love of God, and the presence of Christ, which we have so long thought of, and talked about, and felt after, and yet never seemed to grasp--all these likewise become realities. They seem to gather round us, andshed sensible influences of peace upon our suffering hearts; and this is what we mean when we say, “I have long known these things to be true, but now I feel them to be true.”

II. And, in the next place, SUFFERINGS SO PUT OUR FAITH ON TRIAL AS TO STRENGTHEN AND CONFIRM IT. They develop what was lying hid in us, unknown even to ourselves. And therefore we often see persons, who have shown no very great tokens of high devotion, come out, under the pressure of trials, into a more elevated bearing. This is especially true of sickness and affliction. Not only are persons of a holy life made to shine with a more radiant brightness, but common Christians, of no note or visibleness, are changed to a saintly character. They wrestle with their trial, as the patriarch with his unknown companion, and will not let it go without a blessing; and thereby the gifts which lie enwrapped in a regenerate nature are unfolded into life and energy.

III. Once more: NOTHING SO LIKENS US TO THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AS SUFFERING. All that suffer are not therefore saints; alas! far from it, for many suffer without the fruits of sanctity; but all saints at some time, and in some way and measure, have entered into the mystery of suffering. And this throws light on a very perplexing thought in which we sometimes entangle ourselves; I mean, on the wonderful fact that oftentimes the same persons are as visibly marked by sorrows as by sanctity. They seem never to pass out of the shadow of affliction; they seem to be a mark for all the storms and arrows of adversity, the world esteems them to be “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”; even religious people are perplexed at their trials. When we see eminently holy persons suddenly bereaved, or suffering sharp bodily anguish, and their trials long drawn out, or multiplied by succession, we often say, How strange and dark is this dispensation! Who would have thought that one so poor, so patient, and resigned, should have been so visited and overwhelmed by strokes? And yet all this shows how shallow and blind our faith is, for we know little even of those we know best; we readily overrate their character, at all events they are far otherwise in the esteem of God than in our judgment; our thoughts are not His thoughts: we set up a poor, dim, depressed standard of perfection and we should miserably defraud even those we love most if it were in our power to mete out their trials by our measures; we little know what God is doing, and how can we know the way? And we often think that the sorrows of the saints are sent for their punishment, when they are sent for their perfection. We forget that Christ suffered, and why; and how He learned obedience, and what that obedience was. He was made “perfect “ by sufferings, and that “perfection,” whatsoever it be, has an ineffable depth of meaning. It was not only a sacerdotal perfection by consecration to the priesthood of Melchisedec, but something of which that was the formal expression and manifestation of a great spiritual reality, a perfection of holiness, knowledge, obedience, sympathy, and will. And of this perfection, after the measures of a creature, and the proportions of our mere manhood, are the saints made to partake; they are purified, that they may be made perfect. (Archdeacon H. E. Manning.)

Learning obedience

“Though He was a Son, He learned.” Though a Son, i.e., though He was so exalted a being, not a mere servant like the angels, but One whom the angels worship. Not a servant like Moses or like Aaron, but the Son by whom God made the worlds, yet even He had something to learn, and learned it in the days of His flesh. There is a mystery here, yet if we are content to inquire instead of speculate we shall find sufficient answer. There is light in the word “ obedience.” He learned not the art and wisdom of commanding, this belonged to His Eternal Nature. But obedience is an art which belongs of right to lower ranks of being. The Highest cannot, as the Highest, obey, for there is no authority above His own. Obedience may be taught from a throne, but it cannot be learned by one who occupies it. Thus, even the Son of God might learn obedience if He saw fit to empty Himself of Divine prerogative and take upon Him the form of a servant, wearing our human nature and accepting our duties and temptations. Therefore because obedience is so foreign to the Divine nature, it is a thing which the Son of God could learn by becoming incarnate, and could only learn by stooping to share our discipline and bear the Divine will as a yoke instead of wield it as a sceptre. Viewing the Sonship of Christ under another aspect, it might have been thought that a perfect Son would have needed no more teaching, and that when found in fashion as man, His filial spirit, His perfect readiness to obey would have sufficed. But this is denied. Having become a servant, having come down under the yoke of commandments, it is insisted that the Son went right through the actual course of human discipline, evading nothing, missing nothing, until He crowned His obedience by submission, even unto death. Though a Son He learnt obedience by suffering. Could He not learn it otherwise? We know that suffering is needful in our case because our spirits are so faulty, because we are so prone to err and go astray. But a Son, a perfect Son I surely such an One having no share in our defects might have learnt obedience without pain! Can we be wrong in such a view? Perhaps not. If a faultless Son began life in a faultless world; if He were born into a sinless family, or were created in a paradise where no fall had taken place, He might possibly have learned obedience by a painless and unfailing life of conformity to the Father’s will. But whatever might have been possible in heaven or in paradise, painless obedience was not possible in the moral wilderness. In a world where sin abounded Christ had constantly to choose between affliction and iniquity. Without using miraculous powers to screen Himself from the natural consequences of His actions, He was obliged to suffer. The suffering was at once the measure and test of His obedience, and thus it was He passed through pain to perfectness as a learner in the school of human life. This must be so, yet still our hearts cry out in pity for One so holy and true--surely it was not needful for Him to suffer so much! Could not the Father have spared His well-beloved Son such extreme agonies while obedience was being learned? The answer is clear. This might have been possible under some circumstances. An easier life might have been laid out for Jesus as it is laid out for most of us. He might have lived obediently in the midst of plenty. Why then should the Father be pleased to set His well-beloved Son such agonising tasks, why be pleased to bruise and put to grief the Son who always did His will? That is a question which admits of many answers. It is one which none but the Father Himself can answer altogether, yet part of His answer shines before us here. The Son of God came not to learn obedience for Himself, but for our sakes. He came not merely to become perfect As a man before God who reads the heart, but to be visibly perfect before men who can only read actions. He came to be made thus visibly perfect not only as a man, but as a Saviour and as the Author of obedience in us. Look at a few reasons why death, the death of the Cross, was needful to this end. Christ came to set us an example. He came to do much more than this, but that was one great object of His incarnation. But if He had stopped short of obedience unto death, He would have left no example how we ought to act when shut up to the dilemma of being obliged to either sin or die. Christ came to magnify Divine law, to make it venerable in our sight, and to declare the entire rightness of God’s will. While God’s will appoints us a path of flowers, and while duty brings honour and reward, gratitude and trust are easy. But when duty runs straight into a Red Sea! When it leads to a fiery furnace! When the soul, intent on doing right, finds itself alone, misunderstood, and persecuted, then is the time when the enemy finds a listening ear for his slander, “God is careless,” “God is cruel,” “God is unfaithful to those who are most faithful to Himself.” Where then would be the value of Christ’s testimony to the goodness of God’s will when most in danger of being doubted, if He Himself had been spared this terrible temptation? “Be thou faithful unto death”; we can hear that from Christ. Christ came to reveal the Divine sympathy with us in all our afflictions, but that revelation would have been very partial if destitute of any kindly light to shed on dying eyes. We are not all called to martyrdom, hut we have all to die. But where could we have seen the sympathy of Christ with ourselves as mortal, if He had left the world by a private door of rapture? Wherefore to be our sympathetic Friend in the dark valley, Jesus was obedient even unto death. Christ came to preach the forgiveness of sins, to declare the righteousness of God in the act of forgiveness, to commend the love of God to all men, including the very chief of sinners and the most malignant of His foes; and in all these things He must have failed had His obedience stopped short of death. Wherefore Jesus was obedient unto death. Christ came to bring life and immortality to light, and for this end it was needful He should die and rise again. The mere continuance of His life would have had no revelation of a future life to us. But an emptied grave visibly spoils death, breaks the bars of Hades, preaches resurrection to us, who have to die, and reveals Jesus as the first-fruits of them that slept. Wherefore that He might be the Author of an eternal salvation and bring life end immortality to light, the Son was obedient unto death. (T. V. Tymms.)

Christ a learner

I. THE DIVINE EXALTATION OF THE CHARACTER OF HIM WHO IS THE REDEEMER OF MEN, A Son. “Though He were a Son,” “The Son of God,” as in the previous context. We understand this expression as in the first place presenting the Redeemer in the nature, and with the attributes of Deity.

II. His GRACIOUS CONDESCENSION. “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience,” &c. Here we behold the Son of God, He who was infinite in excellency and in working, condescending to become a learner, placing Himself in circumstances in which He might receive instruction. No doubt the Spirit of God that was in Him taught Him better than the scribe, or priest, or ruler, or parent could; but the child Jesus, growing up to manhood, learned, received the wisdom, the counsel, the instruction that is from God. But, “though He were a Son,” He learned something more than knowledge. He learned how to obey. What affections were involved in obedience! What satisfaction resulted to the obedient mind! What intimate and fervent communion existed between Him that was obeyed and Him that did obey! But the lowliest condescension that we mark is, that He learned obedience by suffering. There are many who are willing to obey, and who find pleasure in obedience, when there is only joy, when there is the reward of obedience; but to go through the deep flood, to pass under the dark cloud, to penetrate the fiery furnace, and to endure all that could be heaped in the shape of sorrows, and woes, and to do this that He might “learn obedience”--this was Christ’s condescension. Ah! but He suffered more than this. “The contradiction of sinners against Himself” He suffered. He “learned obedience” by suffering ingratitude from those to whom He showed mercy. He suffered contumely and reproach, He entered into our sorrows. He Himself “took our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Still farther, and even more painful, was His humiliation. We know what it is to be convinced of sin; we know what it is to be overwhelmed with shame for sin. I know that Jesus knew no sin; but oh, in this I see the poignancy of His grief, when all our sins were made to meet on Him. And He was “made perfect”--He condescended to be made perfect “by the things which He suffered,” that He should be a perfectly righteous person in the midst of the most trying circumstances--that He should love even unto death, though death was heaped upon Him for His love.

III. THE END TO BE ACCOMPLISHED BY HIS HUMILIATION. “That He might become the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” How much there is in those words! There would have been no salvation for guilty men if Jesus had not come to die. It is in Christ’s excellencies originally; it is in Christ as the perfect Saviour that we can alone have confidence towards God. He is the author of salvation, inasmuch as He has “taken away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”; He is the author of salvation, inasmuch as He has endured the curse of the broken law, and delivered us from the sentence of condemnation; He is the author of salvation, inasmuch as He has received from His Father the promised Spirit, by which poor guilty sinners are regenerated, and faith wrought in them, to trust in Jesus and His finished work; He is the author of salvation, inasmuch as He has gone to heaven to carry on the work, and He ever lives to make intercession for His people, and is “ able to save to the very uttermost all that come unto God by Him.” He is the author of salvation, for it is the gospel that produces the happy change, that translates from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and glory. But it is “eternal salvation.” It is a salvation that, having been begun, will never be interrupted; it is a salvation that will be unto the end; it is a salvation that will be found, in its consummation, in the presence of God, where “there is fulness of joy,” and at His right hand, where “there are pleasures for evermore.” “Unto all them that obey Him.” You will mark what the obedience is which Christ requires. If He be a Son, He has authority. In His character of Son He is “set at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Now, to obey Christ is to fulfil that which He has enjoined: in the first place, to accept of Him as He is offered; in the next place, to come to Him as He invites; in the third place, to trust in Him as He warrants; in the fourth place, to plead His finished work, and to seek the enjoyment of forgiveness through His continual intercession. Bowing to His sceptre, taking up His cross, uniting ourselves to His people, giving ourselves, first to the Lord, and then to one another, according to His will. All those that thus obey Him have the assurance that He is “the author of eternal salvation unto them.” Not by works of righteousness that they have done, but they are saved for His sake, and the work is wrought in them for His glory, and they are obedient to Him, having been “made willing in the day of His power.” (J. W.Massie, D. D.)

The suffering Son

I. INFINITE LOVE PREVAILED WITH THE SON OF GOD, TO LAY ASIDE THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS INFINITE DIGNITY, THAT HE MIGHT SUFFER FOR US AND OUR REDEMPTION. “Although He was a Son, yet He learned,” &c.

1. The name of “Son” carrieth with it infinite dignity, as our apostle proves at large (Hebrews 1:3-4, &c.).

2. He voluntarily laid aside the consideration, advantage, and exercise of it, that He might suffer for us. This our apostle fully expresseth Philippians 2:5-8). Concerning which we must observe, that the Son of God could not absolutely and really part with His eternal glory. Whatever He did, He was the Son of God, and God still. But He is said to empty Himself of His Divine glory

II. IN HIS SUFFERINGS, AND NOTWITHSTANDING THEM ALL, THE LORD CHRIST WAS THE SON STILL, THE SON OF GOD. He was so both as to real relation and as to suitable affection. He had in them all the state of a Son, and the love of a Son.

III. A PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD IN SOME CASES WILL COST US DEAR. We cannot learn it but through the suffering of those things which will assuredly befall us on the account thereof. So was it with the Lord Christ. I intend not here the difficulties we meet withal in mortifying the internal lusts and corruptions of nature, for these had no place in the example here proposed to us. Those only are respected which come on us from without. And it is an especial kind of obedience also, namely, that which holds some conformity to the obedience of Christ, that is intended. Wherefore

1. It must be singular; it must have somewhat in it, that may, in an especial manner, turn the eyes of others towards it.

2. It is required that this obedience be universal. Sufferings will attend it. They that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. For this kind of obedience will be observed in the world. It cannot escape observation, because it is singular” and it provokes the world, because it will admit of no compliance with it. And where the world is first awakened and then enraged, suffering of one kind or another will ensue. If it do not bite and tear, it will bark and rage.

IV. SUFFERINGS UNDERGONE ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD ARE HIGHLY INSTRUCTIVE. Even Christ Himself learned by the things which He suffered, and much more may we who have so much more to learn. God designs our sufferings to this end, and to this end He blesseth them.

V. IN ALL THESE THINGS, BOTH AS TO SUFFERING, AND LEARNING, OR PROFITING THEREBY, WE HAVE A GREAT EXAMPLE IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. AS such is He proposed unto us in all His course of obedience, especially in His sufferings (1 Peter 2:2). For He would leave nothing undone which was any way needful, that His great work of sanctifying and saving His church to the utmost might be perfect.

VI. THE LOVE OF GOD TOWARDS ANY, THE RELATION OF ANY UNTO GOD, HINDERS NOT BUT THAT THEY MAY UNDERGO GREAT SUFFERINGS AND TRIALS. The Lord Christ did so, “although He were a Son.” And this instance irrefragably confirms our position. For the love of God to Jesus Christ was singular and supereminent. And yet His sufferings and trials were singular also. And in the whole course of the Scripture we may observe that the nearer any have been unto God, the greater have been their trials. For

1. There is not in such trials and exercises an) thing that is absolutely evil, but they are all such as may be rendered good, useful, honourable to the sufferers.

2. The love of God and the gracious emanations of it can, and do, abundantly compensate the temporary evils which any do undergo according to His will.

3. The glory of God, which is the end designed unto, and which shall infallibly ensue upon all the sufferings of the people of God, and that so much the greater as any of them, on any account, are nearer than others unto Him, is such a good unto them which suffer, as that their sufferings neither are, nor are esteemed by them to be evil. (John Owen, D. D.)

