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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Hebrews 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

Hebrews 6:1-3

Leaving the principles

Foundation-stones

I.
HERE IS A STATEMENT MADE WITH REGARD TO THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE RELIGION WE PROFESS. He tells where they are revealed, and what they are. And, first, he would have his readers to understand that the principles of the doctrine of Christ are the “first principles of the oracles of God”; he uses the two expressions interchangeably, as if they both meant the same thing. His immediate object was to assert that the “ doctrine of Christ,” at which the Hebrews stumbled, was in reality no fresh revelation, but that all its rudiments had been taught in their own Mosaic Scriptures. A deep truth was contained in the saying of the ancient Church, “There were Christians on earth before there were Jews.” Even from Paradise to Patmos, “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” have been taught with increasing gradations of development, as “the first principles of the oracles of God”--old, as well as new. This being established, Paul proceeds to enumerate these principles; and he appears to state them miscellaneously, without reference to their natural station or logical order.

1. And, first, “Repentance from dead works.” Dead works are works performed by one whose life is separated from the life of God. Thus separated, men may have the quality of manliness, but not of godliness; towards one another there may be melting love, heroic daring, unbending justice, most magnificent generosity; but whatever they may be with regard to men, with regard to God they are dead. Alienated from His life, even good works are dead works; dead while they live; dead as the dead leaves on the dead bough, parted from its parent stem. It is the doctrine of a merely human religion, that while we should repent of our evil works, we should trust in our righteous works for heaven. But it is the doctrine of Christ that we should repent of all the works wrought while our souls were dead in sin; and when we feel the quickening thrills of a new life, this repentance will take place.

2. But, secondly, turning from sin implies turning to God. We shall have no disposition to renounce our dead works until, united to the living God by faith, we are partakers of His life. Faith towards God, therefore, is another elementary principle of the oracles. To have “faith towards God “ is to feel able to say, “I think, I will, I speak, I act as I do, because I have faith towards God”; it is to feel His Spirit touch us, to have the most affecting sense of His society, to act as under His inspection, to be alive to His presence as the most intense of all realities, giving the zest to every pleasure, the light to every beauty, the soul to every scene; to trust Him for the food, and raiment, and home, both of our mortal and immortal nature; to make Him the confidant of every weakness, and want, and woe; to revive beneath the sun-burst of His smile, and to mourn at the hiding of His face.

3. But we shall never bare faith towards God, or approach Him in the way that has been just described, until our infected spirits have applied to a fountain of cleansing. So another essential principle is “the doctrine of baptisms.” Those baptisms told not only of sin, but of a fountain opened for sin; and we know where that precious fountain flows. Rejoice to think that it is a fountain, and not a scanty supply.

4. But the doctrine, or the true meaning of the laying on of hands, was another principle of the doctrine of Christ. It conveyed a doctrine, and the doctrine was that he who would be saved must, by b is own personal act and deed appropriate the work of Him who is our Saviour by being our substitute,

5. The resurrection of the dead is another essential article of faith, and one, like the rest, peculiar to inspired revelation. Nature does not teach it. It never dawned on the proud thoughts of philosophy. Even those beautiful mysteries of the spring, which are sometimes thought to teach, inferentially, the doctrine of a resurrection, convey no teaching sufficiently defined to still the agonies of doubt or sorrow. The changes they witness and the charms they show are revivals, not resurrections. But in the oracles of God all the great problems that affect the destiny of man receive a full solution, and all the questions that come from his breaking heart meet with a distinct response. The resurrection of the dead is a “doctrine of Christ.” The Emperor Theodosius having, on a great occasion, opened all the prisons and released his prisoners, is reported to have said, “And now, would to God I could open all the tombs and give life to the dead!” But there is no limit to the mighty power and royal grace of Jesus. He opens the prisons of justice and the prisons of death with equal and infinite ease: He redeems not the soul only, but the body. From the hour of the “laying on of hands,” the entire man has been saved.

6. But, once more: the eternal judgment has ever been a primary article of revelation. Though analogy, intuition, and universal opinion rosy have furnished grounds to justify belief in it as a probable event, only the “oracles of God” could unfold its principles, or announce its absolute certainty. This they have ever done. He, through whose sacrifice our souls have received a “baptism”--He who has become our substitute by “the laying on of bands,” bearing all the pressure of our responsibility, and binding Himself to be answerable for us at the judgment-day--will be Himself our Judge. But there are some of you who have no right to these anticipations. You have not made provision for the great hereafter. By that tremendous phrase, “eternal judgment,” consider your ways and be wise!

II. And now, passing from the doctrinal statement, let us give attention, to THE PRACTICAL APPEAL.

1. “Not laying again the foundation.” The teacher, in this phrase, at once indicates the course he intends to adopt in his own instructions, and the conduct he would prescribe to those who study them. “Not laying again the foundation.” God will not lay it again in His purposes; you are not to be for ever laying it again your mind and memory; as it is settled in the heavens, so let it be settled here as new. This being established, Paul proceeds to enumerate these principles; and he appears to state them miscellaneously, without reference to their natural station or logical order.

1. And, first, “Repentance from dead works.” Dead works are works performed by one whose life is separated from the life of God. Thus separated, men may have the quality of manliness, but not of godliness; towards one another there may be melting love, heroic daring, unbending justice, most magnificent generosity; but whatever they may be with regard to men, with regard to God they are dead. Alienated from His life, even good works are dead works; dead while they live; dead as the dead leaves on the dead bough, parted from its parent stem. It is the doctrine of a merely human religion, that while we should repent of our evil works, we should trust in our righteous works for heaven. But it is the doctrine of Christ that we should repent of all the works wrought while our souls were dead in sin; and when we feel the quickening thrills of a new life, this repentance will take place.

2. But, secondly, turning from sin implies turning to God. We shall have no disposition to renounce our dead works until, united to the living God by faith, we are partakers of His life. Faith towards God, therefore, is another elementary principle of the oracles. To have “faith towards God” is to feel able to say, “I think, I will, I speak, I act as I do, because I have faith towards God”; it is to feel His Spirit touch us, to have the most affecting sense of His society, to act as under Hits inspection, to be alive to His presence as the most intense of all realities, giving the zest to every pleasure, the light to every beauty, the soul to every scene; to trust Him for the food, and raiment, and home, both of our mortal and immortal nature; to make Him the confidant of every weakness, and want, and woe; to revive beneath the sun-burst of His smile, and to mourn at the hiding of His face.

3. But we shall never have faith towards God, or approach Him in the way that has been just described, until our infected spirits have applied to a fountain of cleansing. So another essential principle is “the doctrine of baptisms.” Those baptisms told not only of sin, but of a fountain opened for sin; and we know where that precious fountain flows. Rejoice to think that it is a fountain, and not a scanty supply.

4. But the doctrine, or the true meaning of the laying on of hands, was another principle of the doctrine of Christ. It conveyed a doctrine, and the doctrine was that he who would be saved must, by his own personal act and deed appropriate the work of Him who is our Saviour by being our substitute.

5. The resurrection of the dead is another essential article of faith, and one, like the rest, peculiar to inspired revelation. Nature does not teach it. It never dawned on the proud thoughts of philosophy. Even those beautiful mysteries of the spring, which are sometimes thought to teach, inferentially, the doctrine of a resurrection, convey no teaching sufficiently defined to still the agonies of doubt or sorrow. The changes they witness and the charms they show are revivals, not resurrections. But in the oracles of God all the great problems that affect the destiny of man receive a full solution, and all the questions that come from his breaking heart meet with a distinct response. The resurrection of the dead is a “doctrine of Christ.” The Emperor Theodosius having, on a great occasion, opened all the prisons and released his prisoners, is reported to have said, “And now, would to God I could open all the tombs and give life to the dead!” But there is no limit to the mighty power and royal grace of Jesus. He opens the prisons of justice and the prisons of death with equal and infinite ease: He redeems not the soul only, but the body. From the hour of the “laying on of hands,” the entire man has been saved.

6. But, once more: the eternal judgment has ever been a primary article of revelation. Though analogy, intuition, and universal opinion rosy have furnished grounds to justify belief in it as a probable event, only the “oracles of God” could unfold its principles, or announce its absolute certainty. This they have ever done. He, through whose sacrifice our souls have received a” baptism”--He who has become our substitute by “the laying on of hands,” bearing all the pressure of our responsibility, and binding Himself to be answerable for us at the judgment-day--will be Himself our Judge. But there are some of you who have no right to these anticipations. You have not made provision for the great hereafter. By that tremendous phrase, “eternal judgment,” consider your ways and be wise!

II. And now, passing from the doctrinal statement, let us give attention, to THE PRACTICAL APPEAL,

1. “Not laying again the foundation.” The teacher, in this phrase, at once indicates the course he intends to adopt in his own instructions, and the conduct he would prescribe to those who study them. “Not laying again the foundation.” God will not lay it again in His purposes; you are not to be for ever laying it again in your mind and memory; as it is settled in the heavens, so let it be settled here. “Not laying again the foundation.” You are not to forget it, so as to have to learn it again; you ale not to doubt it, so as to need to be convinced of it again; you are not to forsake it, so as to have to return to it again. “Not laying again the foundation.” You are not to be like an insane or unskilful builder, who excavates the foundation of his work, tears it from its place, and takes it to pieces, being doubtful of its materials, or uncertain of its sufficiency to sustain the superincumbent weight; and who, always engaged in destroying the foundation, and laying it again, makes no progress with his building.

2. “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ.” At first sight the meaning of this clause is not obvious, and it seems to clash with those connected with it. There are different ways of leaving an object his fathers house, never to return We may leave it as the spendthrift son leaves we may leave it as the deserter leaves the shield which he is “vilely east away”; we may leave it as education and refinement leave ignorance and rusticity; but not so ale we to leave these first principles of our faith. We are to leave them as the scholar leaves the letters of the alphabet--leaving them only to use them; leaving them that he may bring clot all their powers, and employ them in startling combinations, as the instrument for acquiring or diffusing thought. We are to leave them as the plant leaves its root, when it towers into a majestic tree, leaving it only that it may the more depend upon it; and, day by day, drawing from it those fresh supplies of vital sap which it pours into the fresh leaves, fresh boughs, ever fresh and ever beautiful formations of that life which refreshes the hungry with its clusters, or the weary with its shade. We are to leave them as the builder leaves his foundation, that he may carry up the building, stone above stone, story above story, tower above tower, from the dusky basement to the sun-lit pinnacle; always leaving the foundation, yet always on it, and on it with the most massive pressure, and the most complete dependence, when most he leaves it.

3. “Let us go on unto perfection.” It is obvious that there can be no reference, in this a word “perfection,” to the justifying work of Christ on our behalf. That is perfect from the first moment we believe. At once we receive perfect forgiveness, and a perfect title to the “inheritance in light.” But, although justification is complete, sanctification has yet to be carried on. To borrow the idea of a transatlantic writer: “A perfect title to a piece of property puts a man in possession of it just as absolutely on the first day when it was given as twenty years after. When a man gives a flower, it is a perfect gift; but the gift of grace is rather the gift of a flower seed.” It contains within it all the Divine germs necessary for growth. And we are asked to cherish it, that it may go on unto perfection, as the seed goes on to the perfection of a full-blown flower.

4. The word employed to indicate the manner of arriving at this end is richly significant. “Let us go on to perfection,” should rather be rendered, “Let us be carried on.” “The word is emphatical, intimating such a kind of progress as a ship makes when it is under sail. ‘ Let us be carried on ‘ with the full bent of our minds and affections, with the utmost endeavours of our whole souls. We have abode long enough by the shore; let us now hoist our sails, and launch into the deep.” Perhaps we feel discouraged by the labour, and alarmed by the very glory of our calling. The one may seem too much for us to exercise, and the other too great for us to hope for. Almost despairing of our ability to go forward, we may even now be thinking of going back. But if we are unable to go on, we are surely able to be carried on to perfection. And the Eternal Almightiness is even now at our side. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Leaving first principles

We must leave these first principles as the pupil leaves the alphabet when he is brought to the process of combining letters into syllables, and syllables into words, and of words constructing sentences, and of sentences making a discourse. We must leave them as the architect leaves the foundation, and proceeds to erect upon it his superstructure. We must leave them as the mathematician leaves his axioms, and proceeds to the construction of his demonstration. To what purpose would the pupil have learned the elements of ‘language if he should rest in them? Where the use of continuing to con them over without proceeding any further? What benefit would result from the labour and expense of laying the best foundation if it remain unappropriated--if no building be reared upon it? How long might the mathematician occupy himself in ascertaining the axioms of the science without coming at a single valuable result? And what advantage will accrue to us, or the world, from our acquiring the mere elements of Christianity without reducing them to practice, pushing them out to their ulterior results, and connecting them with the higher principles of a spiritual life? (Geo. Peck, D. D.)

Passing from elementary principles

How? Not casting it for ever behind our backs: suffering it quite to slip out of our memories. We must remember even the principles of religion to our dying day; but we must not insist in those, and set down our staff here, but as good travellers go on forward. As if one should say to a grammar scholar, “Leave thy grammar, and go to logic, rhetoric, philosophy, to more profound points of learning,” his meaning is not that he should leave his grammar quite, and never think of it any more, but that he should pass from that to greater matters. As if one should say to a traveller going to London, that sits eating and drinking at Colchester, “Leave Colchester, and go on to London,” so leave this doctrine of the beginning of Christianity, leave your A B C, be not always beginners, but proceed till ye come to some maturity. (W. Jones, D. D.)

Let us go on

Forward

I. THE NECESSITY FOR THIS EXHORTATION. Do not old habits, which Christian earnestness should have obliterated, begin to creep into the light again? Do not sins and temptations, which you thought you had mastered, rise up and gain power over you once more?

II. THE MEANING OF THIS EXHORTATION. Having taken Christ, we must not merely receive His pardon, but we must live upon Him.

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF NEGLECTING THIS EXHORTATION. If we do not yield up all to Christ we shall easily drift away from Him. We must go forward, or we shall fall farther away, till we sink into irremediable ruin. The awful solemnity of this passage (Hebrews 6:4-6) we cannot possibly exaggerate (H Phillips, B. A.)

Progress in Divine knowledge

Progression marks all God’s works. In nature there is no perfect rest. There is change in everything--change which partakes of the character of progress; for even that which we regard as decay is but part of a new creative process. This universal law of progression holds good in the realm of truth; there is a going on, a climbing higher and yet higher in knowledge even of the divinest kind. Indeed we may say that, the more exalted the subject, the more absolute is the necessity that knowledge should ever be progressive--the more impossible it is that we can quickly and at once attain to the fulness of perfect wisdom.

I. THERE ARE MANY THINGS CONNECTED WITH CHRIST AND HIS TRUTH WHICH ARE NOT COMMUNICATED TO THE SOUL IN CONVERSION, BUT WHICH MUST BE ACQUIRED FROM TIME TO TIME THROUGHOUT OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE. Great truths always come one by one. They are not discovered but by those who diligently search for them, and they are often the product of laborious toil. The apostolic injunction bids us do something more than” strike out blindly.” It bids us intelligently and deliberately leave the elements of Wisdom, and “strike out” towards the perfection of knowledge. It bids us break away, as it were, from our state of pupilage, and go on to the fulness of the knowledge of Christ. It lifts a corner of the veil which hides from us the infinitude of Divine wisdom, and urges us to press onward until our whole soul is filled with His love and grace.

II. In this “ going on unto perfection “ it is desirable that we should clearly recognise the fact that GOD IS A TEACHER WHO USES MANY BOOKS. To the observing eye and to the teachable heart God is manifested everywhere. In complying, then, with this counsel to the Hebrews, let us seek for the fuller revelation of spiritual truths wherever God has written them. Let us regard the Bible, not merely as a fruitful field where we can quickly thrust in the sickle and reap upon the surface, but also as a rich mine, in whose deep recesses lie hidden many a costly gem, which our labour and our study, under the Divine blessing, may bring to the light. Let us look at the letter as the case which encloses the spirit--remembering that while “the letter killeth, it is the Spirit that giveth life.” Let us also look for and discover truths of deep spiritual meaning in the incidents of daily human experience.

III. It should also be duly borne in mind that ALL TRUTHS POSSESS A MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP, and that each has its influence in the work of perfecting the Christian character Truth is one, though it may possess many branches. Walking by a wide river, bearing on its bosom the mightiest navies of the earth, it would be interesting to speculate concerning the numerous rills and brooklets which, miles away, in different counties, contributed to that expanse of water. From mountain, moor, and glen those waters have been flowing day after day, meeting and mingling with others, ever growing and gathering strength, until the result is that which we see at our feet So are truths gathered from different sources, mingling their powers to influence the soul and bear it to the ocean of perfect wisdom and eternal love.

IV. THIS PROGRESS IN DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IS SOMETHING QUITE DISTINCT FROM CHANGEABLENESS IN DOCTRINE. To leave the principles, or first elements, of the doctrine of Christ is not to depart from the soundness of the faith. It is to leave the first few miles of the road behind as we press forward towards the end of our journey. It is to leave the foundation which has been laid firmly in the ground, in order that the building may rise higher and higher in beauty and majesty, until the topmost stone is laid in its place. It is to lay aside the alphabet of the language that we rosy devote ourselves to the riches of its literature, and add to our supply of knowledge from the ample stores of learning of which that alphabet is the key.

V. PROGRESS IN DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IS ESSENTIAL TO THE FULL ENJOYMENT OF THE PRIVILLEGES OF THE CHRIST’S LIFE. In other words, spiritual knowledge is essential to spiritual health. Digging deep into the riches of spiritual truth, we discover that which not only stays the anxious throbbing of the heart, but which lifts the soul nearer and nearer to the Source of truth--to God Himself. As among men the possession of knowledge operates for the most part so as to elevate and refine the tastes, so to drink deeper at the stream of heavenly wisdom is to become in spirit more heavenly, and in character more Divine. It is said of Christ, that “in Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” and that He was “the express image of the Father’s person.” What Jesus was in an infinite degree, the Christian who is full of Divine wisdom and rich in knowledge is also in his degree. Be, too, reflects the image of the heavenly. He, too, gives forth rays of reflected but Divine light. The life that is in the soul of him who is going on unto perfection is Divine in its influence as well as its nature. It is of that man the world takes knowledge that he has been with Jesus, and that he has sat at His feet and been taught in His school. (F. Wagstaff.)

The soul’s true progress

I. THE STARTING-PIECE.

1. Evangelical repentance.

2. Godward faith.

3. Spiritual chansing.

4. Reliance on Christ.

5. A future state.

6. Eternal retribution.

II. THE RESTING-PLACE. “Perfection.”

1. Accuracy of Divine knowledge.

2. Conformity to the Divine will, so far as known.

3. The prospects of an ever-brightening future. (Homilist.)

Ever onward

It is an interesting thing to watch an ocean ship get out from London docks. How helpless she is! She cannot use her machinery. Her sails are furled. She is pushed forward and backward. She is pulled along by puffing tugs. She stops to let other vessels pass. She waits through weary hours. She moves on again. But she is hindered and limited and retarded. But some progress is rewarding her perseverance. She is getting more room. She begins to ply her engines. But she must go slowly. She must be cautious. Then there is more liberty; there are fewer obstructions and fewer conditions. The liver is wider. The city is being left behind, with its din and its sin. The fresh air revives the sailor. He unfurls his canvas. He moves steadily on to the line where river fades into sea. He hears the music of the surf beating upon the sand. He sees the white-caps marching across the blue prairies of ocean. And at last the gallant ship, emancipated, seems to stretch herself and expand herself, and swell and sway and bow in ecstasy, as she speeds her way over the billowy fields of her native heath and boundless home. Thus it is with the soul that is escaping from the trammels of the flesh, and the limitations and the conditions imposed upon it by the world. How slow its progress is at first! How it is pushed forward and falls backward! How crippled is the soul’s splendid machinery! How awkward its movements! Its sails are furled. It must submit to be helped by things smaller than itself--by trivial rules and puerile helps. It stops; it waits. It stands to for obstructions. But it moves on. It makes a little progress. The channel is getting wider. The shores of earth are getting further away. There is more room, more freedom. The engines move. The sails are thrown out. The fresh air of grace gladdens the sailor, and tells him that the city of sin is fading in the distance. The ocean of liberty is reached at last. The Lord takes the helm. The Spirit of God fills the sails, and then, emancipated and free, unloosed from the devil’s imprisonment, unshackled from the habits and slavery of flesh, unlimited and unconditioned by the world’s conventionalities, the glad soul rejoices on the bosom of God, which is the soul’s ocean, which is the soul’s home. (R. S.Barrett.)

A “Dissatisfaction Meeting”

At Chicago Mr. Moody held a “Dissatisfaction Meeting “for pastors and their flocks who were not satisfied with their spiritual condition. It was said to be overshadowed with the presence of God as few assemblies have been since the day of Pentecost. (King’s Highway.)

Perfection

On apostolic perfection

Here we may see the germ of what afterwards became at Alexandria and elsewhere the catechetical system of the primitive Church. Wherever converts to Christianity were the rule, it was necessary to protect the sacrament of baptism against unworthy reception by a graduated system of preparation and teaching, each stage of which represented an advance in moral and intellectual truth. Hence the several classes of catechumens or hearers, who were allowed to listen to the Scriptures and to sermons in church; kneelers who might stay and join in certain parts of the divine service; and the elected or enlightened who were taught the Lord’s prayer, the language of the regenerate, and the creed, the sacred trust committed to the regenerate saints. They were now on the point of being admitted by baptism into the body of Christ. Then at last as the τετέλεστει or the Perfect they entered on the full privileges of believers, they learned in all their bearings the great doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Eucharist. They were thus placed in possession of the truths and motives which shaped must powerfully Christian thought and life. The Christians who are receiving elementary instruction are termed babes. They cannot understand, much less can they utter, the discourse of righteousness. The Christians who have received the higher instruction are perfect. They can digest the solid food of Christian doctrine. Their spiritual senses have been trained by habit to appreciate the distinction between the good and the evil, which in this connection are other names for the true and the false. Therefore leaving the principles or the first discourse about Christ, let us go or be borne on unto perfection. “Perfection.” What does he mean by it? Certainly not here moral perfection, the attainment in general character and conduct of conformity to the will of God, for this would be no such contrast to the first principles of the doctrine of Christ as the sentence of itself implies. The perfection itself must be in some sense doctrinal perfection; in other words, the attainment of the complete or perfect truth about Christ, as distinct from its first principles: of these first or foundation principles six are enumerated, and they are selected it would seem for the practical reason that they were especially nee, led by candidates for baptism: the two sides of the great inward change implied in conversion to Christ, repentance from dead works--dead, because destitute of religious motive--and faith resting upon God as revealed in His Son; the two roads whereby the converted soul enters upon the privilege of full communion with Christ, the doctrine about baptism, which distinguish-s the Christian sacrament from the mere symbols of purification insisted upon for proselytes by the Baptist and by the law, and the laying on of hands which we now call confirmation; and finally the two tremendous motives which from the first cast their shadow across the light of the believer--the coming resurrection, and the judgment, whose issues are eternal. These three pairs of truths are precisely what the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews meant by the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and therefore by perfection he must have meant something beyond these truths. He meant, no doubt, a great deal else, but specifically and in particular he meant the doctrine of Christ’s Melchisedekian priesthood, in its majestic contrast to the temporal and relatively inefficient priesthood of Aaron, and with its vast issues in the mediatorial work, whether of atonement or of sanctification as carried out, the latter to the very end of time, by the great High Priest of Christendom. Now the point on which the text insists is the going forward from the first principles to the truths beyond. The apostolic writer does not say, “Let us go on unto perfection.” He does say, “Let us be borne on” θερώμεθα. He does not say, “Be courageous, be logical, push your premises well till you have reached their conclusions.” He does say, “Let us all”--teachers and taught--“let us all yield ourselves to the impulse of such truth as we already hold” θερώμεθα. It will carry us on, as we try to make it really our own, it wilt lead us to fresh truths which extend, which expand, which support it. We cannot select one bit of this organic whole, baptize it by some such names as “primary,” or “fundamental,” and then say, “This, and this only, shall be my creed.” If the metaphor be permitted, the truck, all of whose limbs are cut off thus arbitrarily, will bleed to death. Where everything depends upon spiritual activity, non progredi est regredi. They who shrink from apostolic perfection will forfeit their hold sooner or later on apostolic first principles. Let us trace this somewhat more in detail. We have seen what were the first principles insisted upon among the first readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews. They belong to a disciplinary system of the Apostolical Church. They were selected on practical rather than on theological grounds. But what would probably be the first principles of an inquirer feeling his way upwards towards the light, under the circumstances of our own day? What would be the truths that would greet him on the threshold of faith, as the catechumen of our times, whom conscience and thought are training with hope for the full inheritance of the believer? They would be, in all probability, first, belief in a moral God. It is something, no doubt, to believe in a Cause who is the cause of all besides Himself it is more to believe in aa Intelligence who is the parent of all created intelligences. But religion, properly speaking, begins when man bows down in his secret heart before One who, being boundless in power and infinite in wisdom, is also justice, sanctity, love. And thus, perhaps, simultaneously, the modern catechumen would be arrested by the character of Jesus Christ as it lies on the surface of the Gospels. These, we will suppose, are the catechumen’s two first principles. They are now beyond controversy, at least for him. They seem to be all that he needs, and he says to himself that a simple faith like this is also a working faith. He can at least limit, or try to limit, and leave the spheres of abstract and metaphysical discussion to those who will explore them but alter all this, a time will come when he finds that he must go forward, if he is not to fall back. For he observes, first of all, that this world, the scene of so much wickedness and so much suffering, is hard indeed to reconcile with the idea of a God all-goodness and all-powerful, if, indeed, He has left, or is leaving, it to itself. If He is all-good, He surely will unveil Himself further to His reasonable creatures. Nay, He will do something more. His revelation will be, in some sort of sense, an efficacious cure. Exactly proportioned to the belief in the morality of God is the felt strength of this presumption in favour of a divine intervention of some kind, and the modern catechumen asks himself if the Epicurean deities themselves would not do almost as well as some moral God, who yet, in the plenitude of His power, should leave creatures trained by Himself to think and to struggle, without the light, without the aid, they so sorely need. This is the first observation, and the second is that the character of Jesus Christ, if attentively studied, implies that His life cannot be supposed to fall entirely within the limits, or under the laws, of what we call Nature.” Fur if anything is certain about Him, this is certain, that He invited men to love Him, to trust Him, to obey Him, even to death; and in terms which would be intolerable if, after all, He were merely human. Had He been crucified and then had rotted in an undistinguished or in a celebrated grave, the human conscience would have known what to say of Him. It would have traced over His sepulchre the legend, “Failure.” It would have forthwith struck a significant balance between the attractive elements of His character, and the utterly unwarranted exaggeration of His pretensions. But, our modern catechumen’s reflections should not end here, for the character of God, and of Jesus Christ, in the Gospels is, in one respect, like the old Mosaic Law, which provokes a sense of guilt in man by its revelation of what righteousness really is. The more we really know about God and His Son, the less can we be satisfied with ourselves. It is not possible for a man whose moral sense is not dead, to admire Jesus Christ, as if He were some exquisite creation of human art--a painting in a gallery, or a statue in a museum of antiquities--and without the thought. “What do His perfections say to me?” For Jesus Christ shows us what human nature has been, what it might be, and in showing us this, He reveals us as none other, He reveals us individually to ourselves. Of His character, we may say what St. Paul says of the law, that “it is the schoolmaster to bring us to Himself,” for it makes us profoundly dissatisfied with self--if anything can possibly do so--it forces us to recognise the worthlessness and the poverty of our natural resources, it throws a true, though it may be an unwelcome, light upon the history of our past existence, and thus it disposes us to listen anxiously and attentively for any fresh disclosures of the Divine mind that may be still in store for us, or already within our reach. And thus it is that the first principles which we have been attributing to our catechumen prepare him for the truths beyond these, that Divine goodness, those perfections of the character of Christ, which bear the soul onwards and upwards, towards acceptance of Christ’s true Divinity, and, as a consequence, of the atoning virtue of His death upon the Cross. These momentous realities rest, indeed, on other bases, but they bring satisfaction, repose, and relief to souls who have attentively considered what is involved in the truths which were at first accepted. They proclaim that God has not left man to Himself, that God does not despise the work of His own hands, they unfold His heart of tenderness for man, they justify by the language which Jesus Christ used about Himself and about His claims, the faith and the obedience of mankind, and they enable us to bear the revelation of personal sin in which His character makes within each separate conscience that understands it, because we now know that “ He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” But does the advance towards perfection stop at this point? Surely not. Where so much has been done, there is a presumption in favour of something more, if more be needed. The Divine Christ has died upon the Cross, the victim for the sins of men. What is He doing now? The past has been forgiven, but has no provision been made for the future may not recovery itself be almost a dubious boon if it be followed by an almost inevitable relapse? And thus it is that the soul makes a further stage in its advance to perfection. The work of the Holy Spirit in conveying to men the gift of the now humanity exhibited by the perfect Christ, and this, mainly through the Christian sacraments, opens at this point before the believer’s eye. It is by a sequence as natural as that from Christ’s character to His divinity and atonement, that we pass on from His atonement to the sacramental aspect of His mediatorial work. The new life which He gives in baptism, “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ”--the new life which He strengthens in the Eucharist, “He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me”--these great gifts are but an expansion of what is already latent in the recognised perfection of His human character; awed the apostolic ministry, the channel and the guarantee of their reality, is not less a part of that perfection of truth to which intelligent faith conducts the soul. And the Christian creed has not said its last word to the soul of man until, besides assuring his reconciliation and peace with God, it has satisfied his desire for union with the Source of life. Who--let me say it once more--who does not see that our Lord’s human character can only be described as perfect, if His right to draw the attention of men in terms which befit only a superhuman person, be frankly conceded? Who does not know that the existence of a moral God, the Maker and Ruler of this universe, is more clearly and forcibly contested by a large class of influential writers than any subordinate or derived truths whatever--that whatever may have been the case in the last century, atheism is even more earnest in rejecting, in our own day, the specific doctrines and the creed which comes from Jesus Christ? Surely, then, it is our wisdom, as Christian believers, while the day of life lasts, to make the most, and not the least, of such religious truths as we know. What must not He, who is their object, think--and surely He is thinking on the subject now--what must He not think of those many magnificent intellects which He has endowed so richly, unto which He has granted such opportunities of exercise and development, who yet know almost as little about Him as the children in our national schools, and who make no effort to know more; but have studied, with eager enthusiasm, all forms of created life, all the resources of nature, all the intricacies of the laws of human thought, while He, the Author of all, He, who is the Infinite and the Everlasting, is, as it would seem, forgotten. It is not much to ask of a serious Christian to endeavour to make his own, each day, some little portion -f that knowledge which will one day seem incomparably more precious than any other. Half an hour a day costs something in a busy life; but it will not be held to have involved a very great sacrifice when hereafter we are face to face with the unchanging realities, and know in very deed what is meant by perfection. (Canon Liddon.)

Christian perfection

We have two things here alluded to--progress and attainment. The progress is a walk, a journey, a contest. The attainment is a complete state of Christian character. This is to be our ideal at which we are to aim.

I. THE NATURE OF THE PERFECTION HERE ALLUDED TO.

1. The elements of the Christian life are not to absorb our attention and interest. The alphabet of Christianity is all wry beautiful and necessary. If a professing Christian were to leave off at faith, he would be but a poor Christian indeed.

2. The high-r elements of Christian virtue are to be assiduously cultivated. We know that these are not natural to the human mind. Complete control over the evil passion of the heart, holiness of life, restrained temper, perfect forgiveness, perfect love to man and God, are not easy to be acquired.

II. SOME PARTICULARS OF THE STEPS TO BE TAKEN IN ATTAINING THIS CONDITION.

1. An increase of faith.

2. An accession of light. Without more light, there is no possibility of progress.

3. An increase of knowledge.

III. NOW, TO ARRIVE AT THIS STARE OF PROGRESSION, THERE MUST BE

1. An unwearied practice of the details of Divine truth.

2. A. constant dependence on the Holy Spirit.

3. An unceasing study of the character of Christ.

4. Continuous prayer. (Preacher’s Analyst.)

On progress to perfection

Man is endowed with a capacity of intellectual, religious, moral improvement; and to cultivate knowledge, piety, and virtue is the chief end of his being. In each stage of the awful mysterious career of human existence every Christian may conceive his Creator addressing him as He did an ancient patriarch, “I am the Almighty God: walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” Progress towards perfection, it is next to be noticed, will conduce much to our honour and our happiness. Reflect, Christians, how favourable your lot is to improvement, compared with that of those who lived in days of pagan darkness, or at a period less remote. On you the glorious light of revelation shines. &re you desirous to exalt your views, to elevate your affections, to ennoble your characters? Respect and attend the public institutions of religion, for they are powerful means of human improvement. Further, let us make progress in virtue. Flourishing like the palm-tree, human nature, in its career of intellectual, religious, and moral improvement, adorns the terrestrial globe. “Sin is a reproach to any people, while righteousness exalteth a nation.” Christians, “let us go on to perfection”; for it is highly conducive to our delight as well as to our dignity. Does not every one feel himself happier as he grows wiser and better? A passion for knowledge has added much indeed to the felicity of many a life spent in security, far from the bustle of the world, and with little solicitude about literary fame. The love of virtue is no less productive of happiness. “Blessed are they who do His commandments.” Again, to prompt you to rise by progressive steps to higher and higher degrees of virtue, think frequently of those venerable men who persevered in the paths of rectitude, and have now received a crown of life. When we recollect the graces of the faithful, let us study also to act a consistent part, and give the enemies of the gospel no cause to remark, that though our principles may be orthodox, our conduct is wrong; that we glow with benevolence when nothing is to be given, and are only captivated with virtue when at a distance from temptation. Further, to animate our progress towards perfection, let us think of them who are to succeed us in the scene of life. Will not posterity record with delight those characters which excellence adorned? Therefore let them never see guilt like a malignant demon, sitting in triumph over the ruins of their fathers’ virtues. As an additional motive to comply with the exhortation which the text contains, reflect that the spirits in glory will mark your progress with gladness and applause. “Never did refined Athens exult more in diffusing learning and the liberal arts through a savage world, never did generous Rome please herself more with the view of order established by her victorious arms,” than the hosts of heaven will rejoice at the improvement of men. Finally, I beseech, you to make progress, for behold the angel of death is approaching to strike the blow which shall terminate your days. (T. Laurie, D. D.)

Go on unto perfection

I. FORM A JUST NOTION OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. View it as delineated by the inspired writers, and learn from them what the Christian ought to be. They speak of him as the child of God; not only as “born of God,” but as “bearing the image of his heavenly Father.” But not confining themselves to these general representations, the inspired writers descend to enumerate the various excellences in temper and conduct, which combine to form the character of the Christian. He is one who has “laid aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.” He has “put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering”; he is filled with the fruits of the Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

II. GUARD AGAINST LOSING ANY ATTAINMENTS YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY MADE. Sinful habits once laid aside, and again resumed, adhere more closely than ever, and will baffle all ordinary efforts to throw them off. If you now exercise any grace, or practise any duty in which you were formerly deficient, let no consideration tempt you to relinquish it.

III. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO EXERCISE THE GRACES AND VIRTUES WHICH YOU DO IN ANY DEGREE POSSESS. Are yon conscious of devout and reverential feelings towards God? Cherish and strengthen these feelings by habituating yourselves to these exercises of devotion. In your dealings with mankind are you just and honest? Do men fail in what is their duty towards you? Let that be your opportunity of cultivating the meek and quiet spirit, and of practising patience and gentleness towards them.

IV. FREQUENTLY REVIEW YOUR CHARACTER, AND EXAMINE WHAT PROGRESS YOU ARE MAKING IN THE GRACES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. For our aid and direction in acquiring these graces we have set before us the character of God, the conduct of Jesus Christ, the laws and precepts of the gospel.

2. It will be of great use to compare your character as it now is with what you recollect it formerly to have been.

V. Let all your efforts after moral improvement be made in HUMBLE DEPENDENCE UPON GOD, ACCOMPANIED WITH PRAYER TO HIM, AND A CONSCIENTIOUS ATTENDANCE ON THE ORDINANCES OF RELIGION. These exercises tend in the most direct manner to cherish the pious and Divine affections of love, of gratitude, of faith, of hope. (R. Boog, D. D.)

Perfection

We count those things perfect which want nothing requisite for the end whereunto they were instituted. (J. Hooker.)

The instinct of perfection

We see this in everything. We see it in the little pastimes of children playing in the market-place--practising their baby games, and never resting till they can catch upon their battledore their fifty or their hundred. We see it in the cricket-field and on the rifle-ground--we see it in the hunt and at the billiard table: what time, what toil, whatpatience, what disappointment, is grudged, if at last there may be perfection? We see it in the young scholar’s devotion to his reading, to his composition. Some may study, some may compete, for the sake of the prize or the emolument, for the fame or the advancement. But we do a great injustice if we doubt that hundreds of the nobler youth of England would toil equally, and struggle equally, for the mere sake of knowing and of being. What is it which makes the great advocate, the eloquent orator, always tremble before speaking, and oftentimes lash himself afterwards? This, too, is not all of vanity and greed of praise; this is not all of eagerness to display self and mortification if the display be unsuccessful; much more is it, in real men, because there lives and glows in them, like a consuming fire, the ambition of perfection--a perfection which they never feel themselves to attain, just because nothing short of perfection will satisfy them. So it is with every painter, sculptor, writer, poet, who has in him that spark of genius by which art works and thought breathes. (C. J.Vaughan, D. D.)

The impulse of perfection

What else is it which gives its impulse to trade, and makes all the difference in that occupation of the million, between success and failure, between eminence and stagnation? The bad tradesman--you may know him by it--sees nothing insufferable in imperfection, and thinks his customer unreasonable if he looks for the absolute. “It will do,” is his motto: it will do if the colour almost matches, if the dress nearly fits, if the dropped stitch, if the accidental flaw, can scarcely be noticed. You know that that workman cannot rise, will always be outstripped, must come to want--why? because he has no instinct of perfection, and therefore he lacks the first requisite of attainment. On the other hand, so strong is this motive in the body of human life, that you will find men engaged in large transactions willing to pay almost any price for a scarcely appreciable improvement in the screw of an engine or the catch of a machine, just because it is an approach, next to imperceptible, towards a perfection which real men of business never despise, and which therefore the ingenious never find unremunerative. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

Low aims

It is a low and unworthy strain in some to labour after no more grace than will keep life and soul together, that is, hell and soul asunder. (Jr. Trapp.)

Spiritual dwarfs

There was once in London a club of small men, whose qualification for membership lay in their not exceeding five feet in height; these dwarfs held, or pretended to hold, the opinion that they were nearer perfection of manhood than others, for they argued that primeval men had been far more gigantic than the present race, and consequently that the way of progress was to grow less and less, and that the human race as it perfected itself would become as diminutive as themselves. Such a club of Christians might be established in most cities, and without any difficulty might attain to an enormously numerous membership; for the notion is common that our dwarfish Christianity is, after all, the standard, and may even imagine that nobler Christians are enthusiasts, fanatical and hot-blooded, while they themselves are cool because they are wise, and indifferent because they are intelligent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Is perfection attainable?

When God tells us that we are to he “ holy,” “perfect,” “without blemish,” we are bound to believe that His command can be obeyed, and we ought not to be satisfied until we make the command an actuality. Could there be a sadder hindrance than that teachers of Divine things should lead men to suppose that God’s purpose cannot be accomplished--that these words are mere figures of speech? Does God enjoin on us what is impossible? Convince a man that anything is impossible and he will not attempt it. A strong swimmer may plunge into the English Channel to cross to France, but where is the bravest swimmer who would plunge into the Atlantic to swim to America? Brave explorers do track the Greenland snows to explore the North Pole, but do we attempt to explore the North Star? Convince a man that the thing is possible, and sacrifice will be as meat to the noble soul, but impossibility dashes all effort to the ground. (R. F. Horton, M. A.)

Forward

Brave soldiers die with their face to the foe. Looking back never conquered a city, nor achieved a work of art, nor wrote a book, nor amassed a fortune. The silent inward cry of the world’s great men has ever been: On, my soul, right on.

Perfection gradual

The acorn does not become an oak in a day. The ripened scholar was not made such by a single lesson. The well-trained soldier was not a raw recruit yesterday. It is not one touch of the artist’s pencil that produces a finished painting. There are always months between seed-time and harvest. Even so the path of the just is like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. (R. B. Nichol.)

Perfection aids perfection

We may not only say, in general terms, that there may be a growth in perfection, but may assert further, that the thing which is most perfect, if it be susceptible of growth at all, will have the most sure and rapid growth. Which grows most and in the best manner--the flower which is whole and perfect in its incipient state, or that which has a canker in it, or is otherwise injured or defective in some of its parts? Which will grow the most rapidly and symmetrically--the child which is perfect in its infancy, or one which is afflicted with some malformation? illustrations and facts of this kind seem to make it clear that the spiritually renovated state of mind, which is variously called holiness, assurance of faith, perfect love, and sanctification, may be susceptible of growth or increase. It is not only evident that there is no natural or physical impossibility in it, but, as has been intimated, we may go farther, and lay it down as a general truth that perfection in the nature of a thing is requisite to perfection in degree. And accordingly, although it is possible for a person who is partially holy to grow m holiness, a person who is entirely holy, although he may be assailed by unfavourable influences outwardly, will grow much more. (J. Upham.)

Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works

Of the fundamentals of Christianity

1. The first, in order of nature, is faith towards God. For this must evidently be the first principle of all religion, the beginning and corner-stone even of the foundation itself (Hebrews 11:6). This is the first principle, not of the doctrine of Christ only, but also of the law of Moses, of the institution of the patriarchs, of the precepts of Noah of the relic, ion of nature itself, even among those who never had the benefit of Divine revelation. This truth is found written in the most legible characters, not in the inspired Scriptures only, but in the writings of the philosophers, in the discourses of the learned, in the consciences of the unlearned, in the hearts of all reasonable men, in the instincts of animals, in the motions and proportions even of the inanimate world itself. And is it not a shame that men, that men endued with reason and understanding, who enjoy moreover the light of the gospel revelation, should need to have this foundation laid for them any more? Which is the same folly as if a man should deny there was any light in the world, while he himself walked in the brightness of the sun shining in his strength; or like the foolish philosopher of old, who pretended to dispute against the being of motion, while he himself was on all sides surrounded with its visible and perpetual effects.

2. The next principle in order of nature, though first mentioned by the apostle in the text, is repentance from dead works. And this is a natural consequence of having faith towards God. For he who believes in God must consequently believe that obedience is necessary to be paid to His commands. And then they who perform not that obedience must be confessed to deserve the severest punishment. Which punishment there is no possible means for the offender to avoid, but by a timely repentance; and the only satisfactory evidence of the truth of that repentance is a departure from dead works to serve the living God. This, therefore, is the second principle of religion, or of the doctrine of Christ: a principle absolutely necessary to be laid as the foundation of all virtue, the lowest degree whereof is the forsaking of vice; and yet it is such a foundation as, if it always be laying, it is evident men can never go on to any perfection. It is equally necessary, therefore, that Christians should repent, and yet that they should not stand in need of being always repenting. Always repenting; not of daily infirmities, which are unavoidable, but of new and great crimes continually repeated. Of repentance from these, I say, the Scripture never supposes a Christian to stand frequently in need.

3. The next fundamental principle of Christian religion here mentioned by the apostle is the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands. Repentance is the indispensable duty of all sinners, and the original mercy of God affords ground of hope, even to natural reason, that such repentance will be accepted. Yet since hope, in the nature of the thing itself, differs necessarily from the certainty of knowledge, therefore it has pleased God to confirm this natural hope by the certainty of an express revelation in Christ that He will accept the repentance of sinners. And this assurance He has commanded to be sensibly conveyed to us by a very significant rite in the sacrament of baptism, which sacrament is for that read-on styled in Scripture the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. To this the apostle adds as a constant appendage the laying on of hands, because by that rite newly baptized persons were in the apostle’s times endued with the Holy Ghost.

4. The last principle of the doctrine of Christ mentioned here by the apostle as the foundation of all religion is the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. I mention these two together as but one, because in the nature of things they are necessarily connected with each other. For the resurrection of the dead is only in order to judgment, and eternal judgment is a certain and necessary consequence of the resurrection from the dead. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

Repentance

The grace of evangelical repentance does not break the heart and leave every bit of the broken parts still stone, but it melts the heart and changes every principle of it. If you break a flint stone every portion of the stone is still flint, but if you melt it in the fire every particle of it becomes changed. So it is with the heart of man: the Lord does not break it, but by the fire of Divine love He gloriously changes the heart, and it becomes entirely new. (Rowland Hall.)

Repentance

Repentance is neither base nor bitter. It is good rising up out of evil. It is the resurrection of your thoughts out of graves of lust. Repentance is the turning of the soul from the way of midnight to the point of the coming sun. Darkness drops from the face, and silver light dawns upon it. Do not live, day by day, trying to repent, but fearing the struggle and the suffering. Manly regret for wrong never weakens, but always strengthens the heart. As some plants of the bitterest root have the whitest and sweetest blossoms, so the bitterest wrong has the sweetest repentance, which, indeed, is only the soul blossoming back to its better nature. (H. W.Beecher.)

Dead works

When anything is separated from its source there must be death. Separate the stream from its fountain and there is death. Separate the branch from the tree and there is death. Separate the body from the soul and there is death. Separate the soul from God and there is death. There may be natural life but there is spiritual death. The intellect lives, the will lives, the heart lives, the conscience lives, the instrumental faculties of action are all alive, but all the works to the production of which they combine, not being instinct with the love of God, are dead works. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

The doctrine of baptisms

The doctrine of baptisms

If the sons of Aaron, before they were invested with the priestly garments, or entered upon the functions of their sacred office, plunged in ceremonial waters; if the proselyte from heathenism, before he took his station amongst the Temple worshippers, or was naturalised amongst the holy tribes, always did the same; if the Israelite who had contracted legal impurity from the stroke of leprosy, the touch of death, or from contact with any other unhallowed thing, always did the same; if on the occasion for the performance of those ceremonies which sealed the recovered leper’s right to be received into society again, the priest dipped the mystic dove in water, then flung it up into the air to soar away on glistening wing to the rocky covert or the shady grove, symbol of the ransomed spirit in its flight to heaven; if these and other baptisms were administered under the Mosaic economy, all these baptisms held a doctrine, and the first part of the doctrine they taught was, that our nature, and the whole of our nature, needs cleansing to fit it for the presence of God. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Mercy in cleansing

“The doctrine of baptisms,” however, was not merely that man is vile, but that God is merciful. Those baptisms told not only of sin, but of a fountain opened for sin, and we know where that precious fountain flows. It was opened on Calvary, and from that hour to the present, baptism there--the baptism of the soul--has been the only essential baptism, the only act by which, through the eternal Spirit, the penalties of sin are all remitted, and all its pollutions finally cleansed away. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Laying on of hands

Confirmation

Here you see we have some truth or other--some first principle or other--respecting the “ laying on of hands,” following close upon some “doctrine of baptisms.” Now the only laying on of hands that we read of in the rest of the New Testament is that which took place in the instances of the Samaritans and of the twelve upon whom St. Paul laid his hands, except the laying on of hands when ministers are ordained to their office. Now I do not think that this latter is only alluded to here, and for this reason: the writer of my text is evidently speaking of six matters or principles, or foundations, as he calls them, which concern all men equally, so that all men who profess Christ’s doctrines should realise their importance, and be grounded in all needful truth respecting them. All men are to repent--all to believe in God--all to be baptized--all will rise again--all will be judged. Now, associated with these five other first principles, which all men undeniably have to realise, we have this “laying on of hands.” It seems to me, then, that it must allude primarily to (or at least that it cannot exclude) that laying on of hands by the chief ministers of the Church, of which, in those early times, all the baptized partook. We now come to consider the question, Was it discontinued after the apostles’ time? So far from this, we have the testimony of two very early writers of the Christian Church--one living about 200 years after Christ, the other about 250--that each baptized person living in their time was confirmed. The first of these, Tertullian, after describing the ceremonies in use at baptism, goes on to say, “Next to this the hand is laid upon us, calling upon and inviting the Holy Spirit through the blessing.” Cyprian, about fifty years after a martyr for the truth of Christ’s gospel, bears similar testimony to the practice throughout the Church in his day. These are his words: “Which custom has also descended to us, that they who are baptized may be brought by the rulers of the Church, and by our prayer, and by the laying on of hands, may obtain the Holy Ghost, and be consummated with the Lord’s signature.” It is quite clear, from the testimony of these writers, that in their days every baptized Christian had the hands of the chief pastor laid upon him, as a sort of supplement to his baptism, and as a means whereby he might receive a further gift of God’s Spirit. It has, however, been sometimes said that we cannot argue from the example of the apostles in favour of confirmation at the hands of our present bishops, because, when the apostles laid their hands on the early converts, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost were given; and we now lead those who come in prayer and faith to expect only those ordinary gifts of God’s grace whereby they may be strengthened to maintain the conflict common to all sincere followers of Christ. This reasoning appears to me both shallow and faithless. The Spirit which God gives is one, though the manifestations of His power are various. In order that the heathen might know assuredly that the doctrine of the despised and persecuted sect of the Christians was from God, the early followers of Jesus were empowered to work miracles, and to speak with other tongues; but when the need for the exercise of such gifts was over, the gifts were withdrawn. God intended His Church to walk by faith, not by sight; and if He had kept up the miraculous gifts as they were in the first ages, it would have walked by sight. But, though God withdrew certain manifestations of the Spirit’s presence, He did not withdraw the Spirit Himself. And the rite of laying on of hands was to give the Spirit, who would manifest Himself, according to His own will and wisdom, in the person who received Him. Here, then, was a rite ordained for the communication of the Spirit, who would manifest His presence according to the needs of the individual who received Him, and of the Church of which that individual was a member. Because, then, we do not expect in confirmation all His gifts, are we not, therefore, to expect gifts or manifestations suitable for us and our times? If we really, and without reserve or equivocation, accept the Bible as our guide; and if we believe, as we must, that the greatest gift that God can now bestow upon us is that of His Spirit; then we must necessarily seek that Spirit in every way in which God gives us reason to think that He is communicated. The needs of our nature--our fallen, and weak, and corrupt nature-should make us eagerly embrace the use of any means, however inadequate they may outwardly appear. And then, too, we may be morally certain, that if the Holy Spirit had intended that after the apostles were removed by death this rite should be discontinued, He would have strictly enjoined upon the Church its discontinuance. You honour God in this ordinance when you believe that He has ordained it as a means in which to bless you; and when you believe that He has not deserted His Church, but that He is as effectually present with the Church now as He was with the Church in the apostles’ time; so that such a rite as this is as profitable to the prayerful and believing soul now as in the times of St. Peter and St. John. If God’s Word is true, then you have a life-long fight before you--a fight with the world and its allurements, and the flesh and its craving lusts, and the devil with his spiritual temptations to unbelief in God’s mercy upon the one hand, or else to presumption upon God’s mercy, that Christ will save you in your sins, on the other. To maintain your conflict with such adversaries you will require all God’s grace and strength. Add to your other daily prayers, then, some hearty and distinct petition that in the approaching solemn rite you may receive a particular strength suited to your need. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

Laying on of hands

It was prescribed in the old Hebrew service-book that when a person brought his sacrifice to the altar, he should lay his hand upon its head, and lean upon it with all his weight. While thus standing, with his hand laid upon the victim, and his face directed to the Temple, he repeated this formula: “O Lord, I have sinned, I have done perversely; I have done thus and thus” (here naming, either mentally or audibly, the specific sins of which he had recently been guilty, and for which he now sought pardon), “I have done thus, and thus, but I return by repentance to Thee, and let this be my expiation.” If several persons united in one presentation, each one in succession placed his hand upon the victim, and in turn offered this prayer. On the great day of atonement the high priest did the same thing in the name of all the people whom he officially represented. He placed troth his hands upon the various victims that were to be offered in sacrifice, and more especially upon the “Azazel,” the mystical goat, which, as if bearing the sins which had been confessed over it, was then led away from the crowd of watchers, past the last dwelling, past the last tree, until both goat and leader disappeared in the glow of the great white wilderness, that lay like the land of the curse beyond. This laying on of hands was not a mere ceremony, but a sermon. It conveyed a doctrine, and the doctrine was that he who would be saved must, by his own personal act and deed, appropriate the work of Him who is our Saviour by being our Substitute. (C. Stanford, D. D.)