The education of sons of God

I. SONSHIP DOES NOT EXEMPT FROM SUFFERING.

1. Not even Jesus, as a Son, escaped suffering.

2. No honour put upon sons of God will exempt them from suffering.

3. No holiness of character, nor completeness of obedience, can exempt the children of God from the school of suffering.

4. No prayer of God’s sons, however earnest, will remove every thorn in the flesh from them.

5. No love in God’s child, however fervent, will prevent his being tried.

II. SUFFERING DOES NOT MAR SONSHIP. The case of our Lord is set forth as a model for all the sons of God.

1. His poverty did not disprove His Sonship (Luke 2:12).

2. His temptations did not shake His Sonship (Matthew 4:3).

3. His endurance of slander did not jeopardise it (John 10:36).

4. His fear and sorrow did not put it in dispute (Mt

26:39).

5. His desertion by men did not invalidate it (John 16:32).

6. His bring forsaken of God did not alter it (Luke 23:46).

7. His death cast no doubt thereon (Mark 15:39). He rose again, and thus proved His Father’s pleasure in Him (John 20:17).

III. OBEDIENCE HAS TO BE LEARNED EVEN BY SONS.

1. It must be learned experimentally.

2. It must be learned by suffering.

3. It must be learned for use in earth and in heaven.

IV. SUFFERING HAS A PECULIAR POWER TO TEACH TRUE SONS. It is a better tutor than all else, because

1. It touches the man’s self; his hone, his flesh, his heart.

2. It tests his graces, and sweeps away those shams which are not proofs of obedience, but pretences of self-will.

3. It goes to the root, and tests the truth of our new nature. It shows whether repentance, faith, prayer, &c., are mere importations, or home-grown fruits.

4. It tests our endurance, and makes us see how far we are established in the obedience which we think we possess. Can we say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”?

Instructed by suffering

I bear my willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord’s workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my school-room is darkened, I see most. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Suffering a good teacher of divinity

A minister was recovering from a danger, bus illness, when one of his friends addressed him thus, “Sir, though God seems to be bringing you up from the gates of death, yet it will be a long time before you will sufficiently retrieve your strength, and regain vigour enough of mind to preach as usual.” The good man answered, “You are mistaken, my friend: for this six weeks’ illness has taught me more divinity than all my past studies and all my ten years’ ministry put together.”

Christ’s experience of obedience

Obedience belongs to a servant, but accordance, concurrence, co-operation, are the characteristics of a son. In His eternal union with God there was no distinction of will and work between Him and His Father; as the Father’s life was the Son’s life, and the Father’s glory the Son’s also, so the Son was the very Word and Wisdom of the Father, His Power and Co-equal Minister in all things, the same and not the same as He Himself. But in the days of His flesh, when He had humbled Himself to “the form of a servant,” taking on Himself a separate will and a separate work, and the toil and sufferings incident to a creature, then what had been mere concurrence became obedience. This, then, is the force of the words, “Though He was a Son, yet had He experience of obedience.” He took on Him a lower nature, and wrought in it towards a Will higher and more perfect than it. Further, “He learned obedience amid suffering,” and therefore amid temptation. Before He came on earth He was infinitely above joy and grief, fear and anger, pain and heaviness; but afterwards all these properties and many more were His as fully as they are ours. Before He came on earth He had hut the perfections of God, but afterwards He had also the virtues of a creature, such as faith, meekness, self-denial. Before He came on earth He could not be tempted of evil, but afterwards He had a man’s heart, a man’s tears, and a man’s wants and infirmities. His Divine nature indeed pervaded His manhood, so that every deed and word of His in the flesh savoured of eternity and infinity; but, on the other hand, from the time He was born of the Virgin Mary, He had a natural fear or danger, a natural shrinking from pain, though ever subject to the ruling influence of that Holy and Eternal Essence which was in Him. Thus He possessed at once a double assemblage of attributes, Divine and human. Still He was all-powerful, though in the form of a servant; still He was all-knowing, though seemingly ignorant; still incapable of temptation, though exposed to it. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Made perfect

The perfect Son

I. THE PERFECTION OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST. Of the manner of His life before He assumed the office of a public teacher we know almost nothing, except that He was not addicted to studious retirement, nor to the acquisition of human science, which have been employed by teachers of false religions to dazzle the ignorant; but that, living in the common intercourse of society. He laboured in the occupation of His reputed father, increasing in mind as in stature. When He appeared as the Messenger of Heaven He was already complete in the graces which His high character demanded, and that knowledge which was requisite for a teacher of righteousness. His pure life is the best illustration of His moral precepts. His doctrines were, literally, tidings of joy, for He disclosed the mercy and grace of the Divine nature towards penitent offenders, which all the efforts of the human understanding could never perfectly ascertain. He disclosed the high destination of man; He brought life and immortality clearly to light through His gospel. His precepts, also, were good tidings; He spake wholesome words, prescribing a doctrine according to godliness; His aim was to purify the heart and mind, and to teach us to live soberly, righteously, and godly, to qualify us for the glory and immortality which He had unfolded. In His temper and manners Christ exhibited a perfect model of all that can adorn and dignify human nature; “He did no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.” But it was not innocence nor purity only that were found in His character; the highest virtues of our nature were peculiarly His; He exhibited a life, not only of strict justice, but of overflowing benignity and mercy, of the most tender compassion, and the most ardent piety. These virtues were so mingled, tempered, and contrasted, as to render the whole assemblage delightful, graceful, and perfect the whole life of Christ was a pattern of the sanctity and beauty which He portrayed in His discourses. Christ was perfect in His manner of communicating and enjoining His instructions; He spake with authority, yet with an admirable modesty and simplicity, beautifully calculated to inform and to impress the mind and the heart; He inculcates the most important lessons with simplicity and plainness adapted to human capacity; preferring use to the glare of ornament, no quaint play of words weakens the force of His emphatic language; all is chaste and pore alike--full of energy and of grace. Considered, then, even as a man, the character of Christ is perfect--nowhere can we find another so resplendent and so pleasing--so amiable and so venerable--one which presents so much for our admiration and our love; its beauties are peculiar, its awful greatness and dignity are relieved by the most concilating tenderness. “Christ was made perfect.” This expression, besides the meaning in which we have hitherto taken it, has a special reference to the subject which is described in this chapter; that subject is the priesthood and the sacrifice of Christ. Christ was made perfect by possessing the natural qualifications of the High Priest. He was able to have compassion on the ignorant, the sinning, the weak, and the afflicted, because He Himself was compassed with infirmity. In proof of this the apostle appeals to facts well known in the days of His flesh. He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears. If sympathy arises from the experience of suffering, and fellowship in affliction, we may well rely on the fellow feeling of the High Priest, who was made perfect through suffering whether, then, we view Christ as a teacher of righteousness, or as a High Priest of good things to come, the perfection of His nature is evident.

II. THE COMPLETE SALVATION OF WHICH HE IS THE AUTHOR.

III. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE TO WHOM THIS SALVATION IS IMPARTED. When we consider the high benefits procured for us by Christ, our hearts are naturally animated with the most grateful affection; and the natural expression of that affection is obedience to the will of our benefactor. That a good and ingenuous mind naturally dictates as our right conduct on such occasions is the very conduct which our Redeemer requires--that we may be made meet to be partakers of ,he blessings He hath purchased.

1. What you have heard now affords a most delightful subject of contemplation. What can be more pleasant to the human mind than to consider the mercy of our Heavenly Father, who hath sent His Son into the world to save us--the unsullied purity of the Redeemer’s character--the glorious privileges which He has conferred on this state of being, and the unfading joys He hath promised in the world to come?

2. It affords a subject of devout gratitude. What can warm the heart with lively and pious affection more than the display of that love of God, who sent His Son to die for us while we were yet sinners?

3. It affords a subject for watchful attention. While the pardon of sin has been purchased by Christ, and the hope of heaven offered to our view, we are not released from the obligations to duty. (L. Adamson, D. D.)

Jesus, the model of perfection

I. In the first place, we see the perfection of Jesus as our Saviour--in the PERFECT EXAMPLE He sets us. He is an example not of one point of character only, but of every point. And He is perfect in them all. He never failed in any of them. A young man had a situation as clerk in a mercantile house in one of our large cities. In writing home to his mother one day he said, “I have been connected in business, at different times, with a number of merchants, all of them members of Christian churches; but I must say that Mr. Johnson, with whom I am now employed, is the best of them all, in the way in which be governs himself by his religion, in all his business affairs. I take great pleasure in watching how faithfully he does this. I must say of him that he is a Christian all over.” It was a great honour to this good merchant that one of his clerks should feel obliged to speak thus of him. Now let us remember these last two illustrations; and let us all try to follow the example which Jesus sets us, in such a way that we may be Christians in little things--and Christians all over.

II. Jesus is a perfect Saviour, in the second place, because He gives us PERFECT HELP. There are three things about Jesus which make Him a perfect Helper.

1. He is--a near helper. Many persons, when they are in need of help, can think of their friends at home, who would be glad to help them. But they are far away, and it is impossible for them to do anything in the way of helping. But how different it is with Jesus! He is in every place. He is always near. “He is a God”--a helper--“at hand, and not afar off.” And this is one thing that makes Him a perfect Helper.

2. He is--able to help. It sometimes happens that though our friends are near us in our trouble, yet they are not able to help us. But it is not so with Jesus. Nothing is impressible with Him. His ability to help is perfect. St. Paul tells us that--“He is able to save,” and to helps” unto the uttermost.” “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”

3. He is willing to help. As one of our beautiful collects says, “He is more ready to hear than we to pray, and is wont to give more than either we desire or deserve.”

III. But, in the third place, He is a perfect Saviour, because He prepares for His people a PERFECT HOME in heaven. He will make their bodies perfect, after the pattern of His own glorious body, as it appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration. He will make their souls perfect. They will be entirely free from sin for ever. He will put them in a perfect home. (R. Newton, D. D.)

The author of eternal salvation

Eternal salvation in Christ

In what respects is He called “the author of eternal salvation”? I answer, He is ,he author of it, first in this sense, He rendered it possible for the justice, the holiness, and the truth of God, to bestow salvation on whom these attributes could not bestow it, and would not suffer it to be bestowed on other terms--that is, inconsistently with the glory and the honour of God. He could not save but by suffering; He could not ransom us at a less price than His death; and rather than see a world perish, He would not save Himself from being perfected by suffering, that we might be saved from irretrievable perdition. Again, He is the author of salvation in this sense, that He bestows it. He is exalted, “a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance and remission of sins.” Moreover, Christ is the sole author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him. He says to you, “Take all the benefit, and the only tribute I exact is a tribute which honours me and does not impoverish you--the tribute of praise and thanksgiving;” in heart, in lip, in life. Having seen the exclusiveness of His work, and the exclusiveness of His jurisdiction and of His claims to the glory and honour, let us now inquire what salvation is, and what salvation means. He is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him. His greatest glory is, not that He made the universe, nor yet that He rules the universe, but that He has redeemed a lost world; lost, not by His oversight, but by our sin; and by His Cross has brought it back to Himself a redeemed, a reinstated, and a renovated orb. What is this salvation which is so precious? It is a twofold thing, very easily explained and understood. Two great calamities have struck us from the Fall; namely, that we have lost a right to heaven by having justly forfeited it, and that if we had the right we have lost all fitness for it and desire for it by having become polluted, unholy, impure, corrupt. What will be to us salvation must be a provision that will put us right in both respects. The gospel does so, or rather our great High Priest does so. He gives us, first of all, by His sacrifice, His death, a recovery from the curse which we had earned; and by His obedience or righteousness, imputed to us, He entitles us to the inheritance which we had forfeited; and by the gift of His Holy Spirit, “whom,” He says, “I will send unto you,”! It regenerates our hearts, gives us new tastes, new sympathies, new thoughts, new life--in short, a new nature. And then one single epithet bestowed upon this salvation marks its character; it is “eternal salvation.” Now Adam’s standing was not eternal; it was liable to forfeiture. But our recovered standing in heaven is eternal, and never liable to any forfeiture. Having seen this, let me notice, in the next place, the character of them for whom it is provided. He became by His consecration the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him. First, I observe here there is no national monopoly. It is not said to the Jews, and not to the Gentiles, but it is “to all them that obey Him.” In other words, Christianity is not the peculiarity of an age, not the monopoly of a nation, nor the restriction of a sect; it is not only offered to the election, but it is for all them that obey Him. But, you ask, in the next place, and very justly, What do you mean by obeying? My answer is, that the word “obey” is not the just expression. The Greek word means, first, “to listen,” “to hear,” “to hearken”; secondly, to submit to, to acquiesce; and thirdly, not its strict meaning, but its intrinsic meaning, to obey, or render obedience to. Salvation is not like a gleam of sunshine that falls upon the evil and the good, but something that is given only to them that intelligently accept it, submit to it--receive it just as Christ reveals it to them. The patient only that takes the prescription makes a step towards recovery from his illness. In order to be benefited by the gospel you must take it just as it is offered, not upon your own terms, but upon the terms of the offerer, and thus alone do you receive eternal salvation. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

The Saviour you need

I. THE UNDOUBTED WILLINGNESS OF JESUS CHRIST TO SAVE. “Being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation.” Now, if we find that He was willing to undergo the process which made Him completely fit for the office of a Saviour, we may certainly conclude that He is willing enough to exercise the qualifications which He has obtained.

II. THE PERFECT FITNESS OF THE SAVIOUR FOR HIS WORK. We will view the fitness both Godward and manward.

1. View it Godward. Sinner, if any one is to deal with God for you so as to avail on your behalf, he must be one of God’s choosing, for “no man taketh this honour upon himself, but he that was called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made as high priest, but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee.” What God appoints it must be safe for us to accept. In order that Jesus Christ, being appointed, should be fit for His office, it was necessary that He should become man. Surely it is the sin of sins if we reject a Saviour who has made such a stoop in order to be perfectly qualified to save. “Being found in fashion as a man,” it was necessary towards God that Jesus should fulfil the law, and work out a perfect obedience. The High Priest who is to intercede for us must wear upon his forehead “Holiness unto the Lord”; and truly such a High Priest we have, for Jesus is “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” Nor was this all towards God. The High Priest who should save us must be able to offer a sufficient sacrifice, efficacious to make atonement, so as to vindicate eternal justice and make an end of sin.

2. Christ Jesus, as our High Priest, needed to be perfected manward. O sinner, consider His perfections as they concern yourself. That He might save us He must have power to pardon, and to renew our hearts; these He has to the full, for all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth; He both gives repentance and remission. There is one delightful thing in Christ’s perfect qualification to save, namely, that He “ever liveth to make intercession for us.” If Jesus Christ were dead and had left us the boon of salvation that we might freely help ourselves to it, we should have much to praise Him for; but He is not dead, He is alive. He left us a legacy, but many a legacy is left which never gets to the legatee: lo, the great Maker of the will is alive to carry out His own intentions. He died, and so made the legacy good; He rose again and lives to see that none shall rob any one of His beloved of the portion He has left. What think you of Christ pleading in heaven? Have you ever estimated the power of that plea?

III. THE HIGH POSITION WHICH OUR LORD JESUS TAKES IN REFERENCE TO SALVATION. According to the text, “He became the author of eternal salvation.” He is the designer, creator, worker, and cause of salvation.

IV. THE REMARKABLE CHARACTER OF THE SALVATION WHICH CHRIST HAS WROUGHT OUT. He is the author of eternal salvation. Oh, how I love that word “eternal”! “Eternal salvation!”

1. It is an eternal salvation as opposed to every other kind of deliverance.

2. It is eternal salvation in this sense, that it rescues from eternal condemnation and everlasting punishment.

3. It is eternal salvation as opposed to the risk of falling away and perishing.

4. It will ripen into eternal bliss.

V. THE PERSONS CONCERNED IN THIS SALVATION. “TO all them that obey Him.” The word “obey” signifies “obedience upon hearing,” and this indicates faith. To obey Christ is in its very essence to trust Him; and we might read our text as if it said, “The author of eternal salvation to all them that believe in Him.” If you would be saved your first act of obedience must be to trust Jesus wholly, simply, heartily, and alone. Recline your soul wholly on Jesus and you are saved now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus Christ the author of eternal salvation

I. THE OFFICE OF CHRIST, “He is the author of eternal salvation.” He has undertaken to give back to us a title to heaven and a fitness for it. He has undertaken to save us from the dominion of sin, from the power of the devil, from the pains of hell. He has undertaken to make us the children of God, and heirs of eternal glory.

II. His FITNESS FOR DISCHARGING THIS OFFICE.

1. He was appointed of God to be our High Priest. This appointment was absolutely necessary to make Him duly fitted for the discharge of His office. Without it we could have had no certainty that God would accept His mediation.

2. He had wherewith to offer for the sins of the people. He was able “to make reconciliation for iniquity”; to offer such a sacrifice for sin as would take it away; and to deliver sinners from the punishment due to them by taking it upon Himself. Thus was “the Captain of our salvation made perfect through suffering.”

3. Christ is able effectually to intercede for His people. First, in that “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Secondly, in that He has something available to plead in our behalf, even the infinite merits of His own sufferings.

4. He is not only a priest, but a king. “The government is upon His shoulders.” Whatever happens in nature and in providence is under His control. The gift of the Spirit itself is at His disposal. He is “ King of kings, and Lord of lords”; and “shall reign” as Mediator, “till He hath put all enemies under His feet.”

III. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE BENEFIT OF HIS MEDIATION WILL REACH. Christ “died for all.” He “tasted death for every man.” His mediation is sufficient for all. All are invited to share the benefits of it. Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all them,” but to them only “who obey Him.” This obedience has respect to His whole mediatorial office. Those who would be saved by Him must obey Him as their Priest and as their King. As their Priest they must humbly trust in His sacrifice and intercession, and place all their spiritual concerns in His hands. As their King they must submit to His government, and keep His commandments. (E. Cooper, M. A.)

Christ the author, and obedience the condition, of salvation

I. How AND BY WHAT MEANS CHRIST IS THE AUTHOR OF OUR SALVATION and this is contained in these words, “Being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation”; that is, having finished His course, which was accomplished in His last sufferings; and having received the reward of them, being exalted at the right hand of God, “He became the author of eternal salvation” to us; so that, by all He did and suffered for us, in the days of His flesh, and in the state of His humiliation, and by all that He still continues to do for us now that He is in heaven at the right hand of God; He hath effected and brought about the great work of our salvation.

1. By the holiness and purity of His doctrine, whereby we are perfectly instructed in the will of God and our duty, and powerfully excited and persuaded to the practice of it.

2. The example of our Saviour’s life is likewise another excellent means to this end. The law lays an obligation upon us; but a pattern gives life and encouragement, and renders our duty more easy, and practicable, and familiar to us; for here we see obedience to the Divine law practised in our own nature, and performed by a man like ourselves, “in all things like unto us, sin only excepted.”

3. He is “the author of eternal salvation,” as He hath purchased it for us, by the “merit of His obedience and sufferings,” by which He hath obtained eternal redemption for us; not only deliverance from the wrath to come, but eternal life and happiness.

4. Christ is said to be the author of our salvation, in respect of His powerful and perpetual intercession for us at the right hand of God. And this seems to be more especially intimated and intended, in that expression here in the text, that “being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him.”

II. WHAT OBEDIENCE THE GOSPEL REQUIRES AS A CONDITION, AND IS PLEASED TO ACCEPT AS A QUALIFICATION, IN THOSE WHO HOPE FOR ETERNAL SALVATION.

1. Negatively. It is not a mere outward profession of the Christian religion, and owning of Christ for our Lord and lawgiver, that will be accepted in this case.

2. Positively. That which God requires as a condition and will accept as a qualification, in those who hope for eternal life, is faith in Christ and a sincere and universal obedience to the precepts of His holy gospel.

1. There is a virtual and there is an actual obedience to the laws of God. By an actual obedience I mean the practice of the several graces of Christianity in the course of a holy life; when “out of a good conversation men do show forth their works”; and, by the outward actions of their lives, do give real testimony of their piety, justice, sobriety, humility, meekness, and charity, and all other Christian graces and virtues, as occasion is ministered for the exercise of them. By a virtual obedience I mean a sincere belief of the gospel, of the holiness and equity of its precepts, of the truth of its promises, and the terror of its threatenings, and a true repentance for all our sins. This is obedience in the root and principle; for he who sincerely believes the gospel, and does truly repent of the errors and miscarriages of his life, is firmly resolved to obey the commandments of God, and to walk before Him in holiness and righteousness all the days of his life; so that there is nothing that prevents or hinders this man’s actual obedience to the laws of God, in the course of a holy and good life, but only the want of time and opportunity for it.

2. There is a perfect, and there is a sincere obedience. Perfect obedience consists in the exact conformity of our hearts and lives to the law of God, without the least imperfection, and without failing in any point or degree of our duty. And this obedience, as it is not consistent with the frailty of corrupt nature, and the imperfection of our present state, so neither doth God require it of us as a necessary condition of eternal life. We are, indeed, commanded to be “perfect, as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But the plain meaning of this precept is that we should imitate those Divine perfections of goodness, and mercy, and patience, and purity, and endeavour to be as like God in all these as we can, and be still aspiring after a nearer resemblance of Him, as may be evident to any one who considers the connection and occasion of these words. By a sincere obedience I mean such a conformity of our lives and actions to the law of God, as to the general course and tenor of them, that we do not live in the habitual practice of any known sin, or in the customary neglect of any material or considerable part of our known duty; and that we be not wilfully and deliberately guilty of the single act of notorious sins. And this obedience, even in the best of men, is mixed with great frailty and imperfection; but yet, because it is the utmost that we can do in this state of infirmity and imperfection, the terms of the gospel are so merciful and gracious, as that God is pleased, for the sake of the meritorious obedience and sufferings of our blessed Saviour, to accept this sincere though imperfect obedience, and to reward it with eternal life. (Archbishop Tillotson.)

Author of eternal salvation

1. By salvation is meant deliverance from sin and all the consequences thereof, so as the party saved is made ever happy. There be both bodily and spiritual, temporal and eternal dangers whereunto man by sin is liable; and this salvation is a deliverance from all. There is deliverance as from some evils, and not all; so deliverance only for a time, and not for ever, but this salvation is a total deliverance from all evil, and that for ever. Eternal peace, safety, felicity, is the issue and consequence thereof.

2. This salvation being so noble and glorious an effect, must have some cause, some author and efficient; and this efficient was Christ; yet Christ as perfected and consecrated. For by His blood and purest sacrifice of Himself

3. If it be communicated from and by Him, it must be received in some subject; and if in Him there be an eternal saving virtue, and He exercise it, there must be some subject and persons in whom this saving power shall produce this effect, so as that they shall be saved. And though this power be able to save all, yet only they and all who obey Him shall be saved: efficient causes work most effectually in subjects united and disposed aright. And so it is in this case; for though the mercies of God, merited by Christ, may be so far communicable to all, as that all may become savable, which is a great and universal benefit, yet they are not actually communicated to all, because all are not obedient. His laws require sincere submission and obedience in renouncing all others, and a total dependence upon Him, and Him alone, n repenting of our sins and believing upon Him. And this sincere faith is the fundamental virtue, and potentially all obedience. (G. Lawson.)

Salvation in Christ

Having Christ we have salvation also, while without receiving Christ Himself we cannot have the salvation. Having the fountain, we have its issuing streams. Cut off from the fountain the streams will not flow to us, Christ offers Himself to be the Bridegroom of the soul. He offers to endow His bride with all the riches of His own inheritance in the heirship of His Father. Taking Him as oar Bridegroom, and giving ourselves to Him as the bride espouses her husband, with Him we have all He has as well as all He is, while without Him we can have neither. The mistake is that of seeking the salvation instead of seeking the Saviour. Just the same mistake that the affianced would make if she should seek to have the possessions of him to whom she was engaged made over to her from him, without their union in wedlock, instead of accepting his offer of himself, and having the hymeneal bond completed by which he and all he has would become hers. (W. E. Boardman.)

Salvation, not compulsion

“Well, then,” said a sceptic to me on one occasion, “why is the world not saved?” “My friend,” said I, “you misconceive the power required to convert souls.” There was a little boy in the room; and I illustrated my meaning by saying, “Suppose I will that that little boy leave the room. There are two ways in which I could give effect to that will. I could take him in my arms, and by superior muscular force remove him; or I could take him on my knee, speak lovingly and persuasively to him in order to induce him to leave the room himself. If I adopted the former, I should merely have removed his body: his volition would be against me, and he would feel that I had done him violence. If I succeed in the latter, I should have influenced his mind; and he himself would use his own limbs, and with a happy smile depart.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Unto all them that obey Him

Obedience due to Christ

Let us examine our obedience. Christ wills us to avoid sins that cause His gospel to be ill spoken of, by good works to adorn it, to stop the mouths of the adversaries, &c. Do we so? Doth not drunkenness, covetousness, pride, malice, and uncleanness abound? As they said and promised to Joshua, so let us to Christ--“Whatsoever Thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever Thou sendest us we will go.” How must we obey Him?

1. Fully. The young man in the gospel most proudly vaunted that he had kept all the commandments from his youth; let us endeavour that we may say so in truth and sincere heart, and as Zacharias and Elisabeth, “let us walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.”

2. Cheerfully. God loves a cheerful giver. “I was glad,” says the Psalm, “when they said, Let us go up into the house of the Lord” (Psalms 122:1).

3. Constantly. A runner hath not the prize till he come to the goal. A tailor hath not his wages till the garment be finished. A traveller hath not his money till he come to his journey’s end. Here we are as children (1 Corinthians 13:1-13.), growing higher and higher in knowledge, faith, love, obedience, &c. (W. Jones, D. D.)

The possibility and necessity of gospel obedience, and its consistence with free grace

I. THE POSSIBILITY OF OUR PERFORMING THIS CONDITION.

1. We are not sufficient of ourselves, and by any power in us, to perform the conditions of the gospel. The grace of God doth clearly appear in the whole business of our salvation: “By grace ye are saved,” says the apostle, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Faith is the gift of God, and so is repentance.

2. The grace of God is remedy to assist and enable us to the performance of these conditions; that is, to faith and repentance, and all the purposes of obedience and a holy life; if we be not wanting to ourselves, and do not reject or neglect to make use of that grace which God offers us, and is ready to afford us in a very plentiful manner.

3. What the grace of Go t is ready to enable us to do, if we be not wanting to ourselves, may properly be said to be possible to us, and in some sense in our power,

II. THE NECESSITY OF THIS OBEDIENCE IN ORDER TO OUR OBTAINING OF ETERNAL LIFE AND HAPPINESS. “Christ is the author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him”; that is, to such, and only to such, as live in obedience to the precepts of His holy gospel, to them who frame the general course of their lives according to His laws. Now the necessity of obedience, in order to eternal life and happiness, relies upon these three grounds:

1. The constitution and appointment of God.

2. The general reason of rewards.

3. The particular nature of that reward which God will confer upon us for our obedience.

III. THIS METHOD AND MEANS OF OUR SALVATION IS NO PREJUDICE TO THE LAW OF FAITH, AND TO THE FREE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD DECLARED IN THE GOSPEL. For so long as these three things are but asserted and secured

1. That faith is the root and principle of obedience and a holy life, and that without it “it is impossible to please God.”

2. That we stand continually in need of the Divine grace and assistance to enable us to perform that obedience which the gospel requires of us, and is pleased to accept in order to eternal life. And

3. That the forgiveness of our sins, and the reward of eternal life, are founded in the free grace and mercy of God, conferring these blessings upon us, not for the merit of our obedience, but only for the merit and satisfaction of the obedience and sufferings of our blessed Saviour and Redeemer; I say, so long an we assert these things, we give all that the gospel anywhere ascribes to faith, and to the grace of God revealed in the gospel. Inferences:

1. To convince us that an empty profession of the Christian religion, how specious and glorious soever it be, if it be destitute of the fruits of obedience and a holy life, will by no means avail to bring us to heaven.

2. The consideration of what hath been said should stir us up to a thankful acknowledgment of what the author of our salvation hath done for us; and there is great reason for thankfulness whether we consider the greatness of the benefit conferred upon us, or the way and manner in which it was purchased, or the easy and reasonable terms upon which it may be obtained.

3. Here is abundant encouragement given to our obedience; we have the Divine assistance promised to us, to enable us to the performance of the most difficult parts of our duty; we have the Holy Spirit of God to help our infirmities, to excite us to that which is good, and to help and strengthen us in the doing of it. For our further encouragement we are assured of the Divine acceptance in case of our sincere obedience, notwithstanding the manifold failings and imperfections of it, for the sake of the perfect righteousness and obedience and the meritorious sufferings of our blessed Saviour.

4. The consideration of what hath been said upon this argument may serve severely to rebuke the groundless presumption of those who rely with so much confidence upon Christ for eternal salvation, without any conscience or care to keep His commandments; as if salvation lay upon His hands, and He knew not how to dispose of it, and were glad of any one that would come and take it off upon any terms. No, “He came to save us from our sins, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Archbishop Tillotson.)

God’s obedience

It is reported of the old kings of Peru, that they were won t to use a tassel, or fringe, made of red wool, which they wore upon their heads, and when they sent any governor to rule as viceroy in any part of their country, they delivered unto him one of the threads of their tassel, and, for one of those simple threads, he was as much obeyed as if he had been the king himself--yea, it hath so happened that the king had sent a governor only with this thread to slay men and women of a whole province, without any further commission; for of such power and authority was the king’s tassel with them, that they willingly submitted thereunto, even at the sight of one thread of it. Now, it is to be hoped that, if one thread shall be so forcible to draw heathen obedience, there will be no need of cart-ropes to houl on that which is Christian. Exemplary was that obedience of the Romans which was said to have come abroad to all men. And certainly gospel obedience is a grace of much worth, and of great force upon the whole man; for when it is once wrought in the heart, it worketh a conformity to all God’s will. Be it for life or death, one word from God will command the whole soul as soon as obedience hath fouled admittance into the heart. (J. Spencer.)

Faith and works

‘Twas an unhappy division that has been made between faith and works. Though in my intellect I may divide them, just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat, but yet put out the candle, and they are both gone; one remains not without the other; so it is betwixt faith and works. Nay, in a right conception tides eat opus: if I believe a thing because I am commanded, that is opus..(John Selden.)


Verse 10

Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 5:12

Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered

Difficult truth

I.
There are revealed in the Scripture SUNDRY DEEP AND MYSTERIOUS TRUTHS WHICH REQUIRE A PECULIAR DILIGENCE IN OUR ATTENDANCE UNTO THEIR DECLARATION, that we may rightly understand them, or receive them in a due manner.