Verses 1-8

Verses 4-6

Hebrews 6:4-6

The powers of the world to come

The powers of the world to come

That is to say, belonging to, and operating from, that world which, as to us, is” to come,” though now existing.
And by “ powers,” we easily understand forces, energies, agencies, influences, virtues, and these in action upon their proper subjects. Now, we are subjects to be acted upon. Our nature has almost its whole exercise, we might almost say the verification of its existence--in being acted upon, by influences and impressions, from things extraneous to it. “The powers of the world to come.” There is one pure, salutary, beneficent order of influences, tending to work the absolute, supreme, eternal good of our nature. But it confounds the mind to reflect what proportion this class of influences bears to others, in the actual operation on mankind. This world, too, has” powers,” which it exerts, we do not say in rivalry with the “powers” of the other, but with a fearful preponderance of efficacy. ]s it not as evident to our view as the very face and colour of the- earth, that incomparably a greater proportion of human spirit and character is conformed to this world than to the other? That “world to come” comprehends the sum, the perfection of everything, the sublimest, the best, the happiest. But what is it all to me? I feel no congeniality nor attraction. But is not this a lamentable and fearful state for the soul to be in? But what is to be done? What but to implore that “the powers of the world to come” may be brought upon us with irresistible force? and that we should make earnest efforts, if we may express it so, to place ourselves exposed to them? This is to be done in the way of directing the serious attention of the mind to that world. Let us fairly make the trial--what agency,, what influences, that world can convey upon us. The proof of its influential power has been displayed on very many, in effects the mesh salutary and noble. One of these effects is, that it causes the unseen to predominate in our minds over what is seen; the future over the present; add these are great and admirable effects. From that world come the influences to fix and keep us in one great sovereign purpose of life, and that a purpose high above all the mere interests of this world. From that world comes the enlightening and active principle which at once exposes the nature of sin, and renders and keeps it odious to the soul. From that world comes the supporting, animating power for endurance of the ills of life, and for overcoming the tear of death. They are “powers” of influence which all the best beings conspire to send. For even the d, parted saints are placed, as it were, in combination with God, the Mediator, and the angels, in sending a beneficent influence on us below--by their memory--by their examples--by their being displayed to our faith as in a blissful state above--and(we may believe,) by their kind regard and wishes for those below. And good and wise men have thought it not irrational to suppose that they may sometimes even be employed in real, actual ministries here on earth. These “powers” of the other world we are regarding chiefly under the character of influences, proceeding at the will of God, and conceived as exclusive of personal agency. But far oftener than we suspect there may be the interventions, though invisible, of such an agency. All these “powers,” these forces of influence, are sent, throng), the medium, and in virtue of the work, of the Mediator, and bear in them a peculiar character derived from Him
. (J. Foster.)

The powers of the world to come

One of the popular names for Messiah among the Jews was, “The coming one.” “He that should come “ we have rendered it in our version. In like manner, the entire order of things, here and hereafter, which the Messiah was to introduce, they called “The world to come.” “The powers of the world to come, “were the Divine energies, truths, and influences brought into operation by the Lord Jesus Christ.

I. SINLESSNESS IS ONE OF “THE POWERS OF THE WORLD COME.” None of the woe of evil is there. Above, purity is unimpeded and its joy suffers no eclipse.

II. AN UNSUFFERING AND DEATHLESS FUTURE IS ONE OF “THE POWERS OF THE WORLD TO COME.” Before we reach that world, the burdens of this will have been laid down. There activity will no more fatigue. None shall sit down and brood over anxious thought and wearing toil which have left only failure and wreck behind.

III. ETERNITY IS ONE OF “THE POWERS OF THE WORLD TO COME.”

1. Eternity is the name for all that is great. Eternity is the realm of all things vast and wonderful. So, whatever a godly man does for eternity, must be great. Whatever in the Christian life pertains to eternity, partakes of its grandeur and sublimity. The Son of God filled earthly duties with heavenly motives, and linked the fleeting moment and the transitory deed to the grandeur of eternity.

2. But to the eternal world, as well, we ascribe stability. It is the realm where all things abide, No abandoned palaces are there, no prostrate temples. No flower weeps upon a grave, no verdure fringes the rents of gaping tombs.

3. Eternity is not only inseparable from greatness and stability, but it is the theatre of progress. There souls ever grow. Intellect, heart, character, knowledge, love, power, never halt.

IV. GOD IS THE GREAT “POWER OF THE WORLD TO COME.” What has been the most ardent aspiration of the righteous in every age? Has it not always been, to see God? to stand in His presence? to realise His contact with the soul? Lessons:

1. You must have strong faith in “ the world to come,” if its realities are to be “powers” to your souls. It is not an easy attainment. It demands industrious culture.

2. One great end of the life, sufferings, resurrection, and ascension of our blessed Lord, was to make the verities of “the world to come” “powers” to the mind and conduct of men. All the tender memories of Gethsemane and Calvary centre in His risen and living person, to allure the affections and uplift the aspirations of the holy to the skies.

3. Oh, ye who are heated in the chase for riches and honour, worldly fame and earthly enjoyment, walk out to the hallowed lights of eternity, as men at eventide cool their feverish pulses beneath the heavens when the hot sun has gone down and the stars shine forth. Act with an awakened consciousness of your immortality, live for eternity, realise the everlasting years which stretch before you. Among the ruins of Petra there are temples and mansions excavated in the faces of the rocks. Some, massive in their proportions and elaborate in embellishment, are unfinished. What an exquisite perfection the artificer would have given to his work, if informed beforehand that the monuments of his skill would survive all these long centuries, and be numbered among the wonders of the world! Christian men and women, let your souls be aglow with the inspiration and ardour of working for eternity, and, when this is over and the hour of rest shall come, going home to meet the approbation of your God. (H. Batchelor, B. A.)

The influence of futurity

There can be no doubt that the apostle here marks out as a possible thing, the making great apparent progress in religion, and then of so offending, as to be finally excluded from the mercies of the gospel. The parties, of whom the apostle speaks, are such you see as have “ tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” There is no difficulty as to the meaning of “Tasting the good Word of God.” You all understand the words to denote an appreciation of the beauty and excellence of the gospel, and, therefore, the feeling its suitableness, and receiving it with delight in the soul we are very much struck with this expression, and greatly wish to make you conscious of its energy. We desire, if it be possible, that you should all understand how the invisible world comes out, as it were, from its impenetrable secrecy, and operates on those who feel themselves strangers upon the earth; and we desire yet further, that every one of you should learn that there is such a thing as anticipating the future; ay, and that there may be experienced on this side of the grave so much of the wretchedness, as well as of the gladness, which shall enter into everlasting portions, as justifies the assertion that the powers of eternity are already brought to bear on mankind. Take two cases--consider, in the first place, how the powers of the world to come are tasted by a man in the season of conversion; in the second place, how they may be tasted in the continued experience whether of the godly or of the wicked. It is surprisingly strange, and would be wholly inexplicable if we did not know how man’s powers were disordered by the fall, that beings who have a thorough persuasion of their deathliness, can go on, day after day, and year after year, as though certain that the soul would die with the body. This is, perhaps, the strongest of all demonstrations, that our powers have been shattered and perverted through some great moral catastrophe; for in this it is that man offers a direct insult to himself as a rational being, acting with a fatuity and short-sightedness that could only have been expected from the inferior creation. And hence the chief matter, in working upon men as the recipients of moral impressions, is to rouse them to the feeling themselves immortal. The world which now is, exerts incessant power over all of us: persuading us, by the objects which it presents, and the duties which it imposes, to give our toil and our industry to certain pursuits and occupations. And the world which is to come will exert the very same kind of power if it can only gain our belief and attention, so that it may set forth its objects with the duties which their attainment demands. The man, therefore, who is in earnest as to the saving of the soul, is not a man within whom has been implanted a new principle of action; he is rather one in whom a principle of action, vigorous from the first, but contracted in its range, has received a fresh direction, so that in place of limiting itself to the brief stage of human existence, it expatiates over the whole, providing for the distant as well as for the near. Here, then, it is that you have the general case of the putting forth of the powers of the world to come. You observe one man, and you perceive that he is giving his whole energy to the things of time and sense; you observe another man, and you perceive that, though not neglectful of providing for the present, his main labour is employed on securing his welfare in an invisible but everlasting state. The difference between these men is, therefore, the one has received his impulse from the world which is; the other, from the world which is to come. The one has submitted himself to no powers but those wielded by things which are seen and temporal, whereas the other is obedient to the powers put forth by the things that are unseen and eternal; the one is no consciousness of belonging to more than one world; the other is practically persuaded that he is a citizen of two worlds. Ay, there hath risen before the man who is gathering eternity within range of his anxieties, the image of himself as inextinguishable by death; but thrown without a shred and without a hope on scenes whence he cannot escape, and for which he cannot then provide, and this has roused him. But the force of this expression, “tasting the powers of the world to come,” will be far more apparent if you consider the men as acted on by the communications of the gospel. We are sure of any one of you who has been translated out of darkness into marvellous light, that he must have had at times a sense of God’s wrath, and of the condemnation beneath which the human race lies, such as has almost overwhelmed him, and made him feel as though the future were upon him in its terrors. He has risen as though the avenger of blood were just crossing his threshold, he has not tarried, he has not turned either to the right band or to the left, but has gone straightway to the one Mediator between God and man, and cried for mercy passionately, as a condemned criminal would plead for his life. And whence this energy? Why, when every other beneath the same roof, or in the same neighbourhood, is utterly indifferent, moved with no anxiety as to death and judgment--why has this solitary individual who has no greater stake than all his fellows in futurity, started up with irresistible vehemence of purpose, and given himself no rest till he has sought and found acceptance with God? We reply at once, that he has been made to “ taste the powers of the world to come.” The world which now is arraying before him its fascinations; the world which is to come arraying before him its punishments. The one put forth its influence in the objects of sense; the other put forth its influence through the objects of faith. The one solicited him by the wealth and the revel; but the other threatened him with the fire and the shame. The one used its power of ministering to carnal passions; the other asserted its power of making those passions our tormentors; and the future has carried it over the present. Nor is this all. We should convey a most erroneous impression in regard to the process of conversion, if we represented it as carried on exclusively through a terrifying instrumentality. If one man is driven, so to speak, to God, another may be drawn; the promises of the gospel being more prominently employed than the threatenings. For we may rather say, in the majority of cases, and perhaps in all, conversion is brought about through a combination of agency; the coming wrath being used to produce fear and repentance, and the provided mercy to allay anxiety, encourage hope, and confirm in holiness. We cannot imagine a converted man who has never dreaded the being lost; neither can we imagine one who has never exulted in the prospect of heaven. And though fear or joy may predominate according to circumstances, which we need not attempt to define, we may venture to speak of conversion as a process through which man is alike made to feel that he is a fallen creature doomed to destruction, and a redeemed creature admissible into glory. He is as much acted on by promises as by threatenings; he does not take half the Bible, but places as much faith in declarations which speak of honour and peace and triumph made accessible to man, as in others which set forth the fact, “that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God.” And is it not then certain that the world to come brings to bear upon him its instruments of happiness as well as its instruments of vengeance--that the future in struggling into the present, is equally energetic and equally influential, if regarded as the scene in which the good shall be rewarded, or considered as charged with the overthrow of the reprobate? And if therefore you can say of the converted individual, surveying him merely as one who is moved by great and impending destruction, that he manifests the having imbibed the influences of another state of being, will you not make a like statement when you regard him as animated by the hope of pleasures stored up at the right hand of God? And what is this, inasmuch as in the invisible world are the magazines of Divine retribution, so that the powers with which it is replete, are those of exacting the penalty of crime, and rewarding the efforts of obedience? what, I ask you, is this but saying of an individual--“He hath tasted the powers of the world to come “? And now let us consider how the powers of the world to come may be tasted in the continued experience, whether of the godly or of the wicked. For we may be persuaded, that through not endeavouring to bring the future into close connection with the present, or rather through not regarding the future as in every sense the continuation of the present, men strip the realities of another state of much of that influence which they must otherwise have. We put it to yourselves to decide, whether you are not accustomed to place, as it were, a great gulf between the two states of being, to regard the invisible as having few or no points in common with the visible? When heaven is mentioned, there is ordinarily altogether an indefiniteness in your apprehension of its delights; and when hall is mentioned, there is the like indefiniteness in your apprehension of its torments. You consider, in short, that little or nothing can be ascertained in regard to the nature of future joy and misery; they differ so widely from what now hear the names, that they must be felt before they can be understood. But we hold it of great importance that men should be reminded that whatever the changes effected by death and the resurrection, they will be identically the same beings, with the same organs, the same capacities, the same in nature, though, we doubt not, marvellously quickened and mightily enlarged. And if the grave shall give us up, the same, except in the degree in which we can admit either happiness or misery, it is quite evident that both heaven and hell may begin on this side eternity. There may be the commencement, however vastly we come short of the consummation. It is in thorough consistency with this view that the apostle speaks of men “ tasting the powers of the world to come.” It is not necessary that they should die, and actually enter another world, before they can know anything of the powers of that world. In their sohourning upon earth ere there hath passed on them aught of that mysterious change through which the corruptible shall put on incorruption, they may have acquired a degree of acquaintance with those powers--the power of making happy, the power of making wretched. The evil man may have the commencement of an anguish, which shall be the same in kind, though not to be compared in intenseness to that by which he shall be racked if he die in impenitence. The righteous man may enjoy a peace and be elevated by a rapture which shall be as an introduction to the deep tranquility and lofty ecstasy of the land in which the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The effect of realising “the powers of the world to come”

I. THERE WILL BE A REGULATING INFLUENCE UPON OUR PRESENT LIFE.

1. The inward life will become increasingly pure and holy.

2. The outward life will become increasingly human, just, unselfish.

II. THERE WILL. BE A SUSTAINING INFLUENCE. In times of despondency, sadness, loss, and temptation, we shall bravely bear all, and wait for the “ eternal years.”

III. THERE WILL BE A RESTRAINING INFLUENCE.

1. Thoughts, motives, professions, deeds, will be kept in the right direction.

2. There will be no apostasy of heart or life. (James Foster, B. A.)

The world to come

The world to come. Is there indeed such a world? Is man to exist beyond the present life? No one comes back from that future to tell us of it, and open to us its experience. To the natural eye man’s life goes as does that of the beast; neither his life nor his death speaks anything more. Is this all? Is there no more to man and no more for man than there is to and for the brute creation around him?

I. Our intuitions give us answer. The Creator has given a voice to our soul. It tells us of immortality. It creates the conviction of a “world to come.”

2. Also, man’s attributes give answer to these questions. Though in some things he is like the brutes that perish, in many things he is most unlike them. In the wonderful gift of speech, in the endowment of reason, in the possession of conscience, in the intelligent and holy emotion of love, he belongs to another domain of being from that in which mere animals have their existence. He is a moral being, and amenable to the bar of right and wrong. Can it be that a being of such capabilities is the mere creature of a day? My whole being revolts at such a conclusion.

3. But finally the Scriptures give answer to these questions.

4. This world to come is very near to us; to some of us oh how near! “The world to come”--can we to-day make this real? Can we open our hearts and enfold the truth that this “world to come” is a “world to come ‘ to you and to me? Let us bring it near, let us make it personal. The Christian should be glad to do so; it will strengthen his faith, it will confirm his hope, it will quicken his zeal, it will purify his love, it will wean him from this world, it will lift up his life to nobler and holier experiences. (C. P. Sheldon, D. D.)

If they shall fall away

Spiritual declension and recovery

I. WHAT PERSONS HAS THE APOSTLE HERE IN VIEW? He enumerates respecting them a variety of marks, which certainly belong to real Christians.

1. The first of these is, that they have been enlightened. As there are various kinds of enlightening in visible nature, as by the sun, by the moon, and by lamps, so are there various kinds of enlightening relative to the human soul. There are many persons who certainly know what is the one thing needful, and what are the several stages on the road to heaven; but they know it only from human instruction, and have their light at second or third hand. Theirs is a moonlight, which neither warms nor fructifies; neither makes that which is dead, alive, nor that which is withered, green. Such enlightening we may have, and yet be as far from the kingdom of God as the most unenlightened heathen. There are others who show that they partake of a better enlightening, and even of a kind of warmth accompanying it. But they are excitable persons, who are easily moved at hearing of Christ, and the experiences of His saving grace, and become, perhaps, irresistibly convinced that such things are true. But should any of their lamps have burned down, or their oil have been spent, so as to yield a fainter light, or those who carry brighter lamps happen to have withdrawn, then are those persons as much in darkness again as ever; and this because they have not cherished the true light in themselves. Now, neither this, nor the former class of persons, does the Scripture call enlightened. It gives this name, not to those who receive their light at second or third hand, but only to those who cherish within them a light which is received immediately from Christ Himself; to those of whom it is written, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” And this light pervades the soul and spirit, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”; that is, it is a light which discovers to the sinner his misery, and makes him feel it. And if we have been thus enlightened, then doubtless we are children of God, and born of the Spirit.

2. The apostle further says, they “have tasted of the heavenly gift”; which is another exclusive characteristic of true Israelites. This heavenly gift is no other than that spoken of by our Saviour to the woman of Samaria.

3. Another mark attributed to them is, that they have been “made partakers of the Holy Ghost”; and this surely will not allow us to remain uncertain what sort of persons the apostle has in view. Who can doubt that they are children of God?

4. And that we might know that they have received the Spirit of God as aa earnest of their salvation, it is added, that they “have tasted the good Word of God.” This expression clearly intimates that they have experienced the Word of God in themselves as a good word; as a word which takes the most kind and sympathetic part in whatever happens to us, or oppresses us; as a word that has upon all occasions counsel and deliverance for us, and stands by us in the most gracious manner with its light and healing balm.

5. And now for the last mark: they “have tasted the powers of the world to come.” Understand by this expression whatever you can think of it as implying those outpourings of grace which enable us to overcome the world and death; or, as implying a lively foretaste of eternal joy, a powerful assurance of the final consummation, and of our being “ever with the Lord”; or, as signifying our present triumphant elevation upon the wings of faith above time, above all afflictions and crosses, above death, judgment, sin, and hell; or, understand whatever as believers you please by these words--this you must allow, that St. Paul could have had only children of God in his eye when he declares of them, that they “have tasted the powers of the world to come.”

II. THE SPIRITUAL DECLENSION OF WHICH THE CHILDREN OF GOD ARE CAPABLE. St. Paul then, speaking of children of God, and even of such as have gone on for a considerable time in the way of salvation, and have attained maturity of growth and decision of character, says, “It they shall fall away.” In strict language every fall is a falling away; for it is a temporary forgetfulness and turning aside from Him who hath said, “Abide in Me.” But the Scripture evidently makes a distinction between falling and falling away. In the 4th verse of the 5th chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians we meet with persons who had fallen away. They had lost the lively sense of their unworthiness and inability; and, instead of abiding implicitly at the foot of the cross, so as to live upon grace and forgiveness alone, they had become bewildered with the unhappy notion of being their own saviours and intercessors. “Ye did run well; who hath hindered you that ye should no longer obey the truth? “ This was a falling away; a departure from grace; it was an erring from the way of God’s children rote the way of self-righteous, natural men; a virtual renunciation of Christ; a tacit declaration that they no longer needed Him, and could do without Him. It was a depreciation of His precious blood; a contempt of His sacrifice, and a rejection of His person: so that St. Paul could utter that reproach with the utmost propriety and justice, Christ is again “ crucified among you.” But there is a falling away which is more fearful still. Not only a falling away from grace into legal bondage, but a falling away into lawlessness, or into a course without law altogether; a falling away from God to idols; from the kingdom of heaven to the world; from the way of light into the way of the flash and of darkness. This would seem hardly credible, did not sad experience show it to be true. Look at David at one period of his life. But no, on David’s crime, dreadful as it was, we will not insist; it was rather an awful fall than a falling away. Think then of Solomon, that precious man of God, that Jedidiah from his cradle: observe him in his career; and how can you help shuddering? Twice does the Lord appear to him, and give him a commandment not to walk after other gods 1 Kings 3:14; 2 Chronicles 7:12-22); but he obeys it not; he continues in his departure from Jehovah the God of Israel; so that the Lord is obliged, at length, to come against him with the thunder and lightning of His judgments. And, oh! how many of the children of God have brought upon themselves, in like manner, His rebukes and visitations! How many, to whom the world had been already crucified, have gone back again to the world!

III. THE WARNING GIVEN. Hearken to that awful thunder of the Divine oracle, which declares that “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,” &c. How terribly does this sound I almost like, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” And, indeed, it is evident at once how difficult must be the restoration of those who, having taken root in a life of holiness, and having been blessed with sweet experiences of Divine love, could, after all, have fallen away! Whoever is conscious that he is guilty of this, may well tremble. The word “impossible” in our text is enough to fill him with horrible dread. And if so, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall!” Let all of us watch and pray; let our abiding station be ever at the foot of the cross. There let us lie down and take our rest; there let us arise in the morning; there perform every duty of our daily life; there let us be formed, and fixed, and live; there wait for the Bridegroom; there breathe bur last: so are we safe. (F. W. Krummacher, D. D.)

The danger of apostasy from Christianity

I. THERE ARE THREE THINGS WHICH DISTINGUISH THE SIN HERE SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT FROM “THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST” DESCRIBED BY OUR SAVIOUR.

1. The persons that are guilty of this sin here in the text are evidently such as had embraced Christianity, and had taken upon them the profession of it; whereas those whom our Saviour chargeth with “the sin against the Holy Ghost,” are such as constantly opposed His doctrine, and resisted the evidence He offered for it.

2. The particular nature of “the sin against the Holy Ghost” consisted in blaspheming the Spirit whereby our Saviour wrought His miracles, and saying He did not those things by the Spirit of God, but by tie assistance of the devil, in that malicious and unreasonable imputing of the plain effects of the Holy Ghost to the power of the devil, and consequently in an obstinate refusal to be convinced by the miracles that He wrought; but here is nothing of all this so much as intimated by the apostle in this place.

3. “The sin against the Holy Ghost” is declared to be absolutely “unpardonable both in this world and in that which is to come.”

II. That this sin here spoken of by the apostle is NOT SAID TO BE ABSOLUTELY UNPARDONABLE. It is not “the sin against the Holy Ghost”; and, whatever else it be, it is not out of the compass of God’s pardon and forgiveness. So our Saviour hath told us, “that all manner of sin whatsoever that men have committed is capable of pardon, excepting only the sin against the Holy Ghost.” And though the apostle here uses a very severe expression, that “ if such persons fall away it is impossible to renew them again to repentance,” yet there is no necessity of understanding this phrase in the strictest sense of the word impossible, but as it is elsewhere used for that which is extremely difficult. Nor, indeed, will our Saviour’s declaration, which I mentioned before, that all sins whatsoever are pardonable, except “ the sin against the Holy Ghost,” suffer us to understand these words in the most rigorous sense.

III. The sin here spoken of IS NOT A PARTIAL APOSTASY FROM THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION BY ANY PARTICULAR VICIOUS PRACTICE, Whosoever lives in the habitual practice of any sin plainly forbidden by the Christian law may be said so far to have apostatised from Christianity; but this is not the falling away which the apostle here speaks of. This may be bad enough; and the greater sins any man who professeth himself a Christian lives in, the more notoriously he contradicts his profession, and falls off from Christianity, and the nearer he approaches to the sin in the text, and the danger there threatened; but yet, for all that, this is not that which the apostle speaks of.

IV. BUT IT IS A TOTAL APOSTASY FROM THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, more especially to the heathen idolatry, the renouncing of the true God, and our Saviour, and the worship of false gods, which the apostle here speaks of. And I doubt not but this is the sin which St. John speaks of, and calls “the sin unto death,” and does not require Christians “to pray for those who fall into it,” with any assurance that it shall be forgiven (1 John 5:16).

V. We will consider the reason of the DIFFICULTY OF RECOVERING SUCH PERSONS BY REPENTANCE.

1. Because of the greatness and heinousness of the sin, both in the nature and circumstances of it. It is downright apostasy from God, a direct renouncing of Him, and rejecting of His truth, after men have owned it, and been inwardly persuaded and convinced of it. It hath all the aggravations that a crime is capable of, being against the clearest light and knowledge, and the fullest conviction of a man’s mind, concerning the truth and goodness of that religion which he re-nounceth; against the greatest obligations laid upon him by the grace and mercy of the gospel; after the free pardon of sins, and the grace and assistance of God’s Spirit received, and a miraculous power conferred for a witness and testimony to themselves, of the undoubted truth of that religion which they have embraced. Now a sin of this heinous nature is apt naturally either to plunge men into hardness and impenitency, or to drive them to despair; and either of these conditions are effectual bars to their recovery.

2. Those who are guilty of this sin do renounce and cast off the means of their recovery, and therefore it becomes extremely difficult to renew them again to repentance. They reject the gospel, which affords the best arguments and means to repentance, and renounce the only way of pardon and forgiveness.

3. Those who are guilty of this sin provoke God in the highest manner to withdraw His grace and Holy Spirit from them, by the power and efficacy whereof they should be brought to repentance; so that it can hardly otherwise be expected but that God should leave those to themselves who have so unworthily forsaken Him, and wholly withdraw His grace and Spirit from such persons as have so notoriously offered despite to the Spirit of grace.

I shall now draw some useful inferences from hence by way of application, that we may see how far this doth concern ourselves; and they shall be these.

1. From the supposition here in the text, that such persons as are there described (namely, those who have been baptized, and by baptism have received remission of sins, and did firmly believe the gospel, and the promises of it, and were endowed with miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost), that these may fall away--this should caution us all against confidence and security; when those that have gone thus far may fall, “Let him that standeth take heed.”

2. This shows us how great an aggravation it is for men to sin against the means of knowledge which the gospel affords, and the mercies which it offers unto them.

3. The consideration of what hath been said is matter of comfort to those who, upon every failing and infirmity, are afraid they have committed “the unpardonable sin,” and that it is impossible for them to be restored by repentance.

4. This should make men afraid of great and presumptuous sins, which come near apostasy from Christianity; such as deliberate murder, adultery, gross fraud and oppression, or notorious and habitual intemperance. For what great difference is there, whether men renounce Christianity, or, professing to believe it, do in their works deny it?

5. It may be useful for us upon this occasion to reflect a little upon the ancient discipline of the church, which in some places was so severe, as, in case of some great crimes after baptism, as apostasy to the heathen idolatry, murder, and adultery, never to admit those that were guilty of them to the peace and communion of the church. This, perhaps, may be thought too great severity; but I am sure we are as much too remiss now as they were over-rigorous then; but were the ancient discipline of the church in any degree put in practice now, what case would the generality of Christians be in?

6. The consideration of what hath been said should confirm and establish us in the profession of our holy religion. (Abp. Tillotson.)

The Palestinian apostates, and the impossibility affirmed of renewing them again to repentance

Under a fierce, though--thanks to Roman supremacy--a bloodless persecution, the intensity of which no one at all familiar with Jewish hate will be at a loss to realise, members of she churches were falling away, first into backsliding, then into apostasy, to the extent of returning to their temple service; and the difficulty of reclaiming them from amid those environments prompts the apostle to impart to his warnings special potency and pungency.

I. Notice THEIR PREVIOUS CHARACTER AND POSITION. The state that preceded their apostasy, if there be meaning in words, was that of actual conversion; and but for the exigencies of a vicious creed no other idea would have been entertained. They were “ once enlightened”; and the same word is used of them in the tenth chapter under the rendering “illuminated.” No stronger expression could be used to denote conversion. “Once ye were darkness, but ye are now light in the Lord.” Again, they are here affirmed to have “tasted of the heavenly gift,” which, however it may be explained, it would be arbitrary in the extreme to understand as falling short of salvation. The same remark applies to the next thing attributed to these apostates, “they were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” Full of the Holy Ghost we need not suppose them to have been; but none the less does the expression denote the saving fruits of faith as contrasted with the fruits of those that continue in the flesh. (Compare Galatians 5:19-25; Ram. 5:5.) On the same principle, consistency demands it at we explain the attribution--“they have tasted the good Word of God,” in the spirit of David in such places as Psalms 119:1-176., or of Jeremiah when he sweetly says, “Thy Word was found of me, and I did eat it, and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” “To the above tastings,” or spiritual experiences, the apostle adds that those apostates h d “tasted the powers of the world to come”; or, as the expression means, “the age to come.” This was the New Testament age, and had long been familiarly so denominated. The word “power” is the same as that rendered “miracles” in Hebrews 2:4; and it is here intimated, therefore, that the spiritual evidences and influences so grandly characteristic of that period had previously operated their due effects on the minds and hearts of these apostates.

II. We now pass to THEIR PRESENT STATE--that of men who have apostatised.

1. The fact of their apostasy is expressly affirmed. They had “ fallen away.” Their fall, as we shall see, would not be precipitate. The gradient of the downward path is at first exceedingly imperceptible; it is not till a further stage down that it becomes recklessly headlong.

2. Let us now pass from the fact to the nature of their apostasy. It was a lapse from all the Christian experiences above detailed, and that by a lapse from the source of these--namely, faith, and from all the means by which we are enabled to “ stand fast in the faith.” This lapse would be stealthy, and so in fact the word implies. It was probably no sudden flight, no leap, no bound, no run, or even deliberate, walk, but a partially passive and insensible process of “falling away.” Like the fleecy envelopment of air which, from its yielding nature, falls behind in the diurnal revolution of our globe (causing our trade and oblique winds) such retrogressors gradually yield to dragging influences and lag behind. First, the Bible is neglected, then prayer, then family duty, then Christian converse, then Christian zeal in every form, then the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and all the means of grace. At whose bidding? we need hardly ask, seeing the seducers are legion. It may have been at the prompting of Mammon, or of Belial, of vanity, or of pride. It may have been in the name of free thought, under the license of free speech, or under the baser dictation still of indolence and cowardice that shrink from encountering pain, and toil, and loss. Any way, the sphere of salvation in the soul contracts and grows dim; the fruits of the new life shrivel up; the heart, now “ an evil heart of unbelief, departs from the living God,” and day by day becomes “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

III. Let us now endeavour to understand Him: IMPOSSIBILITY HERE AFFIRMED Of again renewing these recreants unto repentance. Be it noted in the outset, that vain is the attempt of those who would substitute for the word “impossible” some milder translation, such as “difficult,” or the like. In the original, just as in our version, the word incontrovertibly and immovably stands “impossible.” But then the question is still left open to us--In what sense impossible? First, and surely plainly enough, no suchthing as absolute impossibility is for a moment to be thought of, for we are here in a far other sphere than that of strict omnipotence. We are in the moral sphere; and in the moral sense only are we to understand the word impossible. And even in that sense the impossibility lies not on the side of God, but wholly on the side of man. How? Only in the moral sense; and in no such sense even of the moral kind as need doom any apostate to despair, though certainly such as ought to make his ears tingle and his knees tremble, and his frame shake and his heart quake. It was impossible to renew those men, merely in the sense of Christ’s impossible, when He said, “How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another?”--this state of mind, while it lasted, being a moral bar to their believing: but then it had no need to last. It was impossible, in the sense in which we ourselves freely use the word every day; as when we say, It is impossible to love this man, or hate that man, or to respect or trust that other--that is, impossible only in the sense of being extremely hard or difficult by reason of moral dispositions or circumstances; which moral causes, however, it is all the time understood by us, it is quite in the power of the man concerned to alter or surmount, if he choose.

IV. THESE MORAL CAUSES FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE, in the case of the apostates in my text, it only remains that, in the last place, I now briefly explain. For very special they were, and frightful in the extreme--amply sufficient, and more, to account for the very strong word “impossible” which the inspired writer here employs. These singular causes are briefly but expressively set forth in the appended reason, “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” They not only renounce Christ, they do it with every circumstance of contumelious indignation and scorn. They re-enact for “themselves” what they are now too late literally to join in--the crime and the jeering concomitants of the Saviour’s crucifixion. This they do, not only in the arena of the inner spirit, but in open avowal, by shamelessly homologating and glorying in the deed. They say, “though for a time deceived, we now see that the deed was right.” They this gather into themselves the combined virulence of both Jew and Roman; for while with the Jew they cry, “Crucify Him,” with the Roman they do in effect “crucify Him,” so far as it is in them to re-enact the deed. And unlike that tumultuous rabble, who were stirred into frenzy by their rulers, and borne many of them they knew not whither, so that Christ affectingly said of them, praying, “They know not what they do,” these apostates, on the contrary, re-enacted the crime deliberately, from amid the full flood of gospel light, and life, and power, and after they them elves had tasted the sweets of gospel love. This, the terrible attitude and its implications, were explanation enough of the word impossible, were we to say no more. But to stop here would leave unexplained the fact, otherwise incredible, how they could ever have been led to take such an attitude at all. This is the only thing further I have to explain, and then the shadow over the word “impossible” will have deepened into the most hopeless gloom. The explanation is to be found in the strongly marked peculiarities of the Jew, and in the then conditions of social and religious life in Palestine. These were such as to leave no neutral ground. A Jew’s wrath, in religious matters, easily intensifies to frenzied rage. Hence their scorn of Jesus, their vindication of His death, their hate of all who bear His name, their practice by spitting, gesticulation, or terms of execration, of blaspheming and cursing the Holy One under the opprobrious name of “the Nazarene.” In such a state of society, to renounce Christianity was not to lapse into negative indifference; for indifference or neutrality there was none. It meant positively a return to Judaism; and to Judaism aroused awed armed in deadly antagonism to Christianity. The process would be this. Expelled the synagogue, put under the ban, disowned by their nearest, if they perished in clinging to the hated Nazarene in spite of the entreaties, the tears, and ere long the curses of their kin, the Palestinian Christian would at first waver, then absent himself occasionally from the Christian assemblies. Urged by his relatives, the occasionally would become frequently, till, now fairly on the decline, he came to abandon them entirely. And now the entreaties, the blandishments, the impassioned warnings would be renewed. Let him only pass through the needful discipline and be welcomed anew into the synagogue and into the bosom of his home. He does so: and the die is cast. To quit the church for the synagogue was to pass from one hostile camp to another, with no intermediate resting place or ground even for parley. It was to quit all Christian ordinances and restoring influences, and to raise a brazen wall between. And it was to enter the synagogue to join the anti-Nazarene crusade. The apostates, and with proverbially apostate zeal, now persecuted the faith they formerly preached. In conclusion, there result two vitally important lessons, which we briefly state in Scripture language.

1. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

2. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The sin of rejecting the gospel

That we may understand this Scripture, and make it unto us a good comfort, which might seem otherwise a heavy threatening, let us consider in it these two things: first, the purpose of the apostle for which he speaketh it, then themselves what they signify. The apostle’s purpose is to stir us up, desirously to hear, diligently to learn wisely to increase in knowledge, and obediently to practise that we have learned: for this purpose it was first spoken, to this end it is now written.

1. The first mark of them is that they be lightened; that is, endued with the knowledge of God, not only by the heavens, which declare His glory, nor by the firmament, which showeth His work, nor by any of God’s creatures in which His eternal power and Godhead cloth appear and shine, and of which light all nations are made partakers, but they are also lightened with His holy Word, which is a lantern to their feet and a light unto their steps, and have heard His gospel preached unto them, unto the which they have agreed that it is the Word of Life.

2. The second note of them is, that they have tasted of the heavenly gift: the heavenly gift is the life and great salvation that is in Christ Jesus, by whom we are reconciled, which likewise our Saviour Christ calleth the gift of God, speaking to the woman of Samaria; and this is that knowledge into which they are lighted by the gospel, and this they not only know, but of this gift they have also tasted: which is, they have gladly some time received it, and rejoiced in it; like as our Saviour Christ describeth them by the parable of the stony ground, that incontinently with joy they receive the seed, and which also He noteth in the Pharisees, speaking of John Baptist, which was a shining lamp among them, and they for a season did rejoice in his light.

3. The third note of these men is, that they have been partakers of the Holy Ghost: which is, that many graces of the Spirit of God have been given unto them, as these two above named, that they are lightened with knowledge, and rejoice in their understanding, which is neither of flesh nor blood, nor of the will of man, but of the Holy Ghost.

4. The fourth note is, that they have tasted the good Word of God, not much differing from that He first spake of, that they were lightened, that is, that they had knowledge of God, not only by His creatures, but much more by His Word. But here naming the good Word of God, he noteth especially the gospel, by comparison with the law.

5. The fifth note here set forth is, that they know and confess that this gospel hath in the end eternal life: and Christ is a mighty Saviour, who will keep for ever those whom He hath purchased. And he nameth the world to come, because the Spirit hath lightened them to see the latter end of this corruptible world, and to know assuredly that here they have no dwelling city, but another habitation made for God’s chosen, not with mortal hands, but everlasting in heaven, and calling it the powers, because it is made so strong in Christ Jesus, that it can never be assaulted; for all power is given unto Him in heaven and in cart,, and He hath made that heavenly city glorious for His saints throughout all worlds. And thus far of the persons, what gifts they have received; wherein yet let us understand a great difference between these men which fall away and the gifts which are in Gods elect that cannot perish, nor ever sin against the Holy Ghost. Nosy let us see the manner of rebellion, how far they tall away: first, we must observe what points the apostle hath before named. In the beginning of the chapter he mentioneth repentance from dead works, faith towards God, the doctrine of baptism, and laying on of hands, and resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment, which here he calleth the beginning and foundation of Christian amity; then he speaketh of an apostasy or falling away from all these points here named even from the foundation and first beginnings of the Christian faith, so that all the former light is quite put out, and the first understanding is all taken away; they laugh now at repentance, and the first faith they account it foolishness. (E. Deering, B. D.)

What relapses are inconsistent with grace?

I. FOUR FALLS OF THE GODLY.

1. The first and lightest fall of the godly is that in their daily combat between flesh and spirit (Romans 7:1-25; Galatians 5:17). Our duties are imperfect, graces defective, our gold and silver drossy, “our wine mixed with water.” Sin deceiveth, surpriseth, captivateth, slayeth, yet reigneth not. These falls or slips are unavoidable and involuntary. There is no saint but complains of them, no duty but is stained with them. In our clearest sunshine we see a world of such motes, which yet hinder not the light and comfort of our justification, avid destroy not sanctification. True grace consists with these; yea, is not separated from the assaults and indwelling of such motions. “Will we, will we,” said Bernard, “we are pestered with swarms of these Egyptian flies, and have these frogs in our inmost chambers.” This first fall is but like the fall of a mist in a winter morning: the sun gets up, and it is a fair day after. This is the first fall: the second is worse, which is

2. An actual and visible stumble as to offence of others, yet occasioned by some surreptitious surprise of temptation, for want of that due consideration which we should always have: this the apostle calls “ a man’s being overtaken with a fault,” who is “to be restored with a spirit of meekness, considering we also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Such falls (or slips rather) all or most are subject to (James 3:2). We sometimes trip, or slip, or “miss our hold,” and so down we come, but not out of choice. Thus did Peter slip or halt, when he did Judaise out of too much compliance with the Jews; whom therefore Paul did rebuke and rest- Galatians 2:11; Galatians 2:14).

3. The third fall is much worse, “a fall from the third loft,” whence, like Eutychus, they are “taken up dead” for the present; but they come to themselves again. These are falls into grosser and more scandalous sins which do “set the stacks or corn-fields of conscience on fire”; whereas the other two forenamed, especially the former, are such as Tertullian calls “of daily incursion.” These are very dangerous, and befall, not all professors: (they had not need!) but, now and then, one falls into some scandalous sin; but they not usually again into the same sin after sense and repentance of it. Thus fell David and Peter into foul flagitiousness, but not deliberately, nor totally, nor finally, nor reiteratedly. This fall is like the fall of the leaf in autumn. Life remains safe; a spring in due time follows, though many a cold blast first.

4. There is yet one worse fail than the former, incident to a child of God too--to be of the decaying kind, and to remit and lose his former fervour and liveliness. And it may be he never comes (as the second temple) up to the former pitch and glory (Ezra 3:12). Thus Solomon’s zeal and love were abated in his old age. This is like the fall of the hair in aged persons. Life yet remains; but strength, native beat, and radical moistness decay, and the hair never grows alike thick again.

II. THE FOUR FALLS OF THE UNREGENERATE.

1. The first whereof is a final fall, but not a total at first, but insensible, by degrees, “gradually and without perceiving it,” grow worse and worse; as the thorny ground, choked with cares, or drowned with the pleasures of the world.

2. Some fall totally and finally, but not premeditately and voluntarily at first; but are driven back by the lion of persecution, and tribulation in the way, and they retreat (Mark 4:17; 1 Chronicles 28:9). This is like the fall of Sisera at the feet of Jael ( 5:27).

3. Some more fearfully, totally, finally, voluntarily, deliberately, but not yet maliciously. Thus Demas is supposed to fall, who, of a forward disciple or teacher, is said to have become after an idol priest at Thessalonica. Thus fell Saul (1 Samuel 16:14).

4. The fourth and last fall follows, which is like the opening of the fourth seal, and the fourth horse appears (Revelation 6:8): when men fall totally, finally, voluntarily, and maliciously. Thus Simon Magus, Julian the apostate, Hymenaeus, and Alexander, whose names are in God’s black book. Here the gulf is fixed, and there is “no retracing of the steps” hence. These are not to be renewed by repentance. This fall is like that of Jericho’s walls: they fell down flat with a curse annexed (Joshua 6:26); or as Babylon’s walls, with a vengeance (Jeremiah 51:53-58); both without hope of repairing: or like the fall of Lucifer the first apostate, without offer, or hope of offer, of grace any more for ever: or like the fall of Judas, who, “fading headlong, burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed Acts 1:18).

III. THE MIXED FALL. There is also another kind of fall, of a mixed or middle nature; and to which side of the two (godly or reprobate) I should cast it, is not so easy to determine. Relapses into sin are like relapses into a disease after hopes and beginning of recovery.

1. This informs us that possible it is for men (yea, too ordinary) to fall from grace. We wonder not to see a house built on the send to fall, or seed not having root wither, or trees in the parched wilderness decay (Jeremiah 17:6), or meteors vanish, or blazing stars fall, or clouds without rain blown about, or wells without springs dried up. So, for hypocrites to prove apostates is no strange thing, and utterly to fall away.

2. Even godly and gracious persons are subject to fall, and therefore must not be secure: they must “ work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) They are bidden to “fear lest they should fall short” (Hebrews 4:1): “stand fast” (1 Corinthians 16:13): “take heed lest they fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12): “look diligently lest any fail of,” or “fall from” (so is the other reading) “the grace of God” Hebrews 12:15): “ take the whole armour of God, that they may he able to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

3. Yet a truly regenerate soul, a plant of God s planting by the waterside, a plant or graft grafted into Christ, and rooted in Christ, can never fall away totally or finally: Peter could not, when Christ prayed for him: the elect cannot (Matthew 24:24).

1. This text is thunder and lightning against apostales.

Awake, you drowsy professors! There is no sin like apostasy: adulteries, manslaughter, theft, idolatries, &c., nothing to this.

2. This speaks terror to professors fallen, or lying in scandalous sins.--You cannot sin at so easy a rate as others. You know your Master’s will, and do it not, therefore ye “shall be beaten with more stripes” (Luke 11:47). You are as a city set on a hill. Your fault cannot be hid, no more than an eclipse of the sun.

3. Terror to such as, after conviction and engagements under affliction and distress, after some prayers, vows, and a begun or resolved reformation, return to former courses.--As they, after what they promised in their distress, returned when delivered, and started aside like a broken bow Jeremiah 34:15-16). The new broom of affliction swept the house clean for the present; but afterwards the unclean spirit returns, and this washed sow is wallowing in the mire again.

4. Terror to such as lapse and relapse into the same sin again.--As Pharaoh, Jeroboam, and those antichristian brood which repented not Revelation 9:20-21). Notwithstanding all judgments, convictions, confessions, promises, they go from evil to worse, from affliction to sin; from sin to duty, and from duty to sin; repent and sin, sin and repent Jeremiah 9:3); and from repenting of sin in distress, go to repent of their repentance when delivered.

Discrimination.

1. There are some who have fallen into foul sins; and they think their case desperate, because of the greatness of their sins. But their sin is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, because not committed after light, taste, partaking of the Holy Ghost. &c., but in the days of their ignorance, as Paul mice. Some fall foully after conversion, as Peter, but not deliberately, maliciously; and both these may be the spots of children: they see “the plague” in their heart (1 Kings 8:38), feel the smart. These have foul scabs; hut they go to Jordan and wash, go to “ the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness”; and then “though their sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though red like crimson, they shall be as white as wool” Isaiah 1:18).

2. There be some relapses through human infirmity, which are truly bewailed. This is not the sin against the Holy Ghost neither.

3. But there are others that make a trade of sin, “drink up iniquity like water,” that “add drunkenness to thirst,” and fall and rise, and rise and fall: they lapse and relapse, and slide away as water

Shall I say such shall have peace? Not What peace to such so long as their sins remain? I shall, to conclude, give a few short directions, to prevent falls and relapses, but cannot now enlarge upon them.

1. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation (Matthew 26:41).--Watch in prayer, watch after, watch when alone, watch when incompany, especially against ill company and all occasions of sin.

2. Keep conscience lender, and shun the first motions and occasions of sin.--“If thou find thyself given to appetite, put a knife to thy throat”, is thewise man’s counsel; if to wine, “hook not on the glass”; if to wantonness, “come not near her corner.”

3. Take heed Of having slight thoughts of sin.--As to say, “As long as it is no worse”; “It is the first time”; “It is but now and then a great chance, when I meet with such company”; and many have such foolish pleas, and so play at the mouth of the cockatrice’s den till they are stung to death.

4. Take heed of having light thoughts of God’s mercy.--“When sin abounds, grace superabounds,” &c. The Lord saith, He “will not spare” such, nor be merciful to them.

5. Take heed of reasoning from God’s temporal forbearance, to eternal forgiveness.

6. Take heed of presuming of thy own strength: “I can, and I mean to repent; I can when I will, and I will when time serves. I trust I am not so bad, that God hath not given me over. Many have gone further than I: why may I not repent at my last hour?”

7. Take heed of a mock repentance, saying, “I cry God-mercy, God forgive met I sin daily, and repent daily. When I have sworn or been drunk, I am heartily sorry. Is not this repentance?” I answer, No! Repentance is quite another thing. “The burnt child,” we say, “dreads the fire.” (John Sheffield, M. A.)

The terrible hypothesis; or, the irrecoverable fall

I. PERSONAL CHRISTIANITY IS A SPIRITUAL PARTICIPATION OF DIVINE REALITIES.

1. It is an idea.

2. It is a feeling.

3. It is a power.

II. APOSTASY FROM PERSONAL CHRISTIANITY IS AN IMMENSE SIN.

1. The falling away here mentioned is that of total apostasy.

2. The apostasy here spoken of is stated purely as an hypothesis.

3. Although the apostasy is spoken of only as hypothetical, it is, nevertheless, possible. The man who parts with Christ through the force of old prejudices, is the Caiaphas of the age; he who parts with Him for money, is the Judas; he who parts with Him for popular favour, is the Pilate. The tragedy of Golgatha has many actors; every generation every day reiterates these multiplied crucifixions.

III. THE SIN OF SUCH AN APOSTASY WOULD ENTAIL THE MOST LAMENTABLE RESULTS.

1. The lamentable results of this sin would be irremediable.

2. The lamentable results of this crime are consonant with character. Their doom answers to their state.

3. The lamentable results of this crime are terribly awful The conscience in flames!

4. The lamentable results of this crime are ever just at hand. “Nigh unto cursing.” (Homilist.)

Indefinite renewal impossible

The impossibility here asserted consists not in a single repentance, but in the indefinite renewal of the first vivid life of the Spirit in the case of Christians who are meanwhile continually crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh: the spiritual impressions that were wrought once for all at their conversion must of necessity be weakened by repetition. The passage, as it stands in the text, is in thorough harmony with the previous context, which maintains the need for progressive teaching as the child grows into the man in Christ and protests against the continual reiteration of truths which have lost their freshness; and with the subsequent context, which condemns spiritual barrenness under the figure of sterile soil which, season after season, in spite of fertilising rain and human tillage, produces only thorns and thistles. (F. Rendall, M. A.)

Final perseverance

If Christians can fall away, and cease to be Christians, they cannot be renewed again to repentance. “But,” says one, “you say they cannot fall away.” What in the use of putting this “ if “ in, like a bugbear to frighten children. If God has put it in, He has put it in for wise reasons. Let me show you why.

1. First, it is put in to keep thee from falling away. God preserves His children from falling away; but He keeps them by the use of means; and one of these is, the terrors of the law, showing them what would happen if they were to fall away. There is a deep precipice: what is the best way to keep any one from going down there? Why, to tell him that if he did he would inevitably be dashed to pieces. In some old castle there is a deep cellar, where there is a vast amount of fixed air and gas, which would kill anybody who went down. What does the guide say? “If you go down you will never come up alive.” Who thinks of going down? The very fact of the guide telling us what the consequence would be keeps us from it. It leads the believer to greater dependence on God, to a holy caution, because he knows that if he were to fall away he could not be renewed. It is calculated to excite fear; and this holy fear keeps the Christian from falling.

2. It is to excite our gratitude. Suppose you say to your little boy, “Don’t you know, Tommy, if I were not to give you your dinner and your supper you would die? There is nobody else to give Tommy dinner and supper.” What then? The child does not think that you are not going to give him his dinner and supper; he knows you will, and he is grateful to you for them. The chemist tells us that if there were no oxygen mixed with the air animals would die. Do you suppose that there will be no oxygen, and, therefore, we shall die? No, he only teaches you the great wisdom of God, in having mixed the gases in their proper proportions. Says one of the old astronomers, “There is great wisdom in God, that He has put the sun exactly at a right distance--not so far away that we should be frozen to death, and not so near that we should be scorched.” He says, “If the sun were a million miles nearer to us we should be scorched to death.” Does the man suppose that the sun will be a million miles nearer, and, therefore, we shall be scorched to death? He says, “If the sun were a million miles farther off we should be frozen to death.” Does he mean that the sun will be a million miles farther off, and, therefore, we shall be frozen to death? Not at all. Yet it is quite a rational way of speaking, to show us how grateful we should be to God. So says the apostle. Christian! if thou shouldst fall away, thou couldst never be renewed unto repentance. Thank thy Lord, then, that He keeps thee. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The moral condition in which renewal is impossible

When anything is said to be impossible, the natural question is, Impossible to whom? for it is plain that what may be possible to one being, may be impossible to another being. If I were called to attempt to lift a stone of a ton weight, I would naturally say, “No, I will not attempt it, for it is impossible”--meaning, not that it is impossible that the stone should be lifted, but that it is impossible that I should lift it. The impossibility in the case before us may either be considered as existing in reference to God, or in reference to man. If the restoration of these apostates to the state in which they once were be an impossibility in reference to God, it must be so either because it is inconsistent with His nature and perfections, or with His decree and purpose. In the first sense, “it is impossible for God to lie,” or “clear the guilty” without satisfaction. In the second sense, it was impossible that Saul and his posterity should continue on the throne of Israel. That the restoration of an apostate to his former state is an impossibility in either of these points of view, is more than we are warranted to assert. If we carefully examine the passage, I apprehend we will come to the conclusion that the impossibility is considered as existing not in reference to God, but in reference to man--that the apostle’s assertion is, that it is impossible, by any renewed course of elementary instruction, to bring back such apostates to the acknowledgment of the truth. He had stated that many of the Hebrews had unlearned all that they had learned, and “had need of some one to teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God.” Yet he declares his determination not to enter anew on a course of elementary instruction, but to go on to some of the higher branches of Christian knowledge; for this cause, that there was no reason to expect that such restatements would be of any use in reclaiming those who, after being instructed in the doctrines and evidences of Christianity, had apostatised; while, on the other band, there was every reason to hope that illustrations of the higher branches of Christian truth would be of the greatest use to those who “held fast” the “first principles,” in establishing them in the faith and profession, in the comforts and obedience of the gospel; just as a farmer after making a fair trial of a piece of ground, and finding that, though everything has been done for it in the most favourable circumstances, it still continues barren, desists, saying, “It is impossible to make anything of that field,” and turns his attention to rendering still more fertile those fields which have already given evidence of their capability of improvement. “It is not possible, by a renewed statement of Christian principles and their evidence, to bring back these apostates. Nothing can be stated but what has been already stated, which they seemed to understand, which they professed to believe, but which they now openly and contemptuously reject. No evidence, stronger than that which has been brought before their minds, and which they once seemed to feel the force of, can be presented to them. The meaning and evidence of Christian truth have been before their minds in as favourable circumstances as can be conceived.” The apostle’s assertion, then, appears to me to be just this--“Statement and argument would be entirely lost on such persons, and therefore we do not enter on them.” (John Brown, D. D.)

Danger of falling away

A Christian said to a minister of his acquaintance, “I am told you are against the perseverance of the saints.” “Not I, indeed,” he replied; “it is the perseverance of sinners that I oppose.” “But do you not think that a child of God can fall very low, and yet be restored?” “I think it would be very dangerous to make the experiment.”

Nothing more can be done

If the mightiest arguments have been brought to bear on the conscience in vain; if after some slight response, which gave hopes of better things, it has relapsed into the insensibility of its former state, there remains nothing more to be done. There is nothing more potent than the wail of Calvary’s broken heart and the peal from Sinai’s brow, and if these have been tried in vain, no argument is left which can touch the conscience and arouse the heart. If these people had never been exposed to these appeals, there would have been some hope for them, but what hope can there be now, since, in having passed through them without permanent effect, they have become more hardened in the process than they were at first? Here is a man dragged from an ice-pond, and brought into the infirmary. Hot flannels are at once applied, the limbs are chafed, every means known to modern science for restoring life is employed. At first it seems as if these appliances will take effect, there are twitchings and convulsive movements; but, alas I they soon subside, and the surgeon gravely shakes his head. “Can you do nothing else?” “Nothing,” he replies; “I have used every method I can devise, and if these fail, it is impossible to renew again to life.” This passage has nothing to do with those who fear lest it condemns them. The presence of that anxiety, like the cry which betrayed the real mother in the days of Solomon, establishes beyond a doubt that you are not one that has fallen away beyond the possibility of renewal to repentance. If you are still touched by gospel sermons, and are anxious to repent, and are in godly fear lest you should be a castaway, take heart; these are signs that this passage has no bearing on you. Why make yourself ill with a sick man’s medicine? But if you are growing callous and insensible under the preaching of the gospel, look into this passage, and see your doom, unless you speedily arrest your steps. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The recoil from good influences

Translated into a statement of tendency, the doctrine taught is this.--Every fall involves a risk of apostasy, and the higher the experience fallen from the greater the risk. The deeper religion has gone into a man at the commencement of his Christian course, the less hopeful his condition if he lapse. The nearer the initial stage to a thorough conversion the less likely is a second change, if the first turn out abortive; and so on, in ever-increasing degrees of improbability as lapses increase in number. The brighter the light in the soul, the deeper the darkness when the light is put out. The sweeter the manna of God’s Word to the taste, the more loathsome it becomes when it has lost its relish. The fiercer the fire in the hearth while the fuel lasts, the more certain it is that when the fire goes out there will remain nothing but ashes. The livelier the hope of glory, the greater the aversion to all thoughts of the world to come when once a Christian has, like Atheist in the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” turned his back on the heavenly Jerusalem. Action and reaction are equal. The more forcibly you throw an elastic ball against a wall the greater the rebound; in like manner the more powerfully the human spirit is brought under celestial influences, the greater the recoil from all good, if there be a recoil at all. The gushing enthusiasts of today are the cynical sceptics of to-morrow. Have promoters of “revivals” laid these things duly to heart? (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

Backsliding and apostasy

The difference between backsliding and apostasy is that between a body benumbed, stiffened, and all but deprived of life by the cold, and the same body petrified and hardened into stone. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

Sinning against the light

He who sins against the light is hurt beyond hope of cure. (Old Greek Saying.)

Shutting out love

He that shuts love out, in turn Shall be shut out by love,

And on her threshold lie Howling in outer darkness.”

(Tennyson.)

Freezing after a thaw

I have read that there is no ice that is harder to melt than ice that has been once melted and frozen the second time. So the soul that has begun to melt before the heart of Christ, and then refuses to lay its sins on the Lamb of God, that heart is the hardest and the most difficult to break again. (Theo. Monod.)

Process of backsliding

Two ministers, walking along the banks of a river, came to a tree which had been blown down in a recent gale. It was a mighty, noble tree, tall and substantial, with large outspreading roots and ample foliage. Approaching to examine it, they found it had been snapped off just above the roots; and, on looking still closer, found that there was only an outer shell of sound wood, and that the heart was rotten. Unnoticed, decay had been going on for years. So is it generally with the fall of professing Christians; the fall is but the result of evil that has been allowed to steadily gather strength within the heart.

The difficulty of the passage

Do you ask me whether it is possible for a Christian man to commit a crime, and to sink into a doom like this? I dare not obliterate the tremendous force of this passage by denying the possibility. Far better leave it as it is--an awful hypothesis--to warn us against the danger and the guilt, than venture by fine-drawn speculations, to diminish its practical power. If you ask me how I can reconcile the passage as it stands, with the merciful promises which assure us of God’s keeping if we trust in Him, I answer that these promises are to those who trust, and continue to trust, in God, not to those who trusted once, but whose trust has now perished; and I answer farther, that I would rather be charged by a whole council of theologians, with introducing scientific inconsistency into a theological system, than dare to lessen the term of a divinely-inspired warning, the undiminished awfulness of which may be needed to save some soul from death. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

What is it to fall away?

To fall away is to go back from the outward profession of Christianity--not temporarily, but finally; not as the result of some sudden sin, but because the first outward stimulus is exhausted, and there is no true life beating at the heart, to repair or reinvigorate the wasting devotion of the life. It is to resemble those wandering planets, which never shone with their own light, but only in the reflected light of some central sun; but which, having broken from its guiding leash, dash further and further into the blackness of darkness, without one spark of life, or heat, or light. It is to return as a dog to its vomit, and as a sow to her filth; because the reformation was only outward and temporary, and the dog or sow natures were never changed through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. It is to be another Judas; to commit the sin against the Holy Ghost; to lose all earnestness of feeling, all desire for better things, all power of tender emotion, and to become utterly callous and dead, as the pavement on which we walk, or the rusty armour hanging on the old castle’s walls. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

A backslider a sad sight

“It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a man,” says Ryle, “I suppose it is the worst. A stranded ship, a broken-winged eagle, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins--all these are sad sights; but a backslider is a sadder sight still.”

Misery of a backslider

Terrible is the falling away of any who make profession and act quite contrary to conviction. A lady here (Huddersfield) thus relates her own case. “Once Mr. and I were both in the right way. I drew him into the world again. I am now the most miserable of beings. When I lie down I fear I shall awake in hell. When I go out full dressed, and seem to have all the world can give me, I am ready to sink under the terrors of my own mind. What greatly increases my misery is the remembrance of the dying speech of my own sister, wile told me she had stifled convictions and obstinately fought against light to enjoy the company of the world. “Sister,” said she, “I die without hope. Beware this be not your easel” “But, indeed,” said Mrs., “I fear it will.” (C. Venn.)

They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh

Crucifying the Son of God afresh

Various as have been God’s dealings with the world, there is, after all, a terrible impartiality in His dispensations to His rational creatures. Wherever men possess reason and conscience, they possess, in some measure, the means of pleasing or displeasing Him; whenever they can, in the lowest degree, conceive His law, they are bound to obey it. The whole world is under a moral government, though we alone are in a written covenant; all live to God, though we alone have professed “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” The very temptations, ms that dazzle the unevangelised world are, in innumerable instances, the same temptations that are trying us--anger, sensuality, ambition, avarice. We are their brethren in all things except in the revelation of the Divine mercy and the gift of the Divine Spirit. While the human nature of the Church is uniform, its trials must be nearly so. As the Lord ,,f the Church is the same “yesterday and to-day and for ever,” so the probation He enforces is distributed pretty evenly through all ages and classes. But of all the equalisations of evil in successive ages, of all the repetitions of trial from generation to generation, of all the instances evincing that, in the Church as in the world, “the thing that has been will be”--unquestionably that expressed in the text is the most startling and fearful. The Crucifixion of Christ, in its literal reality, stands alone in the history of man. It was the last and darkest depth of human criminality. The original fall, and the rejection of the Redeemer, are the two saddest pages in the story of our race. But mournful as is the former, it has never, probably, left the impression upon the heart which is at once produced by all those dread accompaniments that prepared and embittered the last sufferings of the meek and merciful Friend of man. Injustice, cruelty, false shame, unworthy indolence, covetousness, ambition, hypocrisy, envy, all were in different ways exhibited in this tremendous tragedy; all contributed in different ways to fix the catastrophe. No, never, surely, is man, in all the possibilities of futurity, destined again to consummate a wickedness like this. It must be for ever solitary in the world, an event placed beyond anticipation, repetition, or parallel; a lonely and terrible monument of unapproachable guilt. Not thus, however, speaks the voice of inspiration. Heaven has not spared us this trial. When Christ was about to die, He instituted a memorial sacrament of His passion, to show forth His death until He come. It would seem that there is, as it were, a fearful and Satanic sacrament too, of that same dread hour, by which it is still in man’s power to reiterate and prolong His death until He come to judge the long succession of His crucifiers. St. Paul delivers to us the tremendous truth, that there is in man a continued capacity of “crucifying afresh the Son of God”; a power to act over again all the scene of His torture, to league with the malignant priests and the scoffing soldiers, to buffet the unresisting cheek, to bind the crown of thorns. Reflect on the frame and temper of mind, on the weakness and the wickedness, that made the chosen people of God the murderers of His Son, and try if you cannot catch some faint image of that treachery in your own hearts. But be true to yourselves if you would indeed detect the lurking evil, and think not that even among the best of us, in a world of oft-recurring temptation, it is useless to prosecute the scrutiny. Doubtless the accuracy of the image will vary in degree: here, through the progressive sanctification, all but obliterated; here, through remaining worldliness, vivid and undeniable; here, through total rejection of Christ, all but complete. To estimate the resemblance we must turn to the original. When Christ was, in that day of mingled horror and glory, sacrificed on Calvary, few things were more remarkable in the accessories of the event than the feelings and motives of the people. Christ was unquestionably a favourite with the mass of the people; the great obstacle to the schemes of the priests was always that “they feared the people.” His gracious bearing and the mysterious anticipation that surrounded and dignified His singular ‘life, had evidently caught and conciliated the popular mind. Nor was it unqualified malignity that made them His persecutors, Christ Himself had found a palliation for this crime in their ignorance, He besought forgiveness for them because “they knew not what they did.” Yet, however it came to pass, this people, thus disposed, are found the unanimous destroyers of their Prophet, the tumultuous petitioners for His crucifixion, the fierce invokers of His blood on them and on their children? Strange as this appears, is there indeed nothing that resembles it in our own experience? Is no parallel to be found for it in the Christian world around us! Can we not, when we go abroad into the highways of daily life, find something in the general mind that reminds us of a people honouring Christ as long as He offers easy blessings, flocking round His standard with enthusiasm so long as He is made the standard-bearer of a party, professing boundless admiration, devotion, and love; yet when the true hour of trial comes, and the question can no longer be escaped,--Shall we surrender our pleasures or our Redeemer?--give up the favour of earthly superiors or the favour of the King of heaven?--abandon our cherished sins, or with our sins nail Jesus to the cross once more?--then, relinquishing their short-lived discipleship, following the instigation of blind and guilty guides, turning with the turning tide, and swelling the torrent of the persecutors of the body of Christ. Turn again to the record. Among the unhappy instruments of Satan, on that dread occasion, was one whose name, almost unknown in all else, his relation to this event has miserably immortalised--the wretched, wavering, timorous Pilate. Willing to save, but afraid to resist, anxious to do right as long as virtue cost no trouble,-has this crucifier of Christ no image among us? Are there no Pilates among our grave and reputable men of business?--none who cold be models of consummate piety if there were no danger of its disturbing their tenure of wealth and influence?--who would gladly save the Son of God from degradation if they were not a tittle apprehensive of degrading themselves in the task,--and would allow Him supreme authority as long as the r own was warranted secure? Not far removed from this is the case of those rulers who struggled against their very faith lest it should hazard their popularity John 12:43). Alas! these poor dependents on human fame stand not alone in the world; this weapon of the evil one has not been suffered to rust in disuse! It is not with open disavowal that the votary of fashionable worldliness disclaims the Lord of glory. A peril such as this might be met and warded off. But society does its work surely because slowly. Religion is not proved to be absurd, but assumed to be so; the world would not harshly ask us to disbelieve in Christ, but merely to forget Him. Principles are lost for ever before we have dreamed they were in danger, and the poor victim of the world’s opinion has learned to “crucify afresh the Son of God,” without relinquishing one outward characteristic of discipleship I But these, wretched and criminal as they are, are but the less daring forms of crime. Deeper guilt than this bore the suffering Lamb of God to His cross, and deeper guilt than this is not confined to His first crucifiers. Can we witness nothing that recalls the rebellious ambition of those who said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours”? The world at large--yea, the far immense of worlds--is the inalienable property of God; the inheritance is entailed upon that only-begotten Son, “whom,” it is written, “He appointed Heir of all things.” And when, refusing to hold as His lessees, spurning His rights of lordship, we would explode His claims for antiquated and fanciful, that we may enjoy His gift as though the fee were ours; in all this is there none of that spirit which once raged in those who, in angry impatience of His claims, “took counsel against Him for to put Him to death”? And when a paltry hope of gain or advancement can bribe us to forsake a gracious Master, to forget all He has done, and all He has borne; does he remain the alone in the world who “said unto the chief priests, What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you”? Nay, at such an hour we are worse than Judas; for even Judas, the miserable suicide of remorse, we may believe, had another option been his, would not have “ crucified the Son of God afresh! “Can we descend yet deeper? Christ was crucified on the imputation of blasphemy. What was the “blasphemy”? He had called Himself the Son of God, and the Son of man, and in right of this transcendent union, the Judge to come “ in the clouds of heaven,” and “sitting at the right hand of power.” If this was false, His crucifiers were justified; if this was false, in a theocratic government, He deserved His fate. There are those who pronounce that mysterious title false in any sense that could have ever made it “blasphemy” from human lips, who deny the Sonship of the Eternal any significance beyond what more or less belongs to all the virtuous revealers and interpreters of the will of heaven that have ever instructed man. Surely we cannot in justice refuse to such impugners the place they have chosen for themselves in the throng that circled the cross of Jesus! Still we have not sunk to the last level of the Jewish persecutors. Fallen as we are, we could not have borne to prefer Barabbas, the thief and murderer, to our pure and guiltless Redeemer. And who, then, are the darling idols of human applause? Who are the chosen of our race that poetry crowns with its halo of glory, and every young imagination bows to worship? Who, but the laurelled Barabbases of history, the chartered robbers and homicides that stain its pages with blood, and that, after eighteen hundred years of Christian discipline, the world has not yet risen to discountenancing? Remove the conventional discredit that attaches to the weaker thief, exalt him to the majesty of the military despot, and how many would vote for Barabbas, how many linger with the lowly Jesus? “Be it so, but our votes would at least be open and undisguised, we would not stoop to the meanness of hypocrisy. We would not, with those you are pleased to make our prototypes, ‘put on Him the scarlet robe and the crown, and the sceptre,’ that we might ‘bow the knee and mock Him.’ Of this, at least, we are incapable.” Perhaps so. I pray God it may he so. And yet, recall but the hour that has just now floated past you into eternity, when you “bowed the knee” to this same Jesus who was crucified, when your lips uttered words of piercing sorrow, and besought His mercy and implored His aid, as erring and straying sheep, as miserable offenders, miserable sinners. Ask yourselves how many knees were bowed in the repentance the lips rehearsed, how many hearts were melted in the agony the tongue so readily expressed. And if conscience whisper an accusation, bethink you how differs this from the guilt of those who called Him King, and despised the royalty they ascribed; or was it more a crime to insult Him when He walked the earth in poverty and pain, than when He sits, as now, the recognised Monarch of the universe! (Prof Archer Butler.)

The crucifixion of Christ, an ever recurring crime

I. THE METHOD BY WHICH HEAVEN TESTIMATES THE CHARACTER OF MEN. The essence of a moral act lies, not in the muscular exertion, but in the mental volition.

1. This method of judging character commends itself to our sense of justice as obviously right.

2. This method of judging character urges the most vigorous discipline of the heart.

3. This method of judging character suggests unexpected revelations on the day of judgment.

II. THE ENORMITIES WHICH CORRUPT MEN ARE AT ALL TIMES CAPABLE OF PERPETRATING.

1. The feelings which effected the crucifixion we may find everywhere in the hearts of depraved men.

2. Similar circumstances would probably lead to a similar development.

Learn:

1. The propriety of a trembling modesty in denouncing the great criminals of history. In condemning them, let us take care that we do not foredoom ourselves.

2. The necessity of a heart renovation for the real improvement of humanity.

3. The inestimable value of the gospel to mankind. (Homilist.)

The crucifixion of Christ modernised

To a nature morally sensitive the crucifixion of Jesus Christ’ is the crime of all crimes. Although eighteen hundred)ears have passed it is still the most realistic scene in all history. The strokes of the crucificial hammers are heard not only on the mountains of Palestine; they ring throughout the universe. The vividness of the cross comes, in part, from the way the story of Calvary is told. There is nothing elaborate. No attempt at fine writing. Only a few verses. The story is allowed to tell itself. But here is the secret: it is scenic from beginning to end; it speaks in pictures. God Himself emphasised the enormity of the crucifixion of His Son by means of the great wonders by which He marked the event, and by which He proclaimed that all nature was in a sympathetic agony with the agonising Christ. But mark the way God visits the crime of Christ’s crucifixion with retribution if you would grasp its enormity. “The Hebrews had for centuries been dreaming of a Messiah, and at last their Messiah came. But how did they receive Him? They received Him with yells of ‘Crucify.’ At the Cross of Jesus, which consummated their iniquity, the story of their nation ends.” Some of those who shared in the scene of Christ’s crucifixion, and myriads of their children, shared also in the long horror of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans--a siege which, for its unutterable fearfulness, stands unparalleled in the story of mankind. They had forced the Romans to crucify their Christ, anal they themselves were crucified in myriads by the Romans outside their walls, till room failed for the crosses and wood to make them with. This would be enough to spread before us the enormity of the crime of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; but this is not all; retribution still follows the nation of His crucifiers. In this year the Jews are an ostracised race in the midst of humanity the world over. To see the enormity of the crucifixion of Christ put by the side of the appalling judgment which followed it an analysis of the crime. The crucifixion of Christ was not a single sin, it was a multifold sin; it was a moral compound. It was a culmination--a climax. A whole series of motives and a whole series of actions were behind it. When we remember this we see that the Cross stands for something upon the part of man. It is an exponent of humanity. It is the work of human nature unregenerated. It shows the extreme of sin to which man will dare to go; he will dare to crucify the Son of God. Is there a point in moral depravity beyond that? If so, what is it? Hundreds and hundreds of typical bands rear the Cross and ply the curcificial hammers and drive the cruel nails of death. I see the hand of the Pharisee; he was a formalist in religion, and could not endure the pure spirituality of Christ’s religion. I see the hand of the Elder; be was a traditionalist, and he felt his religion reel before the practical common-sense questions which Christ fired through it, as the gun-boat fires its cannon-balls through a wooden ship. I see the hand of the Sadducee; he was an agnostic, and he hated Christ because He brought to bear against the tenets of his agnosticism the deadly parallelism of the Scriptures. The envy of the Churchmen; the avarice of Judas; the vacillation and cowardice of Pilate; the perjury of the false witnesses; the false shame of those who believed in Christ but who refused to confess Him for fear of the Pharisees; the desertion of His long-instructed followers; the brutality of the mob, who mocked Him as He died--all these were forces which combined to erect the Cross and nail Christ to it. And what had Christ done that He should thus be crucified and made an open shame? He had loved men; He had opened the massive prison doors of error and had given men the liberty of the truth; He had smitten haughty tyrannies and broken the oppressive grip which they had upon humanity; He had taken children into His arms and had blessed them; He had lived a holy life, in which no one could pick a single flaw; He had healed the sick; He had uttered the Sermon upon the Mount and the golden promises and the explanatory parables: That was all He had done. How the enormity of the crime of crucifying Him grows t We congratulate ourselves that we were not at Calvary and that we were spared the trial, the experience, and the doom of those who crucified Christ. My fellow-men of the nineteenth century, the text strikes us while we are right in the midst of our mistaken congratulations. It says in unmistakable language the crime of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which is so enormous, is a crime that is continuous. In the rearm of human disposition and feeling, in the thought-life of the world, there is a perpetual Calvary and a perpetual crucifixion. Christ is being crucified afresh, and the old guilt of the first century is not only being constantly incurred, but it is being constantly increased. The men of the first century, when they crucified Christ, knew not what they did--they sinned in darkness; but the men of the nineteenth century, when they crucify Christ, know what they are doing--they sin against light. What has Christ done that any man in the nineteenth century should crucify Him? He has filled the world with pure principles; He has reproduced Himself in the magnificent men and women of the Christian Church; He has built up the ground institutions of civil and religious liberty; He has shaped and moulded the leading nations of the earth; He has given the world the progress and the triumphs of a Christian civilisation. Do these things make Him worthy of crucifixion? The men of the first century who crucified Him saw only the deeds of a very few years; the men of the nineteenth century who crucify Him afresh see the deeds of 1800 years. They sin against all the centuries of the Christian era. There is no mistaking the text. It is in the present tense, and it speaks of a second act. It was addressed to men thirty years after Jesus had been enjoying the glories of the throne of heaven. He was beyond the reach of the physical touch of man. Paul did not consider the essence of a moral act to lie in the muscular exertion, but in the mental volition. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” This is heaven’s idea of moral conduct. The heart-life is the true life. “The Lord looketh upon the heart.” Our life includes the unexpressed wishes, the inarticulate longings, and the unwrought purposes of the heart. It includes our moral identifications with our fellow-men and our sympathies with their actions. You hare now before you the answer of the question, How is it possible to recrucify Christ? The answer is this: It is possible by means of moral identification with the men of Calvary. There is a brotherhood of soul with soul; by continuing in the brotherhood made up of the souls of the Pilates, and of the Pharisees, and of the Judases, and of their kindred, we endorse their deeds and ate held by justice as alike criminal with them. When their spirit is incarnated in our acts we crucify Christ afresh. I tell you that not a single impulse or passion that played a part in the great tragedy has died out of the world. They are all pulsating to-day in the hearts of men. The nineteenth century is but a moral echo of the first century. If you are not morally one with the friends of Christ you will be classified with the crucifiers of Christ. That is the principle which the text enunciates. Jesus Himself enunciates the same principle in the woes which He pronounces against the Pharisees. Moral identification! That is the criterion of character! That is the basis upon which God deals with us in judgment. Moral identification is also the basis upon which man judges man. We saw the play of this principle of judgment during the civil war which tore and distracted our land. The war opened with the Confederates firing upon Fort Sumter. That first act was universally made to test all the North. The way a man looked upon that daring act was made the criterion of his standing, the index of his loyalty or disloyalty. The man who deplored it, and who lifted his hands in hob’ horror at the thought of American citizens firing upon American citizens, was identified with the men within the fort who stood by the guns of the nation loyally and courageously; but the man who let the joy of his soul shine out in his face, or embody itself in utterance, was identified with the men who aimed and fired the guns of treason, and who tattered the dear old Stars and Stripes, and trampled them in the dust. The latter man was compelled to leave the North and was treated as a traitor, which he was. The war was closed with the awful tragedy of assassination. The most dastardly act of all that black history was the firing of the assassin’s fatal ball by J. Wilkes Booth through the noble frame of Abrabam Lincoln. That act also was made a test. Here and there through the North there were men who applauded the act; but no sooner did the words “Good,” “Served him right,” fall from their lips than instantly they were riddled by the Minie balls of patriots, or swung out into the air from impromptu gallows. Why? Because everywhere the men of the North looked upon them as assassins, kindred Booths. Why? Because everywhere the men of the North looked upon soul identification with treason as treason, and sympathy with a traitor as making a man a traitor. Moral identification! That is the criterion of character. Both God and man declare it to be the true basis of righteous judgment. If this be so, then the duty of the hour, in view of the theme which occupies our minds, is to question ourselves with regard to our moral identification. Where do you stand with regard to Christ? That is the question. With whom are you classified? Do you crucify Christ afresh? If by your actions you are classified with Pilate you crucify Christ. The historical man Pilate is dead, but his principles have been modernised. Pilateism never dies. It affects friend.-hip; it pays compliments; it shifts and transfers responsibility; it seeks to be on both sides; it makes an orthodox profession, but lives a heterodox life; it virtually acquits but actually executes. With whom are you classified? With Judas, the man who sold his Master? Why did Judas sell Christ? Because he got money. The sale of Christ by Judas was a pure matter of cash. If you sell conscience or principle for money you are a Judas and a crucifier of Christ. If yea are untruthful and dishonest in your business you are a Judas and a crucifier of Christ. With whom are you identified? With the soldiers who robed Him in mock purple, and who platted a crown of thorns and put it upon His brow, and bowed the knee before Him in hypocrisy? If when conscience tells you to perform a certain duty you deliberately re use to obey, what is that but bowing the knee in hypocrisy to Christ as the King of your life, and turning His crown into a crown of thorns, a thing to be jeered at? With whom are you classified? With the disciples who forsook Him and fled? If so, you play a part in Christ’s crucifixion. Today the silence and the backwardness and the desertion of Christians may be the cause of the reign of unbelief; the cause of indifference with regard to Christ; the cause also of much of the dishonour that is heaped upon Christ. It is our duty to assort more and claim more for Jesus. With whom are you classified? With the Pharisees, who kept men from espousing the cause of Christ? Do you hinder your friends from making a confession? With whom are you classified? With the Sanhedrin who passed the sentence of death upon Christ? Why did the members of the Sanhedrin sentence Him? Because He claimed to be God; because they said He was a blasphemer; because they denied His deity. Do you deny the deity of Jesus Christ? If so, then there is nothing left for you but to crucify Him. With whom are you identified? I hear a voice saying, “I am identified with no one.” “I am neutral.” “I neither choose Christ nor Barabbas.” “I wash my hands clear of the whole business.” That was what Pilate thought he would do; but did he? No; all such talk is the merest moral stuff, Neutrality! To you who have this day heard the gospel of Christ, there is no such thing as neutrality. The Master Himself says, “He that is not for Me is against Me.” That settles it. He that is not morally identified with Christ as a follower and friend is morally identified with His enemies and crucifiers. Your attempted neutrality is a crime against light and against infinite love and against the eternity of your own soul. Why should you crucify the Son of God afresh? Why should you nail H,m to the cross of indifference? Is there any difference between crucifying Christ upon the cross of indifference and crucifying Him upon the cross of criticism, or upon the cross of consent, or upon the cross of unbelief? He is crucified all the same. Do you ask me the way out of your sin? I reply, Seek a true knowledge of Christ. In speaking of the first crucifixion Paul tells the Corinthians that had the men of Jerusalem known Christ they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Do you ask me the way out of your sin? I reply, If you would avoid the crucifixion of Christ join in the coronation of Christ. Crown Him with an ardent faith; with a loyal love; with a fearless, manly, constant, and open confession. (David Gregg, D. D.)

Christ crucified afresh

Bridaine was one of the most celebrated of the French preachers. Marmontel relates, that in his sermons he sometimes had recourse to the interesting method of parables, with a view the more forcibly to impress important truths on the minds of his hearers. Preaching on the passion of Jesus Christ, he expressed himself thus:--“A man, accused of a crime of which he was innocent, was condemned to death by the iniquity of his judges. He was led to punishment, but no gibbet was prepared, nor was there any executioner to perform the sentence. The people, moved with compassion, hoped that this sufferer would escape death. But one man raised his voice, and said, ‘I am going to prepare a gibbet, and I will be the executioner.’ You groan with indignation! Well, my brethren, in each of you I behold this cruel man. Here are no Jews today to crucify Jesus Christ; but you dare to rise up, and say, ‘I will crucify Him.’” Marmontel adds, that he heard these words pronounced by the preacher, though very young, with all the dignity of an apostle, and with the most powerful emotion; and that such was the effect, that nothing was heard but the sobs of the auditory. (Baxendale’s Dictionary of Anecdotes.)

Continuous crucifixion

Rather, “while crucifying,” “crucifying as they are doing.” Thus the words imply not only an absolute, but a continuous apostasy, for the participle is changed from the past into the present tense. A drop of water will, as the Rabbis said, suffice to purify a man who has accidentally touched a creeping thing, but an ocean will not suffice for his cleansing so long as he purposely keeps it held in his hand. There is such a thing as “doing despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29). (F. W.Farrar, D. D.)


Verse 7-8

Hebrews 6:7-8

The earth which drinketh in the rain

Spiritual realities in material emblems

Nature is a parable.
The seen adumbrates the unseen. Here we have the soul, truth, God, and character in emblem.

I. THE SOUL.

1. Contains in itself the germs of all that it will ever manifest.

2. Only develops those germs as it turns itself towards the sun.

II. TRUTH.

1. Like rain in variety.

2. Like rain in origin.

3. Like rain in preciousness. Congenial. Fertilising.

III. God. The great Husbandman of souls.

1. Prepares soil.

2. Deposits seed.

3. Supplies cultivating influences.

IV. CHARACTER. The fruit of a man’s life. As gardens, landscapes, forests, grow out of the earth, moral character grows out of conduct. (Homilist.)

The dispensation of the gospel word

I. THE MINUS OF ALL MEN BY NATURE ARE UNIVERSALLY AND EQUALLY BARREN WITH RESPECT TO FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS MEET FOR AND ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD. They are all as the earth under the curse. There is a natural difference among men as to their intellectual abilities. But as to the fruits of spiritual holiness, all men by nature are alike. For our nature, as unto a principle of living unto God is equally corrupted in all. Something is wanting, something must he done to this barren earth, to make it fruitful And this is done by rain. And that is described by

1. Its communication or application unto the earth--it fails upon it.

2. An especial adjunct thereof in its frequency-it falls often on it.

3. By that reception which the earth is naturally fitted and suited to give unto it--it drinketh it in.

1. The thing itself is rain. It is the administration of the Word that is intended. And in other places the doctrine of the Scripture is frequently compared unto rain and watering (Deuteronomy 32:2; Zechariah 14:17). This is that whereby God watereth the barren souls of men, that whereby He communicates unto them all things that may enable them to be fruitful.

2. This rain is said to fall often on the earth. And this may be considered either with respect to the especial concern of these Hebrews or unto the ordinary dispensation of the gospel. In the first way it expresseth the frequent addresses made unto the Jews, in the ministry of the Word, for their recovery from those ways of ruin wherein they were engaged. And so it may include the ministry of the prophets, with the close put unto it by that of Christ Himself. Take it in the latter way for the dispensation of the Word in general, and the manner of it, with frequency and urgency, is included in this expression. Where the Lord Christ sends the gospel to be preached, it is His will that it should be so, instantly, in season and out of season, that it may come as abundant showers of rain on the earth.

3. This rain is said to be drunk in--the earth drinketh in the rain. There is no more intended in this expression but the outward hearing of the Word, a naked assent to it. For it is ascribed unto them who continue utterly barren, who are therefore left unto destruction. But as it is the natural property of the earth to receive in the water that is poured on it, so men do in some sense drink in the doctrine of the gospel when the natural faculties of their souls assent unto it, though it works not upon them, though it produces no effects in them.

II. THE DISPENSATION OF THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL UNTO MEN IS AN EFFECT OF THE SOVEREIGN POWER AND PLEASURE OF GOD, AS IS THE GIVING OF RAIN UNTO THE EARTH. He sendeth His Word unto one people and not to another, to one city and not to another, at one time and not at another, and these are those matters of His whereof He giveth no account.

1. The principal end which He designeth in His disposal of the dispensation of the gospel in that great variety wherein we do behold it is the conversion, edifications, and salvation of His elect. This is that which He aimeth to accomplish thereby, and therefore His will and purpose herein is that which gives rule and measure unto the actings of His providence concerning it.

2. He doth, according to His sovereign pleasure, call and send persons to the preaching of it to those to whom He will grant the privilege thereof.

III. GOD SO ORDERED THINGS IN HIS SOVEREIGN UNSEARCHABLE PROVIDENCE THAT THE GOSPEL SHALL BE SENT UNTO, AND IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF IT SHALL FIND ADMITTANCE INTO, WHAT PLACES, AND AT WHAT TIMES, SEEMS GOOD UNTO HIMSELF, EVEN AS LIE ORDERS THE RAIN TO FALL ON ONE PLACE AND NOT ON ANOTHER.

IV. IT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE UNTO WHOM THE DISPENSATION OF THE WORD IS COMMITTED OF GOD TO BE DILIGENT, WATCHING, INSTANT IN THEIR WORK, THAT THEIR DOCTRINE MAY, AS IT WERE, CONTINUALLY DROP AND DISTIL UPON THEIR HEARERS THAT THE RAIN MAY FALL OFTEN ON THE EARTH. So hath God provided that “the ridges of it may be watered abundantly, to make it soft (or dissolve it) with showers, and so He blesseth the springing thereof” (Psalms 65:10).

V. ATTENDANCE UNTO THE WORD PREACHED, HEARING OF IT WITH SOME DILIGENCE, AND GIVING OF IT SOME KIND OF RECEPTION, MADE NO GREAT DIFFERENCE AMONG MEN, FOR THIS IS COMMON UNTO THEM WHO NEVER BECOME FRUITFUL.

VI. GOD IS PLEASED TO EXERCISE MUCH PATIENCE TOWARDS THOSE TO WHOM HE ONCE GRANTS THE MERCY AND THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS WORD. He doth not presently proceed against them far and on account of their barrenness, but stays until the rain hath often fallen on the ground. But there is an appointed season and period of time, beyond which He will not wait for them any more.

VII. WHERE GOD GRANTS MEANS, THERE HE EXPECTS FRUIT. Few men consider what is the state of things with them whilst the gospel is preached to them. Some utterly disregard it any farther than as it is suited to their carnal interests and advantages. His business by it is to make men holy, humble, self-denying, righteous, useful, upright, pure in heart and life, to abound in good works, or to be like Himself in all things.

VIII. DUTIES OF GOSPEL OBEDIENCE ARE FRUITS MEET FOR GOD, THINGS THAT HAVE A PROPER AND ESPECIAL TENDENCY UNTO HIS GLORY. As the precious fruits of the earth which the husbandman waiteth for are meet for his use, that is, such as supply his wants, satisfy his occasions, answer his labour, nourish and enrich him; so do these duties of gospel obedience answer all the ends of God’s glory which He hath designed unto it in the world. “Hereby,” saith our Saviour, “is My Father glorified, if ye bring forth much fruit.”

IX. WHEREVER THERE ARE ANY SINCERE FRUITS OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE FOUND IN THE HEARTS AND LIVES OF PROFESSORS, GOD GRACIOUSLY ACCEPTS AND BLESSETH THEM. Nothing is so small but that, if it be sincere, He will accept; and nothing so great but He hath an overflowing reward for it. (John Owen, D. D.)

Moral village

The apostle is showing the effect of character on our power to understand truth. Neither soil is barren. Both lands drink in the rain that often comes upon them. But the fatness of the one field brings forth thorns and thistles, and this can only mean that the man’s vigour of soul is itself an occasion of moral evil. The richness of the other land produces plants fit for use by men, who are the sole reason for its tillage. This, again, must mean that, in the case of some men, God blesses that natural strength which itself is neither good nor evil, and it becomes a source of goodness. We come now to the result in each case. The soil that brings forth useful herbs has its share of the Creator’s first blessing. What the blessing consists in we are not here told, and it is not necessary to pursue this side of the illustration further. Bat the other soil, which gives its natural strength to the production of noxious weeds, falls under the Creator’s primal curse and is nigh unto burning. The point of the parable evidently is that God blesses the one, that God destroys the other. In both cases the apostle recognises the Divine action, carrying into effect a Divine threat and a Divine promise.

I. DRINKING IN THE RAIN THAT OFTEN COMES UPON THE LAND CORRESPONDS TO BEING ONCE ENLIGHTENED, tasting of the heavenly gift, being made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasting the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come.

II. THE NEGATIVE RESULT OF NOT BRINGING FORTH ANY USEFUL HERBS CORRESPONDS TO FALLING AWAY. God has bestowed His gift of enlightenment, but there is no response of heart and will. The soul does not lay hold, but drifts away.

III. THE POSITIVE RESULT OF BEARING THORNS AND THISTLES CORRESPONDS TO CRUCIFYING TO THEMSELVES THE SON OF GOD AFRESH AND PUTTING HIM TO AN OPEN SHAME.

IV. To be nigh unto a curse and to be given in the end to be burned CORRESPONDS TO THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF RENEWAL. God renders men incapable of repentance, not because they have fallen away once or more than once, but because they scoff at the Son, through whom God has spoken unto us. The terrible impossibility of renewal here threatened applies, not to apostasy (as the early Church maintained), nor to the lapsed (as the Novatianists held), but to apostasy combined with a cynical, scoffing temper that persists in treading the Son of God under foot. It hardens the heart, because God is jealous of His Son’s honour, and punishes the scoffer with the utter destruction of the spiritual faculty and with absolute inability to recover it. This is not the mere force of habit. It is God’s retribution, and the apostle mentions it here because the text of the whole Epistle is that God has spoken unto us in His Son. (T. C.Edwards, D. D.)

A Divine herbal; or, garden of graces

Here be two kinds, a good and a bad soil; the one a garden, the other a desert: the former an enclosure of sweet herbs, excellent graces; the latter a wild forest of briers and thorns. For the better ground we will consider

1. The operative means or working cause of the fertility, “The rain that cometh often upon it.”

2. The thankful returning of expected fruit, “It bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed.”

3. The reward of mercy, “It receiveth blessing from God.” All is an allegory.

I. The earth is MAN.

II. The rain, God’s WORD.

III. The herbs are GRACES. And

IV. The blessing is A SWEET RETRIBUTION OF MERCY.

I. The earth is the best ground that lies betwixt heaven and earth, man; the noblest part of this world; the worthiest creature; the Creator’s image. The blessed Deity (which hath in it a trinity of most equal and eternal Persons) is the first and best of all beings; the holy angels next; man next them. Let not all this make man proud. Even this word earth, though here used in a spiritual sense, puts him in mind that this excellent man is a mortal creature. Therefore I will say from the prophet, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 22:29). Bestow not too much pains inadorning this perishable earth, thy flesh: the earth thou must be careful of, and which God here waters from heaven with His holy dews, is thy heart, thy conscience. I could willingly step out a little to chide those that, neglecting God’s earth, the soul, fall to trimming with a curious superstition the earth’s earth, clay and loam: a body of corruption painted till it shine like a lily; rottenness hid under golden leaves. But the earth here meant is a divine, spiritual, immortal nature--called earth by a metaphor--incapable of suffering terrene fragility. This is God’s earth, and that in a high and mystical sense, though proper enough. Indeed, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” saith the Psalmist. But He hath not such respect to the earth He made, as to this earth for whom He made it. This is earth that He hath sealed and sanctified for Himself, by setting His stamp upon it. Now, the good man’s heart is compared to earth for divers reasons.

1. For humility. The earth is the lowest of all elements, and the centre of the world.

2. For patience. The earth is called terra, quia teritur; and this is the natural earth. For they distinguish it into three sorts: terra quam terimus; terra quam gerimus; terra quam quaerimus, which is the glorious land of promise. That earth is cut and wounded with culters and shares, yet is patient to suffer it, and returns fruits to those that ploughed it. The good heart is thus rent with vexations and broken with sorrows, yet endureth all with a magnanimous patience, assured of that victory which comes by suffering, Neither is this all: it returns mercy for injury, prayers for persecutions, and blesseth them that cursed it.

3. For faithful constancy. The earth is called solum, because it stands alone, depending on nothing bat the Maker’s hand: “ One generation passeth away, and another generation comeht; but the earth abideth for ever” Ecclesiastes 1:4). She often changeth her burden, without any sensible mutation of herself: “ Thy faithfulness is to all generations; Thou hast established the earth, and it standeth” (Psalms 119:90). Such a constant solidity is in the faithful heart, that should it thunder bulls from Rome, and bolts from Rome, impavidum ferient ruinae. So the first terror hath moved the ungodly, not removed them; they return to themselves, and rest in a resolved peace. Lord, do what Thou wilt: “if Thou kill me, I will trust in Thee.” Let us hear it from him that had it from the Lord: “Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established,” &c. (Psalms 112:6-8). Oh sweet description of a constant soul!

4. For charity. The earth brings forth food for all creatures that live on it. Green herb for the cattle; oil and wine for man. A good man is so full of charity, he relieves all, without improvidence to himself. He gives plentifully, that all may have some; not indiscreetly, that some have all.

5. For riches. The earth is but poor without: the surface of it, especially when squalid winter hath bemired it, seems poor and barren; but within it is full of rich mines, ores of gold, and quarries of precious minerals. The sanctified heart may seem poor to the world’s eye, which only beholds the husk, and thinks there is no treasure in the cabinet, because it is covered with leather. But within he is full of golden mines and rich ores, the invisible graces of faith, fear, love, hope, patience, holiness; sweeter than the spices of the East Indies, and richer than the gold of the West.

6. Lastly, for fertility. The earth is fruitful: when the stars have given influence, the clouds showered down seasonable dews, and the sun bestowed his kindly heat, lo, the thankful earth returns fruits, and that in abundance. The Christian soul, having received such holy operations, inspirations, and sanctifying motions from above, is never found without a grateful fertility. Yea, as the earth to man, so man to God, returns a blessed usury: ten for one; nay, sometimes thirty, sometimes sixty, sometimes a hundred-fold.

II. THE OPERATIVE CAUSE THAT WORKETH THE GOOD EARTH TO THIS FRUITFULNESS IS A HEAVENLY “rain that falleth upon it”; and the earth doth “drink it up.” Wherein is observable that the rain doth come, that it is welcome; God sends it plenteously, and man entertains it lovingly.

1. God’s Word is often compared to rain or dew.

2. Thus far the matter; the manner is

(3) “Upon it.” God so directs this dew of His word that it shall fall on our hearts, not besides. A good shower may come on the earth, yet if a man house himself, or be shrouded under a thick bush, or burrowed in the ground, he will be dry still. God sends down His rain: one houseth himself in the darkness of security; another sits dallying with the delights of lust under e green bush; a third is burrowed in the ground, entrenching himself in the quest of riches. Alas, how should the dew of grace fall upon these! Thou wouldest not shelter the ground from the clouds, lest it grow barren: oh, then, keep not thy soul from the rain of heaven!

III. You have heard how the rain is come; now hear HOW IT IS MADE WELCOME. The good ground drinks it; nay, drinks it in. The comparison stands thus: the thirsty land drinks up the rain greedily which the clouds pour upon it. You would wonder what becomes of it; you may find it in your fruits. When your vines hang full of clusters, your gardens stand thick with flowers, your meadows with grass, your fields with corn, you will say the earth hath been beholden to the heaven. That hath rained moisture, this hath drunk it in; we see it in our fruits. There is a blessed sort of drinkers which drink in this sweet rain of grace and mercy. They do not only taste it; so do the wicked: “They have tasted of the heavenly gift; they have tasted of the good Word of God, and of the powers of the world to come” (verse 4). Nor drink it only to their throats, as carnal politicians and formal professors do. It shall never come into their stomachs, never near their hearts. But these drink it in, digest it in their consciences, take liberal draughts of it, and do indeed drink healths thereof. This is a hearty draught of the waters of life; the deeper the sweeter. The vessel of our heart being once thus filled with grace shall hereafter be replenished with glory. (T. Adams.)

The gospel rain

The blessing that good hearers receive is a further increase of all graces in this life: “To him that hath shall be given,” &c. Matthew 13:8); and eternal blessedness in the life to come. Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.

1. All people are as the ground that stand in need of the rain of the Word of God. The earth must have rain all the year long, more or less, else it drieth and withereth away; so do we if we want the rain of the Word. In what a miserable case were they in Israel when there fell no rain for the space of three years and six months; and in what a pitiful taking are those towns and countries, though they feel it not, which want the rain of the Word of God? You that have it be thankful to God for it, and learn to esteem more highly of this blessing than ye do. If it rain on your wheat and barley in the due time of the year, ye praise God for it; and will ye riot bless Him for the heavenly rain that falleth on yourselves to make you fruitful to eternal life.

2. As this rain by the goodness of God falls on you, so let it not pass by you as water running from the rocks and stones, but drink it in, that it may cause you to increase in all virtue. If your hearts be as stone, hardened in sin, though ye have never such plenty of this rain, it will do you no good; therefore drink in the rain of the Word of God that falls on you at every sermon; let not the profitable instructions pans from you. If it be not a ground rain that goes into the bowels of the earth, it is to small purpose; and if the rain of the Word do not sink into the bottom of your hearts, if it go no further than your ears, you shall reap small benefit by it; therefore drink in this rain, that it may be fruitful to you all.

3. None can well drink but they that thirst after drink; if the ground be not thirsty it will not drink in the rain. If it be full already, the rain lieth aloft, and makes ponds that are noisome to men. Therefore bring thirsting souls to every sermon, when this rain is poured down on you, that ye may drink it in to the salvation of you all.

4. The more rain the ground hath, the more fruit it ought to yield; the oftener that any people hath had the rain of the Word of God falling on them, the more plentiful should they be in good works: “ To whom much is given, of them much shall be required.” You in this town have had much rain, therefore much is required of you.

5. As it hath the rain often, so it must bring forth fruit; the more dressing, the more fruit. As ye have this heavenly rain in most plentiful measure, so bring forth fruits answerable to it: leaves will not serve the turn. (W. Jones, D. D.)

Bringeth forth hers

The praise of fertility

1. “It brings forth.” It is not barren, like a dead ground that yields neither herbs nor weeds. This is no idle heart that doth neither good nor harm. Here is no such stupid neutrality, nor infructuous deadness: “It brings forth.”

2. They are not weeds it produceth, but “herbs.” A man had as good do nothing as do naughty things. They that forbear idleness and fall to lewdness, mend the matter, as the devil, in the tale, mended his dame’s leg: when he should have put it in joint, he broke it quite in pieces. It is not enough that this ground bring forth, but that it yield herbs. Of the two, the barren earth is not so evil as the wicked earth; that men pity, this they curse. “It brings forth herbs.”

3. Neither is it a paucity of herbs this ground afforded, but an abundance; not one herb, but herbs; a plural and plentiful number. There is neither barrenness nor bareness in this ground; not no fruits, not few fruits, but many herbs.

4. Lastly, they are such herbs as are “meet for the dresser”; such as God expects of the garden, who planted it; such as he will accept, not in strict justice for their own worth, but in great mercy for Jesus Christ.

“Meet for them by whom it is dressed.”

1. Fertility: “It brings forth.” Barrenness hath ever been held a curse, a reproach (Luke 1:25). When God will bring the gospel, and with it salvation to the Gentiles, He is said to take away their barrenness. So was it prophesied (Isaiah 54:1); so was it accomplished (Galatians 4:27). The primordial praise of this good ground is that it is not barren. This fertility in the Christian heart doth

(a) For the former. God hath given him rain for this purpose, that he should bring forth fruit; if he should take the rain, and not answer the sender’s hopes, he were unthankful. The good man considers the end why he received any blessing, and examines what God meant in conferring on him such a benefit. Hath God given him wisdom? Solomon hath taught him to “ let his fountains be dispersed abroad, and his rivers of waters in the streets” (Proverbs 5:16). As we must not be wise in ourselves, so nor only wise to ourselves. He that conceals his knowledge, cancels it, and shall at last turn fool. Do not enclose that for several which God hath meant common. The not employing will be the impairing of God’s gifts. This is the fruit which the good ground must send forth, for all the seeds of grace sown in it. Neither doth this instruction bound itself with our spiritual, but extends also to our temporal gifts. Hast thou riches? When God scattered those blessings upon thee, in the seed-time of His bounty. He intended thou shouldst return Him a good crop at the ha-vest. Be thankful, then, in doing that with them for which God gave them. God meant them to promote and help forward thy journey to heaven; let them not retard thy course, or put thee quite out of the way. Be merciful, be charitable, be helpful. God did also mean that thyself should take comfort in these things. It is a part of that blessedness which the Psalmist promiseth to him that feareth the Lord: “Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands; happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee” (Psalms 128:2). For God gave wine for this purpose, “to make glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen his heart” Psalms 104:15). How doth man divert God’s goodness, when he turns His blessing into a curse, and puts His flood creatures from their intended uses!

(b) This good ground lies not dead and barren, nor returns all heaven’s rain with a naked and neutral acceptation: it brings forth. Idleness doth neither get nor save; there is nothing more empty of good fruits, nor more abundantly pregnant with evil. That man doth ill that doth nothing, and he loseth whilst he gains not. Many beholding, with cowardly and carnal eyes, what a long and troublesome journey it is to heaven, sit them down and fall fast asleep. O barren ground! will ye bring forth nothing? Is difficulty made your hindrance, that should be a spur to your more eager contention? Know you not that the violent shall get the kingdom of heaven? If thy soul be watered with the dew of heaven, thou must needs bring forth. What?

(a) By whom it is dressed. God is the Husbandman that dressed this ground, and causeth in it fertility. God begins the work; He makes the ground good, sanctifies the person. Here is gratia co-operans, God that begins, performs the work; He raineth upon, He dresseth the heart, and so causeth it to produce herbs. Here is gratia salvans, whereby He crowneth our will and work in the day of our Lord Jesus. “It receiveth blessing from God.” The sap of grace which appears green and flourishing in the branches and fruit, comes from the root. God induceth the good to good by alacrity, not enforceth against their wills. God doth not work upon us as upon blocks and stones, in all and every respect passive; but converts our wills to will our own conversion.

(b) Thus by whom; now tot whom. Meet for them who dressed it. And is it possible that man should produce herbs meet for the acceptation of God? Hath He not pure eyes, which see uncleanness and imperfection in all our works? Is there any man so happy as to be justified in His sight? No; but it pleaseth Him to look upon our works in the crystal glass, Christ; and because they are the effects of a true faith in Him, to esteem them meet. (T. Adams.)

A contemplation of the herbs

I. That the herbs of our graces may be meet for the dresser--contentful to God, who hath planted, watered, husbanded the garden of our hearts--we will require in them four virtues:

1. Odour.

2. Taste.

3. Ornament.

4. Medicinal virtue.

1. That they have a good odour. God is delighted with the smell of our graces (Song of Solomon 6:2). The virtues of Christ are thus principally pleasant; and all our herbs only smell sweetly in His garden Song of Solomon 1:3). This savour is sweetly acceptable in the nostrils of God (Psalms 45:8). It is His righteousness that gives all our herbs a good odour; and in Him it pleaseth God to judge our works sweet. The way to make our herbs smell sweetly is first to purge our garden of weeds. For if sin be fostered in our hearts, all our works will be abominated. God heareth not the prayers of the wicked (Leviticus 26:31). But being adopted by grace in Christ, and sanctified to holiness, our good works small sweetly (Philippians 4:18). It seems God highly esteems the herb charity in our gardens. He that serveth the Lord shall smell as Lebanon (Hosea 14:6-7).

2. That they taste well. Many a flower hath a sweet smell, but not so wholesome a taste. Your Pharisaical prayers and alms smelt sweetly in the vulgar nostrils; taste then, and they were but rue, or rather wormwood. Herbs have not only their savour, but their nutriment (Psalms 104:14). Herbs then are food, and have an alimental virtue. So we may both with the herbs of charity feed men’s bodies, and with the herbs of piety feed their souls. If thou wouldest make Christ good cheer in the parlour of thy conscience, bring Him the herbs of obedience. Where spavour His Church is, there is He: exercise thy piety. Wheresoever His members are, there is He: exercise thy charity.

3. That they be fit to adorn. Herbs and flowers have not only their use in pleasing the nostrils and the palate, but the eye also. They give delight to all those three senses. Good works are the beauty of a house, and a better sight than fresh herbs strewed in the windows. Good works are the best ornaments, the most lasting monuments. They become the house wherein thy soul dwelleth, whilst it dwells there; and bless thy memory, when those two are parted. Every good heart that knew thee is thy tomb, and every tongue writes happy epitaphs on thy memorial. Thus height up your souls with a treasure of good works.

4. That they be medicinable, and serve not only as antidotes to prevent, but as medicaments to cure the soul’s infirmities. The poor man’s physic lies in his garden; the good soul can fetch an herb from his heart, of God’s planting there, that can help him. Pliny writes of a certain herb, which he calls thelygonum; we in English, “The grace of God.” A happy herb, and worthy to stand in the first place as chief of the garden. For it is the principal, and, as it were, the genus of all the rest. We may say of it, as some write of the carduus benedictus, or holy thistle, that it is herba omni morbo--an herb of such virtue that it can cure all diseases. This may heal a man who is otherwise nullis medicabilis herbis. Wretched men, that are without this herb, the grace of God, in their gardens! Hyssop and humility.