1. There are some things or truths revealed in the Scripture which have a peculiar remark put upon them, as those which are deep and mysterious 1 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 5:32; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; Ephesians 3:4-5).

2. The doctrines concerning these things are not dark and obscure, but clear, evident, and perspicuous. There are two practices about these things that are equally pernicious.

3. The depths and mystery of the things intended, lie in themselves and their own nature. They are effects of Divine wisdom, yea the greatest which ever God will either work or declare. Hence the doctrine of them is called “His wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:7), “His manifold wisdom” Ephesians 3:10), as having put the most eminent characters of infinite wisdom upon them.

4. The principal of these mysteries concern the person, offices, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. So as to His person, it is declared by our apostle 1 Timothy 3:16; as to His work and office, Philippians if. 7-10; and as to His grace, Ephesians 3:8-11).

5. Of all things which we are to learn in the dispensation of the Word, these are we with most diligence to attend unto (Philippians 3:8-10), as those wherein the glory of God and our own obedience are most concerned.

II. IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL SOMETIMES TO INSIST ON THE MOST ABSTRUSE AND DIFFICULT TRUTHS THAT ARE REVEALED FOR OUR EDIFICATION.

1. It ought to be the design of every faithful minister in the course of his ministry to withhold nothing from those committed unto his charge that belongs unto their edification, as do all things that are written in the

Scripture, but to declare unto them the whole counsel of God, so far as he himself hath attained.

2. His duty is, as much as in him lieth, to carry on his hearers unto perfection (Hebrews 6:1).

3. Whereas the greatest part of our congregations, it may be, frequently are such as stand in need of milk, and are not skilfull, as yet, in the word of righteousness, it is our duty also to insist on those plainer truths which are suited unto their edification.

4. Those who are called by the state of their flocks to engage sometimes in the exposition of abstruse and mysterious passages of Scripture, may do well to observe the ensuing rules, all which may be evidently gathered from the way and manner of our apostle’s treating concerning Melchisedec and his office.

(a) That the things contained in them do belong unto some important truth which is plainly declared for the substance of it in other places, although from them it may receive light and illustration.

(b) When they offer themselves in the course of our work or ministry, where God gives light into the sense of the Holy Ghost in them, they are not to be waived, as we would be esteemed faithful in our work.

III. THERE IS A GLORIOUS LIGHT AND EVIDENCE IN ALL DIVINE TRUTHS, BUT BY REASON OF OUR DARKNESS AND WEAKNESS WE ARE NOT ALWAYS ABLE TO COMPREHEND THEM. OUR WANT OF THAT ACQUAINTANCE WITH THEM, WHICH IT IS OUR DUTY TO HAVE, AND WHICH IS NEEDFUL UNTO OUR EDIFICATION, IS FROM OURSELVES ALONE, AND FOR THE MOST PART FROM OUR SINFUL NEGLECT OF WHAT IS REQUIRED THEREUNTO.

IV. MANY WHO RECEIVE THE WORD AT FIRST WITH SOME READINESS, DO YET AFTERWARDS MAKE BUT SLOW PROGRESS EITHER IN KNOWLEDGE OR GRACE.

V. IT IS MEN’S SLOTHFULNESS IN HEARING THAT IS THE SOLE CAUSE OF THEIR NOT IMPROVING THE MEANS OF GRACE, OR NOT THRIVING UNDER THE DISPENSATION OF THE WORD OR, ALL OUR MISCARRIAGES, WITH RESPECT UNTO THE GOSPEL, ARE TO BE RESOLVED INTO OUR OWN SLOTH, NEGLIGENCE, AND DEPRAVED AFFECTIONS. (John Owen, D. D.)

Ye are dull of hearing

Dull of hearing

It is a metaphor taken from lazy travellers that go slowly. As men are slow in going, so are you in hearing the Word of God. And by hearing is not meant the external hearing alone, but the internal. Slow in conceiving and learning, as is expounded in the next verse. Hearing is put for learning, because knowledge is conveyed by the sense of hearing. There be many things that procure this dulness and slowness.

1. Carelessness or want of diligence (Matthew 12:19).

2. A mind possessed with other things, which keep the gospel out of the doors, as these were with an high opinion of the ceremonial law and Levitical priesthood. A barrel full of corrupt water cannot receive wine.

3. Want of meditation.

4. Want of reading and conferring (Acts 17:1-34.).

5. Want of prayer. We are apt scholars for the world, swift to hear news and tales, but slow and dull in hearing of the Word of God. So that we may justly suffer that check of our Saviour’s (Luke 24:25). (W. Jones, D. D.)

Dull of heating

The meaning is not that they were deaf either in whole or part, or that such amongst them as were learned could not read them, if written, or understand the language; but by hearing is meant understanding. There are outward ears, and outward hearing of the body: inward ears, and inward hearing of the soul: the former they had, the latter they had not, so as to be capable of such things as he had to say of this priest and priesthood. This was no obscurity in the matter, but an indisposition in the soul to receive this doctrine. Dulness was this indisposition, which in general is a defect of active power; in particular, in this place, of the intellective faculty, as not able to perceive, discern, apprehend, and judge of this higher doctrine. It is opposed to that we call acumen, the sharpness, quickness, and piercing power of the wit and intellect; yet here this dulness is restrained to a certain object, for in other things they might be apprehensive and judicious enough. By reason of this defect it is that much excellent and Divine doctrine is lost, or at least useless to the greatest part of the people, who are no whir moved with doctrine, though excellent, if above their capacity. For this cause the meanest teachers are most popular; though it is true that all wise men must have respect unto the capacity of their hearers, and condescend unto them, yet men should not be always babes and dunces in God’s school. (G. Lawson.)

Dull hearers

There is a difficulty in the things themselves (the matter of preaching), and there may be a weakness in the ministers of the gospel to speak clearly about these things; but generally the fault is in the bearers. Dull hearers make the preaching of the gospel a difficult thing: and even those that have some faith may be dull hearers, dull of understanding, and slow to believe; the understanding is weak and does not apprehend these spiritual things; the memory is weak and does not retain them. The apostle insists upon the faultiness of this infirmity of theirs. It was not a mere natural infirmity, but it was a sinful infirmity, and more in them than others, by reason of the singular advantages they had enjoyed for improving in the knowledge of Christ (Hebrews 5:12). (M. Henry.)


Verses 11-14

Verse 12

Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 5:12

Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered

Difficult truth

I.
There are revealed in the Scripture SUNDRY DEEP AND MYSTERIOUS TRUTHS WHICH REQUIRE A PECULIAR DILIGENCE IN OUR ATTENDANCE UNTO THEIR DECLARATION, that we may rightly understand them, or receive them in a due manner.

1. There are some things or truths revealed in the Scripture which have a peculiar remark put upon them, as those which are deep and mysterious 1 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 5:32; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; Ephesians 3:4-5).

2. The doctrines concerning these things are not dark and obscure, but clear, evident, and perspicuous. There are two practices about these things that are equally pernicious.

3. The depths and mystery of the things intended, lie in themselves and their own nature. They are effects of Divine wisdom, yea the greatest which ever God will either work or declare. Hence the doctrine of them is called “His wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:7), “His manifold wisdom” Ephesians 3:10), as having put the most eminent characters of infinite wisdom upon them.

4. The principal of these mysteries concern the person, offices, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. So as to His person, it is declared by our apostle 1 Timothy 3:16; as to His work and office, Philippians if. 7-10; and as to His grace, Ephesians 3:8-11).

5. Of all things which we are to learn in the dispensation of the Word, these are we with most diligence to attend unto (Philippians 3:8-10), as those wherein the glory of God and our own obedience are most concerned.

II. IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL SOMETIMES TO INSIST ON THE MOST ABSTRUSE AND DIFFICULT TRUTHS THAT ARE REVEALED FOR OUR EDIFICATION.

1. It ought to be the design of every faithful minister in the course of his ministry to withhold nothing from those committed unto his charge that belongs unto their edification, as do all things that are written in the

Scripture, but to declare unto them the whole counsel of God, so far as he himself hath attained.

2. His duty is, as much as in him lieth, to carry on his hearers unto perfection (Hebrews 6:1).

3. Whereas the greatest part of our congregations, it may be, frequently are such as stand in need of milk, and are not skilfull, as yet, in the word of righteousness, it is our duty also to insist on those plainer truths which are suited unto their edification.

4. Those who are called by the state of their flocks to engage sometimes in the exposition of abstruse and mysterious passages of Scripture, may do well to observe the ensuing rules, all which may be evidently gathered from the way and manner of our apostle’s treating concerning Melchisedec and his office.

(a) That the things contained in them do belong unto some important truth which is plainly declared for the substance of it in other places, although from them it may receive light and illustration.

(b) When they offer themselves in the course of our work or ministry, where God gives light into the sense of the Holy Ghost in them, they are not to be waived, as we would be esteemed faithful in our work.

III. THERE IS A GLORIOUS LIGHT AND EVIDENCE IN ALL DIVINE TRUTHS, BUT BY REASON OF OUR DARKNESS AND WEAKNESS WE ARE NOT ALWAYS ABLE TO COMPREHEND THEM. OUR WANT OF THAT ACQUAINTANCE WITH THEM, WHICH IT IS OUR DUTY TO HAVE, AND WHICH IS NEEDFUL UNTO OUR EDIFICATION, IS FROM OURSELVES ALONE, AND FOR THE MOST PART FROM OUR SINFUL NEGLECT OF WHAT IS REQUIRED THEREUNTO.

IV. MANY WHO RECEIVE THE WORD AT FIRST WITH SOME READINESS, DO YET AFTERWARDS MAKE BUT SLOW PROGRESS EITHER IN KNOWLEDGE OR GRACE.

V. IT IS MEN’S SLOTHFULNESS IN HEARING THAT IS THE SOLE CAUSE OF THEIR NOT IMPROVING THE MEANS OF GRACE, OR NOT THRIVING UNDER THE DISPENSATION OF THE WORD OR, ALL OUR MISCARRIAGES, WITH RESPECT UNTO THE GOSPEL, ARE TO BE RESOLVED INTO OUR OWN SLOTH, NEGLIGENCE, AND DEPRAVED AFFECTIONS. (John Owen, D. D.)

Ye are dull of hearing

Dull of hearing

It is a metaphor taken from lazy travellers that go slowly. As men are slow in going, so are you in hearing the Word of God. And by hearing is not meant the external hearing alone, but the internal. Slow in conceiving and learning, as is expounded in the next verse. Hearing is put for learning, because knowledge is conveyed by the sense of hearing. There be many things that procure this dulness and slowness.

1. Carelessness or want of diligence (Matthew 12:19).

2. A mind possessed with other things, which keep the gospel out of the doors, as these were with an high opinion of the ceremonial law and Levitical priesthood. A barrel full of corrupt water cannot receive wine.

3. Want of meditation.

4. Want of reading and conferring (Acts 17:1-34.).

5. Want of prayer. We are apt scholars for the world, swift to hear news and tales, but slow and dull in hearing of the Word of God. So that we may justly suffer that check of our Saviour’s (Luke 24:25). (W. Jones, D. D.)

Dull of heating

The meaning is not that they were deaf either in whole or part, or that such amongst them as were learned could not read them, if written, or understand the language; but by hearing is meant understanding. There are outward ears, and outward hearing of the body: inward ears, and inward hearing of the soul: the former they had, the latter they had not, so as to be capable of such things as he had to say of this priest and priesthood. This was no obscurity in the matter, but an indisposition in the soul to receive this doctrine. Dulness was this indisposition, which in general is a defect of active power; in particular, in this place, of the intellective faculty, as not able to perceive, discern, apprehend, and judge of this higher doctrine. It is opposed to that we call acumen, the sharpness, quickness, and piercing power of the wit and intellect; yet here this dulness is restrained to a certain object, for in other things they might be apprehensive and judicious enough. By reason of this defect it is that much excellent and Divine doctrine is lost, or at least useless to the greatest part of the people, who are no whir moved with doctrine, though excellent, if above their capacity. For this cause the meanest teachers are most popular; though it is true that all wise men must have respect unto the capacity of their hearers, and condescend unto them, yet men should not be always babes and dunces in God’s school. (G. Lawson.)

Dull hearers

There is a difficulty in the things themselves (the matter of preaching), and there may be a weakness in the ministers of the gospel to speak clearly about these things; but generally the fault is in the bearers. Dull hearers make the preaching of the gospel a difficult thing: and even those that have some faith may be dull hearers, dull of understanding, and slow to believe; the understanding is weak and does not apprehend these spiritual things; the memory is weak and does not retain them. The apostle insists upon the faultiness of this infirmity of theirs. It was not a mere natural infirmity, but it was a sinful infirmity, and more in them than others, by reason of the singular advantages they had enjoyed for improving in the knowledge of Christ (Hebrews 5:12). (M. Henry.)


Verses 12-14

Hebrews 5:12-14

Ye ought to be teachers

The duty of teaching

I.
You ought to have KNOWN enough of the truth of the gospel to ENABLE YOU to be teachers.

II. You ought to have enough INTEREST in others to IMPEL YOU to be teachers.

III. You ought to have enough LOYALTY to Christ to CONSTRAIN YOU to be teachers. Whether or no Be would have us to be teachers, we may gather from

1. His commands, “Go, teach,” &c.

2. His spirit. Ever communicative.

3. His example. “Went about doing good.” (U. R. Thomas.)

Improvement in knowledge

I. THAT ALL WHO ARE FAVOURED WITH THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL SHALL BE UTTERLY INEXCUSABLE IF THEIR IMPROVEMENTS IN KNOWLEDGE NO NOT BEAR A PROPORTION TO THE TIME THEY HAVE CONTINUED TO ENJOY IT.

II. THAT THOSE WHO ARE NOT CAREFUL TO AND TO THEIR KNOWLEDGE, WILL BE IN GREAT DANGER OF LOSING WHAT THEY HAVE FORMERLY ACQUIRED.

III. THAT WITHOUT A PROPER ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE FIRST PLAIN PRINCIPLES OF RELIGION, MEN ARE UNFIT TO RECEIVE DOCTRINES OF A HIGHER AND MORE SPECULATIVE NATURE. (R. Walker.)

Religious teachers

None should take upon them to be teachers of others but those who have made a good improvement in spiritual knowledge themselves. (M. Henry.)

Blameworthy backwardness

Small progress under great privileges is a grievous fault. The scholar who has time, and books, and excellent instructors, and yet learns nothing, is soon given up as incorrigible. He soon loses caste, is degraded, is censured by his friends, and is condemned by all. The man of business who, by negligence or prodigality, loses his customers, and so suffers his business to run down, is despised, and when the pinching hand of poverty seizes him, is unpitied. (Geo. Peck, D. D.)