Is a man tempted to pride--a, d that is a saucy sin, ever busy amonggood works, like a Judas among the apostles--let him look into his garden for hyssop, humility of spirit. Let him be taught by this herb to annihilate his own worth, and to cleave to the Rock whereout he grows, and whereof he is upholden, Jesus Christ. Or let him produce the camomile, which smells the sweeter the more it is trodden on. Humility is a gracious herb, and allays the wrath of God; whereas pride provokes it. But when dust and ashes humbles himself, and stands to his mercy, the wrath of God is soon appeased. This camomile or hyssop grows very low. Humbleness roots downward, yet no herb hath high branches. Bulapathurn, the herb patience.--Is a man, through multitudes of troubles, almost wrought to impatience, and to repine at the providence of God, that disposeth no more ease? Let him fetch an herb out of the garden to cure this malady--bulapathurn, the herb patience. The adamant serves not for all seas; but patience is good for all estates. Heart’s-ease and spiritual joy.--Doth sorrow and anguish cast down a man’s heart, and may he complain that his “soul is disquieted within him”? (Psalms 42:1-11.) Let him fetch an herb out of this garden, called heart’s-ease, an inward joy which the Holy Ghost worketh in him. Though all “ the days of the afflicted be evil, yet a merry heart is a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:5). This is heaven upon earth, “Peace of conscience and joy of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). His conscience is assured of peace with God, of reconciliation in the blood of Jesus, and that his soul is wrapped up in the bundle of life. Balsamum, or faith.--Hath the heart got a green wound by committing some offence against God? for actual iniquity makes a gash in the soul. The good man runs for balsamum, and stancheth the blood--faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. He knows there is “balm at Gilead, and there are physicians there, and therefore the health of his soul may easily be recovered” (Jeremiah 8:22). St. John’s work, or charity.--Doth the world, through sweetness of gain that comes a little too fastupon a man, begin to carry away his heart to covetousness? Let him look in this garden for the herb called St. John’s work, charity and brotherly love. It is called St. John’s herb not improperly, for he spent a whole epistle in commending to us this grace, and often inculcated, “Little children, love one another.” And he further teacheth that this love must be actual (1 John 3:17). Penny-royal and content.--Doth poverty fasten her sharp teeth in a man’s sides, and cannot all his good industry keep want from his family? Let him come to this garden for a little penny-royal, content. This will teach him to think that God who feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will not suffer him to lack food and raiment. Agnus castus and continence.--Doth the rebellious flesh, upon a little indulgence, grow wanton, and would concupiscence enkindle the fire of lust? The good soul hath in this garden an herb called agnus castus, the chaste herb, and good store of lettuce, which physicians say cool this natural intemperate heat. His agnus castus and lettuce are prayer and fasting. Barley-water or cool-anger.--Doth the heat of anger boil in a man’s heart, and enrageth him to some violent and precipitate courses? Let him extract from this garden the juice of many cooling herbs, and among the rest a drink of barley-water--a tysan of meekness to cool this fire. He that hath proceeded to anger is a man; he that hath not proceeded to sinful, harmful anger is a Christian. Parsley or frugality.--Declines a man’s estate in this world, as if his hand had scattered too lavishly, there is an herb in this garden; let him for a while feed on it--parsley, parsimony. Hereon he will abridge himself of some superfluities; and remember that moderate fare is better than a whole college of physicians. He will wear good clothes, and never better, knowing there is no degree beyond decency. The wise man knows it is better looking through a poor lattice-window than through an iron gate; and though he will lend what he may, he will not borrow till he must needs. Liver-wort, or peaceable love.--Is a man sick in his liver by accession of some distemperature? Doth his charity and love to some neighbours, for their malignancy against him, fail and faint in his heart? Then let him step to this garden for some jecuraria; we call it liver-wort. He asks of his heart for his old love, his wonted amity. Lily, or pureness of heart. Doth a man perceive his heart a little begilded with ostentation, and desires he to seem better than he is? And how easily is man won to answer his commenders’ speculation! Let him fetch the lily--pureness of heart--which is a herb of grace, growing in the humble valley of a meek spirit, yet is white and lovely, Enula campana, or obedience. Perhaps evil example hath suddenly, and without provided consideration, led a man into evil. Let him run to this garden for enula campana. This herb is that Christ enjoined us: “Search the Scriptures’; add hereto the Word of the Lord. This shall give decision of all doubts, and teach thee what path to fly, what way to take. Heart-wort, or affiance in Gods promises. It may be sorrow of heart for sin hath cast a man down, and he is swallowed up of too much heaviness. There is a herb to comfort him called heart-wort, affiance in the merciful promises of God passed to him by word, oath, seal, scriptures, sacraments, and therefore infallible. Hyacinth, or following Christ. Say that the Christian hath met with some gilded pill of corruption, some poisonous doctrine, yet plausible to flesh and blood. Let him Search his garden for byacinth, or solsequium, turnsol, an herb treat duly and obediently follows the sun. Do thou follow the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), and let His bright beams guide thy course, who hath promised to teach all those that with a humble heart and earnest prayer seek it at His hands. Care-away. If worldly troubles come too fast upon a man, he hath an herb called care-away. Not that he bequeathes himself to a supine negligence, as if God would fill his house with provision, while he sits and sings care away; but as he is free from idleness, so also from distrust. He considers the ravens and lilies, and knows that the Lord is the “ Preserver of men “ as well as of fowls; that He respects man above those, and His own above other men. Therefore he throws all his cares upon God, as if they were too heavy a load for himself. Solicitous thoughtfulness can give him no butt, but this herb care away shall easily cure it. Holy thistle, or good resolution. Yield that he is pressed with injuries; as “ who will live godly in Christ, and shall not suffer persecution?” He is oppressed by force or fraud, might or subtlety, and cannot help himself. He hath a good herb in this garden, called carduus benedictus, holy thistle, a godly resolution, that through many miseries he must enter heaven. He rests himself on God, and rather wisheth his harmlessness should suffer than himself not to give passive and patient obedience to lawful authority (Daniel 3:17). There are many other herbs in this garden as if he be to deal with crafty adversaries, let him fetch some sage--honest policy--and such as may stand with an untrenched conscience. For Christ gave us this allowance, to be “ wise as serpents”; though withal a condition that we be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

II.

It receiveth blessing from God.

The reward gives a happy conclusion to this good ground.

So it pleaseth the Lord to accept our labours that He will reward them, not after our own merit, for that is not an atom, but after His own mercy, which exceeds heaven and earth.

Receive this blessing with a thankful heart; thou hast not earned it.

“It receiveth.” Such is the immense goodness of God that He will add grace to grace, and when He hath shown mercy He will show more mercy. As if He expected no other argument of future bounty but his former bounty. “Blessing.” This word is of a great latitude. What good is there which will not be brought within this compass? This blessing bath a double extent. There is beatitudo viae and beatitude patriae

1. A blessing of the way, and

2. A blessing of the country; one of grace, the other of glory.

(a) Outward (Psalms 132:15; Deuteronomy 28:4). Which things do often come to the godly even on earth, and that in abundance. For as all have not riches that exceedingly love them, so many have them that do not much care for them.

(b) Inward. The godly on earth is, as it were, in the suburbs of heaven, whose “kingdom consists not in meat and drink, but righteousness, peace of conscience, and joy of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). Could his life be as full of sorrows as ever Lazarus was full of sores, yet he is blessed. The sunshine of mercy is still upon him, and the blessing of God makes him rich.

The diverse results of similar Christian privileges

When we compare this parable with any of our Lord’s there is a great falling off in point of felicity and instructiveness. One purpose it doubtless serves, to make clear the matter of fact, that the same Christian privileges and experiences may issue in widely different ultimate results. The soil is supposed in either case to be well watered, not only rained upon, but often saturated with water, having drunk up the blessing of the clouds, and moreover to be carefully tilled. Yet in one case it yields a useful crop, in the other only a useless crop of thorns and thistles. But why? On this important question the parable throws no light. The land which bears the useless crop is not a barren rock; for it drinks in the rain, and it is considered worth ploughing. Nay, it is doubtful if the case supposed in the second alternative can occur in the natural world. Was there ever a land well tilled and watered that produced nothing but thorns and thistles? The writer describes a case in the natural world which can hardly happen to represent a case which may happen in the spiritual world, that viz., of men whose hearts have been sown with the seed of truth and watered with the rain of grace becoming so utterly degenerate and reprobate, as in the end to produce nothing but the thorns and thistles of unbelief and ungodliness. Mixture of metaphor and literal sense is indeed manifest throughout, the phrases “receiveth blessing,” “reprobate” “nigh to a curse,” “whose end is unto burning,” expressing moral ideas rather than physical facts. This is particularly evident in the case of the last phrase. It plainly points to a judicial visitation of the severest kind, the appointed penalty of spiritual unfruitfulness. But in the natural sphere burning is remedial rather than punitive, to burn land which has become foul being a good method of restoring it to fertility. In yet another respect the comparison fails us. Supposing there were such a thing as burning unprofitable land by way of judicial visitation, as the land of Sodom was destroyed by fire and brimstone--an event which may have been present to the writer’s thoughts--the fact might serve to symbolise the Divine judgment on apostasy. But the matter on which we most of all need light is the asserted impossibility of renewal. That the finally impenitent should be punished we understand, but what we want to know is, how men get into that state; what is the psychological history of irreconcilable apostasy? To refer to Divine agency in hardening human hearts does not help us, for God hardens by means naturally fitted and intended to soften and win. Neither can we take refuge in the supposition of insufficient initial grace, at least from the point of view of the writer of our Epistle: for he assumes that the fruitful and the unfruitful have been equally favoured. The rain falls not less liberally on the land that bears thorns and thistles than on the land that brings forth an abundant crop of grass or grain; and the rain represents the enlightenment, enjoyment, and power previously mentioned. In the parable of the sower the diversity in the results is traced to the nature of the soil. In each case the issue is exactly such as we should expect from the character of the ground. In the parable before us opposite results are supposed to be possible in the same soil. That is to say, the effect is conceived to depend on the will of each individual, on the use one makes of his privileges. The Hebrew Christians might have been teachers instead of childish learners, had they chosen to take the necessary pains; they might have been full-grown men, had they only properly exercised their spiritual senses in discerning between good and evil. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

Ideal fruitfulness

We know of certain church members who are so completely under the cold shade of the world that the half-dozen sour, dwarfish apples they yield are not worth any man’s gathering. We know, too, of others so laden that you cannot touch the outermost limb without shaking down a golden pippin or a jargonelle. Such trees make a church or land beautiful. They are a joy to the pastor who walks through them. Every stooping bough and every purple cluster that hangs along the walls bespeaks the goodness of the soil, the moisture of the Spirit’s dews, and the abundance of God’s sunshine. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected

The bad heart

1. The thing signified in general is sinful man, and especially his heart.

2. The second protasis or proposition is concerning bad ground, which

(a) By being rejected.

(b) Nigh unto cursing.

(c) In the end burned. This ground is a bad heart, which is manifested by the fruits, which are words and deeds, tending to the dishonour of God, and the hurt of man.

And this sin is so much the greater because of the means of grace and workings of the Spirit over and above the light of nature, which God hath graciously afforded them. The punishment of this barrenness in all fruitfulness in sin followeth. (G. Lawson.)

The forest of thorns

1. The different word the apostle useth. For the good earth, he says, it is τίκτουσα βοτάνην, bringing forth herbs. For the evil it is ἐκφέρουσα, bearing, not bringing forth. Our proverb says, An evil weed grows apace. Herbs grow not without preparing the ground, planting, and watering them by seasonable dews and diligence. Weeds are common; it is hard to set the foot besides them. The basest things are ever most plentiful. Man, by a proclivity of his own natural inclination, is apt to produce thorns and briers; but ere he can bring forth herbs, graces, God must take pains with him. No husbandman so labours his ground as God doth our hearts. Happy earth, that yields Him an expected harvest I But that which beareth thorns is near to be cursed and burned.

2. Observe that a wicked man is compared to bad earth, and that fitly, in five respects:

(a) The Word of God will work some way. It falls not upon any ground in vain; but will produce herbs or weeds. It is such physic as will either cure or kill.

(b) That thorns are produced, the fault is not in the good rain, but the ill ground. “What could I,” saith God, “have done more to My vineyard?” (Isaiah 5:4). Let not the mercy of God be blamed for this man’s misery. God hath done enough to save him.

(c) The ground is very unthankful which answers the kindness of heaven in raining on it, with briers and thorns. Wretched man, that receives so blessed dews from the fountain of mercy, and returns an ungrateful wickedness! Unthankful it is, as failing in both those essential parts of gratitude, acknowledging and requiting a benefit, and so guilty both of falsehood and injustice.

(d) Wicked men prove commonly so much the worse as they might have been better, and divert the means of their conversion to their confusion. The more rain of the gospel they receive, the more abundantly they thrust forth the thorns of iniquities. The roots of these briers are earthed in their hearts, and do boil out at the warm dews of the Word. It fares with them as with a man of a surfeited stomach--the more good meat he eats the more he increaseth his corruption. The former crudities undigested, unegested, having the greater force, turn the good nutriment into themselves. It now remains to examine more narrowly the nature of the sins these ungodly hearts produce. They are called thorns and briers. Now let us consider what resemblances may be found betwixt those natural and these allegorical thorns and briers.

1. Where is abundance of thorns, there is most commonly a barren ground. For they hinder the happy influence of the heavens, the kindly heat of the sun, the dews of the clouds, and all those working causes of fertility. The very company of the wicked is harmful, for they are as thorns to stifle any goodness. “The companion of fools shall be afflicted,” saith Solomon.

2. Thorns and briers grow most commonly on heaps, and seldom are found single, or destitute of company of their own kind; and though they be troublesomely harmful to other trees, yet they fold and embrace one another without hurt. It is so usually seen that wicked men hold together, and sins grow in united clusters. There is a combination of the ungodly, even so far as to the very participation of their estates (Proverbs 1:14). They are entangled in mutual amity, like beds of eels, nothing but thunder can break their knots.

3. Thorns and briers, by reason of their thickness and sharpness, are refuges for serpents, snakes, adders, and such other venomous beasts. Where the ungodly have a strong part, oppression, rapine, robbery, murder, and all those fatal serpents, are fostered.

4. Neither do the wicked, only with their thorns and briers, hinder others’ passage, but even their own. No marvel if it be so difficult for an ungodly man to get to heaven, for he hedgeth up his own way.

5. Sins are fitly compared to thorns and briers, for their wounding, pricking, and such harmful offences. Therefore they are called tribuli, a tribulando, from their vexing, oppression, and tribulation they give those that touch them. These briers and thorns have such pricking and wounding effects in regard of three objects, whom they strike. For sins are like thorns

1. To men.

2. To Christ.

3. To the own consciences of the committers.

Barren soil

Some observe that the most barren grounds are nearest to the richest mines. It is too often true in a spiritual sense that those whom God hath made the most fruitful in estates are most barren in good works. (T. Seeker.)

Whose end is to be burned

The end of thorns

1. That we labour our hearts betimes to a sensibleness of these thorns. A thorn swallowed into the flesh, if it be not looked to, rankles. Sin without repentance will fester in the soul, and is so much more perilous as it is less felt.

2. After sense of the smart, will follow a desire of remedy. The throbbing conscience would be at ease, and freed from the thorn that vexeth it. Take we heed that we despise not this medicine. The law was so far from drawing out these thorns, that it would drive them in further, and cause them to rankle in the heart, without any hope of ease. There is a threefold gradation in the penalty: rejection, malediction, combustion--“is rejected,” “is nigh unto cursing,” “and the end there of is to be burned.” And it seems to have a relation to a threefold distinction of time.

1. For the present, “it is rejected.”

2. For instance, or appropinquation, “it is nigh unto cursing.”

3. For future certainty, “the end of it is to be burned.” As men commonly deal with thorns: first, they cut them up with bills and mattocks; then they lay them by to wither; and, lastly, burn them in the furnace.

1. Rejection. This which we here translate “is rejected,” is in the original, ἀδόκιμος, which may signify reprobus, or, reprobatus--so Beza hath it--is reproved, or disallowed of God. This ground shall have no ground inheaven, no part in God’s inheritance. It is reprobate silver, not current with the Lord.

2. The second degree of the punishment is cursing; and this may seem to exceed the former. The whole vial of wrath is not poured on at once; but first there is a despising or rejection, to let the wicked see how hateful their vices are in God’s sight. If this serve not, they are not suddenly cursed; but there is a merciful space between cursing and burning. So slowly cloth God proceed to judgment. He is speedy to deliver, to save, to give His blessing; but He hath leaden feet when He comes to strike.

3. The last and sorest degree of the punishment is burning. I will not discourse whether the fire of that everlastingly hot furnace be material or spiritual. Surely it is strangely terrible; and we are blessed if we neither understand it nor undergo it.

1. Let us flee by a true faith into the arms of our Redeemer, that God reject us not.

2. Let us pour forth floods of repentant tears, that we be not nigh unto cursing.

3. And let us bring forth no more briers and thorns, that our end may not be to be burned. Faith, repentance, obedience; this same golden rule of three will teach us to work up our own salvation. This done, we shall not be rejected, but known to be elected; we shall be so far from cursing, that we shall presently receive the blessing; and our end shall be, not fire, but glory and peace (Psalms 37:37). (T. Adams.)

Are we herbs or briers?

What solemn admonition does this latter part of the representation, and what sweet encouragement does the former part of it afford I Are we bringing forth the appropriate “ herbs,” or are we yielding the “thorns and briers”--we who have been so favourably tended--we among whom the seed has been so liberally cast, and on whom therain hat so copiously fallen? In answering this question, let us not be deceived by mere superficial appearances. Natural kindliness and outward decency are no sure evidences of” a field which the Lord hath blessed,” and which the Lord approves. A pretty plant may spring beneath the shadow of the “brier.” A pleasant flower may even blossom on the branches of the “thorn.” Yet still, the thorn is but a thorn, the brier is but a brier, and the soil which they cover has run to waste, is lost to its higher uses, and is marked out for clearance and conflagration by the wise and cautious husbandman. (A. S. Patterson.)


Verse 9

Hebrews 6:9

We are persuaded better things of you

Pastoral solicitude

I.
THE BETTER THINGS.

1. Better things than to be moral dwarfs.

2. Better things than treating the Son disrespectfully.

3. Better things than to be withering for the flames.

II. THE SAVING THINGS.

1. Inward change.

2. Love to God and the brethren.

3. Prayer.

4. “Perseverance in spite of obstacles. (A. Griffiths.)

Judging in charity

Those of us who have read classic history may remember an incident in the history of the Macedonian emperor. A painter was commanded to sketch the monarch. In one of his great battles, he had been struck with the sword upon the forehead, and a very large scar had been left on the right temple. The painter, who was a master-hand in his art, sketched him leaning on his elbow, with his finger covering the scar on his forehead: and so the likeness of the king was taken, but without the scar. Let us put the finger of charity upon the scar of the Christian as we h,ok at him, whatever it may be--the finger of a tender and forebearing charity, and see, in spite of it and under it, the image of Christ notwithstanding. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

A good persuasion

I. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE DISPENSERS OF THE GOSPEL TO SATISFY THEIR HEARERS IN AND OF THEIR LOVE IN” JESUS CHRIST TO THEIR SOULS AND PERSONS.

II. IT IS OUR DUTY TO COME UNTO THE BEST SATISFACTION WE MAY, IN THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THEM WITH WHOM WE ARE TO HAVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNION.

III. WE MAY AS OCCASIONS REQUIRE, PUBLICLY TESTIFY THAT GOOD PERSUASION WHICH WE HAVE CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION” OF OTHERS, AND THAT UNTO OURSELVES.

IV. THE REST PERSUASION WE CAN ARRIVE UNTO CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF ANY LEAVES YET ROOM, YEA, MAKES WAY FOR THE GOSPEL TREATENINGS, WARNINGS, EXHORTATIONS, AND ENCOURAGEMENTS.

V. AMONG PROFESSORS OF THE GOSPEL, SOME ARE PARTAKERS OF BETTER THINGS THAN OTHERS.

1. Spiritual gifts are of one kind. For although there are several sorts of them, yet they have all the same general nature, they are all grits and no more. The difference therefore that is amongst them being not to be taken from their own especial nature, but their use and tendency unto the common end of them all, I take it only to be gradual.

2. There are spiritual things which differ in their whole kind ,n,I nature from other things, and are better than they as to their essence and being. Such is all saving grace, with all the fruits of it. All that eat outwardly in ordinances of the bread -f life do not feed on the hidden manna. All that have their names enrolled in the Church’s book, may not yet have them written in the Lamb’s book. There are yet better things than gift,, profession, participation of ordinances, and whatever is of the like nature. And the use hereof in one word is to warn all sorts of persons, that they rest not its, that they take not up with an interest in, or participation of, the privileges of the Church, with a common profession, which may give them a name to live; seeing they may be dead or in a perishing condition in the meantime.

VI. THERE ARE, ACCORDING TO THE TENOR OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE, SUCH THINGS BESTOWED ON SOME PERSONS, AS SALVATION DOTH INFALLIBLY ACCOMPANY AND ENSUE UPON--BETTER THINGS, AND SUCH AS HAVE SALVATION ACCOMPANYING OF THEY.

VII. IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL PROFESSORS STRICTLY TO EXAMINE THEMSELVES, CONCERNING THEIR PARTICIPATION OF THOSE BETTER THINGS WHICH ACCOMPANY SALVATION. Their condition is deplorable who under an outward profession do satisfy themselves with those common gifts, graces, and duties which are separable from salvation. (John Owen, D. D.)

Encouragement in the midst of warnings

Though the Church be persuaded of thee that thou art a wise man, witty, learned, that is to small purpose. So live, that both the preachers and all good people may be persuaded you have that in you, for the which they may judge you to be heirs of salvation. Here be prevents an objection that might be made. What, Paul, hast thou been so bitter towards us? Hast thou called us babes and novices in religion? Hast thou set before our eyes such a terrible example of backsliders, as if we were birds of the same feather, and now art thou well persuaded of us? Thou dost but flatter us, we can hardly think so. Oh yes, says St. Paul, assure yourselves, we have a good opinion of you; though we thus speak, these are but trumpets to waken you out of sin, the wounds of a lover to cure you withal; they be but spurs of fatherly admonitions to prick you forwards unto all goodness. We made mention of these men, not as it you were such, but to warn you that you be not such. Though the preacher be sometimes round and vehement, yet the people must not imagine that he is hardly conceited of them. A father loves his child when he chides him, a physician his patient, though he give him bitter pills; and we love you, though we be hot against the corruptions that reign among you. (W. Jones, D. D.)

Things that accompany salvation

Things that accompany salvation

Picture to yourselves the march of some ancient monarch through his territory. We read stories of eastern monarchs in the olden time, that seem more like romance than reality; when they marched with thousands of flying banners, and with all kinds of riches borne with them. Now you are to take that as the basis of my figure, and suppose salvation to be the sacred treasure which is being carried through the world, with guards before and guards behind, to accompany it on its journey.

I. First, then, IN THE MARCHES OF TROOPS AND ARMIES THERE ARE SOME THAT ARE OUTRIDERS, AND GO FAR AHEAD OF THE OTHER TROOPS. So in the march of salvation there is a certain body of great and mighty “ things that accompany salvation,” which have far preceded it to clear the way. I will tell you the names of these stupendous Titans who have gone before. The first is Election; the second is Predestination; the third is Redemption; and the Covenant is the captain of them all. Now, this advance-guard is so far ahead that you and I cannot see them. These are true doctrines, but very mysterious; they are beyond our sight; and if we wish to see salvation, we must not stop until we see the vanguard, because they are so far off that only the eye of faith can reach them. Then Election is thine. Dost thou believe? Then Predestination is as surely thine as thou art alive. Dost thou trust alone in Jesus? Then fear not; Redemption was meant for thee.

II. But mark, we are about to review THE ARMY THAT IMMEDIATELY PRECEDES SALVATION and, first, in the forefront of these, there marches one whose name we must pronounce with sacred awe. It is God the Holy Spirit. Before anything can be done in our salvation, there must come that Third Person of the Sacred Trinity. Without Him, faith, repentance, humility, love, are things quite impossible. And now, close in the rear of the adorable Spirit follow the Thundering Legion. No sooner does God the Holy Ghost come into the soul, than He brings with Him what I have called the Thundering Legion; and those of you that hay, been saved will not be at a loss to understand what I mean. Some of the men in this Thundering Legion bear with them swords; with these swords they are to slay the sinner. For, be ore he can be made whole, he must b, spiritually killed; the sword must pierce him, and must slay all his selfishness before he can be brought to the Lord Jesus. Then another body of them carry with them axes, with which they cut down the thick trees of our pride and abase the goodly cedars of our righteousness. There are with them those that fill up the wells with stones, and break up all the cisterns of our carnal sufficiency, until we are driven to despair, having all our hopes despoiled. My friend, has this Thundering Legion ever come to your house? Have they ever taken up their quarters in your heart? For, rest assured, these are some of the “things that accompany salvation.” More or less of terrors every man must feel Before he is converted. Oh, Thundering Legion, ye are gone; we hear their trumpets and the dying echoes still apped us. What see we in the rear of them? Close in the rear there follows a broken heart. Are you sorrowful at this very hour? Be of good cheer, salvation is not far behind When there is once a broken heart, there is mercy very near. God is looking on thee with love, and will have mercy upon thee. But who are those that follow in the rear? Another troop; but these are far different from the rest. The Silken Legion follow. No weapons of war in their hands; no thunders do they utter; but they speak kind words of pity, and their hands are full of benedictions. Shall I tell you who this Silken Legion are? There is a troop of them who take the poor wounded heart, and wash it first in blood; they sprinkle on it the sacred blood of the Atonement; and it is amazing how the poor broken heart, though faint and sick, revives at the first drop of the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And oh, what a washing it is? The heart that was once black as the coals of hell, seems white as the snow of Lebanon. When it has once been bathed in the bath of the Saviour’s blood and water, oh, how pure it becomes Then follow those who pour oil and wine into the wounds of this poor broken heart, so that where it smarted before, the wounds begin to sing. The sacred oil and wine of the precious promise is poured into every wound. The whole heart sings for gladness; for God hath rest, red its strength and bound up all its wounds, according to His promise: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” And then, since the work is not quite done, there come those who carry the King’s wardrobe; and with the things out of this rich storehouse thy array the soul from head to foot; they clothe it with everything that for lustre and for glory could adorn it, and make it bright as the spirits before the throne. And then the King’s jewellers come in and complete the whole; they array the soul with ornaments, and bedeck it with precious stones. And now we have not yet come to a full conviction of salvation. The silken legion are gone. What cometh next? Now come those that are the actual attendants upon salvation or rather, that march in the rank immediately before it. There are four of these, called Repentance, Humility, Prayer, and a tender Conscience. Has Humility ever come to you? Has she ever abased your pride, and taught you to lie in the dust before God? Has Repentance ever watered the floor of your hearts with tears? Have you ever been led to weep in secret for year sins, and to bewail your iniquities? Has Prayer ever entered)our spirit? Remember, a prayerless soul is a Christless soul. And, lastly, are you tender of Conscience, for unless your conscience is made tender, salvation has not met you, for these are the immediate attendants upon it.

III. And now comes SALVATION IS ALL ITS FULNESS. And now comes the precious casket set with gems and jewels. It is of God-like workmanship; no hammer was ever lifted on it; it was smitten out and fashioned upon the anvil of Eternal Might, and cast in the mould of Everlasting Wisdom; but no human hand hath ever defiled it. And who are those that are close around it? There are three sweet sisters that always have the custody of the treasure--you know them; their names are common in Scripture Faith, Hope, and Love, the three Divine sisters; these have salvation in their bowels and do carry it about with them in their loins. Faith, who layeth hold on Christ, and trusteth all in Him; that ventureth everything upon His blood and sacrifice, and hath no other trust. Hope, that with beaming eye looks up to Jesus Christ in glory, and expects Him soon to come: looks downward, and when she sees grim death in her way, expects that she shall pass through with victory. And then sweet Love, the sweetest of the three; she, whose words are music and whose eyes are stars; Love also looks to Christ and is enamoured of Him; loves Him in all His offices, adores His presence, reverences His words; and is prepared to bind her body to the stake and die for Him, who bound His body to the cross to die for her.

IV. Now! MUST BRING UP THE BEAR GUARD. It is impossible that with such a vanguard, grace should be unattended from behind. Now see those that follow salvation. The first is Gratitude--always singing, “Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.” And then Gratitude lays hold upon its son’s hand; the name of that son is Obedience. In company with this fair grace is one called Consecration--a pure white spirit that hath no earthliness; from its head to its foot it is all God’s, and all gold. Linked to this bright one, is one with a face serene and solemn, called Knowledge. “Then shall ye know when ye follow on to know the Lord.” Those that are saved understand mysteries, they know the love of Christ; they” know Him, whom to know is life eternal.” Now, have you these four? They are rather, the successors of salvation than the heralds of it.” “Oh yes,” the believer can say, I trust I have Gratitude, Obedience, Consecration, and Knowledge.” I will not weary you, but there are three shining ones that follow after these four, and I must not forget them, for they are the flower of them all. There is Zeal with eyes of fire, and heart of flame, a tongue that burneth, a hand that never wearies, and limbs that never tire; Zeal, that flies round the world with wings swifter than the lightning’s flash, and finds even then her wings too tardy for her wish. This Zeal always dwells near one that is called Communion. This, sure, is the goodliest of all the train; an angel spiritualised, an angel purified and made yet more angelic, is Communion. Communion calls in secret on-its God; its God in secret sees. It is conformed to the image of Jesus; walks according to His footsteps. And as a necessary consequence, on the other side of Communion--which with one hand lays hold of Zeal, is Joy--joy in the Spirit. Joy, like the nightingale, sings in the dark, and can praise God in the tempest and shout His high praises in the storm. This is indeed a fitting cherub to be in the rear of salvation. Just in the rear is Perseverance, final, certain and sure. Then there follows complete Sanctification, whereby the soul is purged from every sin, and made as white and pure as God Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Things that accompany salvation

This is the only place in this letter where the readers are addressed as “beloved.” The especial tenderness of the appellation follows very beautifully and significantly upon one of the sternest and solemnest warnings which Scripture contains as to the impossibility of those who were first enlightened, “if they shall fall away,” being renewed again to repentance, and as to the rejection, and cursing, and destruction of the barren and profitless ground. It is as if the writer had felt that after these dark and terrible thoughts he must soften his voice still more, and make haste not only to show how affection had dictated the warning, but also how joyful confidence in his brethren was present throughout it. The writer assumes, as understood and inspired by all to whom he is speaking, that what he calls “salvation” never comes into any man’s hand or heart alone. This great gift never draws near singly. That precious stone is always set in a cluster of little stones around it. This angel of God never enters unattended by the virgins, her companions following her. There is ever a courtly dance of graces and fair figures that pass into the heart, and sweep in unison through the life which has received salvation. And what are these inseparable accompaniments; these continual companions of this central gift? The context distinctly bears the answer. They are all the things which the writer includes in the “herbs brought forth meet for the husbandman.” All the things which he includes under another figure, in “your work and labour of love.” That is to say, a fruitful Christian life of joyful obedience, of manifest issues, of a supreme love to God, which flashes out into all kinds of gentleness and amiabilities towards others, and has other regions, often nobler, in which it manifests itself. These are the companions, “the things which accompany salvation.” All that lustrous beauty and radiant completeness of human character is treated here as being a secondary and a consequent thing. The queen is salvation; they that follow her are all these great and beautiful things. Which is just to say, if a man wants to be good let him begin by taking for his own God’s great gift of forgiveness and acceptance in Jesus Christ. What would you think of a master who said he bad found out a new way of architecture, and he was about to begin building a house at the chimneys? It would be about as wise as the man that seeks, by painful effort, which effort I would be the last to say a word to despise, to make his life full of these beauties of conduct and character without having laid the foundation with Christ, who is the only foundation. If you take and plant some aromatic shrubs, hitherto unknown, upon some bare and sandy down, a whole fleet of bees and butterflies will come, drawn to the blossoms, that never were seen there before. And so if, and only if, we have in our hearts by faith in Jesus Christ, that tree of immortal life and manifold fragrances, round it will buzz and hover, and from it will draw honey and sustenance, all manner of fair and flying things, else and otherwise strangers to our spirits. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The true order in salvation

In those days (Cornwall, 1851), when I was building my new church, and talking about the tower and spire we were going to erect, an elderly Christian lady who was sitting in her wheel-chair, calmly listening to our conversation, said, “Will you begin to build your spire from the top? “ It was a strange question, but she evidently meant something, and looked for an answer. I gave it, saying, “No, madam, not from the top, but from the foundation.” She replied, “That is right--that is right,” and went on with her knitting. This question was not asked in jest or in ignorance; it was like a riddle. What did she mean? In a few years this lady passed away, but her enigmatic words remained. No doubt she thought to herself that I was beginning at the wrong end, while I went on talking of the choir, organ, happy worship, and all the things we were going to attempt in the new church; that I was aiming at sanctification, without justification; intending to teach people to be holy before they were saved and pardoned. This is exactly what I was doing. I had planted the boards of my tabernacle of worship, not in silver sockets (the silver of which had been paid for redemption), but in the sand of the wilderness. In other words, I way teaching people to worship God, who is a Spirit, not for love of Him who gave His Son to die for them, but in the fervour and enthusiasm of human nature. (W. Haslam ,M. A.)


Verses 9-20

Verse 10

Hebrews 6:10

God is not unrighteous to forget your work

The guarantee of usefulness

I.
GOD KNOWS OF EACH ITEM OF OUR CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Our deeds of love populate the Divine mind with immortal images.

II. GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IS AN ACTIVE FENCE IX HIS NATURE. It gives quality to all that He is, and thinks, and does. It is the guarantee of right becoming victorious; the pledge of the final supremacy of love; the rock on which faithful service may build its hopes.

III. GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS RENDERS CERTAIN THE FINAL USEFULNESS OF ALL CHRISTIAN SERVICE.

1. His righteousness creates interest in our service. He looks on our deeds with pleasure.

2. His righteousness creates sympathy with us in what we do. Because the holy feeling that prompts us to deeds of love is akin to that which dwells in God, He feels towards our work the same as we do, He enters into our longing to bless others, He shares in our yearning to cheer and guide and save men.

3. His righteousness ensures the using up of our deeds of love in the line of His own purpose. There is not a true prayer uttered, not a holy wish cherished, not a kind word spoken, not a deed of mercy performed, not a single Christian act in the service we daily seek to render to our Lord, in public or in private, known of men or out of sight, but that He knows it, holds it before His mind, graciously delights in it, enters into its spirit, and, as a consequence, actually lays hold of it as a precious element of good, to blend it with His own volitions, and make it harmonise with, and give impetus to, all that He once did when, on earth in the person of His dear Son, He laid the foundation that is to be both blessed and everlasting. (C. Chapman.)

God’s righteousness as an encouragement to Christian service

I. THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH. The work distributed amongst us may be very different in quality, in interest, in popularity, in result; yet God does not overlook any of it. He sees the mother talking of Jesus to her children at home, as well as the preacher who expounds Divine truth in the great congregation. The words which in weakness and fatigue are penned by a writer for the press, on the side of purity or national integrity, or peace among the nations, or fairness between the classes, are as much thought of by God as the society organised for the defence of theological truth. The medical man who heals the poor without reward, the employer who dares to give unto his servants what be knows to be just and equal, the merchant or tradesman who for the sake of the Lord he loves refuses to receive an advantage which his competitor would eagerly seek--all these, in time of disappointment, may remember the assurance, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work.” And what of work more directly religious? Is not the Lord mindful of that? Even we think sometimes with sympathy of our brothers in distant lands, exposed to hostility from the heathen, and to perils by land and by sea, perils from malaria, accident, and privation; but the all-seeing God knows them, and cares for them far more than we, and He will not forget their work. And if your service is less public than theirs, it is none the less regarded by Him, whose wisdom not only built the mountains, but clothed the lilies of the field. We know but little of each other, but He knows us altogether, and He is as pleased with the child’s prayer as with the martyr death of the bravest soldier in His army.

II. THE FIDELITY OF THE LORD. The idea seems to be this; God will not overlook your work, so as to make no use of it; it will not be forgotten, but will find its place in the fulfilment of the Divine purpose. Man is unfaithful and forgetful in such matters. An editor may ask some one to write a paper, and when with toil and care it is finished, he may have forgotten all about it, and may issue his work without finding any place for the author’s labour--men are often forgetful. The other day, in crossing a wild part of Dartmoor, I saw a magnificent block of stone, carefully and skilfully cut into a hexagon, and there it lay unheeded amid the heather, beaten by storms, bleached by sunshine--useless. Perhaps the builder had forgotten to fetch it, or perhaps he thought the block too heavy to carry over the rough roads; but, whatever the reason, some skilful stonemason had worked hard, but uselessly. Now, looking down upon our work in obscure homes, in nut-of-the-way offices, in quiet spheres of service, this inspired man says: “ God is not unfaithful to forget your work.” (A. Rowland, LL. B.)

The present and future rewards of charity

I. HOW ACCEPTABLE GOOD WORKS ARE TO GOD, AND WHAT REWARDS HE HATH PROMISED TO THOSE WHO SHALL BE FOUND ABOUNDING IN THEM.

II. A PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE AND CHARITY IS OF ALL OTHER THE MOST PREVALENT TO INDUCE MEN TO SUCH GOOD WORKS

III. BY THE EXPRESSION “LABOUR OF LOVE” IS PLAINLY SUGGESTED THAT GOOD WORKS ARE OFTEN ACCOMPANIED WITH MUCH TROUBLE AND DIFFICULTY.

IV. MINISTERING TO THE WANTS AND NECESSITIES OF OUR CHRISTIAN BRETHREN IS SHOWING-A REGARD TOWARDS THE NAME OF GOD.

V. WE HAVE PERSEVERANCE IN THOSE: DUTIES RECOMMENDED TO US, BY THE EXAMPLE OF THOSE HEBREWS, WHO ARE NOT ONLY MENTIONED AS

FORMERLY MINISTERING TO THE NECESSITIES OF THEIR INDIGENT BRETHREN, BUT AS CONTINUING TO DO THE SAME. (S. Knight, D. D.)

The righteous reward

I. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour Of love; INASMUCH AS HIS DOING SO WOULD RE UNGENEROUS, UNGRACIOUS, UNKIND. Were He not to acknowledge it, He might seem to be damping your zeal. In this view the statement is fitted seasonably to encourage you. Few and faulty your best services may be; unsatisfying to yourselves; much more to your God. Well might He reject them all. But would He be justified in doing so? Would it be in harmony with what He has revealed to you of the riches of His glory, and what lie has made you to taste of the fulness of His grace? No. He does not upbraid you with the value of His undeserved benefits to you. He will not upbraid you with the worthlessness of what you give to Him. All that He bestows, He bestows in good faith. All that you render, He will take in good part.

II. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love; INASMUCH AS HIS DOING SO WOULD BE INCONSISTENT WITH HIS FAITHFULNESS AND TRUTH. He is to be regarded as hiring you, and assigning to you your service. He does so in the exercise of His own requestionable discretion, according to His own good pleasure, and the freedom of His own will. Be does not leave it to you to devise a way in which you may, at your own discretion, manifest your loyalty. But He enlists you as His soldiers and subjects, under command. You are to offer service voluntarily. But when your offer is accepted, you are to obey orders. This consideration may seem, in one view to detract from any claim on your part for any recompense of reward. It divests your work and labour of love, which you show to His name, of the character of a spontaneous or strictly self-prompted and self-directed offering. What you do or suffer is not at your own hand, but by His appointment. But, in another view, the certainty of your being amply recompensed is thus placed on the highest possible ground. I feel, indeed, that I have nothing which, as from myself, I can offer to my God. I am myself His property, His purchased possession; not my own. All the store of talents and resources out of which I can offer comes from Him, and is all His own. And I, His servant, must offer it, not as I choose, but as lie desires and directs. But does that thought, I ask again, detract in the least from my confident persuasion that what I offer will be accepted and requited? Does it not, on the contrary, enhance my assurance tenfold? Would it be fair for a master enlisting servants in such a way, on such terms, under such obligations, to forget their work, to let it pass into oblivion unrequite? Be it that it is work or service to which they are indispensably bound, and which they have no discretionary liberty to accept or decline; for which, therefore, they have no title to stipulate for payment beforehand, or to demand payment afterwards. Be it even that they understand that condition of their engagement, and consent to it, that does not acquit the master, in his own judgment at least, whatever they may think. If he is honest, high minded, he will not suffer his servants to entertain a moment’s doubt of his intention to acknowledge their faithfulness, and make all ,he world know that he does so. And is God unrighteous? Is He who solemnly binds you in so strict a covenant of service to let it be supposed that He can act unfaithfully or unfairly? And is He unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love--the work and loving labour of His chosen and His redeemed? Surely it is no vain thing, but rather a very blessed thing, for you thus to serve the Lord, having such a simple, single-eyed, meek, and honourable confidence as this in the truth and faithfulness of Him whom you serve!

III. There are other CONSIDERATIONS OF A GENERAL SORT that might be brought forward to strengthen this quiet assurance. For instance, here is one. If, in one view, God commits Himself to you; in another view lie commits you and binds you to Himself. In the service of God, if loyal, you must make up your mind to relinquish not a few of those sources of pleasure which the world presents to you. And for whatever you may thus give up, He whom you serve may be expected, if He is to act worthily of Himself, to provide some kind of equivalent. If you lose the favour of men, you have the favour of God. If you cease to have the peace which the world gives, when, with its refuges of lies, it soothes your conscience, you have the peace of God which passes understanding. If you have to cut off a right hand, to pluck out a right eye, maimed as you are and wounded, you enter into life. If the good things of earth are to be your treasure no more, you have better treasure in heaven, where no moth corrupts and no thief breaks through to steal. Thus far I have spoken of the recompense of the reward, God’s not forgetting your work and labour of love, as simply righteous on His part. But, before leaving that topic, I must remind you that the righteousness is still always of grace. It is the righteousness, not of law, but of equity. It gives you no such claim or title as you might enforce in a court of justice by procedure of a legal sort. All your claim must rest upon the good faith or kind favour of the other party. This does not touch the certainty of your being rewarded. But it divests you of all title to reckon upon it as your due. How blessed a thing is it in this view, to disown all right of yours, and lean on the righteousness of God! Further, the righteousness in question is not that of express compact, but rather that of a fair and amiable understanding. It is not a case, as between debtor and creditor, to be adjusted upon a balance of business accounts and books. Your remuneration is rather an honourable acknowledgment of the spirit in which you work than an exact and formal discharge of the work itself. Hence this principle, while it leaves no room for presumption on your part, leaves abundant room for the most liberal discretion on the part of God. Lessons:

1. As God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, be not ye unrighteous to forget your duty to Him. As He is, so to speak, on honour with you, be you scrupulously and sensitively on honour with Him. Many motives should prompt this duty. Think on the way in which He receives you into His favour; on the amazing sacrifice of His Son, whom He gives to the death of the Cross, that He may reconcile you to Himself; receiving you graciously, and loving you freely. He opens His heart to you. Will you not give your hearts to Him?

2. If God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love towards His name, you need not care to remember it. You need not keep a record of your doings. Your record and theirs is on high. (R. S.Candlish, D. D.)

Good works not meritorious

I. IN WHAT SENSE GOD WOULD NOT BE UNRIGHTEOUS, THAT IS, UNJUST, THOUGH HE SHOULD FORGET OUR GOOD WORKS, that is, though He should not reward us with eternal life for them.

1. Whatsoever good action a man can perform, that he upon many accounts owes unto God, his Maker, his Preserver, his Benefactor. But no one, surely, who pays to another what he strictly owes him, can thereby oblige that other to bestow on him a reward, or can make him properly his debtor.

2. Even amongst equals no one is of right, and in strict justice, obliged to recompense the labour and pains of another, but he who hath voluntarily bound himself thereunto by some covenant, or who at least is enforced thereunto by the law of some superior. What consideration, therefore, can oblige God to bestow upon man eternal life but His own free and gracious promise, since He hath no superior; nor can any law be prescribed to Him but what He vouchsafes to prescribe to Himself, and to guide His own actions and dispensations by?

3. To this it may be farther added that all our good thoughts, words, and works proceed entirely from the grace of God, and are His free gifts bestowed upon us, out of His mere bounty and mercy. Should God, therefore, by bestowing on us one grace, be thereby in justice obliged, for that very reason, to bestow on us another?

II. But now, lest to avoid one extreme, we should foolishly” run into another; lest for fear of carrying the value of our good actions too high, we should on the other side sink their price too low; it will be proper to show that, notwithstanding what has been said hitherto by way of abatement of their pretended worth, THEY ARE STILL IN MANY RESPECTS HIGHLY VALUABLE BEFORE GOD and that though they cannot by way of purchase procure for us, yet upon other considerations they will secure to us eternal happiness. Now the least that can be said concerning the value of good works proceeding from the love of God, and designed to His glory, is this: that though we should not be made partakers of eternal happiness merely because of them, yet neither can we be saved without them; though they are not the meritorious causes, yet they are the necessary conditions, of our salvation; though where they are found, they do not give a legal title to salvation; yet where they are not found, the persons destitute of them have not so much as an equitable title to eternal bliss from the mercy of God. For virtuous and religious actions are the way chalked out by God, by which we must arrive at the glories which shall be revealed; they are the means ordained by Him, by which we may certainly and effectally, though not of right acquire, yet in fact obtain everlasting happiness. (Bp. Smalridge.)

God’s righteousness as it implies faithfulness

By the argument of the apostle, as righteousness is put for faithfulness, it is manifest that God’s righteousness is a prop to man’s faith and hope. Man may and must believe and expect a reward of every good thing from the righteousness of God, even because He is righteous and will not tail to do what He hath promised. This righteousness of God assureth us of the continuance of His mercy. What grace moved Him to begin, righteousness will move Him to continue and finish.

1. This informs us in the wonderful great condescension of God to man; even so low as to bind Himself to man, and that so far as if He failed in what he had promised, He is willing to be accounted unrighteous Psalms 7:17).

2. This doth much aggravate the sin of infidelity, which is not only against the grace and mercy of God, but also against His truth and righteousness.

3. This teacheth us how to trust to God’s mercy, even so as God may be just and righteous in showing mercy. (W. Gouge.)

Works of love

These Christians gave themselves to “work.” Active and practical exertions, indeed, when the case admits of them, are essential to personal Christianity. Their “labour” is here attributed to “love”; and this soft and sacred principle is well fitted alike to prompt, to sustain, to sweeten, and to sanctify active efforts for the glory of God and the good of man. The love specified had been “ shown towards God’s name.” God Himself was one special object towards whom it had been directed; and in loving believers, the persons spoken of had loved them for the Father’s sake. Towards Him, then, they had exercised--towards Him, also, the) had shown--this love; for it did not sleep invisible among the secrets of their soul--it raised itself up for effort, it aimed at practical results and performed a practical work, and not, indeed, by ostentatious display, but, by its exertions and its fruits, it showed itself. And in what did their love appear? to what particular enterprise did it address itself? These Christian Hebrews “had ministered,” and still continued to “minister,” to “saints”--to pious persons who required their pecuniary or active aid. The wants of other followers of Christ who were in humble circumstances, or by whom, in some way, their help was needed, secured their sympathy and received their succour. A meet field for Christian love to occupy! An appropriate work for Christian kindness to perform. (A. S. Patterson.)

Known unto God

One evening a gentleman was strolling along a street to pass the time. His attention was attracted by the remark of a little girl to a companion in front of a fruit store, “I wish I had an orange for ma.” The gentleman saw that the children, though poorly dressed, were clean and neat, and calling them into the store, he loaded them with fruit and candies. “What’s your name?” asked one of the girls. “Why do you want to know?” queried the gentleman. “I want to pray for you,” was the reply. The gentleman turned to leave, scarcely daring to speak, when the little one added, “Well, it don’t matter, I suppose; God will know you, anyhow.” (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)

Encouragement for the less successful minister

Though God may grant more of spiritual in gathering to one minister than to another, this is no proof that the less successful minister is the less valuable with Him. Some surgical instruments are used constantly, others but occasionally; yet the latter may be as valuable as the former. If the falling of a tree require fifty strokes, and one man give three, another five and forty, and another finish the business with two strokes more, we do not debate which of these men did most to fell the tree, which of them ought to have most wages, or which, at least, know how much he has contributed to the work. Nor have we any more reason to be jealous about our own private importance in the great work of converting our fellow-sinners. (J. A. Bengel.)

A full reward expected

A military gentleman once said to an excellent old minister in the north of Scotland who was becoming infirm, “Why, if I had power over the pension list, I would actually have you put on half-pay for your long and faithful services.” He replied, “Ah, my friend, your master may put you off with halfpay, but my Master will not serve me so meanly; He will give me full pay. Through grace I expect a fall reward.” (Clerical Library.)

Certain reward

Dionysius caused musicians to play before him and promised them a great reward. When they came for their reward, he told them they had already had it in their hopes of it. God does not disappoint His servants. (New Encyclopaedia of Illustrations.)

Small efforts recognised by God

A certain king would build a cathedral; and that the credit of it might be all his own, he forbade any from contributing to its erection in the least degree. A tablet was placed in the side of the building, and on it his name was carved as the builder. But that night he saw, in a dream, an angel, who came down and erased his name, and the name of a poor widow appeared in its stead. This was three times repeated, when the enraged king summoned the woman before him, and demanded, “What have you been doing, and why have you broken my commandment? “ The trembling widow replied, “I loved the Lord, and longed to do something for His name and for the building up of His church. I was forbidden to touch it in any way; so, in my poverty, I brought a wisp of hay for the horses that drew the stones.” And the king saw that he had laboured for his own glory, but the widow for the glory of God; and he commanded that her name should be inscribed upon the tablet. (Ralph Wells.)

God rewards His servants

When Calvin was banished from ungrateful Geneva, he said, “Most assuredly if I had merely served man, this would have been a poor recompense; but it is my happiness that I have served Him who never fails to reward Ills servants to the full extent of His promise.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 11-12

Hebrews 6:11-12

Show the same diligence

The attainment of heaven

I.
THE MEANS BY WHICH THE HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN MAY BE ATTAINED. “Faith and patience.” Faith describes the sound state of the understanding in the perception and application of religious truth; and patience denotes that calm fortitude of heart which enables us to resist every seduction, and, at the call of faith, to hold onward undaunted in the path which conscience prescribes. These virtues form, by their union, the perfection of the human character.

II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO EXERTION IN PURSUIT OF IT. “Followers of them who … inherit the promises.” Faith and patience, like all other blessings, descend from heaven. They are the gifts of God through Jesus Christ. But the use and improvement of them, from which alone they become blessings to us, are left dependent on ourselves. Many motives concur to excite our diligence in improving them; but there is a peculiar tenderness and force in that which is suggested by the text. Through them the saints who have gone before us are now inheriting the promises. This argument addresses at once our interest, our understanding, and the best affections of our heart. It raises our view to the recompense of reward; it places before us a visible proof that the attainment of this inheritance is not beyond the reach of men like us; it warms within us the sentiment of generous emulation; and it attracts us onward by ties that are dear as life to the virtuous soul--by the love of those whom death has consecrated in our imagination, and by the ravishing prospect of rejoining them in heaven. (James Finlayson, D. D.)

Motives to diligence

Suppose every day a day of harvest; suppose it a market-day; suppose it a day wherein you are to work in a golden mine; suppose it a ring which you are to engrave and enamel with your actions, to be at night presented on God’s altar. (N. Caussin.)

Spiritual diligence

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS WHOM THE APOSTLE WAS AT THIS THE ADDRESSING. They were converted characters. Christianity consists of three things--knowledge, experience, and practice. These three things the persons whom the apostle was now addressing evidently possessed. They were acquainted with the principles of religion, and had tasted the heavenly gift.

II. THOSE BLESSINGS WHICH WERE HELD OUT TO THEIR ACCEPTANCE. “Let us go on unto perfection”--such a perfection as was commanded by Christ, and which formed the subject of the ministrations and preaching of the apostle.

1. I conceive this implies, comprehending as it does all the blessings of Christianity, a perfect knowledge of Christian doctrine, that we should no longer be tossed to and fro by every wave of the sea, but be settled in the faith of the Bible.

2. I conceive it implies also a perfect possession of all Christian graces, of which one is the full assurance of hope, as in the text--“Resting in full assurance of hope in Christ.” I conceive it implies also that perfect love that casteth out all fear.

3. It implies also the perfect performance of Christian duty.

4. It implies also entire sanctification to the will of God. In the Old Testament dispensation, God promised that the day should come when He would sprinkle clean water on His inheritance and make it clean; wen from all their filthiness and idols He would cleanse them: when He would take from them hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh, and write upon the fleshly tables of their heart His law and commandments, that they might do them.

5. It implies the entire dedication of ourselves to God, doing all to the glory of God, looking for the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

III. THE DILIGENCE WHICH IS REQUISITE IN ORDER TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS HIGH AND HAPPY STATE OF CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE. And here we shall have to answer a query: If this be Christianity, how is it that we see so little of it in the world? The answer is here: “Be not slothful, but followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises.” These blessings, of which I have been speaking, are not given to idlers. Spiritual sloth is incompatible with Christianity. Christianity is exhibited to us under the character--and a strong figure it is--of a warfare, of a race in which a candidate for the prize is to put forth all his energies. And what kind of diligence, then, is to be put forth on this occasion?

1. “That you do show the same diligence” as they had shown in the commencement. Oh, let the Christian continue to use the same diligence in his career which he did when he first became awakened! Oh, what zeal, what energy, is evinced in young converts! Oh, the sincerity, the loveliness, and the excellency of religious experience when they have perceived their danger, and fled from it to Christ, and experienced somewhat of the consolations of the Divine regard!

2. Thus, then, we are to use the same diligence-diligence proportioned to the end to be obtained. We profess to be Christians: what, then, is the object proposed to us by a profession of Christianity? Surely it is more than a name! Surely it is eternal life--it is to save the deathless, immortal soul!

3. It is to be proportioned, not only to the blessings to be obtained, but to the evil to be avoided. The evil to be avoided here is the everlasting loss of the soul, the punishment which awaits disobedience to God throughout eternity!

4. There must be diligence, again, proportioned to the time allotted to us. How long have you and I to live? How long will probation continue?

5. There must be diligence, again, proportionate to that which our enemies are using in seeking our destruction. Are you ignorant of Satan’s devices? Does he ever slumber? Are not his temptations, as well as his emissaries, countless?

6. There must be diligence, again, proportionate to the means that God giveth us for this important end. God has given grace to every one of us; a measure of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal. We have the influences of the Holy Ghost, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the instituted ordinances of religion, and all the opportunities of drawing near to God to receive continual strength of grace.

7. There must be diligence proportioned to our daily mercies. Our whole life is one continued mercy. Our creation is a mercy. Then ought we not to be diligent in the service of God, seeing that the mercies of God are so inexhaustible?

8. There must be diligence proportioned to the price paid for our redemption. “We are not redeemed with silver and gold and corruptible things, but we are bought with a price.” Ought we not- considering how valuable we are in the sight of God, considering at what we have been estimated by Jehovah, who created us--to use diligence proportionate, that we rob not God?

9. There must be diligence, finally, in proportion to the relation in which we stand to God, who is our Master, our Father, and our God; and in proportion to the accountability which we must render up to Him in that awful and dreadful day to which we are hastening. (John Hawtrey.)

Diligence in seeking salvation

If in thought we compare the efforts of an excited crowd to enter some building, or to see some remarkable sight, or to get some freely offered advantage; if we compare their earnestness with what we observe to be the ordinary attitude of men concerning religion! How on the contrary we observe apathy and delay! There is no pressing forward to enter in but rather an indolent lounging outside the gates, as though we could pass in whenever we liked, and there was no need for haste m the matter. Only a short time ago there came from America a curious account of the government throwing open to settlement a tract of country which had before been closed to white settlers. A certain day and hour was fixed on which emigrants might cross the boundary. Meanwhile “the cordon” was defended by a party of military. A motley multitude gathered on the bank of the dividing river. Rough “cow-boys “ from the west, with their swift ponies, and waggons with oxen, and poorer emigrants, with their wives and children trudging by their side, hungry and weary, waited till the day and hour came, and hardly had the midday hour come when a strange scene ensued. Horsemen spurred their steeds into the river, heavy waggons plunged into the water at the ford, all pressed forward with the utmost speed and impetuosity to seize upon some portion of the new territory, and ere darkness came hundreds of tents had been set up, and even houses had been started, All this wild excitement and confusion; all this eagerness and energy, to gain a few acres of earthly possessions; whilst in the matter of laying hold of that kingdom, of which we have been made heirs by baptism, how little interest is taken to make sure an inheritance I But if it be asked, why this haste and unnecessary excitement? Does not God at all times “wait to be gracious “?--then we answer, True, “He doth devise means whereby his banished ones may be restored.” True, “He willeth not the death of a sinner”; but yet remember that though he invites us to enter His kingdom, He does not force men to be saved. He has laid this responsibility on us. Then, too, those dangerous enemies--the world, the flesh, and the devil--are thrusting back the souls that seek to enter in. Every one who goes in must be prepared for a struggle, and for the exertion of all his powers--“tire kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.” (J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)

Full assurance of hope unto the end

Full assurance of hope

I. THE ATTAINMENT INDICATED. “The full assurance of hope.”

II. THE COURSE PRESCRIBED. Being diligent in every religious exercise, as prayer, reading the Scriptures, the worship of God, &c.

III. THE MODELS RECOMMENDED. “Those who through faith,” &c. A long roll of such worthies is given in chapter eleven. Their earthly course was distinguished by

1. Believing obedience. “Faith.”

2. Patient endurance. They patiently waited for good, and meekly suffered evil for God’s sake. This is

IV. THE MOTIVE ADDUCED. Those whom we are urged to imitate now inherit the promises, and this is mentioned as a motive to stimulate us to the same diligence. They now inherit the promises which they embraced here, and which sustained them in all their trials.

1. Eternal immunity from

2. Eternal possessions.

The believer’s assurance

I. THE PARTIES ADDRESSED. The apostle was writing to converts from Judaism to Christianity; persons, who by reason of the persecutions to which they were exposed and the strong persuasive efforts of the followers of Jewish customs and laws, were in danger of apostatising from the faith they had embraced.

II. THE ATTAINMENT RECOMMENDED. “The full assurance of hope.” Paul has referred in his epistles to three kinds of assurance. In writing to the Colossians he speaks of the “riches of the full assurance of understanding.” In the Epistle from which our text is then, he exhorts the Hebrew Christians to approach the throne of grace with “full assurance of faith.” Whilst in the passage before us he recommends the” lull assurance of hope.” By the first, he means a clear lively, knowledge of Divine truth; by the second an unwavering belief of the Gospel promises; and by the third, a firm conviction of the soul’s union to Jesus and adoption into the family of the Most High. Though these three assurances are closely allied, yet each is different from the other. There are two reasons why we may speak of this assurance as a desirable attainment.

1. It will be profitable to ourselves. An old divine well said, “The greatest thing that we can desire, next to the glory of God, is our own salvation; and the sweetest thing we can desire is the assurance of our salvation. In this life we cannot get higher than to be assured of that which in the next life is to be enjoyed. All saints shall enjoy a heaven when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy a heaven while they are here on earth.’ The original word here rendered “full assurance: means full lading or full burden. It is a word which may be applied to a ship and her cargo. If, then, we are fully laden with the treasure of assurance, our sails being well filled by the gales of faith and love we shall steer straight for the harbour of God. Full assurance shall keep us from being all our life, “through fear of death, subject to bondage.” We shall not be like the empty vessel tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of doubt. Our full lading shall keep us stable in the sea of life, and we shall at last ride triumphantly into the regions of repose amid the applause of the heavenly host. The original word is likewise applied to the plenitude of fruit produced by a tree. Sty, will it not be better for him to be fully laden with precious fruit, richly decked with luscious clusters, than to have expended all his time and strength in sending out useless tend for his support, fearing lest the roots, though firmly grounded, should not be able to sustain him? Depend on it, we shall find assurance a blessing of no mean order. It will make our devotional exercises doubly delightful, because we shall feel that the promises will be fulfilled, and the earnest prayer receive the attention of our Father. Aye, all our engagements shall have a tenfold interest and we shall have a double amount of decision in the discharge of our duties. Our peace shall flow as a river--steadily--evenly--uninterruptedly.

2. This full assurance of hope will be pleasurable to God. We all know how pleasant it is to discover that our friends and associates have firm faith in our integrity--truthfulness--love. The Eternal God is pleased with our confidence in Him. He wishes us to believe His Word. He is grieved by our doubts and fears.

III. THE MEANS OF ACQUIRING THIS ASSURANCE. “Show the same diligence unto the end.”

1. Watchfulness against all sin is included in showing diligence.

2. Waiting at the feet of God is also included in “diligence.” They who have walked in the light of God’s countenance and felt the Spirit’s clear witness within them, have been men of prayer; men, whose closets were oft-frequented spots: men who upon their knees fought their way through ranks of foes. So must it be with us.

3. Perseverance in all religious duties is likewise necessary. We must “give the same diligence unto the end.” There must be “ a patient continuance in well doing.” Our sighing after assurance, to-day, will avail us little, it to- morrow all desires for the blessing are foreign to our souls, and our hearts are engrossed with earthly matters. Our purpose mast be unwavering. (J. H.Hitchens.)

Sure and certain hope

Many of us have seen a picture in which the artist paints “Hope” as a pale, fragile figure, blind and bent, wistfully listening to the poor music which her own fingers draws from a broken one-stringed lyre. It is a profoundly true and pathetic confession. So sad, languid, blind, yearning, self-beguiled is Hope, as most men know her. Put side by side with that the figure which an unknown sculptor has carved on one of the capitals of the Ducal palace in Venice, where Hope lifts up praying hands, and a waiting, confident face, to a hand stretched out towards her from a glory of sunbeams. Who does not feel the contrast between the two conceptions? What makes the difference? The upward look. When Hope is directed heaven wards she is strong, assured, and glad.

I. Let us look, first, at THE CERTAINTY of Christian hope. Universal experience tells us that hope means an anticipation which is less than sure. Hopes and fears are bracketed together in common language, as always united, like a double star, one black and the other brilliant, which revolve round a common axis, and are knit together by invisible bands. But if we avail ourselves of the possibilities in reference to the future, which Christianity puts into our hands, on, hope may be no less certain than our memory; and even more sure than it. For the grounds on which Christian men may forecast their future as infinitely bright and blessed; as the possession of an inheritance incorruptible; an absolute and entire conformity to the likeness of God, which is peace and joy,--are triple, each of them affording certitude.

1. It rests upon the eternal God to whom all the future is certain and upon His faithful Word, which makes it as certain to us.

2. Our hope further rests on a past fact (1 Peter 1:3). The one real proof that, when we paint heaven we are not painting mist and moonshine, is the fact that Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. There were many reasons for believing in America before Columbus came back and said “I have been there.” And there are many reasons, no doubt, that may incline sanguine spirits and wearied spirits, and desiring spirits, and even sin-stricken and guilty spit its to anticipate a life beyond, which shall be a hope or a dread; but there is only one ground upon which men can say, “We know that it is not cloud-land, but solid earth”; and that is, that our Brother has come back from the bourne from which “no traveller returns”; that He thereby has shown us all, not by argumentation but by historical fact, that to die is not to cease to be; that to die draws after it the resurrection of the body. We lift our eyes to the heavens, and though “ the cloud receive Him out of our sight” the hope, which is better than vision, pierces the cloud and travels straight on to the throne whilst He bends from His crowned glory and says, “Because I live ye shall live also.”

3. The Christian hope is based, not only on these two strong pillars, but on a third--namely, on present experience. You can tell a cedar of Lebanon, though it is not yet bigger than a dandelion, and know what it is coming to. You can tell the infant prince. And the joy and peace of faith, feeble and interrupted as they may be in our present experience, have on them the stamp of supremacy and are manifestly destined for dominion over our whole nature. They are indeed experiences “whose very sweetness yieldeth proof that they were born for immortality.” I have often seen in rich men’s greenhouses some exotic plant grown right up to the roof, which had to be raised in order to let it go higher. The Christian life here is plainly an exotic, growing where it cannot attain its full height, and it presses against the fragile over-arching glass, yearning upwards to the open sky and the throne of God. So, because we can love so much and do love so little, because we can trust thus far and do truest no more, because we have some spark of the Divine life in us and that spark so contradicted and thwarted and oppressed, there must be somewhere a region which shall correspond to this cur deepest nature, and the time must come, when the righteous, who here shone, but so dimly, shall “blaze forth like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.”

II. Now as to THE ASSURANCE of the Christian hope. Certainty is one thing, and assurance is another. A man may have the most firm conviction based upon the most unsubstantial foundation. His expectation may have no roots to it, and yet the confidence with which he cherishes the expectation may be perfect. There may be entire assurance without any certainty; and there may be what people call objective certainty with a very tremulous and unworthy subjective assurance. But the only temper that corresponds to and is worthy of the absolute certainties, with which the Christian man has to deal, is the temper of unwavering and assured confidence. Do not disgrace the sure and steadfast anchor, by fastening a slim piece of packthread to it that may snap at any moment. Do not build flimsy structures upon the rock, and put up canvas shanties that any puff of wind may sweep away, upon such a foundation. If you have a staff to lean upon which will neither give, nor warp, nor crack, whatever stress is put upon it, see that you lean on it, not with a tremulous finger, but with your whole hand. Let me remind you further, that this assured hope is permanent. “The full assurance unto the end,” my text says, “Unto the end.” How many a lighthouse that you and I once steered towards is behind us now I As we get older, how many of the aims and hopes that drew us on have sunk below the horizon! And how much less there is left for us people with grey hairs in our heads, and years on our backs to hope for, than we used to think there was! But, dear brethren, what does it matter though the sea be washing away the coast on one side the channel, if it is depositing fertile land on the other? What does it matter though the earthly hopes are becoming fewer and those few graver and sadder, if the one great hope is shining brighter? Winter nights are made brilliant by keener stars than the soft summer evenings, and the violet and red and green streamers that fill the northern heavens only come in the late year. So it is well and blessed for us if, when the leaves fall, we see a wider sky; and if as hope dies for earth, it revives and lives again for heaven.

III. Lastly, note here THE CULTURE Of this certitude of hope. My text is an exhortation to all Christian people “to show the same diligence” in order to such an assurance. The same diligence as what? The same diligence as they had shown “ in their work and labour of love towards God’s name.” The fashionable type of a Christian to-day is a worker. By common consent theology seems put into the background, and by almost as common consent there is comparatively little said about what our fathers used to call “experimental religion,” feelings, emotions, inward experiences, but everything is drive, drive; drive at getting people to work. God forbid that I should say one word against that. But “we desire that ye should show the same diligence” as in your mission halls and schools and various other benevolent operations, in cultivating the emotions and sentiments--yes, and the doctrinal beliefs of the Christian life, or else you will be lopsided Christians. Further, did it ever occur to you, Christian people, that your hope was a thing to be cultivated, that you ought to set yourselves to distinct and specific efforts for that purpose? Have you ever done so? Hew is it to be done? Get into the habit of meditating upon the objects towards which it is directed, and the grounds on which it is built. If you never lift your eyes to the goal, you will never be drawn towards it. If you never think about heaven it will have no attraction for you. If you never go over the bases of your hope, your hope will get dim, and there will be little realisation or lifting power in it. Let me say, lastly, in the matter of practical advice, that this cultivation of the assurance of hope is largely to be effected by pruning the wild luxuriance and earthward-stooping tendrils of our hope. “If you want the tree to grow high, nip the side shoots and the leader will gain strength. “If you desire that your hope should ever be vigorous you must be abstinent from, or temperate in earthly things, (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Full assurance of hope

Some men may be assured of their good estate. St. Paul is so sure of it that he sings a triumph over all his enemies Romans 8:33-34), &c. Neither is it his song alone, but the song of all the faithful (Job 19:25; 2 Corinthians 5:1). How come we by this assurance? not by revelation from heaven, but by good works practised by us here on the earth (2 Peter 1:10). When St. Paul was ready to depart out of the world, he was sure of the crown of life. How? Not by revelation, but by the godly life which he had led (2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Timothy 2:19). Depart from sin, be sure of good works, as Dorcas was, and thou mayest have a full assurance of the kingdom of heaven. It is not a bare and naked faith that can assure thee of heaven, but such as worketh by love. Men in this age flatter themselves in a supposed faith, and cast away the care of good works. But how long must we be diligent? Nut for a time, but to the end. It is a folly to run at all, unless we run to the end: a folly to fight at all, unless we fight to the end’. Remember Lot’s wife, she went out of Sodom, but because she looked back she was turned into a pillar of salt, Let not us be diligent for a time, but to the end; we must be working to our lives end, so long as any breath is in our body; it is not enough to be young disciples, but we must be old disciples, as Mnason was. As we have been diligent in prayer, almsdeeds, in hearing of sermons, in crucifying of sin, so we must be diligent to the end. (W. Jones, D. D.)

False assurance

I would not give one straw for that assurance that sin will not damp. If David had come to me in his adultery, and had talked to me of his assurance, I should have despised his speech. (John Newton.)

Going on to full assurance

Indeed nothing else seems interesting enough--nothing to repay the labour, but the telling of my fellow-men about the one man who is the truth, and to know whom is the life. Even if there be no hereafter, I would live my time believing in a grand thing that ought to be true if it is not. No facts can take the place of truths, and if these be not truths, then is the loftiest part of our nature a waste. Let me hold by the better than the actual, and fall into nothingness off the same precipice with Jesus and John and Paul and a thousand more, who were lovely in their lives, and with their death make even the nothingness into which they have passed like the garden of the Lord. I will go further, Polwarth, and say, I would rather die for evermore believing as Jesus believed, than live for evermore believing as those that deny Him. If there be no God, I feel assured that existence is and could be but a chaos of contradictions, whence can emerge nothing worthy to be called a truth, nothing worth living for.

No, I will not give up my curacy. I will teach that which is good, even if there should be no God to make a fact of it, and I will spend my life on it, in the growing hope, which may become assurance, and there is indeed a perfect God, worthy of being the Father of Jesus Christ, and that it was because they are true, that these things were lovely to me and to so many men and women, of whom some have died for them, and some would be yet ready to die. I thank my God to hear you say so. Nor wilt you stand still there, said Polwarth. (G. Macdonald’s “Thomas Wingfold.”)

Fitful assurance

We hear, sometimes, a great deal said about possessing a full assurance of being a child of God; and then, every now and then, we hear of a doubt, a hope. As good Joseph Irons used to say, “They keep hope, hope, hoping--hop, hop, hopping--all their lives, because they can’t walk.” Little faith is always lame. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Assurance of hope

The celebrated Philip de Morney, prime minister to Henry IV. of France, one of the greatest statesmen, and the most exemplary Christians of his age, being asked, a little before his death, if he still retained the same assured hope of future bliss which he had enjoyed during his illness, he made this memorable reply, “I am as confident of it, from the incontestable evidence of the Spirit of God, as ever I was of any mathematical truth from all the demonstrations of Euclid.” (K. Arvine.)

Inspiration of hope

Once on a time, certain strong labourers were sent forth by the great king to level a primeval forest, to plough it, to sow it, and to bring to him the harvest. They were stout-hearted and strong, and willing enough for labour, and much they needed all their strength and more. One stalwart labourer was named Industry--consecrated work was his. His brother Patience, with thews of steel, went with him, and tired not in the longest days under the heaviest labours. To help them they had Zeal, clothed with ardent and indomitable energy. Side by side there stood his kinsman Self-denial, and his friend Importunity. These went forth to their labour, and they took with them, to cheer their toils, their well-beloved sister Hope; and well it was they did, for they needed the music of her consolation ere the work was done for the forest trees were huge, and demanded many sturdy blows of the axe ere they would fall prone upon the ground. One by one the giant forest kings were overthrown, but the labour was immense and incessant. At night when they went to their rest, the day’s work always seemed so light, for as they crossed the threshold, Patience, wiping the sweat from his brow, would be encouraged, and Self-denial would be strengthened by hearing the sweet voice of Hope within singing, “God will bless us; God, even our own God, will bless us.” They felled the lofty trees to the music of that strain; they cleared the acres one by one, they tore from their sockets the huge roots, they delved the soil, they sowed the corn, and waited for the harvest, often much discouraged, but still held to their work as by silver chains and golden fetters by the sweet sound of the voice which chanted so constantly, “God, even our own God, will bless us.” They never could refrain from service, for Hope never could refrain from song. They were ashamed to be discouraged, they were shocked to be despairing, for still the voice rang clearly out at noon and eventide, “God will bless us; God, even our own God, will bless us.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Assurance desirable

A man can never be too sure of his going to heaven. If we purchase an inheritance on earth, we make it as sure, and our tenure as strong as the brain of the law, or the brains of the lawyers, can devise. We have conveyances, and bonds, and fines, no strength too much. And shall we not be more curious in the settling our eternal inheritance in heaven? (T. Adams.)

How to realise full assurance

An old author (alas, they were more familiar with these things long ago than the moderns seem to be!) says epigrammatically, truthfully, and scripturally, that God gifts His acceptance, but He sells assurance. And His people buy assurance by a life of secret prayer, not prayer meeting prayer, by crucifying the deepest lusts, by a sweet and holy life. The traffic for this great blessing goes on between God and the sinner; and the reward for gospel obedience comes in the shape of full assurance to his weak and trembling heart. (A. Whyre, D. D.)

Hope--an uncultivated grace

A Christian without love would be an anomaly; a Christian without faith, a self-contradiction; and yet Christians without hope are as common in the Church as empty shells on the sea-shore, and unlighted gas lamps in the city on dark nights when the almanac says the moon is shining. The three graces are reduced to two; and they mourn their sister dead and buried. Even Christian ministers forget that the Bible is a book of hope, and treat it as a book chiefly of warnings. Children learn to regard it as an awful book, and never quite recover from the misapprehension. The “ God of hope” is converted into a “God of fear,” and we are driven to duty by a rod instead of drawn to life by inspiring hope. The Christian repeats the experience of his prototype in the vision of Bunyan, and forgets that he has a key in his bosom which will let him out of Castle Doubting anti the custody of Giant Despair. Hope is one of the threefold cords out of which Christian experience is woven. If a man has no hope, let him examine himself and see if he have any faith; let him beware lest love, unfed by its mother hope, die and leave him without either faith, hope, or charity. Men scoff at the optimistic spirit. It is fashionable to be cynical and mildly despairing. Dean Swift’s spirit is contagious among men of Dean Swift’s type; and his beatitude is accepted for substance of doctrine by many men who do not know of its existence: Blessed are they who do not expect much, for they shall not be disappointed. Bat what pessimist ever achieved anything for himself or for humanity? Hope is the inspiration of all noble activity. The world’s leaders have all been men of great hope, (Christian Union.)

Hope

An assured hope is not like a mountain torrent, but like a stream flowing from a living fountain, and often so quietly that it is scarcely visible but for the verdure of its banks. (G. Spring.)

Development of hope

Hope takes fast hold of heaven itself. A Christian’s hope is not like that of Pandora, which may fly out of the box, and bid the soul farewell, as the hope of the hypocrite does; no, it is like the morning light, the least beam of it shall go on into a complete sunshine; it shall shine forth brighter and brighter till the perfect day. (T. Brooks.)

Hope an active grace

Hope is an active grace; it is called a lively hope. Hope is like the spring in the watch, it sets all the wheels of the soul in motion; hope of a crop makes the husbandman sow his seed; hope of victory makes the soldier fight; and a true hope of glory makes a Christian vigorously pursue glory. Here is a spiritual touch-stone to try our hope by. (T. Watson.)

Not slothful

An exhortation to diligence

I. THE EXHORTATION. “Be not slothful.”

1. I should think you would not be if you thought of your Master. Good old Rutherford, when he lay in prison, said, “I wish all my brethren did but know what a Master I have served.” If you thought more of your Master, methinks you would be inclined to say such a Master deserves your service.

2. Then your work: this is a service that may well call forth all your energies. Don t imagine that you have done all now you have begun to make a Christian profession. You have but just put on the sandals; you have the pilgrimage to go yet. There is a great work before thee to do; but He float hath called thee to fight will strengthen thee. What a precious thing when the soul is intent upon noble objects! Oh, young people, to give your youth to holy purposes; to take so noble an object as this of glorifying God and blessing your fellows as the object for which you are living--oh, what a grand thing is this, the giving of your youth to Him! it is like harnessing a steed of fire to some noble chariot. How much evil you will prevent, how much good you will do, how many tears you will wipe away, how many sad hearts you will make happy! May God give you a holy emulation in this matter. Think of your work. It was said of Dr John Harris, of Oxford, who lived soon after the time of Cromwell, that when he came to die he called his friends and said this--“Of all the sins which I have ever committed, the sin of misspent time troubleth me most,” and yet he had been a very busy man; but when he came to look at the past from his death-bed, he thought how little he had done. When Leigh Richmond was dying, a minister came and sat by his bed-side, and he said to him, “Oh, if you could see the value of the golden moments now as you will see them when you stand at the rim of the grave, and look back, how earnst would be your work!” It was the prayer of Alline every morning--“Lord, Thou hast given me a new day; help me to make my crown brighter and to bless my fellows.” What a blessed effect such a prayer would have on each of our lives! It was said of Boston, when he came towards the close of his life, that he used to say--“Hold out, faith and patience, thou shalt soon be crowned, the battle shall not last much longer.” Work while thou canst, there are many things thou canst not do in eternity. Many a good thing you can do now that you cannot do then. You cannot hold up a sinking head in heaven, for there is no sickness or sorrow there. Be not slothful--think of your Master, think of your work, think of your reward. Now I want to tell you why a great many of you become slothful. There are many slothful, because they are not sufficiently aware of those crises--times when special difficulties come in upon them. You may be very busy for the world and very slothful for God. John Bunyan describes two sleeping-places in his “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and he does it exceedingly wisely. When Christian was going up the hill Difficulty, and when half-way up the hill, he fell asleep in the arbour and lost his roll, and had a sore journey back again to recover it. The other sleeping-place was on the Enchanted Ground. The one was in the midst of difficulties, ‘and the other where the sky was clear and the scenes were like fairyland; clusters hung from every tree, and the earth was carpeted with green and flowers. This is true religious experience. The two times of greatest danger to our spiritual vigilance are, special adversity and special prosperity. In times of the world’s adversity, if you do not go to Him who layeth on the burden, for strength to bear it, you will go to sleep in spiritual things--you will be losing your roll. And if the sky is clear and everything go smoothly, you will be in the same danger. Sometimes when things look very smiling in this world we get wrong for the next. I have no doubt Israel were quite willing to go on when they were at the bitter waters of Marah; but when they came to Elim, with its fountains and palm-trees, they would have liked to have stopped a little longer. Let us take care that we hold nothing on earth so dear that we would make our rest here. Be not slothful. In order that you may not be so there must be self-culture, self-discipline, self denial. Another reason for tour slothfulness is, that you have not fixed upon any standard of Christian character. The Lord Jesus is the standard that you should set before you.

II. THE EXAMPLE. “Followers of them,” &c. Many a man admires the martyrs who does not mean to follow them. The noble army of martyrs were faithful to their duty and to truth. They were not fanatics. They did not seek after suffering out of a spirit of bravado. When holy Bradford lay in prison, and Queen Mary sent offers of mercy to him if he would give up his gospelling, what said the good man? “If I might have her Majesty’s favour, without losing that of my Lord, gladly would I accept of it; but it is too dear a price to give God’s favour for that of the Queen.” Give me a man who really fears God, and I know he will fear nobody else. It is a grand thing for a man to have the presence of Jehovah. Those are striking words of St. Basil to an empress who tempted him to sin, and theatened punishment, because he would not comply with her--“How can you make me fear confiscation, who have long since learned that nothing I have is my own? or exile, when I know that the remotest province of your empire is no farther from heaven than Constantinople? Or how can you make me tear even death, when to me death would be the entrance to glory?” The martyrs were sustained by their faith. When Polycarp came to the stake, they wanted to fasten him with a chain. “You need not do that,” said he, “for my Master, who brought me here, will keep me in the fire.” Sometimes their place, on such occasions, swelled into ecstasy, as when holy Bradford said, “What am I, and what is my father’s house, that the Lord for me, as for Elijah, should send a chariot of fire?” and so he went up into the fiery chariot to heaven. These were men who through faith and patience inherit the promises. They showed their fidelity to the truth by sealing it with their blood. Oh, how many of our privileges do we owe to the faithfulness of such men But notice further, you must be followers of those who showed their fidelity to the Word, by their diligent study of it. How much you owe to the translators of the Scriptures, who toiled at their work night and day! Think of the marvellous story of the venerable Bede, who died, just as he had finished the last word of the translation of the Scriptures, over which he had toiled in faith and patience for many years. Then you must be followers of those who keep on with their duty under all circumstances. What a beautiful description that is which John Bunyan gives of one Mr. By-ends, and he tells you he was related to one, Mr. Face-both-ways, and to one Mr. Fair-speak, and to some other people with strange and significant names. He tells yea that By-ends had a great love for religion when she went in silver slippers, when the sun shone upon her and the people applauded; but he had no liking for being with her when the mob hooted and yelled; no liking for Christ when the mob cried, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” But that won’t do; you must follow Christ at all times, it at all. You must be followers of those who did their duty when duty was costly. You must go where Christ would have you go, and do what Christ put you to do, and be willing |o work for God in secret, and without the applause of the world. How blessedly many who have now received the promises showed their faith and patience! Think of Abraham waiting five-and-twenty years for the promise of Isaac. But though the time was so long, Abraham’s heart never misgave him. The language of his h, art was, “My Lord has said it, and I believe my Isaac will come.” And the Lord fulfilled this promise. How long Monica, the mother of Augustine, waited for her son’s conversion! He indulged in all manner of wickedness, and she went to Ambrose and told of her prayers and tears for her son. “Ah! “ said Ambrose, “a child of so many tears and prayers shall not perish.” At length Augustine was converted, and became the great luminary of the Western Church. When your prayers are long in being answered, do not give up. Sometimes the ship that is longest on its voyage brings home the richest freight. If the promise tarries, wait for it. A promise long waited for is very precious in its fulfilment.

III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT. Those who endured--where are they now? Inheriting the promises. Those early martyrs--early Christians, those who were often in tears and troubles--as many of you will be--where are they now? Inheriting the promises. Oh, ye of little faith, look up and take comfort. There they stand. They used to fear just as you do; they thought, sometimes, they should never get there, just as you do. Now, if you be not slothful, just as they have triumphed you shall triumph, just as they are crowned you shall be crowned. (S. Coley.)

The warning against slothfulness

Slothfulness is the same as idleness. An idle person is one who neglects his duty, and who never can succeed in anything. Solomon says that “slothfulness”--or idleness--“will clothe a man with rags.” We need not wonder therefore, to find among the warnings of the Bible, one against idleness, or slothfulness. And God, who gives us this warning, has set before us splendid examples of industry. See what an example of this we have in God Himself. When our Saviour was on earth, He said to the Jews--“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” And then think of the angels of heaven. They wait before God continually to do His bidding. And the moment He tells them to go any where, or do anything, they fly away and do it. There is no slothfulness, or idleness among the angels. And then think of the sun. God made it, thousands of years ago, by its shining to light up our world, and the worlds around it. And since then it has kept on shining day and night, without ever stopping for a moment. And so it is with the moon, and the stars, and the seasons, and day and night. There is no slothfulness or idleness about any of them.

I. The first reason why we ought to mind this warning is--FOR THE SAKE OF OUR EXAMPLE. About the year 1725, an American boy, nineteen years old, found himself in London, where he had to earn his own bread. He went one day to a printing office, and asked for employment. “Where are you from?” asked the foreman. “From America,” was the answer. “Ah!” said the foreman, “from America! a lad from America seeking employment as a printer! Well, do you really understand the art of printing? Can you set type? “ The young man stepped up to one of the type-eases, and in a short time set up the following passage, from St. John’s Gospel, which he handed to the foreman--“Nathaniel said unto him, ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?; Philip saith unto him, ‘Come and see.’” The foreman was so pleased with the readiness and smartness of this American youth, that he took him into his employ at once. He was very industrious, and soon gained the confidence and respect of all connected with the office. He was always in his place, and did his work well. He never would drink beer or strong drink. He saved his money, and after a while returned to his own country. Then he had a printing establishment of his own. He became an author, a publisher, the Postmaster General of the country--a member for Congress--a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and an ambassador from his country to some of the royal courts of Europe, and finally he died in Philadelphia, on the 17th of April, 1790, at the age of eighty-four, full of years and honours. This was Benjamin Franklin. No one can tell the influence which his example for industry has had upon thousands of the youth of our country. But we may form a pretty fair idea of this when we bear in mind that there are more than a hundred and filly counties, towns, and villages that have been called Franklin, in honour of this industrious printer’s boy.

II. The second reason why we ought to mind this warning is--FOR OUR SUCCESS IN LIFE. A lady once asked Mr. Turner, the great English painter, what the secret of his success was? His reply was: “I have no secret, madam, but hard work.” “The difference between one man and another,” says Dr. Arnold, “is not so much in talent, as in industry.” “Nothing,” says Sir Joshua Reynolds, “is denied to well-directed labour, and nothing is to be attained without it.” “Success,” says Dr. Johnson, “may be won by patient industry, but it is not to be looked for in any other way.” Solomon says--“The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” Again he says, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business; he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men.” Periander, one of the seven wise men of Greece, wrote a motto, which was inscribed on the walls of the celebrated temple of Delphos, in these words--“Nothing is impossible to industry.”

III. The third reason why we ought to mind it is--FOR OUR REWARD IN HEAVEN. If we get to heaven at all, we shall owe it entirely to the grace and love of Jesus. But what our place in heaven shall be, when we get there, will be decided according to the way in which we have served Jesus on earth. And this is a good reason why we should mind the warning against slothfulness. (R. Newton, D. D.)

Spiritual sluggishness

Almost everywhere is the fact recognised that novelty has much to do with enthusiasm. Very few are prepared to judge of the value of a worker by what he is at the commencement of his work. “Wait a while,” they say. “He is new to the duties as yet; when the charm of their freshness is over then we shall be able better to estimate what we may daily expect from him.” Splendid enthusiasm to start with! If it were only kept up, the worker would soon have everything at his feet, but unfortunately, it is not kept up. Soon the inquiry has to be raised, “Who did hinder you?” The fine gold has become dim. The simple fact is that the novelty of the experience has gone, and then the enthusiasm with it. Such was the great danger of these Hebrew Christians. Let us consider the sluggishness here referred to, and how it may be avoided. Spiritual sluggishness. The word is one which usually relates to a bodily condition, and we must therefore first gain a clear idea of it in that sense before we can understand its use by the writer in relation to the soul. It is a difficult matter to define health in a way that will satisfy a scientific mind, but generally speaking, it is that condition when “all the functions of the body are performed easily, naturally, and well.” All of us, however, have passed through seasons when some one bodily organ was not capable of performing its function, and when, in consequence of some complaint or other, it caused us considerable pain. We had no difficulty in localising the matter; we could lay our finger upon the exact spot, and our ability to do so led to the use of remedies which, happily, soon restored us. All disorders, however, are not of his acute kind. Although sharp pain is the usual herald of a deviation from the standard of health, there are conditions in which the body is not us it should be, though there is no great suffering. There are other heralds besides pain, and sluggishness is one of them. In this case you cannot put your finger upon any one spot and say, “The pain is here! “ No, there is a dulness, a lethargy which affects the whole body. Such was precisely the condition of these Hebrews in relation to spiritual things. There was no glaring sin to rebuke. They went to the same places as before, and performed the same acts; yet they were not the same men.

The difference was here: formerly, whatever they did, they did zealously; now, whatever they did, they did sluggishly. The stream was confined within the same banks; but whereas once it rushed on, smiling in the sunlight, carrying away many a poisonous element, turning many a water wheel--musical, purifying, useful--now it moved slowly--the music a as gone, the poison was accumulating, and the wheels were still. The same stream? Yes; if you looked only at the old landmarks, but not the same stream by any means, if you looked at its flow and the purposes it served. To particularise they still spoke of Christ as their Saviour, but there was no glow of affection on their faces or in their hearts. They prayed to Him still, but the old fervour was not there. They ministered to the needy, but the poor felt that the gift and the giver were separate. They had drifted into another zone and they who in the warmer climate had been full of activity, now were almost torpid in the cold. Two other points in the analogy demand our attention, although I can only touch upon them lightly. In its milder forms sluggishness is generally the result of the neglect of healthy exercise, and further, although it does not always imply organic disease, yet, if not remedied, it is likely to lead to it, and so shorten the days. There were certain exercises of the Christian life which these Hebrews had neglected. They had not forsaken their teachers, but they did not give them proper attention. The truth was explained, but they were not mentally on the alert, and so it found no lodgment within them. The neglect of that duty was yielding its baneful fruit. Disease was threatening them. Thorns and thistles spring up on neglected land, and the apostle feared that such growths would speedily appear in them. What had been a garden of the Lord was likely to become a fruitless tract, bearing growths only fit to be burned. Observe, it is not a mere matter of slowness or swiftness; rightly regarded, it is one of life or death. “Not sluggish,” but “imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Who can tell how much inspiration men have received by considering a noble end and noble human examples? Now, the writer calls his readers to that twofold contemplation. He reminds them first of the promises of God. Some of them had already been fulfilled, but many of them were still but promises--i.e., they had relation to the future. The reference, of course, is to the heavenly life which he wished them to contemplate, so that they might patiently endure their present afflictions. God had in store for them a tranquility such as they had never yet known--a tranquility which should never be ruffled by the stormy winds of trial, and a service which should never be hindered by persecution, or in which they should ever tire or grow weary. In that higher life work and rest should sweetly blend. In their present circumstances they were sharply and painfully separated from each other; but then the twain, by a heavenly we, doth, should become one for ever. Did any of them, however, regard their difficulties and hindrances as insuperable? If so, the apostle corrects the error by reminding them that many had already inherited the promises. Was their case while on earth different in any essential respect from that of his readers? Nay, they inherited the promises “ through faith and patience.” (W. S. Page.)

Slothfullness

“Slothful”--a word which has quite passed out of common use. It is a strong old Saxon word, very little changed. The Saxon form is slewdeth, from slaw, slow; and the idea of the word is tardiness, disinclination to action or labour. This slothfulness was the characteristic sin of the civilised and effeminate times of the Book of Proverbs. It is the great sin, in respect of religious things, of all highly civilised and luxurious ages and nations, and the great peril of all persons who are not placed under the stern necessity of working with band or brain for their daily bread. But a more precise idea can be given to this term as it is used in this Epistle. Slothfulness is action which has in it no energy; nothing of that essential characteristic of manliness--energy.

I. THE SIN OF SLOTHFULNESS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We know the sin and its ruinous consequences well enough in business life. We have often been wearied out with the kid-gloved young man, who counts business a bore, dawdles about, puts no soul into anything, drags through his day’s work and tries the patience of everybody that has to do with him. Can it possibly be that he represents the way in which, by our Christian slothfulness, we are wearying God and all good men? It must be a sin to live a listless, easeful Christian life: a sin like that of the soldier who hides among the stuff or feigns a sickness when the trumpet blast is summoning all heroic souls to the front. It must be sin in view of those all-absorbing claims of King Jesus under which we come. He demands body, soul, and spirit, life, time, powers, all. No man can be truly His without being wholly His. It must be sin in viewer the consecration vow which we have made, yielding ourselves up as living sacrifices, like the whole burnt-offering, given over, body, and fat, and skin, and blood, and life, for a whole consuming on the Lord’s altar. It must be sin in view of that great work in the world which has yet to be done ere Christ shall “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” It must be the sin of the most shameful ingratitude, when we remember how He bought us with His precious blood, giving Himself unto the death for us.

II. THE TEMPTATIONS TO THE SIN OF CHRISTIAN SLOTHFULNESS IN MODERN LIFE. Certainly there is no temptation to slothfulness in modern business life. Intensity, haste, keenness, over-grasping, are the modern business sins. But this business life of ours in many ways brings temptation to a weak Christian living. Observe how it tends to exhaust energy, expending all the gathered stores of physical and mental strength, and leaving none to be given to Christian uses. Then, too, it brings wealth and the enervating influence of luxury--precisely the sin of old Sodom, old Jerusalem, and old Tyre, against which a prophet’s voice is ever needed. Other things besides business are seriously telling on the energy of religious life. To what an alarming extent personal Christian effort is excused by an arrangement for most payment; as if cold cash could ever do in the world for Christ what living souls can! The extravagant pursuit of mere pleasure, and interest in the excitingly sensational and weakly sentimental in literature. And then in other departments of life we have the open enthronement of intellect as the deity for modem worship.

III. THE DISHONOUR WHICH CHRISTIAN SLOTHFULNESS PUTS UPON THOSE SAINTS AND HEROES WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE US, AND WHO SEEK TO LIVE AGAIN IN us. Oh, the glorious vision of the saints of God! Sainted fathers, mothers, pastors, heroes! They have inherited the promises, and now they rest. But how? Through “faith,” which is but another name for energy--energy seen on another side; and through “patience,” which enabled them, amid all their toils, and discouragements, and failures, to keep up their energy. They live again in us. What dishonour do we put upon them, if our Christian living is faithless and weak, self-indulgent and restless and fretful! How we disgrace them, if we sink down as low as to make our lives a mere response to the questions, What shall we eat? What shall we drink? And wherewithal shall we be clothed? They live again in us. They were the Church of Christ for their time, and we are for ours. Would to God that in earnest, energetic, Christian lives we could be worthy of them. Nay, would to God that we might be worthy of Him whom they and we alike should imitate, who hath called us by His grace unto His kingdom and glory. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

The evil of sloth

Among the disciples of Hillel, the wise teacher of the sons of Israel, was one named Saboth, to whom every work was a great trouble, and who gave himself up to idleness and sloth. Hillel was grieved thereat for the youth, and resolved to cure him of his fault. To this end he took him out to the valley of Hinnom, by Jerusalem. There was a standing pool full of snakes and vermin, and covered with muddy weeds. When they reached this place, Hillel put down his staff, and said, “Let us rest here from our way.” The youth was surprised, and said, “How, master, near this foul bog? Dost thou not perceive what poisonous vapours it exhales?” “Thou art right, my son,” answered the master: “this bog is like the soul of a slothful man. Who would wish to be near it? “ Then Hillel took the youth to a waste field, producing nothing but thistles and thorns, which choked the corn and the salutary herbs. Now, Hillel leaned on his staff, and said, “Behold this field has good soil to produce all that is useful and pleasant, but it is forgotten and neglected, therefore it brings forth thistles, and thorns, and poisonous weeds, beneath which lurk toads and serpents. A little while ago thou didst see the soul; now behold the life of an idle man.” Then Saboth was full of shame and repentance, and said, “Master, why leadest thou me to these lonely and dreary spots? They are the reproachful picture of my soul and life!” Hillel answered, and said, “Thou wouldst not believe my words, therefore I tried whether the voice of Nature would penetrate to thy heart.” Saboth pressed his master’s hand, and said, “Thy endeavours shall not be in vain; thou wilt see that a new life has begun within me.” And after this day Saboth became an active youth. Then Hillel took him to a fertile valley, by the side of a clear brook, which flowed meandering between fruitful trees, flowery meadows and shady shrubberies. “See here,” said the old man to the rejoicing youth, “the picture of thy new, industrious life. Nature, which warned thee, will now reward thee. Her beauty and grace can only give joy to him who sees in her life a picture of his own.” (F. A. Krummacher.)

Indolence

The soul’s idling time is the devil’s working time. Followers of them who … inherit the promises

Departed saints our examples

It must be owned, although it is a melancholy confession, that fear comparatively set out in the road to heaven, and fewer still persevere unto the end. “Many of the disciples of Jesus turned back, and walked no more with Him.”

I. THE CAUTION against a sore evil in the Church of Christ. “We desire that ye be not slothful.” Can he be slothful who has for long years felt the bitterness of bondage, but having shaken off, through the might of another, the bonds of misery, is now on his way to the land of liberty? Can he be slothful who has seen the wild storm gathering in the heavens, with destruction, and is on the road to the refuge set before him? Can he be slothful who flees, while sin and Satan and avenging justice are pursuing? Can the Christian ever need such an exhortation when he has so much to excite him to diligence? So prevalent is the evil, that no Christian should regard himself as not standing in need of caution here. Such, too, is its deceitful nature that it is often overlooked or mistaken for something else. It is a kind of negative vice; not so much the doing of what is directly wrong, as the omitting to do what is obviously right. Depend upon it, if we omit a duty, we are on the high way to the perpetration of an actual crime. The great tempter knows ,his full well, and therefore strives thus to draw us aside rather than to drive us into evil. The citadel has come into the possession of the foe, not by the might, but by the stratagem of the enemy; it has been brought low, not by the strength of the assailants, but through the indifference of the defenders. But there is a class of persons whose strength seems paralysed, and who shrink from effort, because they see everything in an unfavourable light. They behold difficulties in the way, and regard them as unscaleable; they consider the exertions demanded as beyond their strength, and I he self-denial required as more than they can bear. Such characters as those to which we have alluded seek, but do not strive. They do not set about the matter with all the heart and soul and strength; there is none of that combating with the habit of evil which will not rest until it is destroyed. Love with its note of tenderness, peace with its words of sweetness, joy by its language of rapture, zeal with its burbling syllables, and faith by the accents of assurance--all urge us never to be slothful. Remember the nature of that duty which is laid upon you. You have a prize to win and a soul to save. Shall earthly competitors and worldly combatants put you to the blush? Think, again, of the character you bear and the profession you make. You are children of God, whose meat and drink should be to do their Father’s will, to “count all things but loss for Christ.” Can you, then, bear the thought of belying your character, of regarding spiritual things as little worth when earthly interests come in the way?

II. A POWERFUL ENCOURAGEMENT to diligence, as enforced by the example of those who have preceded us in the road to heaven--“Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” There is something in this mode of exciting the Hebrew Christians to diligence, which by its suitableness recommends itself to us. It shows how practicable it is to accomplish that which sloth suggests is impossible; it puts to flight every false fear by giving instances of complete success, and assures us of what may be done by reminding us of what has been done. Think of the zeal of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, the trials they endured, and the difficulties they overcame. Look at Abraham hoping against hope, obeying the Divine command regardless of the consequences. Look at Moses” choosing affliction with the people of God” in preference to all the riches of an Egyptian throne. Look at David waiting for the kingdom while year after year he was hunted for his life, serving the Lord diligently amid all the cares of royalty, and all the trials of the most troublous times. Look at the apostles or martyrs who “ counted not their lives dear unto them” for the sake of Jesus. But how did the saints of God check every rising tendency to discouragement or indolence? How did they so walk as to arrive safely at their journey’s end? By “ faith and patience.” These are graces peculiar to the Christian’s stale of probation. He is called to exercise faith in the Word of God, and to rely entirely upon Christ. It is by faith that we become interested in the promises; pardon and salvation are promised to faith--believing, we become children of God, and heirs of the promise of eternal life. But “patience must also have her perfect work”; the promises will be delayed, that this suffering grace may be called into exercise. This is the grace that checks the murmur, Nature might sometimes suggest, “Why are my conflicts prolonged?” But patience maintains the calmness of a heart not struck dumb by sullen desperation, but tranquilised by resignation and supported by hope. (S. Bridge, M. A.)

Christian examples

I. We must endear your to ascertain OUR MODELS. Whom are we to follow? Them “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Passing over successive generations, passing by princes, and heroes, and statesmen, and scholars, the apostle goes back to the very early ages of the new world, and points us to a small company of rustics and shepherds, distinguished only by their communion with God and their obedience to Him. The days are coming when men will be judged, not by their adventitiousness, but by their real worth, by their intellectual, moral, and religious character, when vile persons, however rich, shall be condemned, and we shall honour them that fear the Lord, however poor. For the righteous are the excellent of the earth. They are called, observe, “repairers of the breach, restorers of places to dwell in,” and though they were destitute, tormented, and afflicted, the world was not worthy of them.

II. Having ascertained our models, we must, in the second place, consider THEIR PRESENT CONDITION, which is the enjoyment of the inheritance. They “inherit the promises.” Many advantages are derived from the promises; some even in time. Few of the promises of God, indeed, are ever completely accomplished in this world: they draw us, therefore, forward and upward. We are saved by hope; heaven will perfect everything that concerns us. Now you will observe, also, that this inheritance is a present possession. They “ inherit,” not they “ shall inherit.” They inherit now the promises. The) have done with sorrows and with sin: they are freed from all their infirmities and all their distractions: they are there for ever with the Lord, and waiting to receive you into everlasting communion,

III. Let us now consider, thirdly, their PREVIOUS DISPOSITIONS.

1. Let us, then, observe their dependence and order. “Faith and patience.” Patience does not precede faith, but follows it: so does everything. Faith is not the superstructure, but the foundation.

2. The nature of their service. One word here will explain this fully; it is the word “through”--“Through faith and patience,” says the apostle, “they inherit the promises.” What could you do without either of them? What could you do without faith? Take the most simple principle in religion: the creation of the world. The heathen philosophers commonly believed in the eternity of the world, or that it was produced by a casual concourse of atoms. And the apostle expressly tells us, that “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” What wonder, therefore, that as to other things these should depend upon faith? What could you do without patience? Patience has two offices to perform; the one regards waiting for good, and the other the bearing of evil.

IV. OUR DUTY IN REFERENCE TO THEM which is to be followers of them: “Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” The in)unction implies three things:

1. That there is nothing unattainable or impracticable in the examples of those who have gone before us. We may, we can, follow them. They were exercised b the very same temptations, and they had the very same passions with us.

2. That we should acquaint ourselves with them. You cannot follow what you are ignorant of imitation is something voluntary, something intentional, something that requires observation, and to have the thing much before the eye of the mind, in order to have the mind impressed.

3. And you should not be satisfied with anything short of resemblance and conformity. In this conformity allow me just to mention two things which are worthy of your regard.

V. Having ascertained our models, and having seen their present condition, and their previous disposition, and observed our duty with regard to them, let us finally remark, WHAT IS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO DISCHARGE IT namely, that you fling away sloth. A philosopher was asked, “What is the sin most universal to all mankind?” and his answer was, and we are persuaded that he answered justly, “Idleness and sloth.” See a child: with what difficulty can you obtain anything like continued serious attention to subjects you are attempting to teach it. It is like your endeavouring to tie it with a ball of mercury to the legs of a table. Look at man: in what state should we find the community now, of how many thousand things should we remain ignorant, if individuals were not urged by the most powerful considerations of want or advantage. But mental sloth is much greater than bodily sloth, and spiritual sloth is much greater than even mental. It seems very astonishing as well as unnatural; allowing that a man is on the bed of sloth, we should suppose that it would be impossible for him to remain there when he opens his eyes and looks about him in the light of revelation. Can be see such honours as these, and not feel something like ambition? Can he see such riches, and not feel something like avarice? Can he learn that the Judge standeth at the door and not be afraid? Can he see such a heaven and not agonise in order to enter it? Can he see hell moving to meet him and not tremble, and flee from the wrath to come? (W. Jay.)

In the footsteps of heroes

The principle of imitation which is spoken of in our text (for The word “followers “ ought to have been “ imitators “) has an imperial influence on man. It is almost impossible to define its range. Imitation begins in early childhood, long before either our moral perceptions or our reason have become developed; and the infant is often, though its parents may be unconscious of it, hearing and watching and making its little efforts to imitate their doings and sayings. It is imitation which is both the creative principle and the preserving bond of society. The moralists of every age have shown their deep insight into human nature and their just appreciation of the value of the principle of imitation by enforcing their precepts with suitable examples. Aristides has been cited and pressed upon the young as an example of justice; and Solon as an example of wisdom; and Socrates as an example of goodness. Nor has the Word of God been less alive to the importance of a similar course. There is not a book in the whole compass of literature which has so extensively availed itself of examples as this; nor is there one which has such examples to present, whether of vice or virtue. And so our text exhorts us not to be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

I. WHAT IS INHERITED? The promises. What promises? These must be the final promises which are embodied in the one word--heaven. Many promises are fulfilled to us on our way there; but these are promises whose fruition is postponed until death. What promises are fulfilled then in heaven?

1. This is one thing--freedom from sin. This at least. This, if there be nothing more; and this will be a great and glorious heaven in itself; for it will be a soul brought into harmony with itself, and with its God and Saviour.

2. Another promise assures us of the end of sorrow. End of sorrow?. you may say. Can that be? Life begins with a cry and ends with a sigh, and suffering is sown like seed from cradle to grave. Can sorrow have an end? It seems incredible to the reason but not to faith, and it is to faith that these promises are made. Oh I what a gathering shall be there, when brother shall meet sister; husband, wife; parents, their children. They will dwell together in love; jealousy and envy will be alike unknown. Selfishness will not disturb the common interest by seeking its own. Holiness will produce peace, and peace will fill every breast with unutterable joy.

3. Knowledge.

II. THE CONDITIONS upon which the inheritance is secured. “By faith and patience.” By faith. This is the key which opens the door of salvation to every one of us. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” We begin to live when we begin to believe. The first act of faith is like the first throb of the heart, or the first heaving of the lungs; it shows that there is life. But if faith unlock the door of salvation, it is not to be thrown away when once the door is opened. It is not merely a key; it is a principle which must abide with us for ever. You may have sharp lessons given to you in Providence--lessons that may make you speak sorrowfully of the vanity of all thingshere. But you will still be unweaned from the world, unless your faith attach itself to higher powers, and surrender itself to more pure and enduring fascinations. There are times when the invisible seems nearest to us; when earthly interests sink back and we feel as if we dwelt amid the light of eternal things. Faith gets a view of the hills from whence cometh all her help. She sees the redeemed walking in the heavenly city, and then she can bear all things and endure all things. But faith must have as her companion patience. This we must have, for as yet the blessing tarries. But if we have faith, we can well afford to have patience; for the end on which our heart is set is sure. How patient the mariner can be amid storm and calm, if he knows that he will reach the haven at last! How patient the sufferer on his sick-bed, if he knows that recovery will come at the end of all his pangs! And the Christian has a certainty before him. And if he hopes for it, then doth he with patience wait for it. Be not slothful then, but followers. Let the devil’s servants sleep, but sleep not, ye sons of God! (E. Mellor, D. D.)

Following the holy dead

I. THEY HAVE REACHED A POSITION WORTH STRUGGLING AFTER. They “inherit the promises.”

1. A priceless possession.

2. A permanent possession.

II. THEY HAVE REACHED THEIR POSITION BY MEANS AVAILABLE TO ALL

1. Faith.

2. Patience.

3. Diligence. (Homilist.)

The holy dead

I. They have reached A VERY ELEVATED POSITION.

1. Vast possessions.

2. Sublime fellowships.

3. Perfect enjoyments.

4. Celestial royalties.

II. They have reached an elevated position THROUGH A CERTAIN COURSE OF SPIRITUAL CONDUCT.

1. Faith--in Christ as the All-wise, All-loving, Almighty Saviour.

2. Patience--implying

III. The course of spiritual conduct by which they reached their exalted position is BINDING ON ALL SURVIVORS.

1. We must imitate them.

2. With earnestness. (Homilist.)

The footsteps of the beatified

I. THE INHERITANCE.

1. The vision of God.

2. Assimilation to God.

3. To be filled with all the fulness of God.

4. To dwell for ever with God.

II. THE MEANS WHICH THE INHERITANCE IS REACHED.

1. The way of faith.

2. The way of patience.

3. The way of diligence.

III. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH IMITATION OF THE EXAMPLE LEFT US IS ENFORCED.