Christian growth

They are blamed for being babes, and not “of full age,” or perfect. In the Church of Christ there are little children, there are men, there are fathers. It is evident that the apostle refers in our passage to the wisdom of the heart and of life. Christians differ in their measure of understanding and strength, as well as in the gifts of grace, which by the Spirit and according to their natural endowments and providential position are bestowed on them. Those who have only recently been brought into the fold cannot possess the experience and the wisdom of the elder. The Lord, who is the Head of the Church, distributes also gifts and talents according to His good and wise will. Some members of the Church are called to be teachers, lights, and guides, sons of consolation and fathers in the gospel; whereas others will, perhaps, always remain weak, and in need of constant help and guidance. Now the Lord, who Himself is full of tenderness, exhorts the Church to be gentle, patient toward the young and the inexperienced. They that are strong ought not merely to bear the infirmities of the weak, but exercise self-denial in accommodating themselves to their less enlightened brethren. We must exercise a wise and patient discretion, even as Jesus had many things to say to His disciples, but remembered that they could not bear them.

1. The comparison between a newly-converted man and a babe is, like all comparisons, imperfect. For in one sense a Christian is born by the Holy Ghost full-grown; as Adam came into the world a perfect man, full of light and insight, who gave names to all the living creatures, who understood and spake. The newly-converted man is born into the spiritual world, and from the first moment he sees and knows Christ, and has the mind of Christ, the Spirit, so that he can immediately understand all spiritual things. The milk of the Word, as contrasted with strong meat, does not refer to any real and inherent difference between the gospel first preached and afterwards taught. From first to last we present the same truth, the same circle of truths, the whole truth. The babe in Christ (I mean he who is a babe naturally, and not unnaturally through iris own worldiness and indolence), full of love to Jesus, and impressed with the importance and blessedness of heavenly things, learns very easily and very rapidly. He delights in the Word; he is humble and tender; he does not resist truths which condemn the flesh and correct our waywardness; he is unworldly, heavenly-minded, and nine-tenths of the Bible becomes clear, when we are willing to deny ourselves, and take our cross and follow Jesus. Yes, we run well at the commencement. It is apathy, worldliness, conceit, which afterwards render Christians slow of heart to understand all that is written. The lukewarm church must needs be an ignorant church. The divided heart must needs be confused and dim-sighted. It is for this reason that the apostle blames the Hebrews for not having progressed in knowledge. Their senses had not been exercised; that is, they had not walked closely with God. They had not conscientiously applied the knowledge which they had, but allowed it to remain dead and unused.

2. It is not that there is a higher truth or life for the older Christians. All our progress consists in learning more fully the doctrine which at first is preached unto us. Let us beware of entertaining erroneous views as to what is meant by milk and meat. “Milk” designates gospel truth preached simply, so that thereby true nourishment is given, and faith is both called forth, and the new spiritual life strengthened and increased. Hence there is nothing in the term meant to depreciate, but, on the contrary, to exalt the first declaration of saving truth in Christ. The strong meat, the doctrine of Christ’s high priesthood in heaven, is also milk, pure and nourishing, simple, and only received by the child-like heart; whereas pride and ambition often call speculative and unprofitable discussions strong meat, though they are of no use to the spiritual man, but minister only unto strife and the exaltation of the flesh. The Hebrews had become as babes. Hence the word, which elsewhere is the sweetest expression of Divine love and favour, is a term of reproach when it intimates an unnatural and dangerous condition of spiritual weakness, the result of a culpable and habitual inertness. It had not always been thus with the Hebrew Christians. For we read that when they were first enlightened they endured a great fight of affliction. Then, although they had many and grievous sufferings, they were strong, and rejoiced in Christ; and why? Because they were heavenly-minded. Then, though young in the faith, they were more fervent, and therefore more spiritual, possessed of clearer knowledge and perception. And therefore the apostle is so anxious to lead them on to perfection, that is, to fix their thoughts on Christ in heaven. Their earthly-mindedness constitutes both the necessity and the difficulty of his task. For the perfection unto which the apostle desires to go is not an esoteric doctrine or method of holiness peculiar to an imaginary second stage of faith. It has nothing to do directly with anything in our heart and conduct. It refers, on the contrary, to heaven, to the High Priest above, to our position in Him who is seated at the right hand of God. It is to know that we are priests, worshippers in spirit and in truth, that, being reconciled to God by the death of Christ, we have now been brought nigh to the Father; and our citizenship, the source of our life and strength, the things which we seek, the blessings with which we are enriched, are no longer on earth, but in heaven. (A. Saphir.)

Ye have need that one teach you

The need of catechising

I. WEIGHTY REASONS MAY BE GIVEN FOR THE NECESSITY OF CATECHISING.

1. By catechising a good and sure foundation is laid. Now it is necessary that in all buildings a good foundation be laid, lest for want of it the building come to ruin (Matthew 7:26-27).

2. By catechising people are by degrees made capable of deeper mysteries; as children by learning letters and syllables, and to spell them, are brought on to read distinctly. The most intelligent hearers are such as have been well instructed in the principles of religion.

3. By catechising such as profess the faith are enabled to render a reason of the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15). For a catechism well compiled contains the sum and substance of all that a Christian is to believe.

4. By catechising, pastors may know their people’s capacity and understanding to and this is requisite in two respects

5. The fruits of catechising have ever been observed to be many and great. Thereby have families been made seminaries for the Church.

II. If the question be demanded WHEREIN THE DIFFERENCE LIETH BETWIXT CATECHISING AND PREACHING, I answer, in these particulars especially.

1. By catechising, a foundation is laid (Hebrews 6:1). By preaching, the building is farther reared up, beautified and perfected.

2. By catechizing, many and large points are contracted into brief sums, as in the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer. By preaching, sundry points are amplified, enlarged, and sundry ways applied.

3. By catechising, weak and ignorant ones are fed, as with milk. By preaching, the strong are further nourished with strong meat. For in catechising the most necessary principles are plainly laid down; but in preaching all sorts of points, the difficult as well as easy, use to be handled; yea, and contrary errors refuted.

4. By catechising, a particular account is taken of the learners, which is not so done by preaching. For catechising is by question and answer; so as the catechised give an account of their proficiency. But preaching is only by a minister’s declaring his mind.

5. Catechising is for such as are newly entered into the Church; and that for a time till they may be fitted for the sacrament. But preaching is for all, of all sorts, so long as they live. For though a man had all knowledge, yet is preaching requisite to work upon their affections, and to bring to their mind and memory such things as they know. Preaching is profitable to all those uses that are mentioned (2 Timothy 3:16). (W. Gouge.)

The lesson of ripeness

As in the family, the child, from being taught, gradually grows into a position of authority, from being directed by others, becomes self-determining, and has a voice and an influence in the counsels of men; so, in the great family of God, Christian maturity and its accompaniments are recognised facts--attainments which the gospel treats not merely as privileges, but as obligations. There is a Christian manhood, in short, which is expected and required of the child of God, in which, from being a recipient of gospel influences, he is to become their defender, their illustrator, and their propagator. This is the truth for our consideration. It is embodied in these words of the text, addressed to those who had been for a good while under gospel training: “Ye ought to be teachers.”

I. YE, AS FOLLOWERS AND DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, OUGHT TO BE TEACHERS. One reason why Christ found it expedient to go away in person from the world, was that the number of teachingcentres might be multiplied. As plainly as words could speak, He laid the burden of diffusing the gospel upon His Church. “Ye,” He said to His disciples, “ye are the salt of the earth. Ye are the light of the world.” Men are taught by the gospel that their responsibility does not cease with their own salvation; that they cannot live out their Christian lives simply with reference to God and to themselves; that from the fact of their being members of society, they exert power for good or for evil over other lives; that they cannot be Christians and not teach.

II. BUT THIS DUTY IS HERE URGED BY ONE CONSIDERATION MERELY, TO WHICH WE MAY CONFINE OURSELVES. The familiar rendering, “for the time ye ought to be teachers,” entirely obscures the force of the passage. The meaning is, rather, “by reason of the time”; that is, because you have been for a long time under Christian influence, listening to Christian doctrine, versed in Christian experience: by reason of the time which has passed since you became Christian disciples, you ought to be teachers. We do not expect the apprenticed mechanic to be always an apprentice or an underling. Time is needed to teach him how to handle tools, and to make him acquainted with the capacity of materials: but, with the time, we expect to see him a master-workman; we look for him to develop new resources out of his material, and new methods of treating it, and thus to become a teacher to his craft. The man who through all his years is merely acquiring knowledge, and does not come in process of time to give it out, may be a prodigy of learning, but he is also a prodigy of uselessness, no better than so much lumber. And the same principle runs up into the moral and spiritual realm, and prevails there. We have a right to expect, as the result of years, larger and clearer views of truth, better defined conviction, more self-mastery, more practical efficiency, and more consistency of life. It is a sad thing when a man has been before the world for long years as a professed disciple of Christ, and when all he has to show for it is that he is very old. Length of days, be it remembered, is in the right hand of wisdom.

III. And now let us LOOK AT A FEW OF THE POINTS IN WHICH, BY REASON OF TIME, A CHRISTIAN OUGHT TO BE A TEACHER.

1. He ought to be a teacher by reason of a matured faith, and that under three aspects

2. By reason of the time a Christian ought to have been confirmed in the habit of communion with God. Prayer is a subject of discipline. No man learns all its resources at once. I have somewhere seen a little story of a king who had employed some people to weave for him, had supplied them the materials and the patterns, and had told them, that if they were ever in trouble about their work, they were to come to him without fear. Among those at the looms was a child; and one day, when all the rest were distressed at the sight of the tangles in their yarn, they gathered round the child, and asked, “Why are you so happy at your work? These constant tangles are more than we can bear.” “Why do you not tell the king? “ said the little weaver. “He told us to, and that he would help us.” “We do,” replied they, “at night and at morning.” “Ah!” said the child, “I send directly whenever I have a tangle.” We ought to have reached that point by reason or time--that habit of referring everything at once and directly to God; just as, when we are walking with a friend, we naturally refer to him every matter of interest as it comes up. That habit of communion with heaven sets its mark on the life and invests it with a teaching-power.

3. By reason of time a Christian should have become a teacher in the matter of habitual consistency of life, obedience, and docility. It is strange, something is wrong, if we are still committing and repenting of the same old sins which we began to fight long ago. As the lines of that living epistle which we began writing when we entered Christ’s service creep farther down the page, they ought to be more fairly and evenly written. In short, though we shall never be perfect men and women, though the nearer we get to Christ, the less we shall be pleased with ourselves--yet we ought to be better men and women by reason of the time, and, by our better living of the gospel, be teachers to those about us.

4. And, by reason of the time, we ought to be broader in our charity. Our own experience ought to have given us an insight into our own weakness and fallibility, and to have made us correspondingly tolerant of the weakness and fallibility of our brother men. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

The growth of the spiritual sense

Philo had already emphasised the distinction between the child in knowledge and the man of full age and mature judgment. St. Paul had said more than once that such a distinction holds among Christians. Many are carnal; some are spiritual. In his writings the difference is not an external one, nor is the line between the two classes broad and clear. The one shades into the other. But, though we may not be able to determine where the one begins and the other ends, both are tendencies, and move in opposite directions. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the distinction resembles the old doctrine of habit taught by Aristotle. Our organs of sense are trained by use to distinguish forms and colours. In like manner, there are inner organs of the spirit, which distinguish good from evil, not by mathematical demonstration, but by long-continued exercise in hating evil and in loving holiness. The growth of this spiritual sense is connected by our author with the power to understand the higher doctrine. He only who discerns, by force of spiritual insight, what is good and what is evil, can also understand spiritual truths. The difference between good and evil is not identical with “the word of righteousness.” But the moral elevation of character that clearly discerns the former is the condition of understanding also the latter. (T. C. Edwards, D. D.)

The oracles of God

The oracles of God

An oracle is, strictly speaking, an instrument, a mouthpiece of a mighty person who prefers to remain unknown. By oracles future events were declared, perplexities cleared, and doubts solved. Oracles, therefore, or those taken as such, abounded in the world, they especially played a prominent part in Greek society. Celebrated above all the rest, in the very centre of Greece, was the renowned one of Delphi, whither from far and near questioners betook themselves, and went away with perfect faith that they had indeed received answers from a god, to whom the place was sacred, and at whose shrine they laid offerings of worship and gratitude. What then the heathen fondly flattered themselves to have, the Jews really possessed. If the great work of man here is to know God and do His will, the Jews were indeed blessed above all others, since alone of all the inhabitants of the earth they were acquainted with a revelation from the Creator to creatures of His hand, of which no power on earth could rob them. When the ark was gone for ever, and when not one stone upon another of the Temple was left, when the glory was departed from Israel, the Jewish children could still read the Old Testament stories, the Jewish men and women could still learn to do God justice by His Word. Nothing could touch this priceless treasure they had retained unhurt through perils of wars; it would have taught them still as of old, if they themselves had not misused it, and so lost, by their own fault, the blessing which no outward influence was ever able to take away. Thus are all God’s gifts to man abused. He chooses to place Himself at such disadvantage, that man may scorn what He is pleased to send. Nor are the Jews, alas I the only people who have done so. Their fate may well cause us anxiety. We have been speaking so highly of the Jewish privileges, of people who had but part,--what of us who have the whole truth and revelation? (L. T.Lochee, M. A.)

The oracles of God

“The oracles of God” is a very arresting and illustrious name. And yet it accurately indicates the real character of what prophets and apostles teach. Heaven’s inspiration was poured upon their minds, and guided, as well as animated, their voices and their pens. What they declare Jehovah speaks. Oh with what reverence, and attention, and faith, and obedience, and grateful praises, should we receive and study the heavenly message! and how seriously and vividly, as both a motive and a check in dealing with the Scriptures, should we realise the thought: these are “the oracles of God”! They are, moreover, “the word of righteousness.” The Bible clearly, comprehensively, and authoritatively propounds the principles, and prescribes the rules of piety and virtue; and, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, it is the instrument of producing these great attainments in the heart and character of men. What a noble distinction of “the oracles of God”! and how important faithfully to use them in this practical relation! If the knowledge and attainment of “ righteousness” be momentous and valuable things, oh, let us highly esteem, and diligently use, what is here significantly called “ the word of righteousness.” It is suggested in this passage that there is great inequality among professing Christians to whom “the oracles of God “ have come. Some, it is here said, are “ babes,” and others, men; some, such as can digest “ strong meat,” others, such as “have need of milk”; some, “unskilful in the word of righteousness,” others, “by reason of use having their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” In other words, some are comparatively ignorant, inexperienced, and unsettled in religion, while others are comparatively intelligent, vigorous, and accomplished; and while the latter can understand, and appreciate, and apply the more difficult and abstruse doctrines of revelation, the former are more exclusively dependent, for the sustentation and improvement of their souls, on the simpler elements of religious truth. It is suggested still further, that “the oracles of God” have appliances appropriate for both classes. Revelation, as some one has graphically said, “has fords which a lamb can wade and depths which an elephant can swim.” (A. S. Patterson.)

Unskilful in the Word

Unskilful in the use of Scripture

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL. “The Word of righteousness.”

1. This shows the quality of it.

2. The subject of which it treats.

II. THE FAULT LAMENTED.

1. Some are unskilful in

2. They use Scripture unskilfully, when they do not use it

Lessons:

1. Be thankful that you have this Word of righteousness.

2. Pity those who are destitute of it and be concerned to supply them. (W. Jay.)

The best thing badly used

I. THE BEST THING ON EARTH. The gospel is called “the word of righteousness” because it reveals

1. The true standard of righteousness. God’s character is the foundation; God’s will the rule.

2. The highest exemplar of righteousness--Christ.

3. The true way to righteousness--following Christ.

II. THE BEST THING ON EARTH BADLY USED. The word is “ unskilfully “ used when used

1. Controversially. Fighting for dogmas.

2. Sectarianly. Fighting for sects.

3. Mercenarily. Fighting for money and position.

4. Unlovingly. Lacking the unbounded love and exquisite tenderness of the system. (Homilist.)

He is a babe

Spiritual babyhood

We have the likenesses of our boys taken on every birthday, and twelve of the annual portraits are now framed in one picture, so that we see them at a glance from their babyhood to their youth. Suppose such photographic memorials of our own spiritual life had been taken and preserved, would there be a regular advance, as in these boys, or should we still have been exhibited in the perambulator? Have not some grown awhile, and then suddenly dwarfed? Have not others gone back to babyhood? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age

The need of diversified food

There are persons, even in Europe, to whom a muttonchop would be poisonous. Cases are known where animal food has been poisonous to people. Some persons cannot take coffee without vomiting; others are thrown into a general inflammation if they eat cherries or gooseberries. Many persons are unable to eat eggs and cakes or puddings having eggs in their composition produce serious disturbances in such persons; if they are induced to eat them under false assurances of no eggs having been employed, they are soon undeceived by the unmistakable effects. Only gross ignorance of physiology, an ignorance unhappily too widely spread, can argue that because a certain article is wholesome to many it must necessarily be wholesome to all. Each individual organism is specially different from every other. However much it may resemble others, it necessarily in some points differs from them, and the amount of these differences is often considerable. If the same wave of air striking upon the tympanum of two different men will produce sounds to the one which to the other are inappreciable; if the same wave of light will affect the vision of one man as that of red colour, while to the vision of another it is no colour at all, how unreasonable is it to expect that the same substance will bear precisely the same relation to the alimentary system of one man as to that of another! Experience tells us that it is not so. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)

“The simple gospel”

I believe that if many Christian people of the present day had lived 1800 years ago, and an apostle had told them that he wanted to speak to them about Melchisedec, but found it hard to present the truth in a form sufficiently clear to be quite intelligible, they would have said that they would greatly prefer that he should leave the whole subject untouched; that they liked the simple gospel--the simpler the better; that what they wanted was “milk”; that they had no taste for different questions; that they liked to have their hearts moved; that this doctrinal teaching of which, unfortunately, he and some of his brethren seemed so fond, was quite above them, and did them no good; that there were many things in his sermons “hard to be understood”; that they wished he would be more “obvious”; and that a Christian teacher was bound to be constantly repeating the elementary facts and truths of the Christian faith. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Meat for men

The importance of cultivating a profound knowledge of the highest and deepest truths may be brought home to us by the following considerations

1. It is a sin to neglect any part of God’s oracles. To select portions for study and obedience is to be disobedient, as it is setting up of our individual private judgment against the wisdom and the will of the infinite Heavenly Father. It furthermore argues a want of love for truth. This love for truth it is indispensable to cultivate. It is really more important than a nervous carefulness to be exact in all our Statements, and accurate in the use of our words.

2. Profound spiritual knowledge is necessary, in order to teach others. Every man is a teacher, whether he will be or not; but every man ought to feel the importance and privilege of being able to give his fellowman some help, however small, out of the darkness into the light.

3. It is necessary to keep us in times when false doctrines are influential. It does not require great acquisitions of worldly learning to become profoundly versed in spiritual things. A simple, obedient, trusting heart, going unaffectedly to the Eternal Spirit of truth, will be led to such knowledge of the key-truth as will enable him to unlock all the caskets as he comes to them.

4. The profounder one’s knowledge of the greatest Divine truths, the greater one’s humility. If all a man knows of the Bible is the original tongues in which it was written, its history, its chronology, its literature, he may be a self-conceited sciolist: but when he comes to know Him for whom were all things and by whom are all things, he falls naturally into his place, and the things that are seen and temporal will yield in his estimation to the things which are unseen and eternal, and he becomes simple in his love for the truth, especially of the commanding truth of the universe.

5. This profound knowledge of Divine truth increases the lovingness of a man’s nature. Knowledge and love are twins. It was a pagan idea that love should be a blind god. No eyes quicker than the eyes of love to see all that is good and sweet in the beloved.

6. Sectarianism owes its existence to a want of knowledge of the highest central truths. Deep knowledge of the highest spiritual things is to all Christians a law of gravitation, keeping them in their orbit.

7. The oracles of God are the instruments of our personal sanctification. We are, through the Spirit, to learn the truth; and this truth will show us what is righteousness, the right; and we are to purify our spirits, not by some supposed act of consecration in a moment of enthusiasm, however honest avid good that enthusiasm may be, but by constant obedience to the truth, by the aid of the Spirit of God.

8. Our surest present enjoyment, and our happiest views of the future of the Church, depend on our knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. The more a Christian knows of the greatness, and goodness, and wisdom, and love of Jesus, of all the grace that is to come to him in this world, and all She glory that is to come to him in the eternal world, through Jesus, the more his happiness deepens. (C. F. Deems, D. D.)

Wherein it is a grace or disgrace to be like children

I. THE FORMER RESPECTS ARE THESE

1. Simplicity, honesty, plainness, truth. These graces are implied to be in children (Isaiah 11:8). We have a proverb that children will tell truth.

2. Humility and meekness. Herein doth Christ set forth children as a pattern Matthew 18:4). So doth the Psalmist (Psalms 131:2).

3. Freedom from rancour, malice, envy, and such like violent and evil passions (1 Corinthians 14:20).

4. Desire of milk whereby they are nourished (1 Peter 2:2).

5. Growing and increasing (1 Peter 2:2). Childhood is a growing age. When men come to man-age they use to stand at a stay.

6. Taking notice of their parents, and depending on them. Lambs, calves, and other young ones know their own dams, and will quickly find them out in a great flock or herd. The prophet showeth that the ox and ass, the most brutish of brutes, know where they are fed (Isaiah 1:3). “Your Heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of these things” Matthew 6:31). Will you not then depend on Him?

7. Subjection to their parents’ will, which is a law to children (1 Peter 1:14), and seeking their parents’ honour (Malachi 1:6). Christ hath made Himself a pattern herein (Luke 2:51).

8. Care to imitate their parents, and seeking to be like them (John 8:39; Romans 4:12; 1 Peter 1:16-17; Ephesians 5:1; Matthew 5:48).

9. Retaining a childlike affection to their parents, and reverencing them, though they correct them (Hebrews 12:9).

10. Returning to them after they have offended them (Luke 15:18). That affection which a child conceiveth to be in his parents towards him, will be in him towards his parents.

II. THE RESPECTS WHEREIN IT IS DISCOMMENDABLE AND DISGRACEFUL TO BE AS CHILDREN, are such as these

1. Ignorance and want of capacity (1 Corinthians 14:20).

2. Vanity and delighting in toys, as painted pears, rattles, and such like. “When I became a man I put away childish, things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

3. Levity, inconstancy (Ephesians 4:14). We say of a child that it is won with a nut, and lost with the shell.

4. Disability to manage weighty affairs (Ecclesiastes 10:16; Isaiah 3:4, Jeremiah 1:6).

5. Non-proficiency, and a small measure of knowledge, faith, and other graces. In this respect children are here opposed to men well grown; and babes are counted carnal, and opposed to such as are spiritual. This last respect is here especially meant. (W. Gouge.)

Strong meat

In most large houses we shall find humanity in all its stages. We shall see the infant in its cradle, children laughing in their play, young men working with vigour, and the old man resting in peace. In such a mansion, if a careful Martha be in charge, provision will be made for all the different ages. Now in our Father’s great house His family is always so largo that you will always find believers in all stages of growth. Now it were unfitting to give the milk to the man of full age, and equally improper to present the strong meat to those who are but infants; our Lord has, therefore, been pleased to dictate directions as to the persons for whom the various provisions of His table are intended.

I. Let us, first of all, BRING FORTH SOME OF THIS STRONG MEAT AND SET IT UPON THE TABLE BEFORE YOU.

1. A careful examination of the context will inform you that one form of strong meat Which is only fit for full-grown Christians is the allegorical exposition of Scriptural history. I believe that every book of Scripture has some special lesson beyond its historical import; and perhaps when the history of the world shall have been fully wrought out, we shall see that the books of the Bible were like a prophetic roll sealed to us, but yet fulfilled to the letter.

2. I feel persuaded that the apostle also more particularly referred to those mysterious truths which have respect to the relationships of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to His complex person. The very simplest believer understands that Christ is God and man, that Christ stood as the sinner’s surety and paid his debt. But His complex person suggests a thousand thoughts, all of which are too high for comprehension or even consideration until our senses have been exercised.

3. The doctrines of grace are also generally esteemed to be very strong meat. Only they who do business upon the great waters, and have learned the need of solid food, can usually feed on these things with satisfaction.

4. Scarcely need I mention that other dish--the more advanced and inwrought forms of Christian experience.

II. Secondly, let me INVITE THE QUALIFIED PERSONS TO COME TO THE FEAST. Who are they? They are here described as being persons of full age. Understand that there is no reference here at all to the age of a person as to human life. Growth in grace does not run side by side with growth in years. As old Master Brooks says, “There are some few believers who seem to be born with beards”; they are ripe Christians at a very early stage of their spiritual existence; and there are some who, if they tarry at Jericho till their beards be grown, will be long in seeing the King’s face. They are always babes, needing the spoon and the rocking-chair, even in old age. The expression in the text, then, has no reference to age, but is used in a spiritual and metaphorical sense But what is meant by men that are full-grown? Well, you know, a babe has the same parts as a man. The babe is perfect in its measure, but it is not perfectly perfect. Those limbs must expand; the little hand must get a wider grasp; the trembling feet must become strong pillars for ripening manhood; the man must swell, and grow, and expand, and enlarge, and be consolidated. Now when we are born to God we have all the parts of the advanced Christian. Faith, hope, love, patience--they are all there, but they are all little, and they must all grow; and he is of full age whose faith is vigorous, whose love is inflamed, whose patience is constant, whose hope is bright, who has every grace, in full fashion. Nor is it only development. The full grown man is stronger than the babe. His sinews are knit; his bones have become more full of solid material; they are no longer soft and cartilaginous, there is more solid matter in them. So with the advanced Christian; he is no longer to be bent about and twisted; his bones are as iron, and his muscles as steel; he moveth himself in stately paces, neither needeth he any upon whom to lean. He can plough the soil, or reap the corn; deeds that were impossible to infancy are simplicities to the full-grown man. But then our text tells us that they have had their senses exercised. The soul has senses as well as the body. Men who have had their senses exercised know how to choose between good and evil. Now, what are these senses? Well, there are our spiritual eyes. Travellers, who go to Switzerland for the first time, soon discover that they have not had their eyes exercised. You think that you can reach the peak of yonder mountain in half-an-hour. There is the top of yonder rock; you dream that a boy might fly his kite to the summit, but it shall take you hours to climb there, and weary limbs alone can bear you to the dizzy height. At a distance, young travellers scarcely know which is mountain and which is cloud. All this is the result of not baying the eyes exercised upon such glorious objects. It is just precisely so in spiritual things, unless Christians have their eyes exercised. I hope you know what it is to see Christ; your eyes, by faith, have looked upon the King in His beauty. You know what it is, too, to see self; you have looked into the depravity of your own heart, and have been amazed. Your eyes have seen the rising and the falling of many deceptions. Your eyes have been tried in waiting for God in many a dark night, or in beholding Him in the midst of many a bright Providence. Thus your eyes have been exercised. Now, when a doctrine is put before you, a strong doctrine, you look at it and say--“All! yes; my eye of faith tells me from what I have seen before that thatis healthy food upon which I may feed.” But if you detect something in it that is too high, or too low, you at once say--“No, that won’t do for me,” and you put it by. Hence it is that the man, the eye of whose faith has been tried with bright visions and dark revelations, is qualified to discern between good and evil in those great mysteries which would be too high for unexercised believers. Then there is the ear, &c.

III. I think our apostle meant the text to be a GENTLE REBUKE TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT FULL-GROWN MEN. The apostle says that the Hebrew saints ought to have been teachers, but that they still remained infants. It is very pleasant to see the infant in the house. What joy there is in its tender cry. But suppose that our children were always to remain infants, that would be no happiness to the parent. How long have you been converted to God? Why, I have known some converts that have been in long clothes for thirty years after they were converted, and are babies still. If you asked them to speak for Christ, they could only say a word or two of mere babble; and as for their confession of faith, it was not a reason; they did declare the hope that was in them, but they did not give a reason for it, for they could not give one. Then there are some who grow so slowly that their faith is just as weak now as it was twenty years ago. They go tottering along, and cannot run alone yet. Have I not seen some who ought to have been as patient as Job by this time, as fretful as they can well be. Why not begin to search the Scriptures? Why not try to live nearer to God? Why not pant after a greater conformity to Christ’s image? Why, what a Christian you might then be! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The perfection of Christian knowledge

I. It is evident from the nature of Christianity that you CAN NEITHER SEE ITS BEAUTIES, NOR REAP ITS BENEFITS, WHILE YOU ATTEND ONLY TO SOME LOOSE PRINCIPLES, AND DO NOT CONSIDER THE WHOLE SYSTEM: for the truths of religion form a system, a body of coherent doctrines, closely connected, and in perfect harmony. I am aware that this grand characteristic of Christianity hath occasioned many mistakes among mankind. Under pretence that a religion proceeding from God must harmonise in its component parts, men have licentiously contrived a chain of propositions to please themselves. They have substituted a phantom of their own imagination, for that body of doctrine which God hath given us in the Holy Scriptures. Hence so much obstinacy in maintaining, after so much rashness and presumption in advancing such phantoms. For of all obstinate people, none excel more in their dreadful kind than those who are prejudiced in favour of certain systems. But if infatuation with systems hath occasioned so many disorders in the Church, the opposite disposition, I mean, the obstinate rejection of all, or the careless composition of some, hath been equally hurtful; for it is no less dangerous, in a system of religion, to omit what really belongs to it, than to incorporate anything foreign from it. Let us be more explicit. There are two sorts of truths in religion: truths of speculation, and truths of practice. Each truth is connected not only with other truths in its own class, but truths of the first class are connected with those of the second, and of these parts thus united is composed that admirable body of doctrine which forms the system of religion. There are in religion some truths of speculation, there is a chain of doctrines. God is holy: this is the first truth. A hot, God can have no intimate communion with unholy creatures: this is a second truth which follows from the first. God, who can have no communion with u holy creatures, can have no communion with men who are unholy creatures: this is a third truth which follows from the second. Thus follow the thread of Jesus Christ’s theology, and you will find, as I said, each part that composeth it depending on another, and every one giving another the hand. For, from the loving and merciful inclination of God to relieve a multitude of His creatures from a threatening abyss of the deepest miseries, follows the mission of Jesus Christ; because it was fit that the remedy chosen of God to relieve the miseries of men should bear a proportion to the causes which produced it. From the doctrine of Jesus Christ’s mission follows the necessity of the Spirit of God: because it would have been impossible for men to have discovered by their own speculations the way of salvation, unless they had been assisted by a supernatural revelation. From the doctrines of the infusion of the Son of God, an, of the gift of the Holy Spirit, follows this most comfortable truth, that we are the objects of the love of God, even of love the most vehement and sincere that can be imagined. In like manner there is a connection between practical truths. The class of practical truths is connected with the class of speculative truths, and each practical truth is connected with another practical truth. Tile class of practical truths is connected with the class of speculative truths. As soon as ever we are convinced of the truth of the doctrines just now mentioned, we shall be thereby convinced that we are under an indispensable necessity to devote ourselves to holiness. All virtues mutually support each other, and there is no invalidating one part of our morality without, on that very account, invalidating the whole. To illustrate this we may compare spiritual with natural things. The more art and ingenuity there is in a machine composed of divers wheels, the more necessary it is to consider it in its whole, and in all its arrangements, and the more does its beauty escape our observation when we confine our attention to a single wheel: because the more art there is in a machine the more essential is the minutest part to its perfection. Now deprive a machine of an essential part and you deface and destroy it. Apply this to spiritual things. In a compact system, in a coherent body of doctrine, there is nothing useless, nothing which ought not to occupy the very place that the genius who composed the whole hath given it. What will become of religion if ye consider any of its doctrines separately? What becomes of religion if ye consider the holiness of God without His justice, or His justice without His mercy?