1. The glory of their inheritance.

2. The triumphant issue of their conflict.

3. The present peace and happiness realised. (P. Morrison.)

The path to heaven

I. WE ARE NOT TO BE SLOTHFUL. A man needs much spiritual discrimination in deciding what is sloth, for men’s physical powers are so different, their mental powers also are so different, their temperaments are so different, their dispositions are so different, their habits and their circumstances. Some, for instance, are all activity, arising from physical causes: they cannot be quiet. Some need to be urged to everything in the path of duty, they are so tardy. Some, again, burn with zeal, and so work far beyond their strength. Others, with much physical power, can scarcely be goaded up to their strength, they lack energy so much. Again, some who are capable of very much do very little, either for their own souls, or in the ways of God; and others, with very little strength, do very much, they are altogether so earnest in the ways of the Lord. The great outward characteristics of a healthy Christian are diligence and progress, and spiritual sloth may be said to be that in us which we allow to oppose these characteristics; which we consciously allow to work within us so as to oppose our diligence in the ways of the Lord and our progress in godliness. Now, this spiritual sloth shows itself in a great variety of ways, which it would be impossible to particularise with anything like minuteness. I can only bring before you some broad features. For instance, it will show itself in coldness and formality in religion. Sloth, again, will show itself in making no effort to avert occasions which, as we think, justify the omission of known duties. Let us put this familiarly. A man is hurried by some pressure of business; he has to start, perhaps, by a very early train. Instead of making arrangements that his own soul be not damaged, family or private prayer is postponed, because time is so short. There is no self-denial in rising earlier, and adapting time to the welfare of the soul; but the care of the soul is postponed to the urgency of temporal circumstances. Again, a man must be said to be guilty of spiritual sloth when he neglects what he conscientiously believes to be due time for private prayer and for the maintenance of spirituality in his own soul--when he neglects the study of the Word of God, with an express intention to bring its principles to bear upon his daily life. Now, a man may be extremely slothful in the study of the Word of God, who nevertheless may be intently occupied in the perusal of it from morning till night. A man may be slothful with regard to the improvement of his own soul, not reading for that purpose, but reading, perhaps, with a different object altogether: to get a grasp on a certain subject or on a particular doctrine. But we are bound to study the Word of God in order that a certain effect may be produced in our own souls, the result of which may be seen in our daily walk and conversation. Again, too, a man may be said to be a sluggard when he is unwilling to use those opportunities by which he might escape temptation, when he runs needlessly in the way of temptation. Or again, when the man sinks down lazily under difficulties, instead of endeavouring by trust in God to overcome them. Or again, when, in conflict about duty, the scale is turned on the side of the flesh and unbelief. I may say again, too, that the love of personal ease, and the love of money, and the love of pleasure will continually make a man slothful in spiritual matters.

II. Let us turn now to WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE--“followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” These are no doubt the patriarchs. By “inheriting the promises” he means a real participation of the grace and blessedness which is promised, in the gift of Christ, with eternal glory. These they entered upon as fully as any who have died since our Lord Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Now, we are to be “followers of them.” We are to be “followers of them” as they clung to the promise of the Word of God and obeyed it; we are to be “followers of them” as they followed Christ: not otherwise. Christ is alone our perfect Example; but these patriarchs whom we are taught to follow so far as faith and patience were in real exercise, stand out, in many points of their character, as beacons which warn us of the rocks upon which we ourselves may split. But we are to be followers of them also in their principles, and especially in respect to the principles which are laid down in this verse--their “faith and patience.” The faith which saves the soul as well as conducts a man to the inheritance, is not that which has respect merely to the truth of God in general, but that which respects Christ in particular. The word which is translated “patience,” perhaps, means rather lonsuffering; the same idea which is conveyed in “ the longsuffering of God,” the longsuffering of God with provoking sinners. So here; the “ patience” used in the text means rather that which is exercised under provocations; without having our desire to do good entirely turned aside by the hindrances we encounter, by the outward annoyances to which we are exposed, or by the inward corruptions which we feel working within, but patiently enduring to the end. Well, we shall never patiently endure to the end if our hearts are not warmed with love to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. No abstract system of truth will ever carry a man through such circumstances as these. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)

The young called to follow departed saints

I. Let us attend to the view which the apostle gives of THE HAPPINESS OF DEPARTED SAINTS.

1. The apostle intimates his persuasion that they were existing m a state of happiness. The statement of the text is directly opposite to the notion that the soul sleeps with the body from death till the resurrection.

2. This representation intimates that the happiness of heaven has been revealed in various promises, and that these promises have been fulfilled to departed saints. Who can conceive the extent of their knowledge, the sweetness of their pleasures, the brightness of their glory, the ardour of their love, and the sublimity of their praise? Not a wish shall be left ungratified, and not a hope deferred.

3. The language, of the text intimates that this felicity belongs to them as the children of God. Among men, the inheritance is not possessed by the child till the death of the father, but the life of our heavenly Father is the source and the security of this happiness; and in the world of immortality God shall be all in all.

4. The expression intimates that this felicity is entirely of grace.

5. They possess this felicity for ever. Their happiness is sure in itself and in their persuasion. They feel that they are safe for eternity.

II. Let us now consider THE MEANS BY WHICH DEPARTED SAINTS ATTAINED THIS HAPPINESS.

1. The saints may be said to have attained this felicity by faith, because by it they believed the various assurances of the gospel respecting the reality and the blessedness of this state. It is by faith, also, that the righteousness of Christ is received, which entitles us to the possession of heaven. Faith also animates good men to the cultivation of those graces and to the performance of those actions which prepare for glory. I only add on this topic, that it is through faith that the saints are kept by Divine power” to salvation.

2. But these saints attained this felicity through patience. It was by this principle that they endured the afflictions through which they had to pass in their way to the kingdom. Patience also kept them waiting for this felicity till the period which God had fixed for their admission to heaven.

III. I shall now recommend, by a few arguments, THE IMITATION OF DEPARTED SAINTS.

1. Consider that it is the command of God that you should follow them James 5:10; Hebrews 12:1-2).

2. Consider, also, that their excellences were exhibited before you to awaken in your hearts admiration of holiness and to excite you to labour to resemble them. If you act differently from these examples, your guilt will be aggravated by their being set before you.

3. Consider, too, that this is the only way by which you can be joined with them in their happiness.

Exhortations:

1. Let us lament that this admirable precept has been so much abused. Under pretence of obedience to this precept, invocation of departed saints has been practised--the house of silence has been ransacked, and the bones of martyrs and confessors brought out and placed on shrines as objects of worship, or used for the performance of miraculous cures.

2. Let us leave such an example of faith and patience, that it may be the duty of the Church to make us the objects of remembrance and imitation.

3. Let this felicity which you have been contemplaning cherish heavenly-mindedness in you. Say not of this world, “This is my home.”

4. I would exhort the unconverted to seek a title to this happiness, and preparation for it. (H. Belfrage.)

There is light beyond

When in Madeira,” writes a traveller, “I set off one morning to reach the summit of a mountain, to gaze upon the distant scene and enjoy the balmy air. I had a guide with me, and we bad with difficulty ascended some two thousand feet, when a thick mist was seen descending upon us, quite obscuring the whole face of the heavens. I thought I had no hope left but at once to retrace our steps or be lost, but as the cloud came nearer, and darkness overshadowed us, my guide ran on before me, penetrating the mist, and calling to me, ever and anon, saying: ‘Press on, master--press on--there’s light beyond!’ I did press on. In a few minutes the mist was passed, and I gazed upon a scene of transcendent beauty. All was light and cloudless above, and beneath was the almost level mist, concealing the world below me, and glistening in the rays of the sun like a field of untrodden snow. There was nothing at that moment between me and the heavens.” Oh, ye over whom the clouds are gathering, or who have sat beneath the shadows, be not dismayed if they rise before you! Bless on--there is light beyond. (A. J. Symington.)

True and false imitation

We are to imitate the apostles; but the imitation is to be, not in doing what they did, but in doing, like them, tbat which is fit in every case. A doctor is called to prescribe for a fever, and he gives a cooling draught. His young Esculapius, coming after him, is called to prescribe for congestive chills. He says, “My teacher gave a cooling draught, and I will give a cooling draught.” He imitates his teacher exactly, like a fool. And there is no greater fool than a man who imitates just what the apostles did, instead of imitating the principle on which they did it. It is the inside which is to be followed, and not the outside. One of my boys comes in crying, and says, “Father, I ran against a lamp-post and bruised my face.” I say, “My son, do not run against lamp-posts.” The next day he comes in again with another bruise on his face, and says, “I did not run against a lamp-post; I ran against a tree.” “Well,” I say, “do not run against lamp-posts nor trees.” The next day he comes in, having had another whack, and says, “I did not run against a lamp-post nor a tree; I ran against an iron railing.” He had obeyed me, and yet he was hurt. But the spirit of my order was that he should not run against anything that would hurt him. (H. W.Beecher.)

Good example

As they who deck themselves have the looking-glass before their eyes; so they who go ablaut any worthy thing must have the example of worthy men in mind, and do it in that manner that others may not scorn to make them their example. (Cawdray.)

Persistency needed

When Hannibal had defeated the Romans upon the plains of Italy, nothing was wanted but a determined spirit of perseverance to give him the possession of Rome itself. But, flushed with their victory, the Carthaginians spent the time in rioting on the spoils which should have been employed in pushing their conquests. In the meantime the Romans collected their whole strength, and soon proved more than a match for their terrible invaders. Our foe is wily and powerful, and we can only maintain our ground against him by pushing forward our conquests. (G. Peck, D. D.)

Example an educator

But what are the great educators of the world--those who insensibly mould us, or to which we resort for influence upon our own or others’ lives? Are they moral maxims, wise sayings, proverbs, and “ saws”? Is it not rather example? These axioms and maxims, proverbs and precepts, are but the instruments by which we clench the truths which example has driven into the mind. They are the labels which we affix to the illustrated lessons--the pictures and the models. At all events, we none of us begin to live by principles. These may come afterwards to be our sufficient instructors, but I much doubt whether one in a hundred men has ever adopted a principle of life until some signal example of it has convinced him of its worth. (G. W. Conder.)


Verse 14

Hebrews 6:14

Blessing I will bless thee

God’s abundant blessing

The blessing is amplified by doubling the phrase, thus, “blessing I will bless.

1. The certainty of a thing (Exodus 3:7).

2. Diligence and pains in a thing.

3. Celerity and speed in doing a thing: as where David saith, “It is better that escaping I should escape” (1 Samuel 27:1).

4. Abundance in giving a thing.

5. Success in doing a thing, or a thorough doing of it, or doing it to purpose: as where Saul saith to David, “Doing thou shalt do, and prevailing thou shalt prevail” (1 Samuel 26:25).

6. Finishing and perfecting a thing: as where Solomon saith to God, “Building I have built Thee an house” (1 Kings 8:13). His meaning is, that he had perfectly finished it.

7. A wonderful increase of a thing, as in this phrase, “Multiplying I will multiply.”

8. Long continuance as, “Waiting, I have waited” (Psalms 40:1), that is, I have long waited. This phrase, “Blessing I will bless.” gives us to understand that blessings appertaining to Abraham and to his seed are abundant blessings. God is no way scanty to the faithful. God proprtioneth His blessings according to His own greatness. He setteth forth His magnificence in blessing children of men. Who would not depend upon such a Lord for blessing? How ought we to enlarge our hearts, and open our mouths in blessing God for so blessing us! (W. Gouge.)


Verse 15

Hebrews 6:15

After he had patiently endured, he obtained

Endurance and reward

I.
ENDURANCE.

1. Trials.

2. The frailties of human nature.

3. The Christian contest.

II. PATIENCE.

1. Gives calmness.

2. Bestows strength.

3. Takes away the bitterness of the endurance.

III. REWARD. Not anything actually tangible--a promise. Not the thing itself, but the shadow of the thing. This is to try our faith. But is not the promise really as sure as the reality? It was to Abraham. For there is no uncertainty with God. (Homilist.)

Patience and the promises

Good old Spurstow says that some Of the promises are like the almond tree--they blossom hastily in the very earliest spring; but, saith he, there are others that resemble the mulberry--they are very slow in putting forth their leaves. Then what is a man to do, if he has a mulberry tree promise which is late in blossoming? Why, he is to wait till it does. If the vision tarry, wait for it till it come, and the appointed time shall surely bring it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Time necessary for development

O impatient ones! Did the leaves say nothing to you as they murmured when you came hither to-day? They were not “created this spring, but months ago; and the summer, just begun, will fashion others for another year. At the bottom of every leaf-stem is a cradle, and in it is an infant germ; and the winds will rock it, and the birds will sing to it all summer long; and next season it will unfold. So God is working for you, and carrying forward to the perfect development all the processes of your lives. (H. W. Beecher.)

Patience

Patience is but lying to, and riding out the gale. (H. W.Beecher.)

Pray and stay

Pray and stay are two blessed morn)syllables. (J. Donne.)

Patience

The husbandman is fain to have much patience, before he have his corn into the barn: with great toil he ploughs his ground, harrows it, casts his seed into the earth; he knows not whether he shall see it any more, but rests patiently in God’s providence. The merchant is fain to have much patience, before he can mount up to any wealth: many a storm he endures on the sea, often in danger of his life. The clothier must have much patience, in buying of his wool, is making of it out, in selling of his cloth, he is fain to stand to many casualties; yet hope of a convenient gain in the end, makes him with cheerfulness to pass through them all. They do it for earthly things, that are h re to-day and gone to-morrow; and shall not we be patient for heavenly treasures, for a kingdom that cannot be shaken, but is eternal in the heavens? Be patient a while: pass through poverty, sickness, malevolent tongues, and all other calamities in this life, that we may at length be taken up into that place, where we shall have need of patience no more; for all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes. (W. Johns, D. D.)


Verse 16

Hebrews 6:16

An oath … the end of all strife

The lawfulness and obligation of oaths

I.
FOR THE NATURE OF AN OATH, AND THE KINDS OF IT. An oath is an invocation of God, or an appeal to Him as a witness of the truth of what we say. So that an oath is a sacred thing, as being an act of religion and an invocation of the name of God; and this, whether the name of God be expressly mentioned in it or not. There are two sorts of oaths, assertory and promissory. An assertory oath is when a man affirms or denies, upon oath, a matter of fact, past or present: when he swears that a thing was, or is so, or not so. A promissory oath is a promise confirmed by an oath, which always respects something that is future; and if the promise be made directly and immediately to God, then it is called a vow; if to men, an oath.

II. THE GREAT USE AND EVEN NECESSITY OF OATHS, IN MANY CASES, WHICH IS SO GREAT, THAT HUMAN SOCIETY CAN VERY HARDLY, IF AT ALL, SUBSIST LONG WITHOUT THEM. Government would many times be very insecure, and for the faithful discharge of offices of great trust, in which the welfare of the public is nearly concerned, it is not possible to find any security equal to that of an oath; because the obligation of that reacheth to the most hidden practices of men, and takes hold of them, in many cases, where the penalty of no h ,man law can have any awe or force upon them; and especially it is the “ best means of ending controversies.” And where men’s estates or lives are concerned, no evidence, but what is assured by an oath, will be thought sufficient to decide the matter, s,, as to give full and general satisfaction to mankind.

III. THE LAWFULNESS OF OATHS, WHERE THEY ARE NECESSARY.

1. I shall prove the lawfulness of oaths from the authority of this text, and the reasons plainly contained, or strongly implied in it.

Because the apostle doth not only speak of the use of oaths among men, without any manner of reproof, but as a commendable custom, and in many cases necessary for the confirmation of doubtful matters, and in order to the final decision of controversies and differences among men.

2. The insufficiency if the grounds of the contrary opinion, whether from reason or from Scripture.

(a) That in matters of great importance, no other obligation besides that of an oath hath been thought sufficient amongst the best and wisest of men, to assert their fidelity to one another.

(b) This reason, which is alleged against oaths among men, is much stronger against God’s confirming His promises to us by an oath. For He, who is truth itself, is surely of all other most to be credited upon

His bare word, and His oath needless to give confirmation to it; and yet He condescends to add His oath to His word” and therefore that reason is evidently of no force.

(a) That several circumstances of these words of our Saviour do manifestly show that they ought to be interpreted in a limited sense, as only forbidding swearing in common conversation; needless and heedless oaths, and in general all voluntary swearing, unless upon some weighty cause, in which the glory of God and the wood of the souls of men is concerned. For that in such cases a voluntary oath may be lawful, I am induced to believe from the example of St. Paul, who useth it more than once upon such occasions.

(b) It is very considerable to the explaining of this prohibition, that there are like general expressions in other Jewish authors concerning this very matter, which yet must of necessity be thus limited:--Maimonides, from the ancient, rabbles, gives this rule, that “ it is best not to swear at all”: and Philo useth almost the same words. And Rabbi Jonathan comes very near our Saviour’s expression when he says, “The just man will not swear at all; not so much as by the common names of God, nor by His attributes, nor by His works, as by heaven, or the angels, or by the law.” Now it is lint imaginable that these learned Jews should condemn oaths in all cases, when the law of Moses did in many cases expressly require them. And therefore they are to be understood of voluntary oaths in ordinary conversation.

(c) This prohibition of our Saviour’s cannot be understood to forbid all oaths, without a plain contradiction to the unboubted practice of the primitive Christians and of the apostles, and even of our Lord Himself. Origen and Tertullian tell us that the Christians refused to swear by the emperor’s genius; not because it was an oath, but because they thought it to be idolatrous. But the same Tertullian says that the Christians were willing to swear “ by the health and safety of the emperor.” Athanasius being accused to Constantius, purged himself by oath, and desired that his accuser might be, put to his oath,” by calling the truth to witness: by which form,” says he, “we Christians are wont to swear.” But, which is more than this, St. Paul, upon weighty occasions, does several times in his epistle call God to witness for the truth of what he says;

153 which is the very formality of an oath (Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; Philippians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:5). These are all unquestionable oaths; which we cannot imagine St. Paul would have used had they been directly contrary to our Saviour’s law. And whereas some defend this upon account of his extraordinary inspiration, I cannot possibly see how this mends the matter. For certainly it is very inconvenient to say that they who were to teach the precepts of Christ to others, did themselves break them by inspiration. But I go yet farther, and shall urge an example beyond all exception. Our Saviour Himself (who surely would not be the first example of breaking His own laws) did not refuse to answer upon oath, being called thereto at His trial. So we find Matthew 26:60.

IV. THE SACRED OBLIGATION OF AN OATH: BECAUSE IT IS A SOLEMN APPEAL TO GOD AS A WITNESS OF THE TRUTH OF WHAT WE SAY: to God, I say, from whose piercing and all-seeing eye, from whose perfect knowledge, nothing is or can be hid; so that there is not a thought in our heart but He sees it, nor a word in our tongue, but He discerns the truth or falsehood of it. Whenever we swear, we appeal to His knowledge and refer ourselves to His just judgment, who is the powerful patron and protector of right, and the almighty judge and avenger of all falsehood and unrighteousness. So that it is not possible for men to lay a more sacred and solemn obligation upon their consciences than by the religion of an oath. (Abp. Tillotson.)


Verses 17-20

Hebrews 6:17-20

Heirs of promise

Heirs of promise

I.
CONSIDER WHEREIN THE PORTION OF BELIEVERS CONSISTS: THEY ARE “HEIRS OF PROMISE.” Though they have little in possession, they have much in prospect; if not rich in enjoyment, they are rich in faith and hope. Amongst men, promises are often of little worth; but all the promises of God are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, unto the glory of God by us.

1. With regard to their subject matter, they include all things pertaining both to life and godliness; ensuring support in this world, and glory in the world to come.

2. There are promises made to the church in general, and others to individual believers; and ‘both are the portion of the saints. Of the former it is said, “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall he)p her, arid that right early.” Promises also are made to individuals, for their comfort and encouragement, and which are applicable to all the saints. “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” “My grace is sufficient for thee; My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, fur I am thy God.” “As thy day is, so shall thy strength be.”

3. The promises of God are either absolute or conditional. Some of the promises are absolute, not suspended on any act or endeavour of ours, or on any previous qualification; and such are all those which relate to the first bestowment of grace. “For who maketh thee to differ; and what hast thou that thou hast not received? It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that showeth mercy.” But there are promises conditional to grace received, and which are made only to those who believe. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

4. The Divine promises have various degrees of accomplishment. Some have already been fulfilled, either in whole or in part; as in the case with those relating to the coming of Christ, the establishment of His kingdom, and the universal spread of the gospel. Some are daily fulfilling, and others are yet to be fulfilled.

II. WHO ARE THE “ HEIRS” OF PROMISE, AND WHAT CHARACTER DO THEY BEAR?

1. They may be known by their perception of the promises themselves. They view them not only more distinctly and clearly, but in a light very different from that in which other persons either do or can consider them. They are represented as seeing them afar off, and being persuaded of them. Thus they see the suitableness and excellency of the promises, that they are the fruit of free and unmerited love, and are adapted to all cases and circumstances. As David saw the commandments, so they see the promises to be exceeding broad.

2. The heirs of promise may be known by the powerful application of the promises to their own hearts.

3. They may be known by the regard they bear towards them, and the desire they feel for their accomplishment. The promises contain all their salvation, and all their desire; they meditate therein both day and night, and view them with a satisfaction similar to that of a man who looks over the title-deeds of an estate which secures to him the possession of a large inheritance.

4. The practical effects which the promises produce in us are another means of showing who are the prop r heirs; for “every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself, even as Christ is pure.”

Improvement

1. If not heirs of the promise, what are we? Heirs of the curse--of that curse which cuts off on every side, and will one day enter into our bowels like water, and like oil into our bones.

2. If heirs of the promises, we are interested in all the blessings contained in them, relating both to this world and that which is to come. If the promises are ours, all things are ours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the words, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are ours, and we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.

3. If heirs of the promises we are heirs of God; all that He is and has, that is communicable, is made over to us in a way of covenanted mercy.

4. Being heirs of God, we are also joint heirs with Christ Jesus, to whom the birth-right blessing properly belongs. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

God’s faithfulness to His promises

The Bible is a book of promises, as well as of revelations, or Divine statements. These promises are our heritage. Faith in the promises makes the future present, and the heirship possession. It is thus “ the substance of things hoped for.” Shall the promises fail? Is God unfaithful? Shall a Queen Elizabeth value her promise, as when she gave the first vacancy to one unfit? Shall a Chatham have a wall rebuilt, rather than seem to break a promise to his son? Shall a Napier refuse an invitation that he may keep a promise to a poor girl? And shall God refuse to honour drafts made on His promises in the name of His Son? Shall the promises fail? Is there inability or unwillingness to perform? (John Gill.)

The immutability of His counsel

God’s counsel in relation to His people

I. THAT THEIR SALVATION FROM SIN SHALL BE A COMPLETE AND PERFECT SALVATION. This is the avowed design of

1. All His purposes (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 1:2; Romans 8:29 : Ephesians 2:10).

2. All His promises (Isaiah 1:18; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 2 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 1:9).

3. The earthly mission of His Son (Matthew 1:21; John 1:29;Corinthians L 21-22; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:26).

4. The constant operations of His Spirit (Ephesians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

5. The heaven which He has prepared for their eternal residence. Only the pure in heart shall see God. “Without holiness,” &e.

II. THAT THEIR COMPLETE AND PERFECT SALVATION FROM SIN SHALL BE EFFECTED BY THEIR OWN PERSEVERANCE.

1. What is the perseverance of the sailors?

2. The proposition that God secures the complete salvation of His people by their own perseverance, is confirmed by

III. THAT THEIR PERSEVERANCE SHALL BE SECURED BY GOD’S OWN BLESSING.

1. It is God’s counsel that the salvation of His people shall be a complete and perfect salvation.

2. It is also God’s counsel that this shall be secured by their own perseverance.

3. It is also God’s counsel that their perseverance shall be secured by His own blessing. (B. Preece.)

Confirmed it by an oath

The oath of God

The Divine hath is one of the mysteries of revelation. To one duly considering the majesty of God, and His relation to His creatures, nothing can be well more awful than His swearing to us, and swearing by Himself.

I. THE MEANING OF THE DIVINE OATH AND ITS GRACIOUSNESS FAIL TO BE CONSIDERED.

1. The Divine oath is represented as analogous to an oath among men, and yet different from it. The design in both is the same; it is for confirmation, whether of a fact or of a promise; and so for the ending of all strife and doubt (Hebrews 6:16; Hebrews 6:37). There is a difference, however, between the two oaths, arising out of the difference between the parties swearing. Men swear by the greater (Hebrews 6:16). But this God cannot do; and therefore He swears by Himself (Hebrews 6:17). Still the appeal in both cases is virtually the same. What are the two immutable things which the oath of God, swearing by Himself, brings upon the field! What can they be but the Divine word and the Divine name or nature? Take first the Divine word. That is an immutable thing. The word or promise of God is always sure and trustworthy. But take in now the second of the two immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie; His name, His character, His nature, His being and continuing to be such as He is. What new security is thus given? Is it not in substance this:--That God discovers to us a ground or reason of what He designs to do farther back than the mere sovereign and discretionary fiat of His absolute will; deeply fixed and rooted in the very essence of His being? Is it not that He puts the certainty of that to which He swears, not only on the ground of His having intimated it beforehand, but on the ground of a stronger necessity, in the very nature of things, and in His own nature; lying far back and far down, in His being God, and being the God He is? The thing is to he so not merely because God has said it shall be so, but also because it cannot but be so, God continuing to be, and to be the God He is. This is what, in swearing by Himself, He means to tell us.

2. The graciousness of the oath is as wonderful as its meaning. It is indeed more so. Even among men; if the heart is true, and the eye, even turned on empty space, beams keen with honour: there is a certain feeling of repugnance to being called to swear. And undoubtedly no one who possesses right feeling, as regards the sacredness of a spoken word, will volunteer an oath. It is on this principle that our Lord gives forth His utterance against not only false but promiscuous swearing, It is of evil that this practice of swearing, even when most right and fitting, cometh among men on earth; of the evil of men’s deceitfulness, their proneness to prevaricate and lie. It is at the best a necessary evil. And is it anything else when it is God who swears from heaven? Of that oath also, of that oath pre-eminently, may it not be said that it cometh of evil? Not indeed of the evil of anything false or suspicious on the part of Him who swears; but of the evil heart of unbelief in those to whom He swears.

II. THE USES TO WHICH IT IS APPLIED IN SCRIPTURE MAY SERVE STILL FARTHER TO ILLUSTRATE THE REAL IMPORT AND THE GRACIOUSNESS OF THE OATH.

1. We have an instance of the Divine oath in connection with the mediatorial priesthood of Christ. And what is very seasonable and providential, we have an ample inspired explanation of it, as viewed in that connection. I refer to the oracle in Psalms 110:4, as expounded in Hebrews 7:1-28. The priesthood of Christ is no mere arbitrary, discretionary ordinance, which, as being expedient to-day, God may institute by His sovereign authority in His word or law, and which, by the same sovereign authority, He may supersede to-morrow, as no longer needed and no longer useful. No; it is an office having its deep root in the very nature, the essential glory and perfection, of God Himself. It is therefore unchangeable, not merely as God’s word, but as His very being, is unchangeable. The word of God is indeed immutable, under the conditions attached to it when it is uttered. But it may be, according to these conditions, the basis of what is merely temporary, insufficient, and provisional. What is based on the absolute immutable nature of God must necessarily be both permanent and perfect.

2. Founded on this primary use, if I may so speak, of the Divine oath, as bearing on the constitution of the mediatorial economy in the person and work of the great High Priest, there are other instances of its use in Scripture, connected with the carrying out of that economy, to which it may be interesting and useful to advert.

3. The Divine oath is all-important in its bearing on the security of the believer’s hope. That indeed is its immediate application here. The question of your progress and perseverance to the end has been raised; by the reproof and exhortation and warning contained in the previous passage. Your only safety against backsliding and apostasy lies, as you are told, in getting out of the mere elements of the gospel viewed as a method of personal relief, and passing on to the perfection of insight and sympathy, as regards the higher aspects and bearings of it, in relation to the glorious name of God. But, alas 1 one may say, what confidence can I ever have in that line? The perfection to which I am to go on, alas! how distant. The sin into which I may relapse, alas! how near. What is to give me confidence? Is it my own diligence in following; not slothfully, the saints that have gone before? Or is it my own carefulness to depart from the iniquity that dogs my steps behind? No. Both of these conditions are indispensable, but neither of them is to be relied on as giving assurance. But thou art in the hands of a God whose name, and nature, and character thou knowest. And, to put an end to all debate in thy heart, He swears By Himself to thee. He points to His essential perfection. He bids thee consider, not only what He says, but what He is; what thou in Christ hast seen and found Him to be. And He tells thee that, as surely as He is what He is, as surely as He liveth, so surely He pledges Himself to thee, and must keep faith with thee.

4. One other application of the Divine oath I can but touch upon; it is the connection in which it stands with the ultimate triumph of the Lord’s Church and cause in the world (Isaiah 45:22-23). The purpose of Godto all the earth with the knowledge of Himself and of His glory is a purpose founded, not upon His mere sovereign word, but upon His essential nature. It is no arbitrary decree, but an absolute necessity of His very being, which requires that the light which has come into the world shall ultimately dispel the world’s darkness, and that the kingdom which the God of heaven has set up in the earth shall in the end make all other kingdoms its own. The time may seem long; the struggle arduous and doubtful. But as surely as God continues to be the God He is; as surely as the Lord liveth; so surely shall His gospel make way among the nations, till all the earth is filled with His glory. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

The end of God’s oath

God doth not give it to make His word or promise sure and steadfast, but to give assurance and security to us of their accomplishment. Every word of God is sure and certain truth itself, because it is His; and He might justly require of us the belief of it, without any further attestation. But yet, knowing what great objections Satan and our own unbelieving hearts will raise against His promises, at least as to our own concern in them, to confirm our minds, and to take away all pretences of unbelief, He interposes His oath in this matter. What can remain of distrust in such a case? If there be a matter in doubt between men, and an oath be interposed in the confirmation of that which is called in question, it is to them, as the apostle fells us, an end of all strife (Hebrews 6:16). How much more ought it to be so on the part of God, when His oath is engaged? And the apostle declares this end of His oath, it is to show the immutability of His

161 counsel (Hebrews 6:17). His counsel was declared before in the promise; but now some doubt or strife may arise, whether, on one occasion or other, God may not change His counsels; or whether He hath not charged it with such conditions as to render it useless to us. In what case so ever it be, to remove all doubts and suspicions of this nature, God adds His oath, manifesting the unquestionable immutability of His counsel and promises. What therefore is thus confirmed, is ascertained to the height of what anything is capable of. And not to believe it is the height of impiety. (John Owen, D. D.)

Two immutable things

Immutable things

Now what are those “two immutable things’ which cannot fail? Some have seen in them the two covenants--the covenant which God made with Abraham; and the covenant which God made with Christ. Some have understood it to mean, first, the promise of the fact made to the patriarchs; and then the great fulfilment of that promise revealed in the gospel. But it appears to me far better, and much more accordant with the whole line of thought, to take it as meaning, first, the nature and the character of God; and then God’s “oath,” or covenant, whereby He has made over that character to man, and pledged Himself to our salvation. Here, then, every believer finds his double rest. First, I have the being of God--all faithfulness, all love. That God is my Father. I am dearer to Him than I am to myself. It is His glory and His necessity to be kind to me. In that great “I AM” I find my argument. He revolves within Himself. And it is for His own glory that His own creature should be happy, holy, useful here; and with Him and like Him for ever. But, after all, everything else--the Bible, redemption itself, is only a platform to exhibit the character of God. But then as if this were not enough, 1 have all those attributes, and all that nature, made over to me, as my own, in solemn compact, sealed with blood. His justice is pledged to accept my Substitute, and to release me. His word is committed to it, that, if I am Christ’s, however unworthy I be, I shall be “accepted in the Beloved” One. And that nature and that oath are my “two immutable things.” Can the eternal Jehovah change? Can God’s truth fail? Can He deny Himself? Has not He “made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure?” So, as the “anchor” has its two cables, my hidden “hope” has its two strong confirmations. And nothing can divide them. It lies in its own adamantine, indissoluble power. And its twofold power is one that never can be broken. Therefore, well did St. Paul say, “Sure and stedfast.” “Sure,” in God’s being; “stedfast,” in God’s covenant; and in both it is just what a poor, wretched sinner wants, in such a world as this--“a strong consolation to those who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them.” They say the ship “always drops to her anchor.” So, by secret influences, the soul, which is held to Jesus, will continually, and almost insensibly, be getting nearer and nearer to Him every moment; nearer in converse; nearer in likeness; nearer in love. Nor will it rest till it is as near Him now as the circumstances of this present life allow--looking for the time when there shall be no hindrances; and we shall be near Him, and one with Him for ever. But, though the “anchor” be cast--and though the holdings be sure--and though the ship “drops to her anchor”--still the winds beat on, thewaves may roll, and the vessel toss. Only, so long as the chain holds, she can never break off; and she can never become a castaway. There is no warrant, brethren, you are in Christ, that, therefore, you shall not be buffeted by storms; or that you should not feel the roughnesses of this world’s troubles. Rather because you are bound to Him, you may strain the more, that you may ride in perfect peace. No feat” that that “anchor” may slip. There may be trials, but there is no danger; distress, but not despair; and welcome even the tempest, in its fury, if it prove the firmness of the tenure by which you are held, and the goodness by which you are encouraged. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The immutable grounds of a believer’s confidence

I. God’s single word is an immutable ground; having this, you have enough. And so it will appear if you consider the power and the certainty of it.

1. The power of God’s word. His wind is nothing else but the declaration of His powerful will; the force of it was discovered in creating the world. God created all things by His word (Psalms 33:9). All the works of God subsist by the force of His word (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore if you have this immutable ground, if God bath deposited and plighted His word you have enough to establish strong consolation, for it is powerful to all purposes whatsoever.

2. Consider the certainty of it. When the word is gone out of God’s mouth it shall not be recalled. The Lord prizeth His faithfulness above all things. The Scripture must be fulfilled whatever inconveniences come of it. Mark the whole course of providence, and you will find that God is very tender of His word; He value it above all His works (Luke 21:33).

II. The main thing is, what ground of consolation we have in God’s oath.

1. For the reasons why God should give this oath.

2. The advantages we have by God’s oath. What greater assurance can we have?

Application:

1. We see the greatness of the condescension of God.

2. What reason we have to bind ourselves to God. There was no need on God’s part why God should bind Himself to us, but great need on our part why we should bind ourselves to God. We start aside like a deceitful bow, and therefore we should solemnly bind ourselves to God (Psalms 119:106).

3. You see the great wrong you do to God in giving so little credit to His promises. You make God a liar (1 John 5:10).

4. To press us to improve these two immutable grounds, that we may grow up into a greater certainty. His saying is as immutable as His swearing; God’s word is valuable enough of itself, but only because we count an oath more sacred. God hath added it over and above. Men are slight in speech, but serious in an oath. Well, then, since you have a double holdfast on God, make use of it in prayer and in meditation; in prayer, when you speak to God; in meditation, when you discourse with yourselves. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Impossible for God to lie

Inferences from the impossibility of God to he

1. The impossibility of God to lie is a great aggravation of the heinousness of unbelief. For he that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar (1 John 5:10), which is in effect to make God no God.

2. This is a strong motive to believe: a greater cannot be given: for as there is no will, so neither power in God to lie.

3. This should make ministers who speak in God’s name to be sure of the truth of that which they deliver for God’s word, else they make God a liar, for their word is taken for Gods (Colossians 2:13). They are God’s ambassadors. An ambassador’s failing is counted his master’s failing.

4. Though we cannot attain to such a high pitch of truth, yet every one ought to endeavour to be like God herein, namely, in avoiding lying. Lying is a sin unbesseming any man: but most unbeseeming a professor of the true religion.

General arguments against lying are these:

1. Lying is condemned by those who were led by no other light than the light of nature: as philosopher, orators, poets.

2. Every man’s conscience condemns lying. If one be not impudent, he will blush when he tells a lie; and infinite shifts are ordinarily made to cloak a lie, which show that he is ashamed thereof, and that his conscience checketh him for it.

3. No man can endure to be accounted a liar.

4. Lying over throws all society.

5. A man taken tripping herein will be suspected in all his words and actions. He that is not true in his words ,’an hardly be thought to deal honestly in hi, deeds.

Arguments against lying in professors of the Christian religion are these:

1. Lying is expressly forbidden in God’s word (Leviticus 19:11; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9).

2. It is against knowledge and conscience.

3. It is a filthy rag of the old man, and one of the most disgraceful; and therefore first set down in the particular exemplification of those filthy rags Ephesians 4:22-25).

4. It is most directly opposite to God, who is Truth itself, and concerning whom we heard that it was impossible that He should lie.

5. Nothing makes men more like the devil, “for he is a liar and the father thereof” (John 8:44). A lying spirit is a diabolical spirit.

6. As a lie is hateful to God, so it makes the practisers thereof abominable Proverbs 6:16-17; Proverbs 12:22).

7. Lying causeth heavy vengeance. In general, it is said, the Lord will destroy them that speak lies (Psalms 5:6). Memorable was the judgment on Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27). And on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5-10). (W. Gouge.)

Strong consolation

Strong consolation

I. Who are THE FAVOURED PEOPLE OF GOD.

1. Observe, then, that the favoured children of God are first described as “the heirs of promise,” by which at once most solemnly are excluded all those who are relying upon their own merits. Dost thou confess that thou hast nothing of thine own wherein to boast, and dost thou hope alone in the mercy of God in Christ Jesus? Then let me hope thou art one of the heirs of promise. “Heirs of promise,” again. Then this excludes those who are heirs according to their own will, who scoff at the mighty work of grace, and believe that their own free choice has saved them. One more thought: “Heirs of promise,” then heirs, not according to the power of the flesh, but according to The energy of grace.

2. A plainer description of the favoured people follows in the eighteenth verse. “Who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Then all the people of God were once in danger.

II. Let us look to the ways and dealings of OUR CONDESCENDING GOD to these favoured people. Notice each word, “God willing.” Whenever God does anything in a way of grace, He does it as we say con amore, He does it in the highest sense willingly. It is not the will of God that sinners should perish; but when He reveals Himself to His saints, He doeth it with a sacred alacrity, a Divine cheerfulness. It is an occupation divinely suitable to His generous nature. “Willing more abundantly.” Do notice that expression. It has in the Greek the sense of more than is necessary, and is secretly meant to answer the objection concerning the Lord’s taking an oath. God is willing to reveal Himself to His people, and He is willing to do that “more abundantly,” up to the measure of their need. He would let them know that His counsel is immutable, and He would not only give them enough evidence to prove it, He would give them overwhelming evidence, evidence snore than would be or could be possibly required by the case itself, so that their unbelief may have no chance to live, and their faith may be of the strongest kind. “the word “to show” is remarkable; it is the very word used in the Greek when our Lord showed His disciples His hands and His side, as if the word would say that God would lay bare the immutability of His nature, would as it were strip His eternal purposes, and let His people look upon them, handle them, and see their reality, their truth and certainty. “God is willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel.” Oftentimes a man will not give further assurance of the truth of what he states, when he believes he has already given assurance enough. Observe with wonder that our ever gracious God never standeth on His dignity in this style at all, but He looketh not so much at the dignity of His own person as at the weakness of His people, and therefore being willing more abundantly to show unto His poor, feeble, trembling people the immutability of His counsel, He not only gives one promise, but he adds another and another and another, till to count the promises were almost as difficult as to count the stars or number the sands on the sea shore. Yea, and when He has done all this, He comes in with a master clap to crown it all, and confirms every promise by an oath, that by not one immutable thing, but by two, the promise and the oath, in both of which it is impossible for Jehovah to lie, His people might never dare to doubt again, but might have strong consolation.

1. The first immutable thing upon which our faith is to stay itself, is the promise. Oh, what consolation is this, then, our refuge is secure, our confidence is firm! Look ye here, ye people of God. This promise of God was not made in a hurry. A man makes a promise on a sudden, and he cannot keep it afterwards; but through the everlasting ages the promise was on Jehovah’s heart before He spoke it with His lips. Men sometimes make promises that they cannot fulfil, they are in circumstances which do not permit them. But can God ever he in a difficulty? Men sometimes make promises which it would be unwise to keep, and perhaps it is better to break them; but the Lord cannot be unwise, His is infinite wisdom as well as infinite strength. The promise, then, because of its wisdom, will surely stand. Beside, the promise He has made is to His own honour. It redounds to His glory to show mercy to the unworthy. Moreover, His promise is made to His own Son, and His love to Him is interwoven with His promise. He could not break His word to one of us without breaking it to His dear Son, since we are in Him, and trust in Him. The Divine promise must stand good.

2. But it is added that God, in order to prevent our unbelief effectually, has taken an oath. God has with an oath sworn by Himself that all the heirs of pro-raise shall be blessed for ever, saying, “Surely blessing, I will bless thee.” Now, who among us dare doubt this? Where is the hardy sinner who dares come forward and say, “I impugn the oath of God”?

III. But I must note THE STRONG CONSOLATION WHICH FLOWS OUT OF ALL THIS. There is strong consolation, says the text, for the heirs of grace, which implies that the children of God must expect to bare trouble. All the followers of the great Cross-bearer are cross-bearers too; but then there is the strong consolation for the strong tribulation. What is strong consolation?

1. I think strong consolation is that which does not depend upon bodily health. What a cowardly old enemy the devil is! When we are vigorous in body, it is very seldom that he will tempt us to doubt and tear, but if ,ye have been racked with hours of pain and sleepless nights, and are getting to feel faint and weary, then he comes in with his horrible insinuations: “God will forsake you. His promise will fail t” He is vile enough to put his black paws on the brightest truth in the Bible, say, upon even the very existence of God Himself, and turn the boldest believer into the most terrible doubter, so that we seem to have gone bodily over to the army of Satan, and to be doubting every good thing that is in the Word of God. Strong consolation even at such times, enables us still to rejoice in the Lord though every nerve should twinge, and every bone should seem melted with pain.

2. Strong consolation is that which is not dependent upon the excitement of public services and Christian fellowship. We feel very happy on a Sunday i ere when we almost sing ourselves away to everlasting bliss, and when the sweet name of Jesus is like ointment poured forth, so that the virgins love it. But when you are in colder regions, how is it? Perhaps you are called to emigrate, or go into the country to a barren ministry where there is nothing to feed the soul. Ah, then, if Son have not got good ground for your soul to grow in, what will ye do?

3. The strong consolation which God gives His people is such as no mere reasoning can shake. You might as well reason me out of the toothache, or convince me that I do not exist, as reason me out of my consciousness that I love Christ, and theft I am saved in Him. They cannot touch the essentials of vital godliness, and this is a strong consolation which reasoning no more woundeth than men come at leviathan with spears and swords, for he laugheth at them, and accounteth their spears as rotten wood.

4. Strong consolation, again, because it will bear up under conscience, and that is a harder pressure than mere reasoning can ever bring.

5. Ay, and we can deal with Satan with his horrible insinuations and blasphemies, and still can say, “I will trust in the Lord and not be afraid.” To rejoice then, and say, “Though these things be not with me as I would have them, yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure”; this is strong consolation.

6. And it will be proved to be so by and by with some of us, when we stall be in the solemn article of death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Consolation the fruit of assurance

That the fruit of this certainty and assurance which we have by God’s Word and oath is strong consolation.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY STRONG CONSOLATION? Consolation. There ate three words by which the fruits of assurance are expressed, which imply so many degrees of it. There is peace, comfort, and joy.

1. Peace. That we have as a fruit of justification (Romans 5:1).

2. Then there is consolation which notes an habitual persuasion of God’s love; there is an habitual serenity and cheerfulness of mind. Though there be not high tides of comfort, there is support, though not ravishment. It is called “everlasting consolation” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

3. Then there is joy, or an high and sensible comfort (Romans 15:13). The next term is “strong consolation.’”

Why is it so called?

1. It is called so either in opposition to worldly comforts, which are weak and vanishing

2. Or else it is called “ strong consolation” in comparison with itself, with respect to less or more imperfect degrees of comfort. There is a latitude in comfort, some have more and some less; some have only weak glimmerings and drops, others have strong consolation, “joy unspeakable, and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Now a Christian should aim at the highest degree; the stronger your consolation, the better is Christ pleased with it (John 15:11).

3. It may likewise be called strong in regard of its effects.

II. How THIS STRONG CONSOLATION ARISETH FROM ASSURANCE AND CERTAINTY. To establish joy and comfort, two things are necessary--excellency and propriety. The thing in which I rejoice, it must be good, and it must be mine. Suitably here in the text there is an assurance of excellent privileges; and then there is a qualification annexed that we may understand our own interest. God by His oath assures us of excellent privileges in Christ, and that is a ground of strong consolation. Then He requireth a duty of us, that we fly for refuge to take hold of the hope set before us.

1. For the excellency of our privileges. You know that which will minister solid comfort to the soul it had need be excellent. A small matter, though never so sure, will not, occasion a strong consolation; the joy is according to the object. Now, whether a Christian look backward or forward, there is matter of rejoicing to the heirs of promise. Backward, there is the immutability of His counsel; forward, there is a hope set before us. From one eternity to another may a believer walk and still find cause of rejoicing in God.

2. Another cause of strong comfort is interest and propriety. Besides the excellency of the privilege, there must be the clearness of our interest. The object of joy is not only good in common, but our good. It doth not enrich a man to hear there are pearls and diamonds in the world, and mines of gold in the Indies, unless he had them in his own possession; so it doth not fill us with comfort and joy to hear there are unchangeable purposes of grace, and that there was an eternal treaty between God and Christ about the salvation of sinners, and that there is a possible salvation, but when we understand this is made over to us.

III. HOW IT IS DISPENSED ON GOD’S PART, AND HOW FAR IT IS REQUIRED ON OURS BECAUSE EVERY HEIR OF PROMISE CANNOT SPEAK OF THESE LIVELY COMFORTS, THOSE SWEET AND STRONG CONSOLATIONS OF THE SPIRIT. First, on God’s part. There is a great deal of difference between Christians in respect of God’s dispensations.

1. Consider Christ, though He loved all His disciples, yet He did not use them all alike familiarly; some were more intimate with Him, and were more in His bosom. So though all the elect are dear to Christ, yet there are the elect of the elect, some chosen out above others, with whom God will be more intimate and familiar.

2. Though God deals here with great difference, yet it is usual with the Lord to give most comfort to three sorts of persons.

Strong consolation for the Lord’s refugees

I. WE HAVE FLED FOE REFUGE.”

1. The man-slayer, the moment he had in the heat of passion killed a man, became an apt representative of an awakened sinner who discovers himself to be in an evil case. It is the work of the Spirit of God to convince men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, and it is well when the soul begins to fear, for then it begins to live.

2. The alarmed man-slayer would next, if he could calm himself at all, consider what he could do, and he would soon come to the conclusion that he could neither defy, nor escape, nor endure the doom which threatened him. Thus in the days of our conviction no hope was discovered to natural reason, and our dread increased till fear took hold upon us there, for we saw what we had done, but we knew not what we could do to escape from the consequences thereof.

3. Then there came to our ear what perhaps we had heard before, but had heard so indifferently as never to have really understood it--we heard of a divinely provided way of escape. When under a sense of sin men value Christ Jesus. How wonderful is the system of grace! Here it is: that as in Adam we die through Adam’s sin, so if we be in Christ we live through Christ’s righteousness.

4. The text, however, not only implies that we need the refuge and have heard of it, but that we have fled to it. To flee away from self to the provided refuge is a main act of faith.

II. BUT WE HAVE COME TO “LAY HOLD.” Here we have a change of figure, unless we recall the case of Joab who fled for refuge to the temple and laid hold upon the horns of the altar Justification by faith in Jesus is set before us. What are we to do according to the text? We have to “lay hold” upon it. You are drowning; there is a rope thrown to you; what have you to do? “Lay hold.” You are not to look at your hands to see whether they are clean enough. No, lay hold, dirty hand or clean hand. “But my hand is weak.” Lay hold, brother, as best you can, weak hand or not, for while you are laying hold of Christ God is laying hold of you; you may rest assured of that. If you have the faintest grip of Christ, Christ has a firm grip of you such as never shall be relaxed. Your business is at this moment to lay hold and keep hold. What is to be done in order to lay hold?

1. Well, we must believe the gospel to be true. Do you believe it to be true that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them? Yes, I know you believe that God has sent His Son to, be a propitiation for sin. So far, so good. The next thing is to apprehend for yourselves this truth. Christ justifies believers; He is worthy of trust; trust Him, and He has justified you. “I do not feel it,” says one. You do not need to feel it. It is a matter of believing. Believe in Jesus, and because you are a believer be assured that yon are saved.

2. While a man lays hold upon a thing he goes no further, but continues to cling to it. We have fled for refuge, but we flee no further than the hope which we now lay hold upon, namely, eternal life in Christ Jesus. We never wish to get beyond God’s promise in Christ Jesus to believers, the promise of salvation to faith. We are satisfied with that, and there we rest.

3. Did you notice that the apostle speaks of laying hold upon a hope? This does not mean that we are to lay hold by imagination upon something which we hope to obtain in the dim future, for the next verse goes on to say “ which hope we have.” We have our hope now, it is not a shadowy idea that possibly when we come to die we may be saved. We know that we at this moment are safe in our refuge, and we lay hold on our confidence as a present joy. Yet that which we lay hold upon is full of hope, there is more in it than we can now see or enjoy. What is the hope? The hope of final perseverance, the hope of ultimate perfection, the hope of eternal glory, the hope of being with our Lord where He is that we may behold His glory for ever--a hope purifying, elevating, and full of glory; a hope which cheers and delights us as often as we think of it.

III. This is our last point, WE ENJOY “STRONG CONSOLATION.” We call that liquor strong of which a very few drops will flavour all into which it falls. How wonderfully the consolation of Christ has affected our entire lives! There is such potency in it that it sweetens everything about us. It is so strong that it masters all our fears, and slays all our scepticisms.

1. What I want you to note is that the consolation of the Christian lies wholly in his God, because the ground of it is that God has sworn, and that God has promised. Never look, therefore, to yourselves for any consolation; it would be a vain search.

2. Remember, too, that your consolation must come from what God has spoken and not from His providence. Outward providences change, hut the oath never changes, hold you on to that. Your comfort must not even depend upon sensible realisations of God s favour, nor on sweet communions and delights. No, but upon--He has said it and He has sworn it--those are the two strong pillars up n which your comfort must rest.

3. Remember, however, that the power of the strong consolation derived from the oath of God must in your personal enjoyment depend very much upon your faith. What is the consolation of a promise if you do not believe it, and what is the comfort of an oath if you doubt it? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Strong encouragement

When stars, first created, start forth upon their vast circuits, not knowing their way, if they were conscious and sentient, they might feel hopeless of maintaining their revolutions and orbits, and despair in the face of coming ages. But, without hands or arms, the sun holds them. Without cords or bands the solar king drives them, unharnessed, on their mighty rounds without a single misstep, and will bring them, in the end, to their bound, without a wanderer. Now, if the sun can do this, the sun, which is but a thing itself, driven and held, shall not He who created the heavens, and gave the sun his power, be able to hold us by the attraction of His heart, the strength of His hands, and the omnipotence of His affectionate will? (H. W. Beecher.)

Strong consolation

It is impossible, wrote Dr. Doddridge, after an illness, to express the comfort God gave me on my sick bed. His promises were my continual feast; they seemed, as it were, to be all united in one stream of glory. When I thought of dying, it sometimes made my very heart to leap within me, to think that I was going home to my Father and my Saviour. (Tinling’s Illustrations.)

Who have fled for refuge

The city of refuge

I. THE VIEW GIVEN OF THE SAVIOUR IN THE TEXT. He is called “ the hope set before us.” In the Scriptures we read of hope that is in us, hope that is laid up for us, and hope that is set before us. The happiness of heaven--heaven itself--its light and glory, its songs, and its blessedness--this is the hope laid up for us: that good work of the Holy Spirit’s operation on the heart, here and now, whereby we look for the former, and for the earnest of it, is the hope that is in us; and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the only foundation and hope, for sinner or for saint, for pardon or for holiness, is the hope set before us.

II. THE CONDUCT OF THE MAN DESCRIBED IN THE TEXT IN REFERENCE TO THIS BLESSED OBJECT. He is said to “ flee for refuge,” and to “lay hold upon it.” In this there is an allusion to the flight of the man-slayer to the city of refuge. Methinks I descry the man-slayer looking behind him; he sees the avenger of blood; he sees the horrible burning frown upon his brow, he hears the dismal tramp of his feet, and away he flies; he stops not, turns not out of his course, but presses on and on with accelerated speed, until at length, all punting and breathless, he enters the hallowed gates of the city of refuge, and enters into peace. Such is the flight of the sinner’s soul to the arms of Christ Jesus. This representation sets before us the case of a man struck with a conviction of guilt, smitten with an apprehension of danger, despairing of relieving himself, coming out of himself, and trusting to another. The very name of Jesus, which was before an insipid sound, is now to him like music. His soul leaps within him to know that “ God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself not imputing to men their trespasses”; his heart dances for joy when he finds that “it is a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” But observe: his conviction of guilt, and danger, and ruin, being now no longer superficial, but pervading, individual, and thorough, he is not surf-fled with this merely general representation of the matter. It is not now enough for him to know in so many general terms that God is merciful, and that Christ is a Saviour; he now narrowly pries into the whole affair, into the authority and commission of Christ to save into His ability and His qualifications to save, into His willingness and readiness to save.

III. THE PRIVILEGE AND HAPPINESS OF THOSE WHO HAVE THUS FLED TO CHRIST JESUS FOR REFUGE. “By two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie,” they have “a strong consolation.” What is consolation? It is the relief of the mind under any trouble or pain; or the presence and enjoyment of a good which is able to prevent altogether, or else carry away and bear down before it, as in a full tide or flowing stream, all evil felt or feared. Two things would occur to the mind of the man-slayer in connection with his flight to the city of refuge. One would be: “Is it true--is it really, incontrovertibly true, that if I get to the city of refuge, the avenger dares not, must not touch me?” The other would be: “Suppose I get to the city, and am secure against the stroke of the avenger, what kind of accommodation and provision shall I find within that city?” These two things would occur to him on his way to, or on his arrival at the city of refuge; and if he had had any uncertainty as to the one or the other, he would have been overwhelmed with confusion and dismay. But he had no doubt; he knew, he was quite sure, that if he got to the city of refuge, the avenger could not touch him, that he would be as safe in the city as if he were in heaven. He also knew that, if he got to that city, and should remain in it, all his wants would be supplied, everything necessary for his accommodation and support would be provided for him. Thus he had consolution. Now apply these two things as an illustration of the nature of the happiness of believing in Christ. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” “They that believe enter into rest.” “Who is he that shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” What is it you are afraid of? Is it the justice of God? I know the justice of God has the impenitent sinner by the throat, and says, “Pay me that thou owest! But I know also that the hand of the penitent sinner lays hold on the hope set before him, and justice takes his hand off. It must be so; otherwise God were unrighteous in demanding two payments for one debt. “He that believes shall be saved.” “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” What are you afraid of? Is it of the fiery law? The law is not roaring after you if you have got into the city of refuge: it is not muttering its tremendous maledictions against you if you have laid hold of the hope set before you. If you hear anything at all of the demands of the law, it is the echoes of those demands dying away amid the battlements of the city wall; for he to whom you have fled, and on whom you have laid hold, has “magnified the law and made it honourable.” Then what is it you are afraid of? Is it of the roaring lion of hell? He is indeed “going about seeking whom he may devour”; but your faith in Christ is a shield wherewith you may quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. Then what is it you have to fear? Is it death? You may give up that fear along with all the other fears; for Jesus, to whom you have come, on whom you have laid hold, has put down death, abolished it, and buried it in His own grave; and has brought life and immortality to light. This is consolation, but that is not the whole of it. I said that the consolation of the man-slayer on reaching the city of refuge would also include an assurance that he should be provided for, while there, with everything necessary for his accommodation and support. This answers to the other half-the happiness of believing in Christ--which consists in the infinite assurance that God has given the believer that he never shall want any manner of thing that is really good, and that he never shall be in inextricable danger. “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger”; and well they may; “but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” Can that man want water who lives on the brinks of an everlasting spring? Can that man want light who lives in the centre of the eternal sun? Now look at the grounds on which this consolation rests. We have it, says the apostle, “by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie.” What are these immutable things? Where are they to be met with? We cannot write the word immutable on the rock; it is constantly wearing away: nor on the sun; the sun himself shall grow old and dull. But there are two immutable things--the word of promise and the oath of God. These are called the “counsel of God,” to intimate that His promise is the declaration of His counsel. Promises very often are the result of anything but counsel; but the promise of God is the counsel of God, the manifestation and publication of His counsel, The promises of God--what are they like? Whereunto shall I compare them?

They are like so many silver cords let down from heaven, hanging out from the pavilion of infinite clemency, I had almost said, sent down from the heart of God itself, for the hand of faith to lay hold on. The promise of God is an immutable thing; and by that we have our consolation. But there is another ground of this happiness. God, knowing the million ills of human life, the million jealousies of the human heart, knowing the backwardness of your mind, and the slowness of your heart to believe His own eternal word of promise, hath condescended to superadd to that His solemn oath. What is that oath like ? Is it not as if Jehovah was laying all the perfections of His nature, staking the very glory of the Godhead, on the truth of His promise previously made? These are the two immutable things by which we have our consolation. Finally, let me mention the quality of this happiness. It is called in the text a “strong consolation”; a consolation amongst the most substantial, the most abundant and efficient; a consolation available for every exigency of life, for the solemnity of death, for the crisis of the judgment day. How strong is this consolation? It is stronger than the afflictions of life. It turns the dungeon into a gate of heaven, the place of stocks into the vestibule of glory. If, like the Hebrews, to whom the language was originally addressed, you were called to bear the spoiling of your goods for Christ’s sake; with this consolation you would bear it joyfully. Soaring on the wings of grace, you may defy the power of affliction, calamity, sickness, and change. He, whose word of promise and solemn oath you have, has said He will be with you “ in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.” Strong consolation! How strong? Stronger than the dread of wrath. Oh, what a mountain is gone when the fear of hell is gone! Oh, what a load is removed from the human spirit when the dread of the wrath to come is removed! And it is removed from the man who has fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before him. Strong consolation! How strong? It is not only stronger than all the afflictions of life, and stronger than the dread of the wrath to come, but stronger than the fear of death. “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death.” Go and see the righteous die. Death has come in at the window; laying his hand upon the heart; freezing up the life-blood of the fountain. Death is there; but Christ is there also. Death, the last enemy, is there; but Christ, the Lord of life and glory, is there too. Death is there as the servant; Christ as the Master. “I heard a voice from heaven saying, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.” Strong consolation! How strong? Stronger than all the terrors of the final judgment, than the desolations of universal nature. (J. Beaumont, D. D.)

Flying for refuge

The true heirs of promise, with whom God hath pawned His word and oath to do them good eternally, are such as have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them. In the description there are two parts, “flying for refuge,” and “taking hold of the hope set before them.” The one relates to their justification, or their first acceptation with God in Christ, “Flying for refuge”; the other relates to their carriage after justification, “To take hold of the hope set before them.”

I. For the first branch--“Flying for refuge.” It is an allusion to the cities of refuge spoken of under the law.

1. That Christ is a believer’s city of refuge, or the alone sanctuary for distressed souls.

2. It is the property of believers to fly to Christ for refuge. This flying may be explained with analogy to the two terms of every motion, which are terminus a quo and ad quem, from what we fly, and to what; and so we have the perfect method which the Spirit observeth in bringing home souls to God. In this flying to Christ as a city of refuge there is a driving and a drawing work; the first belongs to the law, the second to the gospel. The law driveth us out of ourselves, and the gospel draweth us, and bringeth us home to God.

(a) It implies earnestness, as in a case of life and death. A dilatory trifling spirit shows we are not touched at heart.

(b) Running to the city of refuge implieth avoiding all byways. A soul that is rightly affected cannot be satisfied with any other thing; another place would not secure the man, nothing but the city of refuge.

(c) This running implies an unwearied diligence. The man was running still till was gotten into the city of refuge, for it was for his life; so we are unwearied until we meet with Christ (Song of Solomon 3:2).

(d) When they are got into their city of refuge, they stay there; having once taken hold of Christ, they will not quit their holdfast for all the world.

II. For the second branch, “To lay hold upon the hope that is set before us,” and you must repeat the word “flying” or “running” again.

1. What is this hope? Hope is put for the thing hoped for, heaven with all the glory thereof; for it is a hope “that lies within the veil (Hebrews 6:19), or a hope “laid up for us in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). Mark the double end of him that cometh unto Christ, refuge and salvation; for in Christ there is not only deliverance from pursuing wrath, but eternal life to be found; first we fly from deserved wrath, then we take hold of undeserved glory. This is more easy of the two (Romans 5:10-11).

2. Why is this hope said to be set before us?

(a) Diligence in pursuit of eternal life in the heirs of promise. It is expressed by working out our salvation, making it our business Philippians 2:12). When we will not be put off with anything else, but have heaven or nothing, this is to seek heaven in good earnest.

(b) This flying to take hold of the hope set before us imptorteth perseverance in well doing, notwithstanding the difficulties in the way to heaven.

(c) All this upon Christian encouragements, for the hope that is before them. A man may know much of his spirit by what bears him up, and what is the comfort and solace of his soul (Titus 2:13). Application

1. Comfort to those that can apply it, even to those who are thus qualified, that are driven and drawn to Christ, and then go on cheerfully with the work of obedience, waiting for their inheritance in heaven.

2. Conviction. It showeth the hardness of their hearts who have neither felt the law work nor the gospel work, but remain like the smith’s anvil, softened neither with hammer nor with oil; neither driven by the threatenings of the law, nor drawn with the glad tidings of salvation; neither John nor Jesus worketh on them. Of such Christ speaketh Matthew 11:17).

3. To persuade you to this temper. Three sorts of people usually we speak to

Christ typified by the cities of refuge

I. EVERY SINNER IS JUSTLY EXPOSED TO DEATH. Pursued by the righteous avenger of blood, who will cast the wicked into hell, with all the nations that forget God.

II. GOD HATH APPOINTED JESUS AS THE REFUGE FOR CONDEMNED SINNERS. He came that men might not perish, but have everlasting life. He came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. Now in this He was strikingly typified by the cities of refuge.

1. In their number we are reminded of the sufficiency of Christ. There were six of these cities. Doubtless amply sufficient for the cases which might require them. Jesus is the sufficient Saviour of all men. In Him is room for the whole world. Merit, mercy, and willingness for every child of man.

2. In their diversified localities we see the accessibility of Christ. These cities were placed in various parts of the land, so as to be near to every quarter, and accessible to the inhabitants throughout. Here we see at once pointed out to us the nearness of Christ to every portion of the family of Adam.

3. In the spacious well-directed roads to the cities of refuge, we are reminded of the free, full, and plain declarations of the gospel of Christ.

4. In the signification of the names of the cities we also perceive the glorious excellency of Christ. One of these cities was called “Kadesh,” which signifies “Holy.” Jesus is the Holy One of God. He redeems and saves men to holiness. Another was called “Shechem,” which signifies “Shoulder,” representing Christ as bearing the sins and burdens of the sinner. Another was called “Hebron,” signifying “Fellowship.” Thus Christ is the medium and ground of fellowship between God and men, and between the whole body of believers. In Christ we become the sons of God and members one of another. Another was called “Bezer,” which signifies a “Stronghold.” Christ is often thus described. He is our refuge, our fortress, and a stronghold in the day of trouble. In Him we are more secure than if surrounded by a munition of rocks. Another of the cities was called “Ramoth,” which signifies “Exaltation.” Jesus is the exalted Son of God. The Prince of life. The Lord of glory. The name of the last city of refuge was “Golan,” which signifies “Exultation,” or “Joy.” Christ is the joy and rejoicing of His people. His gospel is the message of joy. His kingdom is not only righteousness and peace, but joy in the Holy Ghost.

5. In the deliverance of the man-slayer we see typified the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. Within the city he was safe. Now, by believing repentance, the sinner flees to Christ, and becomes interested in His all-extensive merit and saving benefits. But he must be in Christ. And he must abide in Him (John 15:1-7). Thus he shall be delivered from present condemnation, and from eternal death. In Christ is ample provision for his comfort, safer), and well-being.

Application:

1. We see the awful misery and peril of the careless sinner.

2. The absolute necessity of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And how necessary that this should be prompt and immediate.

3. How urgently should ministers make known the terrors of the Lord and persuade men.

4. How happy are those who are delivered from the power of Satan, and have been brought to enjoy the forgiving love of God. Within the city of refuge all their interests are secure both for time and eternity. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Laying hold of the hope

It is said that a traveller by night fell into a dry well. His cry for help attracted a neighbour, who let down a rope and attempted to draw him up, but did not succeed because the rope kept slipping through the fallen man’s hands. At length the rescuer, suspecting that the fallen man’s grip was feeble because of his having something in his hand besides the rope, called out to him, “Have you something in your hands?” “Yes,” replied the man at the bottom, “I have a few precious parcels which I should like to save as well as myself.” When at last he became willing to drop his parcels, there was muscular power enough in his arms to hold fast the rope till he was delivered. Are you seeking purity of heart, and still finding yourself, day after day, in the horrible pit of impurity, though the golden chain of salvation is lowered to you from above; have you met something in, your hands? How about those precious parcels? Have you dropped them all? Then lay bold on the hope that is set before thee, and keep hold till thy feet are on the re k, and songs of deliverance burst forth from thy lips, and thy goings are henceforth established in the highway of holiness. Is that last parcel too precious to be dropped? Well, say then, “I will not give up my idol,” and no longer dishonour God by saying, “I cannot believe.”

Can you be safe too soon

Can you be safe too soon? Can you be happy too soon? Certainly, you cannot be out of danger of hell too soon; and therefore why should not your closing with Christ upon His own terms be your very next work? If the main business of every man’s life be to flee from the wrath to come, as indeed it is (Matthew 3:9), and to flee for refuge to Jesus Christ, as indeed it is (Hebrews 6:18), then all delays are highly dangerous. The man-slayer, when fleeing to the city of refuge before the avenger of blood, did not think he could reach the city too soon. Set your reason to work upon this matter; put the case as it really is: I am fleeing from wrath to come; the justice of God and the curses of the law are closely pursuing me; is it reasonable that I should sit down in the way to gather flowers, or play with trifles? for such are all other concerns in this world, compared with our soul’s salvation. (J. Flavel.)

The only refuge

“I have no hope in what I have been or done,” said De. Doddridge, on “his dying bed, “yet I am full of confidence; and this is my confidence: there is a hope set before me. I have fled, I still fly, for refuge to that hope. In Him I trust, in Him I have strong consolation, and shall assuredly be accepted in this beloved of my soul.”

Which hope we have

The Christian hope

I. “WHICH HOPE WE HAVE.”

1. A living hope.

2. A blessed hope.

3. A good hope.

4. A sustaining hope; taken hold of it; we feel it. Our faith seizes it. Our hearts experience it.

II. WHAT THIS HOPE IS TO THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN HOLD OF IT.

1. It holds the soul, as an anchor holds the ship, from drifting before the wind and currents of human opinions, personal doubts, &c.

2. It holds the soul from sinking in despair, in the midst of its sorrows, tribulations, and conflicts.

3. It is, therefore, a comfort to the soul to have this hope in times of trial and sorrow.

4. It is “sure and steadfast.” Nothing can destroy it.

III. THE OBJECT OF THIS HOPE. It is not anchored in the uncertain and shifting things of time and of earth, but takes hold of the eternal and heavenly.

1. Of the crown of righteousness which “fadeth not away.”

2. Of the many mansions which Christ has gone to prepare for us.

3. Of the inheritance incorruptible, underfiled, &c.

4. And in due time this hope shall realize its respective objects.

CONCLUSION:

1. Rejoice in this hope.

2. Cherish this hope.

3. Cast it not away on any account. (Local Preacher’s Treasury.)

Christian hope

Hope is one of the noblest of the natural instincts. It is, as the poets say, the sunshine of the mind. Like the old sun-dial of Saint Mark’s at Venice, it marks only the cloudless hours. It has a lifting power which raises and carries life on. The boy hopes to be a man, and you see, in his thoughtful moments, the dignity and energy of a man, so that you say, “He will be a credit to his family. He will conquer Silesia.” The man looks through the years, bearing up Under their burdens, to the honours and rest of old age. Old age, stript of all else, ought at least not to live on the past, as is often said, but to be waiting in joyful expectation of something better that is beyond. There is this quality of hope in us which is the spring of our courage and of the capacity of recovery from disappointment and defeat. Prince Eugene was always more terrible in defeat than in victory. Hope, “the nerve of life,” as Thackeray calls hope, without which man would lose half his happiness and power, and power of growth, making him “a man of hope and forward-looking mind even to the last,” is that which gives life its impetus; but which native quality, strong though it be, ends in human nature and what it can do and compass. It is, like human nature itself, a thing of earthly uncertainty whose grounds are ever shifting; while the hope which is spoken of in the New Testament, or that which may be called Christian hope--even if it use the beautiful natural instinct while transforming it into something spiritual--is a more enduring principle, partaking of the eternal state of being. If we look at the reasons why Christian hope, as distinguished from the natural or instinctive quality, is likened to an anchor that enters into the veil and is sure and steadfast, the chief reason of it we will find to be that it is a hope which is fixed upon God and His truth, where alone is stability. God’s being is that which “is,” not that which “becomes.” Nothing can add to or take from the perfect One in whom all fulness dwells: though let us fairly understand that God is not unchangeable in the sense that His nature is one of immovable hardness like a rock; for His heart is touch,-d by the most delicate emotions that the purest spirit is capable of feeling; but He is unchangeable in the immutability of those moral qualities which form His character and upon which the government of the world rests secure. If we see the proofs of God’s firmness in the unalterable operations of His physical laws--a principle on which all science is founded--so we may believe that the blessed promises of God will come true, and that He who brings forth the spring violets from under the snows of winter, rejoices to bring out from the most rugged and unpropitious circumstances the blossoming of every hidden seed of hope; and the rugged circumstances form a factor in the Divine plan. In God’s wisdom misfortune is a blessing, and compels men t, use their powers boldly, and to do things that they could not possibly have done in prosperous times. And God does not desert a soul in misfortune. When we seem to be entirely hemmed in He makes a way of escape for the soul. In the dear immensity of the Arabian desert where nothing else grows you will find minute sand-flowers too small even for fragrance, and yet that cheer the wanderer and say, “Up, heart, there is hope for thee t “ Another reason why Christian hope has in it the principle of stability is because it has a source of strength in the perfect character of the spiritual work which Jesus Christ has done for and in the soul. Not only the Divine, but even the human part of Christ’s work, from His birth to His resurrection, gives no signs of failure or imperfection. Christ became true man that He might redeem man, and His human nature was that of one “made perfect through suffering,” approaching the cross with slow and steady step. Christ went through what man goes through, or can go through, touching every human part, relation and need, preserving His obedience to the end, doing all the will of the Father, and righteously triumphing for and in weak humanity, and then, stretched on the shameful tree, as He was about to yield His spirit, could He cry with a loud voice, “It is finished!” An offering for human sin was made by that strong and tender love, and nothing was incomplete. As even the clothes in the sepulchre were rolled up and laid by themselves when Christ arose, nothing was left undone. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the confirmation, and, as it were, celestial touch, or crown, put on Christian hope, that carries it across the confines of death into the worlds beyond. Christian hope may be seen to be something sure and stable in its nature, lastly, because as a matter of experience there is a strong and indestructible expectation the fruit of the spirit of Christ, which is awaked m the Christian soul and the Christian church, and has always been so in every age and every believing mind. There is nothing more inspiring in the study of history than to trace the beginnings of this new hope in Christian civilisation, and its ennobling influence in public morals, law, and government, the treatment of oppressed classes, the social elevation of woman, the higher uses of property, in art, science, literature, politics, and every phase of human life, forming the spring of progress, and having in it a certain faculty of prophecy, in which, as a German writer says, “the longing heart goes forth to meet beforehand great and new creations and hastens to anticipate the mighty future”; above all, making the soul invincible to evil, come in whatever shape it may, in poverty, old age, sickness, prison, wreck, war the contempt of the world and the violence of active persecution; or whether it come in the more hidden trials and struggles of the spirit. There can be no delusion here. There is a hope which comes into the mind, however inexplicable, which was not there before--a new instinct of a new nature. It is, as the Scriptures call it, “a living hope,”--an active principle working by love and purifying the heart. “He that believeth hath the witness in himself;” for it is faith in eternal things which is at the bottom of this hope, and it is the outcome of a new spiritual life within. He who has this hope enjoys a communion with the Divine. He wins the blessed unity which is in God. A “ new marvellous light” arises in him and spreads through his being. There is a letting in of the love of God to the soul which expels its gloom and selfishness; and selfishness must be pressed out of true hope. Such pleasure experienced here in God, such openings of the soul into His love, must look forward at some time to a blissful enjoyment of Him--to the great vision of God and His eternal peace. It is this simple fact which makes Christianity, notwithstanding its solemn truths, a cheerful religion, and which gives it a quality of joy that fills it with a perpetual sunshine. In the apostolic church this awoke the voice of song and brought to the world the life of a new blossoming springtime rich in its promise of great things--its true golden age, not past but present and to come. This hope of the Christian, then, is a great hope a bright, clear, and steady hope, surpassing all the vague desires of the natural heart, beautiful as the poetry of the heart sometimes makes these to appear-yet earthly and evanescent, like the painted clouds that pie up in the western sky of a summer’s sunset turning ashy and deathly pale when the light fades out of them. But the “things hoped for” are too fair, too high, too pure, even to be conceived. The prayer, indeed, of thin hope is not for a life without trials, but, with the apostle, the believer would fight that he might win; he would endure self-denial that he might rise above the sensual into the spiritual; and while the hope sustains and cheers, he would also “know Christ “ and the fellowship of His sufferings, and sound the depths of Christ’s holy life and perfect victory. Is your hope thus ,veil-grounded? When the storm comes, does the anchor hold? When a strong and unexpected temptation fall- like a sudden blast on you, does the anchor hold? In the face of real affliction--of death--would it hold? Does your hope take hold of the unchangeable love of God? If so, when tempted, “rejoice, and show the same diligence, with the full assurance of hope unto the end.” Armed with a hope which has in it this sure promise, go forth to a life of goodness. Expect to achieve great things. (J. M.Hoppin.)

Christian hope

II. WHAT IS ITS OBJECT? On what is this hope supremely fixed? “Upon that which is within the veil.” Yes, it is attracted y the glory which is afterwards to be revealed by the fulness of grace, which is to come unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” which eye hath not seen,” but which will burst upon our enraptured souls when we awake up in the Divine likeness at the resurrection morn. O what a sublime anticipation!--The perfection of the soul in happiness, which in this world is so limited and interrupted--the perfection of the soul in purity, which is now only attained in part, because “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and we cannot do the things that we would”--the perfection of the soul in knowledge, which here is so contracted, intercepted, acquired with so much difficulty, and so soon forgotten by the weakness of memory and the infirmities of age--the perfection of the soul in holy love, which on earth is so faint, cold, and beak--the unveiled vision of God and the Lamb--intimate and everlasting communion with the Great Jehovah. Again, we say, what a sublime anticipation! How elevating--how expanding--how purifying--how cheering--how attractive! Compare it with the hope of the worldling, whose portion is only in this life, and consists of houses arid lands, silver and gold, titles and emoluments--compare it with the hope of the sensualist, who fares sumptuously every day, and cries, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? “ whilst his soul is unfed by the bread of life, untaught by the Spirit of God. Compare it with the hope of the ambitious, whose great object is to rise upon the scale of popularity.

II. WHAT IS YOUR AUTHORITY FOR CHERISHING THIS PLEASING ANTICIPATION? ON WHAT DOES YOUR HOPE BEST? Not upon your own merits, however amiable your temper, moral your conduct, charitable your actions, and just and uniform your dealings; nor is it founded upon the mercy of God unconnected with the doctrine of the Atonement, and the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. The believer’s hope rests exclusively and entirely, as you will find in the context, upon “the two immutable things,” the oath and promise of God relating to the sufferings and death of His beloved Son, as the only sacrifice for sin, and the strong consolation which is derivable from a humble dependence upon His merits and love.

1. The word and covenant of God are the charter of our hopes, which we are permitted to plead, saying, “Remember Thy word unto Thy servant upon which Thou hast caused me to hope”; recollecting that “whatsoever things were written aforetime, were for our instruction, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.”

2. The finished work of Christ is the support and security of our hope; “ as the law made nothing perfect, it was merely a shadow of good things to come, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God.”

3. Our union with the Saviour, and the renewal of our soul by the converting grace of the Holy Ghost, are the evidence and the sanction of our hope, as “Christ is in us the hope of glory,” and, by the witnessing of the Spirit, “we know what is the hope of our calling,” and enjoy “ the full assurance of hope unto the end.”

III. THE BENEFITS WHICH RESULT FROM THIS DESIRABLE STATE OF MIND. “IT IS LIKE AN ANCHOR TO THE SOUL, BOTH SURE AND STEADFAST.” Here a state of trial and exposure is implied. The soul, by this nautical phraseology, is compared to a vessel floating upon the uncertain and perpetually-changing surface of the ocean, where an anchor is indispensable to its safety. On what does the hope of a newly-awakened sinner rest? On what is the anchor of a believing penitent cast?

1. On the free mercy of the blessed God “who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live.”

2. It rests upon the efficacy of the Saviour’s blood, which is unto all and upon all them that believe; which is the price of our redemption--the purchase of our acceptance--the ratification of our place, and the balm of our consolation.

3. The invitations of the gospel are also the sanction of a penitent sinner’s hope. These are the warblings of mercy’s trumpet, the proclamation of redeeming love.

4. Nor can we omit to notice the encouragement which the pleasing change produced in the sinner’s mind affords to the energies of evangelical hope. Thus assured of his safety, he spreads his sails--launches forth and speeds his way towards the promised land, the better country, favoured with the superintendence of the Saviour as his pilot, the Word of God as his chart and his compass, and hope as his anchor. At length after many a storm and struggle, the believer reaches the peaceful port of everlasting bliss. Then, again, his hope, as an anchor to the soul, is most valuable. He is now waiting for the signal to disembark and to land upon the better country. He therefore resembles Paul, who, having “ fought a good fight,” finished his course and kept the faith, said, “I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand.” “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep,” &c.

IV. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS HOPE.

1. This will appear if you reflect on the insufficiency of all things here below to satisfy the immortal soul and render it happy.

2. Your peace and comfort depend in a great degree upon the possession of an evangelical hope.

3. The possession of the blessing in question is indispensable from the uncertainty of life, only during the limited span of which can the hope of glory be obtained.

4. And, finally, the satisfaction and comfort of your friends who may survive you are involved in your possessing a good hope. (W. B. Leach.)

The hope of the believer--“sure and stedfast”

I. THAT THE HOPE OF THE CHRISTIAN MAN IS A SPECIFIC AND WELL DEFINED HOPE--a hope about which he can give an answer--a hope which he can trace to its origin, and the operations of which he is able, in some measure, to explain. This may be seen by the use made of the word “which,” in the passage before us. The idea seems to be that these men, when awakened by the power of the Holy Ghost to a sense of their personal danger, look about them for some place of deliverance to which they may run and be secure. And the apostle says that for men in that condition, there is a hope set before them in the gospel, that is accessible to them: and there is the voice of mercy bidding them fly from the wrath ,o come; and the men here spoken of have hearkened to that vice. They have availed themselves of that provision, they have run there-unto, and they are saved.

II. THAT THIS HOPE, DERIVED FROM CHRIST, RELATES TO A CONDITION OF BLESSEDNESS--it entereth into that which is within the veil. Now who can tell us what there is within the veil? Who can conceive what it is to have Christ entered in amongst these things withing the veil, as our Forerunner and Representative? Jesus Christ, as our Forerunner, has removed the obstacles out of our way, and made all the necessary preparations for our safe departure from that which is seen and temporal to that which is unseen and eternal. “I go,” He says, “to prepare a place for you, but I come again to take you to Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” All this is going on at this moment. His heart is towards you, His occupation is about you, and thus it is from hour to hour. In the multitude of your thoughts, then, you may rejoice that you are raised up together with Christ, made to sit together in heavenly places with Christ; and that be, use He lives you live also.

III. THAT THIS HOPE ACTS AS AN ANCHOR TO THE SOUL. It is not mere sentimentalism, but, as hinted in our text, a thing of the most powerful efficacy, without which men, in this world, could not live. It is called the “anchor of the soul.” This leads us to think of the sea, of storms and tempests, and of some gallant vessel which, in order to be saved from the storm, must have all the appliances of deliverance, safety, and defence. Have you never seen such a vessel when suddenly a storm has come down upon her, and she has been unable to get out to sea? They then let go the anchor, as the only hope, the sole remaining chance of escape. Suppose the anchor drags, what then? Suppose it parts from the cable which unites it to the ship? Suppose the anchor breaks? The doom of the ship is sealed; for the anchor is everything; and this hope, which is so beautifully compared to the anchor, is everything to the Christian. Your trials and perplexities are not only like a storm, but as a storm from which you cannot get away. You cannot run before it. You cannot take advantage of a wider berth by getting out to sea. There is no alternative: you must “ride it out.” What would you do under such circumstances but for your hope that you have an interest in the great salvation? What could you do without it? I do not wonder that the Bible calls it a “living,” “blessed,” and “glorious hope.” How often have you and I been saved from making shipwreck, thus far, of our profession and consistency by reverting yet once more to the everlasting covenant which “is ordered in all things and sure!”

IV. THAT THIS ANCHOR TO YOUR SOUL WILL NEVER FAIL. It is “sure and stedfast.” Look at these two words: the word “ sure” refers to hope itself, and the word “stedfast” to that which the hope relates to. Hence, then, we have the anchor, and the anchorage. The hope of the good man, in itself considered, is sure; no matter what the strain upon it, it is strong and infrangible. It was originated by the “God of Hope”; it is sustained and guarded by Him; and therefore it cannot be broken. It is a sure thing. We have heard men say, “What shall we do in an extremity like this?” But the answer is explicit enough--“My grace is sufficient for thee”; and the hope which is of God’s own implantation, is a hope which will never fail. It is, in itself considered, inviolable and indestructible. God created it, and He will take care that it shall never be destroyed; we will therefore rejoice in it. But, moreover, it is not only “sure,” it is also “stedfast.” The former, as I have said, referred to the anchor itself, this latter related to the anchorage. “Steadfast,” i.e., it has laid hold of that which will not let go. This seems to have been the apostle’s thought. An anchor, you know, although it may not break, may drag. Its material and construction may be the very best, still there may be nothing like a tenacious bottom in which to embed itself. There may be none of the “bars of the earth,” as Jonah calls them, upon which it may get hold; and therefore in the extremity--at the very crisis--their doom is sealed for want of anchorage! Now the anchorage of yourhope will never let the anchor drag. If I were asked what this anchorage is I should say it has laid hold of the “ exceeding great and precious promises, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” It has laid hold of the everlasting covenant which “is ordered in all things and sure.” It has laid hold of the Rock of Ages. It has laid hold of the “two immutable things by which God sware and cannot lie.” It has laid hold of the foundation of God which standeth “sure,” and against which” the gates of hell shall not prevail.” It has entered into that which is within the veil, and embedded itself deep down into the Divine purposes, and enwrapped itself around the Divine all-sufficiency, and taken hold--with its firm, broad, seven-fold gigantic grasp-of the great high throne, which is from everlasting--the throne of God and of the Lamb, and that throne itself must drag ere your anchor will come home (W. Brock.)

Hope something more than faith

Faith accepts and credits testimony; hope anticipates. Faith says the fruit is good; hope picks and ears. Faith is bud; hope blossom. Faith presents the cheque; hope lays out the amount received. And such hope is the anchor of the soul. The comparison between hope and an anchor is familiar even to heathen writers, and it is easy to see how fit it is. It steadies the soul. Take an illustration from common life: A young man pledges his troth to a poor but noble girl. He is draughted for foreign service, and says farewell for long , ears. Meanwhile she is left to do as well as she can to maintain herself. Work is scanty, wages low, she is sometimes severely tempted and tried. But, amidst all, she is kept true to her absent lover, and to her nobler self, by the little strand of hope which links her to a happy and united future. So, when suffering, or tempted, or discouraged, our hope goes forward into the blessed future, depicted on the page of Scripture in glowing colours, and promised by the word of Him who cannot lie; and the anticipation of it fills the soul with courage and patience, so as to endure the trials of thee, in view of the certain blessedness of eternity. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

An anchor of the soul

Our anchor within the veil

I. Our hope, we are here told, is “As AN ANCHOR OF THE SOUL” To the imagination of the writer, life is a sea, the soul is a ship, and hope is the anchor of the soul. It was not the first time that this emblem had been thus poetically applied. He had seen it in the Hebrew Writings which he had read at the feet of Gamaliel; in the course of his Greek studies, he had possibly met with the sayings of Socrates--“To ground hope on a false supposition is like trusting to a weak anchor.” “A ship ought not to trust to one anchor, nor life to one hope.” He had heard the Romans, in proverbial phrase, call a man’s last desperate hope, Anchors sacra. Finding this metaphor in the service of common life, he baptized it, quickened it with a new meaning, and pressed it into the service of God, employing it to show the superiority of the Christian’s hope to the hope of any other man.

II. Our hope, it is further said, ENTERETH INTO THAT WITHIN THE VEIL.” The idea appears to be this:--h ship shattered with” the battle and the breeze,” at length gets near the port; but owing to the shallow waters, or the sweeping tempest, or the temporary prohibition of the authorities on shore, she is not permitted at once to enter the harbour. The sailors then heave out the sheet-anchor, and by means of the boat it is carried within the royal ,lock; and though the ship cannot herself get in, she is thus prevented from being drifted away into the deep sea. To enter into that within the veil, is to enter within the harbour of eternal repose--this may not at present be permitted, bat we may cast our anchor there, and meanwhile wait in safety here. To convey the whole of the idea which the apostle has in view, two images are combined. Let us forget the nautical allusion, and think only on the image which is borrowed from the Temple. “The veil” is that which divides earth and heaven; and our anchor “entereth into that which is within the veil.”

1. The words “within the veil” suggest the mysteriousness of heaven to the inhabitants of earth. It is natural that those who are on their way to the heavenly country should make it the frequent theme of conjectural thought. But, after all, heaven will be a secret us until we die. “My chief conception of heaven,” said Robert Hall to Wilberforce, “is rest.” “Mine,” replied Wilberforce, “is love.” Perhaps both conceptions are true, and union of perfect love wits perfect rest conveys our best idea of heaven, considered simply as a state. But what is the manner of existence there, and what is the true physical theory of another life? How shall we see without these eyes, hear without these ears, act without this material instrument of being? What are the visions, the emotions, the specific employments of heaven? Where and what is the region itself? Is it a star? Is it a sun? These questions are unanswered and unanswerable. The gospel is sent to show the way to glory, and not what that glory is. “The Holy Spirit teacheth how we may reach heaven, and not how heaven moves.” In answer to all our questions respecting its nature, the Saviour replies, “What is that to thee? follow thou Me.”

2. The nearness of heaven is suggested by the epithet “veil.” Christians, there is only a veil between us and heaven! A veil is the thinnest and frailest of all conceivable partitions The veil that conceals heaven is only our embodied existence, and though fearfully and wonderfully made, it is only wrought out of our frail mortality. So slight is it, that the puncture of a thorn, the touch of an insect’s sting, the breath of an infected atmosphere, may make it shake and fall.

3. The glory of heaven is suggested by the expression “ within the veil.” What was within the veil of the Hebrew Temple? Not the ark, not the censer, not the rod that budded, not one of these things apart, nor all combined, made the glory of the place, but its true glory was the mystic light that shone above the mercy-seat, and symbolised the presence of “ the Great King.” In like manner, the manifested presence of God, and that alone, is the true glory of heaven.

4. The holiness of heaven is here suggested. Within the inner veil was the “Holiest of all.” All the Temple was holy, but this was “the Holy of

Holies.” It was a perpetual memorial of the fact that heaven is a place of exquisite and awful purity.

III. Our hope, entering within the veil, depends on the life of Jesus there. “WHITHER THE FORERUNNER IS FOR US ENTERED, EVENJJESUS.” The forerunner of the ancient ship was the Anchorarius, the man who had charge of the anchor, and who carried it within the harbour, when there was not yet water sufficient to float the ship into it. In a spiritual sense, the forerunner of the worshipping Israelites was the high priest, who, taking with him the symbols of sacrifice, entered within the veil on their behalf. The forerunner of a band of pilgrims is one who precedes them to the place of destination, to give notice of their approach, to take possession in their name, and to prepare for their arrival.

1. The sense in which Christ sustains the office of forerunner in relation to the millions who are hastening to the world of light within the veil. He is the Sovereign Proprietor of heaven; He is the very glory of the place; yet He is thee leading “not a life of glory only, but a life of office.” His perpetual presence there is the perpetual argument for our salvation. He is There to complete the removal of every impediment to the entrance of His followers; there as the sublime guarantee that we shall be there.

2. You are also taught by these metaphors to see how entirely your hope is identified with faith. Many a person will tell you that he hopes, only because he does not venture to say that he believes. Hope is thought to be something less decisive than faith; to imply a lower grade of Christian attainment, a weaker tone of spiritual life, or perhaps an uncertainty as to whether we feel even the first stirs and the faintest indications of that life. But hope, instead of involving less grace than faith, does, in reality, involve more. Faith--healthy faith--faith with a keen eye, a strong hand, and an unfaltering voice; faith that can say, “I know whom I have believed, and who has the charge of my anchor”; such faith as this must be in existence before you can have “a hope that maketh not ashamed.”

IV. Our hope is an anchor of the soul which has peculiar recommendations. It is “BOTH SURE AND STEADFAST.’’

1. The term “sure” seems to refer to the reliable nature of the anchor itself. It is not constructed of doubtful materials; its cable will not snap in the tempest; no stress or strain upon it, and no resisting force will drag it from its anchorage. The term “steadfast” seems to refer to the use of the anchor.

An anchor is that which keeps the ship steadfast. While waiting on this fluctuating sea of life, a hope in Christ will keep you safe amidst all peril, and fixed amidst all change.

2. You will be steadfast in the calms of life. Amidst all brightness here, hope for something brighter there; amidst all earthly good, hope for a better and enduring substance; “set your affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God”; and through the powers of the world to come, earth will be disenchanted, the spirit will be kept upon its guard, and your faith will be “steadfast” to the end.

3. You will be steadfast amidst the storms of life. There are storms of carp, storms of conscience, storms of temptation; and all thoughtful natures know that the wildest storms that ever rage are those which are felt within, to which there are no human witnesses, and which sometimes spend their fury when all without seems placid and delightful. What deep Christian thinker has not sometime been nearly overwhelmed in waves of mental perplexity? What lonely wrestler in prayer is there who has not sometimes cried, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts: all Thy waves and billows are gone over me? “ But if in such hours of dark tempest we can retain the conviction, however faint, that He who presides amidst the glories of heaven is our own Redeemer, that He still holds us with His mighty power and will not let us go, we shall survive the crisis; our ship, shattered though it be, will never founder; in the very rush and agony of waters we shall patiently hope on. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

The anchor

I. First, let me call your attention to THE DESIGN OF THE ANCHOR of which our text speaks. The design of an anchor, of course, is to hold the vessel firmly to one place when winds and currents would otherwise remove it. God has given us certain truths, which are intended to hold our minds fast to truth, holiness, perseverance--in a word, to hold us to Himself. But why hold the vessel?

1. The first answer which would suggest itself would be, To keep it from being wrecked. If every wind of doctrine whirled you about at its will you would soon be drifted far away from the truth as it is in Jesus, and concerning it you would make shipwreck; but you cost your Lord too dear for Him to lose you, to see you broken to pieces on the rocks; therefore He has provided for you a glorious holdfast, that when Satan’s temptations, your own corruptions, and the trials of the world assail you, hope may be the anchor of your soul, both sure and steadfast.

2. An anchor is also wanted to keep a vessel from discomfort, for even if it be not wrecked it would be a wretched thing to be driven hither and thither, to the north and then to the south, as winds may shift. There are solid and sure truths infallibly certified to us, which operate powerfully upon the mind so as to prevent its being harassed and dismayed. The text speaks of “ strong consolation.” Is not that a glorious word--we have not merely consolation which will hold us fast and bear us up against the tempest in times of trouble, but strong consolation so that when affliction bursts forth with unusual strength, like a furious tornado, the strong consolation, like a sheet-anchor, may be more than a match for the strong temptation, and may enable us to triumph over all. Very restful is that man who is very believing.

3. An anchor is wanted, too, to preserve us Item losing the headway which we have made. Those who know anything experimentally about Divine things have cast their anchor down, and as they heard the chain running out, they joyfully said, “This I know, and have believed. In this truth I stand fast and immovable. Blow, winds, y-u will never move me from this anchorage; whatsoever I have attained by the teaching of the Spirit, I will hold fast as long as I live.”

4. Moreover, the anchor is needed that we may possess constancy and usefulness. The man who is easily moved, and believeth this to-day and that to-morrow, is a fickle creature. Who knows where to find him?

II. Secondly, I invite you to consider THE MAKE OF THE ANCHOR--“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation.” Anchor-making is very important work. The anchor-smith has a very responsible business, for if he makes his anchor badly, or of weak material, woe to the shipmaster when the storm comes on. If anything in this world should be strong it should be an anchor, for upon it safety and life often depend. What is our anchor? It is made of two Divine things. The one is “God’s promise, a sure and stable thing indeed. To this sure word is added another Divine thing, namely, God’s oath. Conceive the majesty, the awe, the certainty of this! Here, then, are two Divine assurances, which, like the flukes of the anchor, hold us fast. We have for our anchor two things, which, in addition to their being Divine, are expressly said to be immutable--that is, two things which cannot change. When the Lord utters a promise He never runs back from it--“the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Notice next ofthese two things that it is said--“Wherein it is impossible for God to lie.” It is inconsistent with the very idea and thought of God that He should be a liar. A lying God would be a solecism in language, a self-evident contradiction. But now, what is this promise, and what is this oath? The promise is the promise given to Abraham that his seed should be blessed, and in this seed should all nations of the earth be blessed also. To whom was this promise made? Who are the “seed”? To Christ Himself, and to all who are in Christ, is the covenant made sure, that the Lord will bless them for ever and make them blessings. And what is the oath? That may refer to the oath which the Lord sware to Abraham after the patriarch had offered up his son, for which see the twenty-second chapter of Genesis: but I think you will agree with me if I say it more probably refers to the oath recorded in the one hundred and tenth Psalm, which I would have you notice very carefully--“The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” I think this is referred to, because the twentieth verse of our text goes on to say, “Whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Now I want you to see this anchor. Here is one of its holdfasts--God has promised to bless the faithful, He has declared that the seed of Abraham, namely, believers, shall be blessed, and made a blessing. Then comes the other arm of the anchor, which is equally strong to hold the soul, namely, the oath of the priesthood, by which the Lord Jesus is declared to be a priest for ever on our behalf; not an ordinary priest after the manner of Aaron, beginning and ending a temporary priesthood, but without beginning of days or end of years, living on for ever; a priest who has finished his sacrificial work, has gone in within the veil, and sits down for ever at the right hand of God, because His work is complete, and His priesthood abides in its eternal efficacy. What better anchor could the Comforter Himself devise for His people? What stronger consolation can the heirs of promise desire?

III. OUR HOLD OF THE ANCHOR. It would be of no use for us to have an anchor, however good, unless we had a hold of it. The anchor may be sure, and may have a steadfast grip, but there must be a strong cable to connect the anchor with the ship. Formerly it was very general to use a hempen cable, but large vessels are not content to run the risk of breakage, and therefore they use a chain cable for the anchor. It is a grand thing to have a solid substantial connection between your soul and your hope; to have a confidence which is surely your own, from which you ,’an never be separated. Our text speaks plainly about this laying hold of the anchor in the end of the 18th verse--“That we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” We must personally lay hold on the hope; there is the hope, but we are bound to grasp it and hold it fast. As with an anchor, the cable must pass through the ring, and so be bound to it, so must faith lay hold upon the hope of eternal life. “Well,” saith one, “but may we lay bold upon it?” My answer is, the text says it is “ set before us,”--to “‘lay hold of the hope set before us.” You may grasp it, for it is set before yon. Now, notice that our hold on the anchor should be a present thing and a conscious matter, for we read, “which hope we have.” We are conscious that we have it. No one among us has any right to be at peace if he does not know that he has obtained a good hope through grace. May you all be able to say, “which hope we have.” As it is well to have a cable made of the same metal as the anchor, so it is a blessed thing when our faith is of the same Divine character as the truth upon which it lays hold: it needs a God-given hope on our part to seize the God-given promise of which our hope is made. The right mode of procedure is to grasp God’s promise with a God-created confidence: then you see that right away down from the vessel to the anchor the holdfast is all of a piece, so that at every point it is equally adapted to bear the strain.

IV. Fourthly, let us speak of THE ANCHOR’S HOLD OF US. A ship has hold upon her anchor by her chain cable, but at the same time the most important thing is that the anchor keeps its hold upon the ship; and so, b, cause it has entered into the ground of the sea bottom, holds the vessel hard and fast. Do you know anything about your hope holding yon? It will hold you if it is a good hope; you will not be able to get away from it, but under temptation a, d depression of spirit, end under trial and affliction, you will not only hold your hope--that is your duty, but your hope will hold you--that is your privilege. How is it that our Divine anchor holds so fast? It is because it is in its own nature sure--“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” It is in itself sure as to its nature. The gospel is no cunningly devised fable: God has spoken it, it is a mass of fact, it is pure, unalloyed truth, with the broad seal of God Himself set upon it. Then, too, this anchor is “steadfast” as to its hold, it never moves from its lodgment. It is sure in its nature, and steadfast when in use, and thus it is practically safe. The result of the use of this anchor will be very comfortable to you. “Which hope ye have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” I may say to every believer in Jesus, that his condition is very like that of the landsman on board ship when the sea was rather rough, and he said, “Captain, we are in great danger, are we not?” As an answer did not come, he said, “Captain, don’t you see great fear?” Then the old seaman gruffly replied, “Yes, I see plenty of fear, but not a bit of danger.” It is often so with us; when the winds are out and the storms are raging there is plenty of fear, but there is no danger. We may be much tossed, but we are quite safe, for we have an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, which will not start. One blessed thing is that our hope has such a grip of us that we know it. In a vessel you feel the pull of the anchor, and the more the wind rages the more you feel that the anchor holds you. Like the boy with his kite; the kite is up in the clouds, where he cannot see it, but he knows it is there, for he feels it pull; so our good hope has gone up to heaven, and it is pulling and drawing us towards itself.

V. And now, lastly, and best of all, THE ANCHOR’S UNSEEN GRIP, “which entereth into that within the veil.” Our anchor is like every other, when it is of any use it is out of sight. When a man sees the anchor it is doing nothing, unless it happen to be some small stream anchor or grapnel in shallow water. When the anchor is of use it is gone: there it went overboard with a splash; far down there, all among the fish, lies the iron holdfast, quite out of sight. Where is your hope, brother? Do you believe because you can see? That is not believing at all. Do you believe because you can feel? That is feeling, it is not believing. But “Blessed is he that hath not seen and yet hath believed.” Albeit our anchor is gone out of sight, yet thank God it has taken a very firm grip, and “entered into that which is within the veil.” What hold can be equal to that which a man hath upon his God when he can cry, “Thou hast promised, therefore do as Thou hast said”? Note next, that when an anchor has a good grip down below, the more the ship drags the tighter its hold becomes. At first, when the anchor goes down, perhaps, it drops upon a hard rock, and there it cannot bite, but by and by it slips off from the rock and enters into the bottom of the sea; it digs into the soil, and, as the cable draws it on, the fluke goes deeper and deeper till the anchor almost buries itself, and the more it is pulled upon the deeper it descends. The anchor gets such a hold at last that it seems to say, “Now, Boreas, blow away, you must tear up the floor of the sea before the vessel shall be let go.” Times of trouble send our hope deep down into fundamental truths. The text concludes with this very sweet reflection, that though our hope is out of sight we have a friend in the unseen land where our hope has found its hold. In anxious moments a sailor might almost wish that he could go with his anchor and fix it firmly. That he cannot do, but we have a friend who has gone to see to everything for us. Our anchor is within the veil, it is where we cannot see it, but Jesus is there, and our hope is inseparably connected with His person and work. Our Lord Jesus by His intercession is drawing us to heaven, and we have only to wait a little while and we shall be with Him where He is. He pleads for our home-bringing, and it will come to pass ere long. No sailor likes his anchor to come home, for if it does so in a storm matters look very ugly; our anchor will never come home, but it is drawing us home; it is drawing us to itself, not downwards beneath devouring waves, but upwards to ecstatic joys. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The anchor of the soul

In many respects the world, and human life on it, are like the sea. Itself restless, it cannot permit to rest any of the pilgrims that tread its heaving, shilling surface. At some times, and in some places, great tempests rise; but even in its ordinary condition it is always and everywhere uncertain, deceptive, dangerous. Currents of air and currents of ocean intermingle with and cross each other in endless and unknown complications, bringing even the most skilful mariner to his will end--making him afraid either to stand still or to advance. On this heaving sea we must all lie. The soul is tossed by many temptations; but the anchor of the soul is sure and steadfast within the veil. Without are fightings, within are fears, all these are against us; but one thing will overbalance and overcome them, “Our life is hid with Christ in God.” Hope sometimes signifies the act of a human spirit laying hold of an unseen object, and sometimes the object unseen whereon the human spirit in its need lays hold. These two significations may be combined together: they are so combined here. “The hope set us” is Christ entered for us now within the veil; and the hope that “we have” is the exercise of a believing soul when it trusts in the risen Redeemer. These two cannot be separated. The one is the grasp which a believing soul takes of Christ, and the other is the Christ whom a believing soul is grassing. The anchor must not be cast on anything that floats on the water, however large and solid it may seem. The largest thing that floats is an iceberg. But although an iceberg does not shake like a ship, but seems to receive the waves and permit them to break on its sides as they break on the shore, it would be ruin to anchor the ship to it. The larger and the less would drift the same way and perish together. Ah, this stately Church, this high-seeming ecclesiastical organisation, woe to the human spirit that is tempted in the tossing to make fast to that great imposing mass! It is not sure and steadfast. It is floating: it moves with the current of the world: it moves to an awful shore. Not there, not there I Your hope, when you stretch it out and tip for eternal life, must enter “into that within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered.” Nor will it avail a drifting ship to fix its anchor on itself. Hope must go out for a hold, even as the ship’s anchor must be flung away from the ship. ‘l he eye is made for looking with, not for looking at. Away from all in ourselves, and out through all that floats like ourselves on this shifting sea, we must throw the anchor of the soul through the shifting waters into Him who holds them in the hollow of His hand. Mark, further, that hope in Christ is specifically the anchor of the soul. There is no anchor that will make our temporal possessions fast. Wealth and friends, and even life, may drift away any day on the flood, and no power on earth can arrest the movement. These bodily things may or may not abide with a Christian, but his anchor does not hold them. It is only an anchor of the soul, not an anchor of the body. We must not expect from the Lord what He never promised. There are contrivances not a few in our day for fixing material property, so that it shall not drift away in the currents of time. The system of assurances both on life and property has reached an enormous magnitude. Taking up the obvious analogy employed in this scripture, one of the insurance societies has adopted the anchor as its name. But the action of these anchors is limited to things seen and temporal. They cannot be constructed so as to catch and keep any spiritual thing. They may hold fast a wife’s fortune, when the life of the bread-winner falls in, but they cannot maintain joy in her heart, or kindle light in her eye. Far less can they insure against the shipwreck of the soul. Only one anchor can grasp and hold the better part of man--and that is the hope which enters into the heavens and fastens there in Jesus. The anchor--in so far as it indicates the object which hope grasps--the anchor is “sure and steadfast.” The expressions are exact and full; the words are tried words; they are given in order that we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to the hope set before us. There are two cases in which one’s hope may be disappointed: the support you lean on may be unwilling or unable to sustain you; in the one case it is deception, in the other weakness. A Christian’s hope is not exposed to either flaw; it is both “sure and steadfast,” that is, the Redeemer who holds them is willing and able. He will not falsely let you go, nor feebly faint beneath your weight. He is true and strong; for these are the words; He both will and can keep that which we commit to Him against that day. Take now a series of practical lessons:

1. The ship that is kept by an anchor, although safe, is not at ease. It does not on the one hand dread destruction, but neither on the other hand does it enjoy rest. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you”; “in the world ye shall hare tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”

2. But further, the ship that is held by an anchor is not only tossed in the tempest like other ships, it is tossed more than other ships. The ship that rides at anchor experiences rackings and heavings that ships which drift with the tide do not know. So, souls who have no hold of Christ seem to lie softer on the surface of a heaving world than souls that are anchored on His power and love. The drifting ship, before she strikes, is more smooth and more comfortable than the anchored one; but when she strikes, the smoothness is all over. The pleasures of sin are sweet to those who taste them; but the sweetness is only for a season.

3. When the anchor has been cast into a good ground, the heavier the strain that comes on it, the de, per and firmer grows its hold. It is thus with a trusting soul: temptations, instead of driving him away from his Saviour, only fix his affections firmer on the Rock of Ages.

4. The ship that is anchored is sensitive to every change of wind or tide, and ever turns sharply round to meet and resist the stream, from what direction soever it may flow. A ship is safest with her head to the sea and the tempest. Watch from a height any group of ships that may be lying in an open roadstead. At night when you retire they all point westward; in the morning they are all looking to the east. Each ship has infalliably felt the first veering of the wind or water, and instantly veered in the requisite direction, so that neither wind nor wave has ever been able to strike her on the broadside. Thereby hangs the safety of the ship. Ships not at anchor do not turn and face the foe. The ship that is left loose will be caught by a gust on her side and easily thrown over. As with ships, so with souls: those that are anchored feel sensitively the direction and strength of the temptation, and instantly turn to meet and to overcome it: whereas those that are not anchored are suddenly overcome, and their iniquities, like the wind, carry them away. “We are saved by hope”--saved not only from being outcast in the end, but from yielding to temptation now.

5. When the ship is anchored, and the sea is running high, there is great commotion at her bows. The waves in rapid succession come on and strike. When they strike they are broken, and leap, white and angry, high up on the vessel’s sides. This tumult is by no means agreeable in itself, blot the mariner on board would not like to want it, for it is the sign of safety. If, while wind and waves continue to rage, he should observe that this commotion had suddenly ceased, he would not rejoice. He would look eagerly over the bulwarks, and seeing the water blue on her bows, instead of the hissing, roaring spray, he would utter a scream of terror. The smoothness at her bows indicates to him that her anchor is dragging. The ship is drifting with wind and water to the shore. Such, too, is the experience of a soul. If you are fixed, a great flood is rushing by, and it must needs cause a commotion round you. An impetuous tide of worldliness will dash disagreeably against you from time to time. Do not be too anxious to make all smooth; peace may be bought too dear. When the mighty stream of vanity on which you float produces no ruffling at the point of contact--when it is not disagreeable to you, and you not disagreeable to it--suspect that your anchor is dragging, that it has lost its hold, and that you are drifting into danger. Cast in the anchor while the sea is calm; you will need it to lean on when the last strain comes on. (W. Arnot.)