II. Let us then proceed to inquire WHY SO MANY OF US CONFINE OURSELVES TO A SMALL NUMBER OF RELIGIOUS TRUTHS, AND INCAPACITATE OURSELVES FOR EXAMINING THE WHOLE SYSTEM.

1. The first cause is a party-spirit. This is a disposition that cannot be easily defined, and it would be difficult to include in a definition of it even its genus and species. It is a monstrous composition of all bad genuses and of all bad species. It is an hydra that reproduceth while it seemeth to destroy itself, and which, when one head hath been cut off, instantly produceth a thousand more. This spirit must naturally incapacitate a man for considering the whole of religion; it must naturally incline him to take it only by bits and shreds. On the one hand, it contracts the mind: for how can a soul that harboureth and cherisheth all the phantoms which a party-spirit produceth, study and meditate as religion requires? On the other hand, a party-spirit depraves the heart and eradicates the desire of knowing religion. A man animated with the spirit of party directeth all his attention to such propositions of religion as seem to favour his erroneous opinions, and irregular passions, and diverts it from all that oppose them; his system includes only what strengthens his party, it is exclusive of everything that weakens or opposes it.

2. The second cause of the evil that we would remove is the choice of teachers. In general, we have three sorts of teachers. The first are catechists, who teach our children the principles of religion. The second are ministers. The third prepare the minds of young people for the ministry itself. The carelessness that prevails in the choice of the first sorter teachers cannot be sufficiently lamented. The care of instructing our children is committed to people more fit for disciples than masters, and the meanest talents are thought more than sufficient to teach the first principles of religion. And yet what capacity does it not require to lay the first foundations of the edifice of salvation! What address to take the different forms necessary to insinuate into the minds of catechumens, and to conciliate their attention and love! What dexterity to proportion instruction to the different ages and characters of learners! The pastors of our churches are our second class of teachers. What precaution, and, in some sort, what dread ought to prevail in the choice of an office, which so greatly influences the salvation of those among whom it is exercised! There needs only the bad system of a pastor to produce and preserve thousands of false notions of religion in the people’s minds, notions which fifty years’ labour of a more wise and sensible ministry will scarcely be able to eradicate. What hath been said on the choice of pastors still more particularly regards the election of tutors, who are employed to form pastors themselves. Universities are public springs, whence rivulets flow into all the Church. On the contrary, place men of evil character at the head of our universities, and they will send out impoisoned ministers, who will diffuse through the whole Church the fatal venom which themselves have imbibed.

3. The third cause, which we have assigned, of the infancy and novitiate of most Christians in religious knowledge, is the multitude of their secular affairs. Far be it from us to aim at inspiring you with superstitious maxims. We do not mean that they who fill eminent posts in society should devote that time to devotion which the good of the community requires. Amidst the most turbulent solicitudes of life, a Christian, desirous of being saved, will devote some time to his salvation.

4. The last cause of the incapacity of so many Christians for seeing the whole of religion in its connection and harmony; the last cause of their taking it only by bits and shreds, is their love of sensual pleasure. We do not speak here of those gross pleasures at which heathens would have blushed, and which are incompatible with Christianity. We attack pleasures more refined, maxims for which reasonable persons become sometimes apologists; persons who, on more accounts than one, are worthy of being proposed as examples; persons who would seem to be the salt of the earth, the flower of society, and whom we cannot justly accuse of not loving religion. Recollect here that genera! notion of religion watch we have laid down: it contains truths of speculation, and truths of practice. Such sensual pleasures, as we have just now mentioned, form invincible obstacles to the knowledge of both.

The food that makes strong men

The essence of Bible makes moral and spiritual bone. I saw an advertisement the other day--“Thirty tons of bones wanted “and I said to myself, “Yes, mostly backbones.” Bibline is the nutriment which makes backbone, muscle, and, above all, heart. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Senses exercised to discern both good and evil

The growth of the conscience

This verse, like another well-known verse in the same Epistle, seems to contain in few words the solution of a difficulty which accompanies us throughout the writings of St. Paul. For all through St. Paul’s teaching a prominent doctrine is what we now call liberty of conscience. The inner principle is always recognised by him as supreme over the man. Now, it is not difficult to see why the apostle thus puts the inner voice above all outer voices whatever. For the inner voice, and that voice alone, speaks personally and individually to the soul. A man’s conscience may be mistaken; but if so, obedience to it is a mistake and not a sin, and we know that mistakes are very different from sins. If our conscience be mistaken because we have not taken due trouble to enlighten it, then for that neglect of cultivating our conscience we are responsible. But even then the conscience claims our obedience, and if to obey is a mistake, to disobey is a sin. Mistaken or not, the conscience must rule the life. To do right in disobedience to conscience would be (if it could ever be done) more fatal to the character by far than to do wrong in obedience to it. But nevertheless the apostle feels, and every one must feel in reading what he says, that surely here is a serious difficulty. The difference between making conscience supreme, and making any outer law or authority supreme, depends in fact on this. Which is it that God would have here on earth, good actions or good men? Does His gospel propose to redeem and sanctify men’s deeds or their souls? Does He desire to see a series of good acts--acts, that is, regulated in their outward form by His holy Law? or does He desire to see a number of His servants striving to obey His will? If you want a number of right acts, then your business is to lay down a number of fixed rules and get men to obey them. But if you desire to have a number of good men, then it is tolerably plain that you must awake within them a power that shall guide their lives independently of mere rules. The acts of such men may not be quite as good as those of the men who are compelled to walk in a more defined path. But the men are men, and not machines, and as such are truer servants of God. To procure such men, the voice within themselves must be entrusted with the absolute dominion over all their lives. The difficulty is, how far this principle is to apply. Are all consciences in a state to claim this liberty? What will justify a man in relying unreservedly on his conscience? The answer is supplied by the verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews with which I began. Those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, are fittest to use strong meat. They may trust themselves to decide on their own conduct, to choose their own opinions; not certainly in confidence that they cannot make mistakes, but that their mistakes will not be ruinous to their character, and will, on the contrary, contain ever more good than evil. The conscience, like the other faculties that God gives, is not implanted perfect all at once. It has its infancy, its age of weakness; and it ought to have and can have its age of maturity. When it is full grown, it may and must be trusted unreservedly. This is its claim when it has grown to its full strength, And how, then, does it grow? Will it grow entirely of itself, or does it depend entirely on our own exertions? Its growth is like the growth of all our other faculties, the result of a combination of what is without with what is within. It will grow partly, on the one hand, by the experience of our lives, by the intercourse of our fellows, by the truth that we learn in our studies, by the new thoughts that flash upon us unbidden we know not whence, by the mere lapse of time and growth of our whole framework, both of body and soul, but, above all and through all, by the constant use of God’s Holy Word, without which it would hardly be the same faculty; partly, on the other hand, by our own greater or less co-operation, by the bent which we have given to our wills, by the purposes which we have cherished as the hope of our future days, by the passions and impulses that we have fostered in our secret hearts. On the one hand, every day will probably enable us to see more distinctly the consequences and the bearings of every separate act, the extent and limits of every rule of life, the true meaning Of every precept in the Bible, the application of our Lord’s commands, the various doctrines of the gospel of God. And this, to a great extent, without any co-operation on our part at all; simply because we are older and more experienced, and our intellects have attained to greater power. But, on the other band, the power of the gospel, the true nature of sin, the hatefulness of evil in God’s sight, the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,--these, and truths like these are quite invisible, except to the soul, which opens to receive the grace that flows into it from on high, and rises to meet the blessings that God is ever giving. The true condition of the growth of the conscience is to live in it. To obey it is not enough, if, by obedience, is meant simply doing what it bids. What is wanted is to live in its spirit. That voice is ever calling us to Him who gave it; to God the Father who created it; to Christ whose gospel redeemed it, purifies it, fills it with power; to the Holy Spirit speaking in the Word of God, and revealing the everlasting truth. The constant habit of referring our lives to the will of Christ, the habit of living in the thought of His presence, of trusting entirely to His love, of feeling an absolute confidence in His protection and care, of doing His will, as far as we know it, cheerfully and resolutely, of opening our hearts for Him to see, of filling our intellects with the lessons which He has written for our learning--this is the life which exercises the senses to discern both good and evil. (Bp. Temple.)

Reason in religion

This is a chiding for want of intelligence. It is a reproach for an indolent use, or rather for the disuse, of reason in the province of duty. The sacred Scripture stands almost alone as a book of religious directions in exhorting to a full, free, and constant use of the reason. The Word of God is an enlightener; and wherever it has been a free Bible, and its influence has really entered into the lives and hearts of men, there intelligence has prevailed, and there the human understanding has unfolded its best works, and developed its best efforts. So that the Word of God is not a tyrant book. It imposes no manacles and no restraints, except those which belong to the nature of the human mind, and the nature of the subjects which the human mind is called to investigate. So, then, it is indispensably necessary that men should think, and that they should think for themselves. It is necessary, in repeated instances, that they should make their own deductions and conclusions, and follow in the lines of conduct which flow from them. But, on the other hand, men cannot, in all things, think for themselves. It is right, it is wise, to accept the thoughts of others. We give and take. In one place a man thinks for yea, and in another place you think for him. There is this interchange of knowledge on the great principle of the faith of man in man. When, therefore, men insist upon it that to be in the full exercise of reason one must throw off the past and lift up his head into an independent sphere, where no man before has been, and think out all things, to him may be applied the words of the proverb: “ Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.” Not philosophy, but folly, inheres there. Let us look a little, then, at the elements and the proofs of that reason which men talk so much about, and know so little of. First and lowest, is that which we possess with the whole range of the lower animals perceptive reason--that part of the human understanding which takes cognisance of physical facts and events that are exterior to ourselves--which perceives the existence of things and their various qualities--which recognises whatever belongs to the framework or physical structure of the globe. Now, if any man supposes that there is certainty in this realm, he has given very little consideration to it. Men say, “Do you not believe the sight of your own eyes?” I have nothing better, I admit, by which to see things. But are these instruments so perfect that men may rely upon them implicitly? No. Every court of justice shows that the same event, being looked at by two, by four, by six different men, is not, although they are honest, and mean to state the truth, seen by any two of them alike. The sense of seeing in each one acts imperfectly, and each sees differently from the others, and makes a different report from theirs. The same is true of the sense of hearing. Men do not hear half that is going on, to begin with. Let the leader of a choir or a band hear a semi-tone of discord, and his ear will detect it instantly. Mine does not. That belongs only to the musician, and comes only by education. Hearing is not very accurate as between one man and another. In some it is tar better than in others. It is not very accurate as between one period of a man’s life and another. Different statements are given where men listen carefully and report truly what they have heard. The same is true in respect to the sense of touch. The five senses, with the perceptive intellect back of them, are alike in this respect. The sense of colour, the sense of shape, the sense of quality, all the senses, when you apply the test to them, and measure their accuracy, are found to be very unreliable. Nothing is more inaccurate than the reports of a man’s perceptive intellect. The genius of knowing even the lowest form of truth is a rare genius; and in respect to the great mass of men the senses are fallible. Though they answer a certain rough use of life, and afford a basis for general confidence, yet, after all, when the question is one of exactitude, there is nothing less to be trusted than the senses, until they have been trained. And there are not many men who are capable of being trained so that their senses shall be irreproachable. This is one of the grounds and signs of the scepticism of science. Men w o are scientific investigators apply to truth the tests of physical investigation. They perceive the mistakes which are made by others and themselves, and they come to have a realising sense, as the old ministers used to say, of the fallibility of man’s perceptive reason. When they hear a man reasoning from the Bible, and forming judgments and drawing deductions therefrom, they hold these judgments and deductions in suspicion, and say, “That man is not using his understanding accurately.” If you go still higher, to the reflective reason, it is that which recognises the relations of things to the relations of truths. Ordinarily we call the use of this reason philosophy. Where it exists in certain forms, and considers everything in the most abstract way, we call it metaphysics. Now, when we look at the reliableness of this superior reason, has it proved to he a safe ground for trust? Men have been for ages reasoning, drilling, training, accumulating; and, after all, the consciousness of mankind is that the reflective reason, while it has vast advantages, while it supplies a human want and a human necessity, is as far from being infallible as anything can be. No man can afford to lean his whole weight upon it without suspicion, without test, without trial. It partakes of the fallibility, of human nature, Nor does it follow because a great many different minds, in different directions, come together on a truth, that it is more true than it would otherwise be. The fact that things have been accepted from the days of rue patriarchs may create a presumption or probability that they are true, but it is not absolute evidence of their truth; for many things have been believed from the days of the patriarchs that have proved not to be true, and been taken out of the category of truths. When, then, you come to judge of the action of the understandings of men--their perceptive reason and their reflective reason--you will find, that though they have practical serviceableness, they are so crude, so untrained, and so disturbed by the emotions of the mind, that they are not infallible, nor absolute, nor to be depended upon. There is another sphere of the reason--that one in which truths are apprehended in their social and moral relations. We come into the knowledge of truths of fact and matter by the mediation of our senses; but there is a higher realm than that of fact and matter. There is an invisible realm where emotion, where sentiment, where spirituality reside. We come into communion with that realm by the understanding, through the mediation of our personal emotions and feelings. I will illustrate it. Take a little air, or strain, which an organist may give you. It shall be some familiar tune, like “Dundee,” or some old carol. Let him, by-and-by, after playing it on one or two small stops, introduce another stop--a hautbois or wood-flute, for instance; and you will see that while the air remains, there is a new quality in it. Now, it is so with the human mind. The intellect is looking at things; and if all the emotions were shut off, and were not allowed to colour them, how barren, how unrich they would be! But you draw one emotion, and instantly the things perceived through the intellect are affected by that emotion. As in playing a tune, every additional stop that is introduced adds a new quality to the sound, so the understanding is modified, changed, enriched, by this or that emotion which is let on. When the intellect is thus electrified, magnetised, polarised, it comes to a recognition of the greater truths of affection and sentiment. Take a man who has no conscience naturally, and let him stand in the midst of actions and presentations, whatever they are, and he will perceive no sense of equity; he will have no fine appreciation of honour, no intense feeling of what is right or wrong; he will be entirely without any such emotion; but others, standing eight by him, and highly constituted in their moral nature, will be sensible to what is right, and true, and noble, and just. Take the emotion of ideality, which we call imagination, fancy, aspiration, yearning, and what not. Where that joins itself to the understanding it makes the orator, the poet, the mystic, the dreamer. It makes men that see truths in regions where they do not outwardly appear. In all such eases the understanding is magnetised by that feeling which brings them in relation to things invisible--to superior truths. Throughout the world the sentiment of benevolence, the sentiment of hope, the sentiment of faith, the sentiment of conscience, the sentiment of love, bring us into relation to spheres of truth which are infinite, Divine, transcendent. When, then, you come to look at what are called moral intuitions in men, what are they but the results of such a highly-organised, sensitive state of mind that feeling, flashing upon the understanding, brings into the form of knowledge or perception all the truths that belong to the emotion which has coloured, or magnetised, or polarised the understanding? Now, in this realm what style and degree of certainty is there? I think, generally speaking, it may be said that those intuitions which are against nature--using nature in a qualified sense--are more apt to be true than those which are with nature. In other words, the spontaneous feelings which a man has in the direction of the animal sphere--anger, pride, cruelty, and the like--are, generally speaking, more erroneous than those intuitions which go out toward the generous, the noble, the pure, the self-denying. It is more natural for a man to act with those immense swells of feeling which work toward the animal, than to act with those emotions which work toward the spiritual, and yet in that direction he most often acts wrongly. It is only by long practice with reason and feeling that we bare learned to discern the right from the wrong--the good from the bad. It requires education--that is to say, theintroduction of the element of habit upon this joint action of the reason and the emotions--to enable us to make just moral distinctions. So far, then, as to the fallibility of men’s reason. It would seem, at first thought, in looking over this subject, as though there was a strong argument in favour of having the Church think for men, and tell them what is right and what is wrong; but there is always this fallacy, that where the Church thinks out a truth, and tells it to me, I have to think of it before I can understand it. I meet the same liabilities to error in accepting from the Church what it says as infallible that I do in the exercise of my own thought independent of the Church. The very act of receiving truths from other persons, or from bodies of persons, is attended with as many risks as the act of searching for truths unaided by others. I am liable, in accepting what comes to me from others, to no less limitations and mistakes than I would be if I went forth and gathered my own materials and made my own deductions. Moreover, we have had the experience of ages, which shows us that the truths which are handed down to us by corporate bodies are not any more true than those which are developed by our own individual experiences. Take the household. The father and the mother can think for the children until they are fifteen, or eighteen, or twenty years of age; but then they must think for themselves. Why? Because no child is like its father and mother. All truth is relative to the person by whom it is applied. Then, next, let me speak of the arrogance of those who are throwing aside or attempting to disesteem or to disown all the deductions of the spiritual sense; all tire results of the action of the upper understanding. Shall 1 disown the sounds that fill the air, because, applying my eye to them, I cannot see them? Shall I disown all odours, because, putting my ear to the flower, I cannot smell them? Shall men disown truths because they cannot taste them when they are discoverable, only through the joint action of passion or affection or spiritual emotion, and the higher understanding? Shall men apply the crucible, or the mathematical rule, or any outward measure to things that, if perceived at all, must be perceived through the channel of higher thoughts and feelings, and disown them because they cannot stand the test of the lower reason? The lower reason has its tests, the superior unspiritualised reason has its tests, and the spiritualised reason has its rests; and each must rest on its own ground. One other point. In view of the carefulness required in the investigation of truth; in view of the time and training and discipline that are required; in view of the nature of the mind and the skill required to judge of its actions rightly, I say to all those who are speaking lightly of the faith of their fathers, and of the manners and customs of their childhood; I say to all those who, without any special knowledge, are talking of progress and emancipation, and of the glorious era of reason; I say to all those who are curveling in physical philosophy, as against the higher modes of arriving at the truth, “You are going too fast and too far. No man is wise who leaves his head behind him; and you are travelling faster than your train can go.” To bring new thought to the balancing of truth; to put thoughts to thoughts, and to make them march in ranks and train together to term systematic facts and co-operating truths--this is a slow, a cautious, and a difficult process. Knowledge, virtue, morality, spirituality, manhood, can only be acquired by long effort and practice. Men gradually find new elements of truth, or larger proportions of old truths. Be willing to receive new light; but until you ha, e something substantial and clear as crystal to take the place of the old, hold on to what you already have. Nothing is so bad as for a man to be afloat; nothing is so bad as for a man to lose faith in everything. Put in a skiff, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a babe that knows neither the stars, nor the sea, nor storms, nor sail, nor compass, nor rudder, and what such a child is, that is the young man who drifts through life, contemning all faith, all knowledge of the past, yet without having acquired any knowledge of the present, or gained any intuitions of the future. (H. W. Beecher.)

The nature of conscience

It is clearly implied in the context that ignorance confines men to very imperfect guides in life, and that a true religion ought to develop growth in knowledge, not only, but skill in using knowledge as a means of restitude; and still more clearly in the closing verse is it declared that the conscience of men requires education, in order that it may, “by reason of use,” “discern both good and evil.” Using exercising, disciplining a man’s conscience, according to the conception of this passage, is the method by which it may be made to discern good and evil. First as to the nature of conscience. It is a moral sentiment or emotion subject to all the conditions of all other emotions in the mind of man. It does not differ in that regard from any sentiment or any emotion. All the great moral desires or sentiments are dependent for opportunity and for incitement upon the foregoing action of the intellect. The intellect thinks and perceives for the conscience just as much as it does for hope, for fear, for veneration, or for love. It is the precursor of these elements. Therefore the desires or sentiments are not, in and of themselves, intelligent. There is not a sentiment of hope with a little intellect of hope in it. There is not a sentiment of veneration with a little thinking power in it. There is not a sentiment of conscience with a little thinking mind belonging to it. The intellect belongs to all sentiments. Every sentiment draws its knowledge, and therefore its opportunity and incitement for action, from the common understanding that overspreads all the sentiments. They are dependent upon the reason for light. No man discerns the rightness or the wrongness of anything through his conscience. It is the intellect that sees the agreement or disagreement of conduct with the rule of life. It is conscience that experiences pain or pleasure in itself at this disagreement or agreement. The action of conscience, therefore, is partnership action. What some term “the moral sense” is the co-operative action of the intellect and the sentiment of conscience. No mind, no intelligent conscience. The reason, therefore, stands related to all sentiments--to conscience and the rest--as the keys on the keyboard do to the pipes in an organ. All the pipes have the potentiality of certain sounds, differing one from another; but they do not sound themselves. They never open their throat to speak until the keys are pressed. We open them with our hands. The whole issuing range of harmony from the instrument is determined at the key-board and not behind it. We touch the keys first, and the response comes afterward. So reason is the key-board of the mind; and when it pronounces any course of conduct, or any action, to be right, the conscience approves it--that is, it gives forth the sentiment of pleasure to itself; and when the reason condemns any course of conduct or action, then the conscience gives back to itself the sentiment of pain. But while on the one side it is true that the conscience does not itself think, nor perceive, nor discern, it would be wrong to suppose that it has nothing to do with thinking, perceiving, and discerning. Indirectly it has much to do with them, for, while the emotions of the soul have incitement and opportunity from the intellect, the intellect is not unaffected by them. Strong emotions inspire the intellect with a sensibility peculiar to the truths which belong to those emotions that are acting. Or, if I may so say, figuratively, a feeling gives its colour to the intellect, and makes it susceptible of the kinds of truth which it otherwise would not discern. For example, every kind of sorrow produces in the intellect a sensibility to the peculiar class of truths which are concerned in sorrow. If one be overladen with sorrow, everything he sees becomes Fad, and everything he thinks of has a colour of sadness in it. But if the sorrow be cleared away, and mirth come in the place of it, the intellect no longer sees the shades, nor the low tones or tints of truth. It sees, dancing on every side, all the variable elements of the truths that belong to mirth. There is, then, a cooperative or interchangeable action of the intellect upon the emotions; so that a perfect education of either one requires the education of the other. They work together; and a proportion and balance between thought and feeling is indispensable to thought and indispensable to feeling. Therefore, so far from the intellect, devoid of emotion, being the discerner in regard to the greatest sphere of truth, it is precisely the opposite; the intellect is utterly unable to discern what is true in these higher realms except by the force of underlying feeling, which does not see, but which inspires the intellect with a quality that enables it to see, the truths which belong to these several departments. Secondly, consider the function and scope of conscience. Its function relates, properly, to reason, or intellect; to sensibility, and to truths of rectitude. It inspires the reason with that sensibility by which it discerns all truth, in so far as it relates to the moral conduct of mankind. When right is done, the conscience gives forth pleasurable emotions. When wrong is done, the conscience gives back pain. Thus it approves or condemns. It presides in all the spheres of men--in the household, m the market, in the forum, in government--and makes itself felt in universal law. At the same time it leavens every feeling of the soul, inspiring in each one a sense of truth and righteousness and rectitude in his own sphere. And it is a restraint upon unregulated and extravagant thought and emotion. Thus in all things it brings itself into human experience, whether it be in the form of feeling, or whether it be in the form of action. With this foundation, I remark, first, that we discern in the action of conscience, practically, in a very great number of instances, the variety and intensity of our own judgment. Thou* sands of men are said to be conscientious simply because in the respects in which they have a sense of right and wrong they are intense, though they are not intelligent. Men who have a profound conscience toward God, toward His Book, toward His Church, toward His ministering servants, and toward truths that have in them something of the element of eternity--those men often have almost no conscience in regard to elements whichrelate to the welfare of mankind. So you shall see an Italian bandit who goes to bed with remorse because he did not pay his vows to the statue of the Virgin Mary, nor say the prayers that he had vowed, but who will wipe the dagger with which he had stabbed a man in the back with a sense of having performed a virtuous action! Ill anything which relates to religion many men are very conscientious; and such men are said to be very religious; but in the things which relate to worldly affairs these same men often have no conscience. Envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, rivalry, supersession, all such things they indulge in innocently, without the least idea that conscience has anything to do with them. They have not a conscience for truth everywhere, but they have a conscience for truth in spots, and of a certain kind. They have a conscience for truth toward the supernatural, for truth toward the supernal, but not for truth toward the human. Multitudes of persons there are who have a conscience about pins, but not about crowbars. They have a conscience about nettles, but not about serpents’ teeth. That is to say, they exalt the bottom until it is as high as the top, and the top can be no higher. On the other hand, there are those who, not by feebleness of intellect but by an over-refined process or habit of searching and researching into metaphysical threads and films and gossamers, are perpetually bringing about them insoluble matters and tormenting themselves and their friends with questions in life which have no practical issue, but exist in the bowels of their brain and are being spun out. They weary themselves by excessive addiction to a subtle conscientiousness which works in such channels. Then, next, come mechanical consciences, or consciences that act entirely by rule and custom, and not by determining right or wrong through the reason. A mechanical conscience can only act in reference to cases which have been already determined; for it is a conscience which acts according to precedent or rule. Now, rules are the indispensable eyes of ignorance, as principles are the indispensable eyes of intelligence. They are the resultants of practical experiments in right and wrong through ages, and are not likely to be set aside for any one. It is far more likely that generations of men, as the result of continuous trial, will be right in practical affairs than that any single man will. Where, therefore, we are prone to ignore a custom because we are at liberty to act from original considerations we shall be very likely to substitute conceit for wisdom. For the great mass of mankind, then, conscience must determine right and wrong. That is, their intellect must ask, “What is custom?’” “What is rule?” And they must go by that. Yet it is not the best guide. It is the very thing that is condemned in this passage. Wider civilisation and a higher life are full of things that must of necessity be outside of customs and rules, and for which no precedent can be established; and these must be determined by the application of principles. Hence you will find that the Word of God constantly recognises the propriety of a man determining right and wrong by referring to his original moral feelings. Many a man has trained his conscience to an interpretation of sensibility--that is to say, conscience and the understanding together, which form the moral sense, has been trained in such a way that they interpret right and wrong precisely as musicians interpret right and wrong in music, not as the result of any experience by which they say, “One, two, and three make a discord”, but as the result of feeling. A discord hurts the ear of one who is cultivated in music. Now, there is such a training of a man’s moral sense that whatever is dishonour-able, whatever is coarse, whatever is wrong in one way or another, hurts him. First comes the feeling of pare, and he has to determine the cause of it afterwards. The intellect and conscience working together are so sensitised that that which is at variance with or unlike moral principles, with truth, with simplicity, with fairness, with honour, with any virtue, is offensive to them. They have been so drilled in things right that the first appearance of a thing that is wrong strikes oppugnance into them. On the other hand, you will find men who are strict Sabbath-keepers, who are strict in the letter of honesty, who are strict in a thousand conventional elements of right and wrong, but who in business spheres, in the development of a campaign, in an enterprise where there is rivalry, where there is some end to be gained by combination, or where there is pressure in one direction or another, are overreaching, and do not hesitate to do wrong, and violate the principles of humanity. They were never in such a case before; they have had no training of conscience which makes them feel that they are transgressing the law of right; and their want of integrity does not trouble them. But there are some men who shrink back instinctively from things that are wrong, and do not themselves know why they are shocked at them. There are many things that we are familiar with, but that we are unconscious of. There are many things that we know without thinking of them. I know the surface of the ground on which I walk without knowing it. I know a hill or a level without knowing it. My foot knows more than my head in these matters. It has been trained respecting them. We get up and sit down, we go backwards and forwards, we do a great many things where the body is concerned automatically. We have come to that point where intantaneity is the law of operation in many physical things. Higher than that, men may come to that state of mind in which, without any conscious intellectual operation, by instinct or moral insight, they shall abhor that which is evil, and in which they shall instinctively seek that which is good. This is the highest form of conscience. I must add one or two remarks. First, I think our times need training in judicial ethics far more than in intensity of spirituality. It is morality that develops spirituality, and not spirituality that develops morality. You cannot put on your roof until you have built your foundation. The lack of training in the principles of honesty and integrity is the weakness of our times. This training, like all real training, should be first in the household. I only add that perhaps more than any other single thing in the training of children, in the family, in the school, and in the preliminary stages of their life, are needed, first, training in what is right and wrong, and second, the development of an instantaneous subjection of thought and action to that which is determined to be right and wrong, and a habit of doing that which is duty instantly without questioning. (H. W.Beecher.)

Necessity of discrimination

A set of half-witted people went to the sea to gather precious stones. Not being well able to discriminate between true and false stones, they took for precious a lot of common pebbles, thinking they must be good because they were of bright colour and heavy. The really precious stones, being of uncertain colour and light weight, they rejected as worthless. (J. Gilmour, M. A.)

Knowledge by use

Practical sciences are not to be learned but in the way of action. It is experience that must give knowledge in the Christian profession, as well as in all others. And the knowledge drawn from experience is quite of another kind from that which flows from speculation or discourse. It is not the opinion, but the path of the just, that the wisest of men tells us shines more and more unto a perfect day. The obedient, and the men of practice, are those sons of light that shall outgrow all their doubts and ignorances, that shall ride upon these clouds, and triumph over their present imperfections, till persuasion pass into knowledge, and knowledge advance into assurance, and all come at length to be completed in the beatific vision and a full fruition of those joys which God has in reserve for them whom by His grace He shall prepare for glory. (R. South, D. D.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 5:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/hebrews-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.


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Sunday, July 23rd, 2017
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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