The anchor of hope

I. Let us first of all note THE ANCHOR. It is necessary to have a very clear idea as to what the Holy Ghost means by this word “hope.” Look at the previous verse, and you will see that we have the word “hope” there, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”; then he adds, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” Now, I believe that the two hopes do not mean precisely the same thing. In the eighteenth verse it is a hope that is set before us; in that verse I bare God’s promise. God’s promise is the basis of my hope, Christ Himself is the object of my hope. But, then, having that promise, there comes into my heart the grace of hope. That which the apostle means here is something far more than the common notion that we attach to the word “hope.” I don’t think I shall be going too far when I say that nothing is more adverse to the scriptural idea of the word “ hope” than the meaning we generally intend by it. In our ordinary conversation hope is something less than faith, in Scripture it is something more--it is faith developed into a full assurance. So when the apostle speaks of hope it is not of that kind which says, “Well, I hope I may get to heaven, but I don’t much think I shall,” but it is of the kind which says, “I know that I am safe; I know that my Forerunner has entered within the veil for me; I know that God’s promise and God’s oath together do ensure my eternal salvation; and this hope is the anchor that is hung at the bows of my ship.” Now, the anchor must be made of the right stuff. One writer has said that “anchor-making is very important work.” I should imagine it was, and I should say woe to the anchor-smith who tampered with the material of the anchor. Why is it of infinite importance that the anchor should be right in its material? Because there are times when the lives of captain, mates, crew, passengers will all depend upon whether the anchor is made of the right stuff or not. Cast-iron anchors won’t do; they must be made of the best material, well wrought and welded; and I think I am correct in saying that in all our naval establishments there is an arrangement for testing every anchor; and when it is proven it receives the Government mark. I know that the anchor of which we are speaking is true, because there is heaven’s own brand upon it--“sure and steadfast.” Better have no hope at all than have a bad one;better be without hope than place confidence in a false one. Do any of you say, “What should our anchor of hope be made of?” I will tell you. Go and get a whole number of “Thus saith the Lord” and weld them together, for the only anchor that is worth anything is that anchor of hope, the very material of which is “ God has said.” I believe the best smithy for making an anchor is the empty sepulchre just outside Jerusalem. Go into that sepulchre where once the body of Christ lay; it is empty now; there fashion thy anchor, “begotten unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Now, with the anchor goes the chain, and I cannot separate between the two. I know that some have said that hope is the anchor and faith is the cable; well, it may be so, but you cannot really separate between faith and hope. Faith culminates in hope, and if faith does not lead to hope it is not worth anything; and, on the other hand, I cannot imagine a hope that is worth anything that does not come from faith, so I take cable and anchor as one. And I remark here that the anchor must have its cable, and the cable to be worth anything must have an anchor. I think that in my time I have come across some who had a chain, but there was no anchor at the end of it. They did believe--at least they said so; and who are we that we should dare to question their veracity? They do believe, for if they believe nothing else they believe they have some doubts; and I have seen them always paying out the cable, and saying, “I believe, I believe,” and yet somehow they have nothing at the end to grip. There is the chain, but it will drag over a hundred promises without laying hold of a solitary one. They have faith, so they say, but somehow or other it is not the faith that ever grips the Word of God sufficiently to bring their vessel round. The Lord save us from that sort of faith which is like a cable without any anchor at the end. But, on the other hand, I don’t think the anchor would be very much use unless there was a cable attached to it. What would you think if in time of storm the captain said, “Overboard with the anchor,” and overboard it goes; there is an end of it; there is no connection whatever between the anchor and the ship. An anchor thrown overboard without a cable is about as much use as a cable thrown over without an anchor.

II. Now I want you to see THE ANCHOR LET GO. Our hope, like other anchors, is of no use as long as we can see it, as long as the anchor is slung at the bows it is doing nothing. You would think that man a lunatic who should say, “I always feel so safe when I see the anchor.” You would think that captain an imbecile who should say, “I always think my ship is safe when I have my anchor on deck.” The real worth of the anchor begins when it is thrown overboard. The ocean bed holds the anchor, and the anchor holds you. Now you will observe, if you look into the text, my anchor enters into that within the veil. I wish I had the power for a moment to give you a glimpse within the veil and see where the anchor is. If you were to have passed through the veil of the Tabernacle you would have seen an oblong chest--that was all; and on the top of that oblong chest a slab of gold exactly covering it. If you had looked inside that chest you would have found two tables of stone containing the law, written by the finger of God. That was called the mercy-seat. There, you will see, was mercy based on justice; peace reposing on righteousness; a Divine salvation resting on the pedestal of accomplished law--treat was all that was within the veil; and, says Paul in our text, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul which entereth”--now, I always find that nine people out of ten quote this text wrongly; they say, “which entereth within the veil,” but it is, “which entereth into that within the veil”; in other words, the mercy-seat--God’s mercy based on righteousness, or, if you like to put it so, ChristHimself. Now, for a moment note this. Am I not right in saying that the more the ship drags at the cable the more fixed becomes the anchor? Ah! when first my soul trusted Christ and I dropped my anchor, I don’t think it had a very firm hold, but every strain on it has driven it deeper. It is always so, for if you look in Romans 5:1-21. you will see that experience leads to hope. The more a man trusts God the better he knows God, and the better he knows God the more he trusts Him. He learns to sing, “My heart is fixed to God, my heart is fixed.”

III. I have tried to show you the anchorage; now look at THE SHIP RIDING AT ANCHOR. One thing I observe is that, though she is anchored, she does not necessarily escape rolling, nor her passengers avoid sickness. There may be considerable discomfort while there is no danger. Many souls as well as ships are anchored in the “downs”! I notice, too, that when a ship is at anchor she always faces the tide. I was travelling recently on the Chatham and Dover Railway, and just as we approached Whitstable we obtained a glimpse of the sea, and I said to a fellow-passenger, “The tide is coming in.” “How can you know that?” he asked. “Why,” I replied, ,’ it’s the simplest thing in the world; look at the boats that are anchored there, and see which way they face; anchored craft always face the tide.” Ay, and so will it be with you; if you know what it is to have your anchor gripping that which is within the veil you won’t be a man who is afraid to look the world in the face. The ship swings round with the tide and seems to say, “I am not to be caught, whichever way you come you will meet my bow.” These are the sort of Christians we want at the present time--men who are so anchored on to God, who are so filled with His spirit, and who have so bright a hope within them that they must face the run of the tide of this world. A dying sailor was near his end, and the death sweat stood upon his brow. A friend said, “Well, mate, how is it with you now?” The dying man, with a smile, made answer, “The anchor holds, the anchor holds.” God grant that ever one of you may be able to say this, for His name’s sake. (A. G. Brown.)

Sure anchoring

I. FIRST, THE STAY OR ANCHORAGE OF THE SOUL DURING THE ‘VOYAGE OF LIFE IS CHRIST WITHIN THE VEIL, CHRIST IN THE HOLY OF HOLIES, CHRIST IN THE HEAVENLY HAVEN. UPON HIM IN HIS EXALTED GLORY THE SOUL STAYS ITSELF AND IS SECURE.

1. In the first place, He is the living Christ of intercession, not the dead Christ of sacrifice.

2. Secondly, although within the veil, the Living Christ has a vital interest in us who are yet without. His entrance into the heavenly place has not broken off His connection with our earthly lives and interests. The same redeeming purposes, the same tender human sympathies, the same great mediatorial solicitudes fill His Divine heart.

3. The use of the term “Forerunner” conveys to us an additional idea not included in that of the palest-hood. The high priest was not a forerunner; no one was to follow him into the holy place; but Christ is strictly a forerunner. “Where He is, there His servant is to be also”--where He is, and as He is, for we are to be “like Him when we see Him as He is.” At present He is our interceding Priest, but the consummation of His intercession is our reception into the heavenly place with Him. As the Forerunner Be enters the holy place, not alone, but only first. “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there shall My servant be also.” Very great and very precious are the assurances thus conveyed to us. First, that in virtue of His entrance to the heavenly place we shall surely enter also. He has “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers”; by His own blood He appears in the presence of God, and secures our appearance also. “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” He prepares the place for us in the sense of making a place for us certain. But more than this is meant. As the Forerunner He secures our entrance under the same conditions; we enter as He has entered; our humanity glorified as His is glorified. We shall enter as He has entered, with a proper resurrection body; with all the marks of personal identity that distinguish us here, that are the means of intelligent communism and friendship.

II. IN THE SECOND PLACE. THE ANCHOR WHICH HOLDS THE SOUL STEADFAST TO THE LIVING FORERUNNER WHO IS WITHIN THE VEIL IS HOPE HOPE MOORS THE STORM-TOSSED SOUL TO THAT WHICH WILL SECURE IT. Our hope must be “a good hope through grace”; our anchor must have length of cable sufficient, and must lest only upon Christ. Hope is so far more than faith. That which is seen is not hope. Hope is that trust in the future and the unseen which calculates probabilities, which hits the mean between possible failure and certain security. We feel uncertainty enough to make it hope, and assurance enough to make the hope strong and animating. We “give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.” We cast out the anchor of our hope with cable enough, so to speak, to fasten it upon the unseen Christ. A great and blessed hope, the hope of being with Christ, and of realising the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory. A good hope, warranted by accumulated evidence--by God’s wonderful revelation--by His assured and unchangeable promises; a hope warranted by His words, by His resurrection, by His entrance into the holy place as our Forerunner, who hath “brought life and immortality to light,” and who is Himself “ the Resurrection and the Life.” We are “begotten again to this lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

III. OBSERVE, IN THE THIRD PLACE, HOW HOPE FIXED UPON CHRIST MAKES THE SOUL STEADFAST AND SECURE. Unregenerate men are described as “having no hope”; they are “without God and without hope in the world”; that is, they have no hope that is not delusive, that will not fail them in the testing hour, and make them ashamed. “The God of hope” is not their hope; they hope in something else, they do not know the hope that comes “through patience and comfort of the Scriptures.” There can be no hope for a man who has not fled for refuge to Christ, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope.” To Christ, then, the redeemed man has come; he has fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before him, and this hope is the anchor that keeps his soul firm It is a thing of practical, powerful efficacy, that secures both our present steadfastness and our ultimate salvation. It is “an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.”

1. The first suggestion of the metaphor is of a tempestuous and perilous sea, which our ship of life has to navigate, and that we are in danger of “making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.” What image could give a more vivid representation of our spiritual condition?--of the rough sea upon which we ride?--the hurricane above us, and the sunken rocks and quicksands around us.

2. How beautifully in this representation are both worlds brought together! Our ship sails upon the ocean of this life, has to bear its tempests, navigate its perils, but she finds her sure anchor within the veil--the anchor of her hope is fixed in the glorified Christ. The ship rides upon the sea of time; its anchor is fixed in eternity. Here there is no sure anchorage--hence the anchor is “ hope,” the expectation of things not seen. The immortal soul can fix securely only upon an immortal stay; and when after vain hopes in other things she has fixed her anchor upon Christ, it is as though she had laid hold upon the bases of the everlasting hills, as though with sevenfold strength she had grasped “the bars of the earth.” (H. Allon, D. D.)

The soul’s anchor

I. The soul, like a vessel, is in quest of a desired haven. Mind is made to look out of itself, our desires not satisfied with temporal things. All men look into the future, live by hope, and are sailing in expectation of peace. But the expectation of some reaches no further and gets no higher than earth, while the spiritual anchor in the calm depths of the Eternal Presence, and the solid moorings of eternity.

II. Hope of heaven, like an anchor, preserves the soul in its passage. Some sail without a ripple or a swell, under propitious gales which fill their sails and press them homeward. Others, like Paul in the Adriatic, wrestle with the billows, “exceedingly tossed with a tempest,” with neither sun nor stars in sight. But the soul is preserved, and outrides the storm. “He bringeth them to their desired haven.”

III. This hope is sure and steadfast. Sure--will not disappoint us--a good hope through grace. Steadfast in its nature, taking good hold, unchangeable in its promise and purpose, “a lively (living) hope which maketh not ashamed.” Lay hold upon this “hope set before you in the gospel.” (The Study.)

The voyage of life

I. THE VOYAGE OF LIFE EVEN TO THE GOOD IS TUMULTUOUS. Because of

1. Physical infirmities.

2. Secular anxieties.

3. Social afflictions

4. Spiritual conflicts.

II. THE GOSPEL PROVISIONS ARE EQUAL TO THY. EMERGENCIES OF THE VOYAGE OF LIFE.

1. It has an anchor--Hope.

2. It has a refuge.

III. THE EFFICACY OF THE GOSPEL PROVISIONS FOR THE VOYAGE OF LIFE IS IMMUTABLY GUARANTEED.

1. God has an “immutable counsel” concerning the safety of His people.

2. God desires to demonstrate to His people the immutability of His counsels in relation to their safety.

3. God furnishes this demonstration by some most solemn declarations.

4. God’s declaration cannot but be true. (Homilist.)

Hope the anchor of the soul

I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN HOPE.

1. The object of hope is always really or imaginarily good enjoyment of God--of His favour, smiles, and blessings to end of life, and of His presence for ever.

2. The object of hope must be future good. What God has laid up for them that love Him.

3. The object of hope must be attainable. “God will withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly.”

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS HOPE.

1. The anchor is essential to secure the vessel in time of storm and peril.

2. The anchor is only of service when connected with a good cable.

3. The anchor must be employed.

4. The anchor must be cast on good ground.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS HOPE.

1. It is of importance to our Christian character. It is as indispensable to the believing soul as the anchor is to the vessel.

2. It is of importance to our labours. All must be done in hope. We must sow in hope; pray and wrestle in hope.

3. It is of importance to our happiness.

IV. THE CERTAINTY OF THIS HOPE. “Both sure and steadfast.” The Christian’s hope cannot fail, unless

1. The Divine veracity fails.

2. Christ’s precious blood should lose its saving efficacy.

3. Christ’s presence in heaven and intercession should be unavailing.

APPLICATION.

1. Let the believer increase in hope, rejoice in hope, until its enrapturing anticipations shall terminate in glorious fruition.

2. Let the hopeless come to the blessed Saviour, who will, by the gracious manifestation of Himself, banish darkness from the mind, and despondency and sorrow from the heart. There is, in the gospel, ample ground of hope to all who receive the record God has given of His Son. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Our anchor

One of the sights in Rome is the “ Gallery of Inscriptions” in the Vatican. Inscriptions from old heathen tombs cover the one side, and inscriptions from the early Christian tombs cover the other. There is a heaven-wide difference between the two. On the heathen side there is one long wail of despair--the shriek of friends as the dying were hurried from them into the hateful abyss. But the Christian side breathes only peace and hope. The names of the departed are mixed up with the name of CartEr, and some rudely carved symbol of the faith is usually added. The ship and the anchor are the greatest favourites. At the side of the anchor the Christians often carved the words, “Hope in Christ,” or “Hope in God,” thus uniting and explaining, as our text does, the word and the image.

I. OUR ANCHOR. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” The hope of the Bible is not like the hope of the world. The old fable says that Pandora shut up all the miseries of men along with hope in a box. The box was offered to Prometheus, or Forethought, who would not have it; and then to Epimetheus, or Afterwit, who took it. Rashly opening it, all the miseries flew abroad, and when he hastily closed the lid, only hope remained in the box. And so, they said, every one has hope. You hope to be rich some day, but your hopes won’t make you rich unless you take the right way. What a poor, broken, hopeless thing our hope often is! Hugh Miller tells that when his father was drowned at sea, he was a boy five years old. Long after every one else had ceased to hope, the little fellow used to climb, day after day, a grassy knoll, and look wistfully out over the Moray Firth for the sloop with the two stripes of white and the two square topsails. But months and years passed by, and the white stripes and square topsails be never saw. That poor boy looking seaward is a true parable of mankind. Here is a wicked man, who hopes to be saved a last. You hope so and I hope so; but his hopes, and yours, and mine won’t help him, unless he leave off his sins and come to the Saviour. The hope of the soul is often the most uncertain thing in the world, for many are content with a hope they dare not examine. But the Christian’s hope is sure, and never disappoints; for it is just saving faith with its eye full upon a glorious future. The anchor here (including cable and all) stands for everything that links a Christian to Christ, everything that gives heaven a hold on him, and him a hold on heaven. Our anchor is “sure and steadfast.” God says and swears by Himself, that if you trust in Christ, you shall never perish. But remember you must trust in the living Saviour, not in some dead thing belonging to Him. Our Greek schoolbooks introduce us to the simpleton at sea in a storm. A sailor found him grasping the anchor on deck. The simpleton explained that the anchor was the sign of hope, and that, as he had it in his arms, there was no fear of his drowning. You are no wiser than he if you trust in any sign, or mere hope, or dead word. Hope was not crucified for you, nor were ye baptised in the name of Hope. The hope of our text means the thing hoped for, just as a “will” means not the parchment but the request.

II. THE FAR END OF THE ANCHOR IN HEAVEN. The sailor casts out his anchor, which rushes through the sea to the bottom out of sight, The source of his safety is hidden from his eyes. And so the Christian casts his anchor up through the unseen, even to the very heart of heaven, the holy of holies in the Temple above. The sailor in a storm seeks a safe anchorage. Some of our sheltered bays, with a stiff clayey bottom, are crowded with vessels in squally weather. As doves to their windows, the sailors “ flee for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before” them by their charts: they cast anchor and smile at the storm. It is plain that your hope must anchor in something outside of yourself. Two fishermen at sea were once talking about heavenly things. The one was busied with his frames and feelings, always looking into his own heart, and not unto Christ. His comrade r, plied, “Ah, John, you are for anchoring in the hull; you must throw your anchor out.” Well spoken; for no refuge or safety can we find in self. And further, earth has no safe anchorage for the soul. Not within, not around, but above lies the firm ground in which you must sink your anchor. “Hast thou hope?” they asked John Knox, as he lay a dying. He spoke nothing, but raised his finger and pointed upwards, and so died. Yes, our anchor finds holding-ground only in heaven. But heaven is a large place, and there are many things in it, you may say. True, but our hope is fixed not on the things, but on the Person in heaven.

III. THIS END OF THE ANCHOR. “Which hope we have,” or hold, “as an anchor,” or anchor-cable. The hope is set before us that we may lay hold upon it. Think here of a boat at anchor, and a boy in it holding the anchor-rope. If he lets go his hold he drifts out to sea. “Hold on,” you cry to him, and “hold on” is the apostle’s appeal to the Hebrews. Look now at that corn-ship of which Paul, though a sickly man of books, and no seaman, is really the captain and the saviour--showing us that the Christian should always be of men the most manly, and of heroes the most heroic. There he stands, calm and erect; tossed, but not drowned. Such is the Christian soul, tranquil amid the wild waves. All the storms of life come to him as they come to other men, but his Christian hope steadies his soul. (James Wells, M. A.)

The anchor of the soul

There is a certain hope which Christian people have: a hope set before us: which is like an anchor: an anchor which has caught firm hold, and which is holding on, somewhere within this veil. The meaning seems to be that the cable from that anchor reaches to us; and we hold on to it. The soul “lays hold upon the hope set before us”: and then this hope does for the soul what an anchor does for the ship that keeps an unbroken hold of its anchor. This is what the imagery, the comparison in the text means. Well, is it true? I do not ask now, True to our own experience? Put that away just at present. But is it true as a general principle? That is, If a man had “laid hold of the hope set before us,” would it be like an anchor of the soul? Yes, plainly it would be. The hope of eternal life, of happiness with Christ and all we love in heaven, is well fitted to keep the soul steadfast amid the waves and storms of this world--that is, to do to the soul the anchor’s part. It will keep the soul from drifting away, or being driven away, by gales or currents, or upon rocks and quicksands near. Think of sorrow: sorrow in its widest sense, including all that makes us sad and unhappy--losses, privations, disappointments, bereavements, pain, sickness, death--the instinctive feeling of our race has discerned in all these the storms and tempests of the world within. “Not a wave of trouble”; pleasant the prospect, apt the similitude! You remember good Juxon’s words, as the ill-fated king knelt to the block: “One last stage, somewhat turbulent and troublesome, but still a very short one”: life’s last brief storm must be gone through. We take the good hope with all that comes with it, and from which it cannot be separated. We take it with the conviction, amid all sorrows, that this is the right way; that it was Christ that led us into them and will lead us through them; that for all this there is a need-he; that it is all for our best good--our sanctification, our weaning from sense and time; that it is educating us for higher and better things than we ever could be fit for without it. Think now of temptation: temptation in the largest sense: everything from within and without that would lead us into sin--that would seek to make us make shipwreck of our souls. It, returns the hope of heaven, and all that is bound up along with the hope of heaven, will hold up against all these. And here there is something especially fit in the similitude of an anchor. For the special business of the anchor is to keep the ship from drifting away. Now there are temptations which come like a sudden blast or squall upon the anchored ship; and there are other temptations which are like an insensible current, drifting away and away. But whether temptation addresses us as the strong single impulse, or as the gently and perpetually gliding current, it is plain that in either case we must have something to hold us up against it: something which shall be to the soul as the anchor that keeps the ship from driving or drifting, and makes it hold its ground. There is but one thing that can be that: only grace from above; the good hope through grace--and all that is implied in having that good hope; the faith, resting simply on a crucified Saviour; the sight of sin, as it is seen in the light from Gethsemane and Calvary: the realising anticipation of all the rest and joy and purity above, which permitted sin would fling away. In discourses founded upon my text, it is a common thing to point out that the good hope which comes of a firm faith is as an anchor of the soul in that it is what will hold up the soul against doctrinal error. St. Paul likens the man, ready to catch up every new idea or crotchet, if attractively put, to one “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine”: and the comparison is apt. Now, in these shifting days, no doubt a real personal interest in vital Christian truth--a personal hope through that--is the great anchor that shall keep us in the good old ways, and save us from making shipwreck of our faith. Just a word now of the assurance the text gives us that the anchored hope which is to preserve us steadfast amid the storms of life must have its hold “within the veil.” That is, to really do us any good, our great daily hope must be of something beyond this life and this world. The hope must take hold “within the veil”; realise, in some measure, the substantiality of the possessions there which seem so vague and far away to mere sense. Only thus can it serve as an anchor, amid the failing of earthly stays and hopes. And a further thought is suggested by the text. The anchor is not holding on where you might sometimes have uneasy doubts of its holding securely; not amid the waves and storms of this uncertain world; but in the calm within the veil, where our Redeemer, our Forerunner, He who walked first the way which it is appoint-d that we should walk, has entered in; for us entered in; entered in our never-ailing Intercessor, and abides the Remembrancer of His one great atoning sacrifice, our High Priest upon the throne. If He be not with us here, visible King of His Church, ready to resolve many weary questions about it with which we would wish to go to Him, it is because it is better for us He should be there; and meanwhile He has sent the Blessed Spirit to more than fill His place; and His Church is left to pray that it may more and more “know Him, and the power of His Resurrection”! (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Hope the anchor of the soul

I. I call your attention, in the first place, to THAT WITHIN THE VEIL, WHICH IS AT ONCE THE GROUND AND THE OBJECT OF THE BELIEVING HOPE OF EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN.

1. A manifestation of God under the new and evangelical relation of God reconciled to His offending creatures.

2. The priesthood of our Saviour.

3. “All spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” This refers more particularly to the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the communication of spiritual blessings through Him.

4. In a terse which follows the text there is an expression of great emphasis. “Whither,” says the apostle, “the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.” Well, then, if Christ is the Forerunner, others have followed Him, and have entered within the veil; all the apostles have passed within the veil; all the first disciples, who followed Him through the reproaches and persecutions of the first ages; all, in fact, from that time to the present, who have died in the faith, have gone within the veil of our great Forerunner. Here, indeed, is a scene for hope to fix her steady gaze up m; and when we thus beheld the multitude which no man can number, who keep their eternal Sabbath in that sanctuary above, shall we not be cheered with the songs sung there, and which we hope ourselves one day to learn, and encouraged to pass through the various troubles and exercises of this present state, seeing that the way into the holiest of all is indeed made manifest, and that we may follow those who have entered the veil, and are now in the presence of God?

II. There are PRACTICAL LESSONS which we may learn from this subject.

1. And the first is, the necessity of fleeing for refuge, as the apostle expresses it, to lay hold on the hope thus set before you.

2. Let those who have thus fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them, feel the duty they owe to others who are still exposed to the danger which themselves have happily escaped.

3. Let those who have entered into this port, and have cast their anchor there, be prepared for storms. (R. Watson.)

Hope the soul’s anchor

This comparison of hope with an anchor is opposed to common modes of thought and expression. The more natural figure to most minds would be that of a buoy. I apprehend that, where that of the anchor is employed, in nine cases out of ten it is quoted from the Bible without any definite meaning. Yet I do not believe that it was used at haphazard in our text; but it seems to me one of the numerous cases in which a profound wealth of spiritual significance is condensed into a single word of Scripture. All hope is not anchor-like; or, if it be, there are many hopes which are anchors with cables too short to reach the bottom, and which therefore only expose the vessel to quicker, more irregular, and more violent pitches and plunges in the storm-lifted deep. The anchor needs a length of cable sufficient, but not too great; adequate weight; and the adjustment of stock, shank, and flukes, which will most effectually hold the ship to her moorings. These characteristics applied to spiritual things would give us adequate remoteness, vastness, and certainty as the requisite properties of a hope that shall be an anchor to the soul.

I. ADEQUATE REMOTENESS. Remote in point of time we cannot, indeed, pronounce the objects of the Christian hope; for there may be at any moment but a step between us and death. Yet the doe effect of distance is produced in part by the indefiniteness of our term of life here, and in part by our imperfect knowledge of the details of our future condition. The hopeful Christian sees heaven near enough to furnish every possible motive for virtue, fidelity, and spiritual affections, yet not near enough to detach him from the relations in which God would have him conscientiously faithful--from the field of duty of which the Master says, “Occupy till I come.”

II. Our Christian anchor is of SUFFICIENT WEIGHT. Time presents no attractions that can vie with the promises of eternity. Our conceptions of heaven are enough to more than fill the soul with their fulness, and to outshine all things else by their Divine radiance. The imagery of the New Testament carries fancy on to its utmost limits and up till its pinions can soar no higher. In these boundless and infinite prospects we have more than a counterpoise for whatever might beguile our souls from their high calling and destiny.

III. Our Christian anchor has ITS FIRM HOLD OF CERTAIN AND IMMOVABLE EVIDENCE, Little as we know where or what heaven is, no law of our being is made more sure to us than our immortality. Its evidence is not intuition, surmise, speculation, or longing, but fact which cannot he gainsaid unless we pronounce the whole past a dream and all history a fable. We have the same proof that the dead have risen which we have that countless multitudes have sunk into the death-slumber. The resurrection of Christ is not even an isolated fact of authentic history, but a fact which has left surer traces of its reality, deeper channels of its influence, than any other event that has occurred since the creation of man. It was the initial cause, and the only possible cause, of a series of events and experiences that have been developing themselves for eighteen hundred years. In thus laving intense stress on the historical argument, I forget not the intimations of immortality, the hopeful analogies, he onward pointings, of which nature and life are full. The spring flowers that bloom around the sepulchre of Jesus never wither. Again, there are times when our sculls seem almost conscious of immortality, spring forth into a higher sphere, behold their celestial birthright, and read the words of eternal life in capacities which they have no room to develop here, in longings which earth cannot satisfy, in aspirations that transcend all created good. But weariness, care, or sorrow comes; and then the wings of the spirit droop, its heaven is clouded over, and to him who depends on his own clear intuition all looks dark and desolate. But the Christian thus bowed down stoops to look into the place where the Lord lay, hears the voice of the resurrection angel, and sees, through a cleft in the clouds, the shining path of the ascending Redeemer. We have, then, a hope fitted to be an anchor of the soul and we need it to give us stability equally among the temptations, the duties, and the trials of life.

1. Among its temptations. How close their pressure! How intense their disturbing force! Like the swell of a storm-lifted octan, they break upon our youth, dash against the strength of our maturer years, and burst over the hoary head. Appetite and passion, pride and gain, ease and indolence, how do they essay by turns their single and their combined power upon every soul of man! How do they toss and dash from breaker to breaker, and from shallow to shallow, every unachored spirit! And their hold upon us is as unanchored spirits--through our intense desire of immediate gratification and our detachment from the unseen future. But let me only behold in faith my risen Saviour, and hear from Him those Divine words, “Because I live, ye shall live also,” then I can cast away the withening wreath from the earthly vine for the amadanthine crown. I can dash from me the cup of sensual gratification, for the water which I may drink and thirst no more for ever. I can tread the rough and steep path, while at every step the celestial city rises clearer and brighter to my view.

2. But we no less need this anchor when we have escaped the temptations which assail the lower nature, and find ourselves on the shoreless sea of duty. Here again the waves lit up their voice. How vest the extent, how complex the demands, how imperative the claims, how earnest the calls of spiritual obligation! How liable we are, even with a quick and tender conscience, to let some of these voices drown others--to select our easy or our favourite departments of duty instead of aiming at entire fidelity--to let waywardness modify principle, and convenience limit obligation! How does the random, errotic course of many who mean to do right and well, resemble that of a ship driven by the wind and tossed on the billows 1 And here our anchor comes into use, to keep us in the moorings where God has placed us. It is earthly breezes--human opinion, fear, and favour--that sway us hither and thither. The consciousness of our immortalityalone can make us firm and resolute, with every real demand of duty before us in its relative claimers and just proportions, with the work given us to do present to the inward vision, and with the whole power of the world to come making its strength perfect in our weakness.

3. We need our anchor among the trials and sorrows which are the lot of all. However calmly the sea of life may roll for a while there are times when the waves and the billows so over us, and the floods lift up their voices around us--times when, if in this life only we have hope, we at ready to pronounce ourselves of all men the most miserable. When the gains of a lifetime are swept away in an hour, and a prime spent in affluence sinks into a needy old age, when, agonised by violent disease, we pass at once from vigorous health into the very jaws of death, or, crippled by chronic infirmity, we drag our limbs after us as a prisoner his chain; when the light of our eyes is quenched, and the voices that made sweet melody in our hearts are silent in the grave: when, as with not a few among us, our dead outnumber our living, and the monuments in the cemetery are more than the olive-plants around our table--we then have encountered griefs beyond the reach of human comforters. They set adrift the soul that has no hold on heaven. They abandon it to empty regrets, fruitless complainings--often to a despondency which can find relief only in the self-forgetfulness of sensual indulgence. They are, in an earthly point of view, intense and unmitigated evils. Yet with the anchor of an immortal hope, how serenely may the Christian outride these storms, and at the very acme of their violence hear the voice which ever says to the a winds and to the waves, “Peace! be still!” (J. P. Peabody.)

A good anchor

That the soul needs an anchor none will deny. There is scarcely a time in its experience when it does not feel its need of a stay. Even in the harbour the ship is safe only as she is securely moored; and at sea her only chance of safety frequently depends upon her possession of these essential safeguards.

I. WE NEED AN ANCHOR IN PROPORTION TO THE SHIP. A small kedge wall hold a smack, but the best bower is required for others; while some can do with nothing less than the great sheet anchor. Other things being equal, the greater the ship, the larger must be the anchor which is to hold her. But with the utmost possible precaution many a ship has perished. One of Her Majesty’s ships, the Megaera, was totally lost through the badness of her anchors. One by one, no less then three gave way, and they were obliged to let the vessel drive on to the beach. But if it be important that the ship should be provided with proportionate anchors, how much more important is it that the soul should be well supplied with that which will be adequate to its emergencies! And what will suffice to meet these emergencies? What is there that can meet the requirements of the priceless, never-dying soul? Formalism is wholly inadequate as an “anchor of the soul.” It may do very well for fine weather, but it will not hold in a gale There is but one good anchor. “A good hope through grace” alpine can hold thee there, and, blessed be God, that is sufficient. But there are not a few who, to make assurance doubly sure, have zone to yet another quarter, whence they have hoped to obtain an anchor which, together with the first, would be more than sufficient to meet their case. They are hoping that, through their go-d works, they will be enabled to outride the dangers of death and the judgment. The place from whence this article comes is kept by old Legality. Anxious sinner, believe me, “It is of faith, that it might be by grace.” It is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” But there are some who, to these two, seek to add even yet another. Their idea seems to be that no one, nor even two anchors, are sufficient. They go off to feeling in order to strengthen the other two. If legality has slain its thousands, feeling has slain its ten thousands. People are foolish to imagine that because they can work themselves up to a certain pitch of religious feeling, that therefore they are saved. It is an anchor that will not hold; nay, it is an anchor that will not even sink.

II. WE NEED AN ANCHORAGE IN PROPORTION TO THE ANCHOR The best anchor in the world will not hold in a bad ground. We can easily imagine that a bad anchorage, like a bad anchor, may do very well for fine weather, but will fail in the storm. We had, I remember, an anchor that had held us well in any weather whenever we had cast it. But one day, being near the shore, we threw it over as usual, and went below to dinner. We had not been there many minutes, however, when the wind freshened, and a sudden squall with heavy rain came whistling through the shrouds. Of course, because our anchor had held us through weather worse than that, we listened with the greatest composure to the music of the storm, and were not a little entertained by it as we proceeded with our meal. But while we had not the least apprehension of danger, we were suddenly aroused by the lurching of the vessel as, dragging her anchor with her, she was being driven from her anchorage, it was no fault of the anchor; it was bad ground. We found our anchor, good as it was, could not get a hold on the indifferent anchorage into which we had cast it. It was well for us that the wind came off the land, for had it come the other way nothing could have saved us from being driven on the shore. As it was, we escaped with a drenching. I need not say that such a contingency can never happen in true spiritual navigation. The anchorage indicated in our text is equal to the anchor. It is “that within the veil.”

1. The blood-sprinkled mercy-seat. Mercy through Christ is the one ground of the sinner’s hope, and the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat is the only place at which he may draw near to God.

2. The sinner’s Great Advocate. What a source of comfort to the convinced sinner! Look at it, anxious heart. Surely, when such an Advocate has undertaken your cause, you can leave it in His hands. Give it up to Him now.

3. The ark of Jehovah’s covenant. What an anchorage! Are you conscious of daily shortcomings and oppressed continually with a sense of guilt? You may see here how, always, the “sin is covered” over, and how Jehovah Himself, as in His Shekinah glory He dwells between the cherubim, sees no spot upon you. As the broken law was hidden in the ark under the blood, so the believing sinner is hidden in Christ. This is our hope! Are you feeling your weakness? As you have to confront the dangers and difficulties of life, do you feel your need of help? The manna here reminds you of His faithfulness, whose name is still Jehovah-Jireh. You cannot look within that sacred ark, and not remember that He has said, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be,” and “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Are you in distress because of God’s chastening hand? In the budding rod you may see the type of every sorrow that befalls the saint. It may be a rod, but it is a rod that buds and blossoms, and brings forth fruit.

4. And then, besides all this, we are reminded of the everlasting covenant. What a world of satisfaction we find there! “A world,” did I say? What a heaven of height, and depth, and breadth, and length of infinite sufficiency is discovered to us there!

III. WE NEED A CABLE PROPORTION TO BOTH. It is not enough to know that you have a good anchorage and a good anchor: you must also be persuaded that you have the God-wrought cable of living faith: “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gilt of God.” But though the anchors of feeling, and formality, and legality, and orthodoxy may be, and are, cast cableless into the sea, if you obtain the anchor “good hope,” the cable of living faith is always possessed with it. For

1. These are ever connected. Faith is the blessed cable which holds the ship here, and the anchor there. As the one strong chain ever vibrates and keeps up a communication between the anchorage and the ship, so faith, while it dwells here in the h art, ever dwells there “within the veil.”

2. These can never fail. It is quite possible for a man to have an anchor and a cable of the most genuine quality, and yet, through ignorance of their nature, to be all the time in jeopardy; and it is equally possible, through the same kind of ignorance, for a man having an anchor and a cable that are bad, to repose in a false confidence until he is awakened to a terrible discovery of his mistake. Sailors have often ridden out a gale with fear and trembling, expecting every moment to find themselves adrift, while others have been suddenly astonished to find that the anchor upon which they could have staked their lives has actually given out. And these represent two very large classes of people in the religious world. There are thousands who have a good hope, but who fear that it is bad; and there are millions who have a false hope, but who believe that it is good. To show either class their mistake is most difficult. If you try to remind the hypocrite that his hope “will perish,” the sincere seeker immediately appropriates the warning as intended for himself; while if you endeavour to assure the broken-hearted that “the Lord is nigh unto them “ to save them, the hypocrite will at once claim the comfort as his own. Believe me, sorrowing soul, if you are taking hold of “that within the veil”--if Christ, and Christ alone, is your trust--if His blood is your plea, and His advocacy is your daily joy, then you have the almighty anchor cast in the all-sufficient anchorage, and you are held by the omnipotent cable of living faith. With these you are safe; disaster is impossible. You must and will ride out every possible change.

3. These ever remain unchanged. It will be a Ideated thing if we can always realise this. Let our hope be” sure and steadfast.” The cable will sometimes be very much shaken; in all her changes it sill rise and fall with the vessel; but, beloved friends, having taken, let hope keep its hold on that which is within the veil. The strongest cable will tremble, and so will the strongest faith; but the trembling cable holds a “sure and steadfast “ anchor, and that anchor moves not though the chain may shake. (W. H. Burton.)

The anchor of the soul

There are many things which a sailor holds to be essential when he goes out to sea. The captain who should go out to sea without an anchor would be decreed a madman. Life is a restless, unquiet sea, full of trouble and danger. You are the ship, that sail this sea, and are exposed to its changes and storms. Many of you are now just leaving the peaceful harbour of home with all its tender influences, and are putting forth upon the wide and open main. I remember hearing of an infidel who, when laid upon his last bed of sickness, was urged by his godless companions not to show the white feather, but to hold on. What do you think was the answer of the dying man? With a face fuller hopeless dismay, he looked at them and said, “How can I hold on when I have nothing to hold by?” Ah! he felt the need of a spiritual grapnel, something “ sure and steadfast” to which he could cling. But it is not only in the hour of death we require it; we need it all through life. Let us then have a little talk together about this “anchor of the soul.”

I. WHAT IS IT MADE OF? You all know what ordinary anchors are made of. In very early times there were no such things known; but large stones with a rope attached to them were used for the purpose. By and by the Greeks began to make them of iron, and their example has been followed by all maritime nations. If anything in the world needs to be robust and reliable it is an anchor, for on its strength hundreds of precious lives may depend. Well, what about our spiritual anchor? Ah! of how much more importance it is that it tie durable, seeing the interests here at stake are everlasting. You cannot afford to run any risks with the soul, for it is more valuable than the whole world. Now, having seen what the anchor of the soul is made of, I want you think of this question.

II. WHY DO YOU NEED IT? Why does a ship need an anchor? To keep it steady, yet say, and save it from being carried away by wind and tide. Oh, how many influences there are around us that put us in danger. Then an anchor is of great value in preventing a ship from drifting. Young converts will soon find themselves in danger of backsliding. When you get out into the world you will find a strong current running dead against you; the influence of irreligious society, and of a spurious charity, will tempt you to abate your zeal, and to give up, one by one, holy practices and vital truths which once were dear to you as life, and you will glide unconsciously back into an easy-going formalism; and then, alas! for your spiritual and eternal interests! Therefore, as St. John says, “Look to yourselves, that ye lose not those things which ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward.” Keep fast hold of your hope in Christ, and you will be able to maintain your ground, Never let go your spiritual anchor and you win successfully resist the strong currents around you. Now we come to the last point.

III. WHERE ARE YOU TO CAST THIS ANCHOR? The same apostle speaks of it “entering into that within the veil”; and, perhaps, the expression strikes you as a very” curious one. Undoubtedly it is not usual to east anchors within curtains or veils. But when you think over it the meaning is clear and beautiful. The meaning of the word “veil “ takes us back to the worship of the ancient Jewish sanctuary. Although the pious Jewish worshipper never entered within that curtain, never saw behind it, yet he knew perfectly what was there; he knew the blessed truth set forth by that mercy-seat, and all his spiritual hope was based upon it. The anchor of his soul entered into that within the veil and took hold of the blood-besprinkled mercy seat of God. Ah! it won’t do to throw out your soul’s anchor upon the mere clemency or indulgence of an amiable God. The anchor must be fixed in the ground God has provided, and nowhere else. It must lay hold on covenant mercy, on nothing less than the finished work of Jesus. Ah! perhaps some of you have as yet got no anchor! You are going forth into the future, with its unknown dangers and storms, and are wholly unprepared! Oh! it is a sad thing to live “ without God, and without hope in the world.” Sir Humphrey Davy, a brilliant and successful man of science of last century, with almost everything that the world could give t, make a man happy, once wrote to a friend, “There is but one person I envy upon earth, and that is the men who has a clear and fixed religious belief.” Alas! how many all around us who will still lack this. Intelligent and amiable and with much to make them happy, but still dark within. “All at sea” in very deed as regards spiritual things, and with no anchor to cling to! What are you going to do in the coming storm? To-day the air may be calm and the sky serene; but the clouds are gathering for such a tempest and riot of elements as earth has never seen; and woe betide those who in that hour have no Saviour they can call their own! (J. T. Davidson, D. D,)

Importance of the anchor

During the short naval battle between the Merrimac and the Congress and Cumberland, the anchor of the former, being unprotected, was shot away. Ever afterwards the ironclad battle-ships were constructed so as to include an anchor-well, in which the anchor, when out of the water, might be stowed away in safety. (H. O.Mackey.)

I. LIFE IS A SEA. Two sorts of peril.

A seaside sermon

1. Drift--from routine, custom of society, currents of popular feeling, habits of commerce, &c.

2. Storms--to health, circumstances faith, love.

II. THE SOUL IS A SHIP. Not a rock, nor a waif, but a vessel--capable of progress, and under proper guidance able to reach a right haven.

III. HOPES AND ANCHORS.

1. Common.

2. Manifold.

IV. CHRISTIAN HOPE HIS THE ONLY SUFFICIENT ANCHOR.

1. Fixed on God through Christ.

2. Fastened by chains of faith and love vouchsafed through Christ. (U. R. Thomas.)

The soul’s only sure refuge

Professor, whose masterly work on the “Physical Geography of the Sea,” and others of like value, have given him a reputation wherever learning is valued, was a devout, humble-minded Christian. In his youth he had paced the quarter-deck of a man-of-war, in the capacity of midshipman, and long years after, in his dying hour, the scenes of early days came back. He fancied himself in the midst of a storm, when the goodly ship, holding by her anchors, seemed threatened with destruction, even under the shadow of the shore. Turning his languid eye upon his son, who nursed him, he asked, in the language of the ruling passion of his soul,” Do I seem to drag my anchors?” The answer, “They are sure and steadfast,” gave him gratifying assurance. After he had been silent for some time, and was Supposed to be speechless, a friend asked how he felt, when he promptly said, “All is well!” and forthwith left the shores of time for the fairer scenes of the eternal world. This only refuge for the soul is what we should prize above all things else: and the most important question to be settled is whether, or not, we have sought and found it. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

The anchor of the soul

The apostle had just been speaking of “laying hold on the hope set before us,” by which he seems to denote the appropriation of those various blessings which have all been procured for us by Christ. And when the apostle proceeds, in the words of our text, to describe this hope as an anchor of the soul we are to understand him as declaring that the expectation of God’s favour and of the glories of heaven, through the atonement and intercession of Christ, is exactly calculated to keep us steadfast and unmoved amid all the tempests of our earthly estate.

1. Now the idea which is immediately suggested by this metaphor of the anchor is that of our being exposed to great moral peril, tossed on rough waters, and in danger of making shipwreck of our faith. And we must be well aware, if at all acquainted with ourselves and our circumstances, that such idea is in every respect accurate, and that the imagery of a tempest-tossed ship, girt about by the rock and the quicksand, as well as beaten by the hurricane, gives no exaggerated picture of the believer in Christ, as opposition, under various forms, labours at his ruin. We first observe that there is great risk of our being carried about, as an apostle expresses it, “with every wind of doctrine”; and whatever, therefore, tends to the keeping us in the right faith, in spite of gusts of error, must deserve to be characterised as an anchor of the soul. But, we may unhesitatingly declare, that there is a power, the very strongest, in the hope of salvation through Christ, of enabling us to stand firm against the incursions of heresy. The hope presupposes faith in the Saviour; and faith has reasons for the persuasion that Jesus is God’s Son, and “able to save to the uttermost”; and though the individual is ready enough to probe these reasons, and to bring them to any fitting criterion, it is evident, that where faith has once taken possession, and generated hope, he has so direct and overwhelming an interest in holding fast truth, that it must be more than a specious objection or a well-turned cavil which will prevail to the loosening his grasp. We observe, next, that the believer in Christ is in as much danger of being moved by the trials with which he meets as by attacks upon his faith. But he has a growing consciousness that “all things work together for good,” and therefore an increasing submissiveness in the season of tribulation, or an ever strengthening adherence to God as to a father. And that which contributes, perhaps more than aught besides, to the producing this adherence, is the hope on which the Christian lays hold. If you study the language of David when in trouble you will find that it was hope by which he was sustained. He describes himself in terms which accurately correspond to the imagery of our text. “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts; all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me.” But when the tempest was thus at its height, and everything seemed to conspire to overwhelm and destroy him, he could yet say, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” It is hope, you observe, to which he turns, as the principle through which the soul might best brave the hurricane. And can we wonder that a hope, such as that of the believer in Christ, should so contribute to the steadfastness of its possessor that the winds may buffet him, and the floods beat against him, and yet he remains firm, like the well-anchored vessel? Is it the loss of property with which he is visited, and which threatens to shake his dependence upon God? Hope whispers that he has in heaven an enduring substance; and he takes joyfully the spoiling of his goods. Is it the loss of friends? He sorrows not “ even as others which have no hope,” but is comforted by the knowledge that “ them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” Is it sickness--is it the treachery of friends--is it the failure of cherished plans, which hangs the firmament with blackness, and works the waters into fury? None of these things move him; for hope assures him that his “ light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Is it death which, advancing in its awfulness, would beat down his confidence, and snap his cordage, and send him adrift? His hope is a hope full of immortality: he knows “whom he hath believed, and is persuaded that He is able to keep that which he hath committed unto Him against that day.” We go on to observe that the Christian is exposed to great varieties of temptation: the passions of an evil nature, and the entirements of a “world which lieth in wickedness,” conspire to draw him aside from righteousness, and force him back to the habits and scenes which he has professedly abandoned. The danger of spiritual shipwreck would be comparatively small if the sea on which he voyages were swept by no storms but those of sorrow and persecution. The risk is far greater when he is assaulted by the solicitations of his own lusts, and the corrupt affections of his nature are plied with their correspondent objects. And though it too often happens that he is overcome by temptation, we are sure that if he kept hope in exercise he would not be moved by the pleadings of the flesh and the world. Let hope be in vigour, and the Christian’s mind is fixed on a portion which he can neither measure by his imagination nor be deprived of by his enemies. And now if, at a time such as this, when it may almost be said that he has entered the haven, that he breathes the fragrance, and gazes on the loveliness, and shares the delights of the Paradise of God--he be solicited to the indulgence of a lust, the sacrifice of a principle, or the pursuit of a bauble--can you think the likelihood to be great that he will be mastered by the temptation, that he will return, at the summons of some low passion, from his splendid excursion, and defile himself with the impurities of earth? We can be confident that if hope, the hope set before us in the gospel, be earnestly clung to, there will be no room in the grasp for the glittering toys with which Satan would bribe us to throw away our eternity. And therefore--to bring the matter again under the figure of our text--we can declareof hope that it ministers to Christian steadfastness, when the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, combine to produce wavering and inconstancy.

2. Now, throughout these illustrations we have rather assumed than proved that Christian hope is of a nature widely different from that of any other. But it will be easily seen that we have claimed for it nothing beyond the truth if we examine, the apostle’s statement in regard of a Christian’s hope, that it “entereth into that within the veil.” The allusion is undoubtedly to t, he veil, or curtain, which separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the Temple at Jerusalem. By the holy of holies was typified the scene of God’s immediate presence, into which Christ entered when the days of His humiliation were ended. And hence we understand by the hope, or the anchor, entering within the veil, that, in believing upon Jesus, we fasten ourselves, as it were, to the realities of the invisible world. This throws new and great light on the simile of our text. It appears that the Christian, whilst tossing on a tempestuous sea, is fast bound to another scene of being, and that, whilst the vessel is on the waters of time, the anchor is on the rock of eternity. Within the veil are laid up joys and possessions which are more than commensurate with men’s capacities for happiness when stretched to the utmost. Within the veil is a glory such as was never proposed by ambition in its most daring flight; and a wealth such as never passed before avarice in its most golden dreams; and delights such as imagination, when employed in delineating the most exquisite pleasures, hath never been able to array. And Jet hope fasten on this glory, this wealth, these delights, and presently the soul, as though she felt that the objects of desire were as ample as herself, acquires a fixedness of purpose, a steadiness of aim, a combination of energies, which contrast strangely with the inconstancy, the vacillation, the distraction, which have made her hitherto the sport of every wind and every wave. The object of hope being immeasurable, inexhaustible, hope clings to this object with a tenacity which it cannot manifest when grasping only the insignificant and unsubstantial; and thus the soul is bound, we might almost say indissolubly, to the unchangeable realities of the inheritance of the saints. And can you marvel if, with her anchor thus dropped within the veil, she is not to be driven from her course by the wildest of the storms which yet rage without? Besides, within the veil is an Intercessor whose pleadings insure that these objects of hope shall be finally attained. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Entereth into that within the veil

Hope entering within the veil

I. LET US REGARD THE NECESSITY FOR THIS HOPE. We have to show here that there are difficulties which render Christian endurance an impossibility, apart from the sustaining power of a hope that enters within the veil.

1. There is a veil over the spiritual world. By the spiritual world I mean all the unseen realities which surround us now. He who is in the highest sense spiritual, feels the world to be a Divine temple, because he realises God in it--His infinite presence shining from the deep sky above, and His love revealed in every flower. To him Christ is everywhere, hallowing, as of old, the relationships of life, and colouring by His sympathy its struggles and its sorrows. He can reverence men, not because they are rich, or successful, or powerful, but because they are living and immortal spirits; and his standard of life is not the expedient, or the pleasurable, or the popular--but the righteousness, the truth, the love of the eternal world. Still, that world is veiled: only the eye of a strong faith can see its beauty. We are so encircled and enchained by the fleshly and material, that we can only clearly realise the eternal in moments of meditation or prayer; while the transient presses incessantly upon us, and by its strong glare absorbs us--while passion, with its coloured light, blinds the vision of the soul. Is it not evident, then, that to be faithful to thy end demands a hope that enters within the folded veil which hides from us the spiritual world?

2. There is a veil over the discipline of life. Indeed, the meaning of human life generally is profoundly veiled. Here we have often to sow in tears while the reaping is veiled--just as in the natural world we cast the seed into the ground in utter ignorance of the manner in which it will he quickened into life. The sowing is seen, the leaping may be believed in, but the connection between the two” is concealed. The sower must trust to the dark laws of nature. He cannot see the marvellous forces that cause the seed to germinate; the mysterious influences of winter snows and summer rains; the silent electric currents by which the sowing is linked to the harvest that will wave in golden glory beneath the autumnal sky. So in spiritual life. We have to live for eternity. We have to work in faith. We feel the effort, realise the duty, see the thing to be done, but the laws which cause our toil to bear fruit are as hidden and mysterious as the laws of natural life. If, then, we could not rest on a hope which enters within the veil, and in its strength believe in the certainty of the harvest, how could we be steadfast to the end?

3. There is a veil over the heaven of the future. I know of course there is a veil over its employments, relationships, locality--which how earnestly we long to pierce! But here a great problem meets us. Taking the Scripture teaching that this life is the germ of the future life; that its present discipline is but the prelude to that “exceeding weight of glory”; that this is but the bud of which the future life will be the flower, how is this earthly life to develop into the blessed life of heaven? But here comes in the hope which “enterets within the veil.” Just as in the natural world the inscrutable activities which darken the seed-time, and create the fear of the seed’s failure, do yet mature its fruitage; so in the spiritual life the Divine law of growth is at work, though it may be hidden from us. Our life here must be imperfect, because we live for eternity, and God is causing our life and work to move on an eternal scale. We, in this “time world “ see but the minute commencement of that which reaches on into the everlasting. Every true effort must have its completion.

II. But the practical question meets us--HOW CAN THIS HOPE, AS A POWER IN LIFE, RE ATTAINED? The words following our text give us the reply--“Whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever.” They suggest

1. Faith in Christ our Priest. Without that we should tremble at the drawing aside of the veil. Like the high priest of old we must be sprinkled with atoning blood before our hope can enter within it.

2. We must have fellowship with Christ our Forerunner. Don’t let this become a vague idea, it leas a meaning for us which is intensely real. Remember that He is our example, inasmuch as He is a “High Priest who is touched with a feeling of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points even as we are.” Remember how He struggled against temptation--how He met it by instant, unconquerable resistance, arid then “angels came and ministered unto Him.” So with us. After Christ like conflict we become

“more than conquerors through Him that loved us,” and are strengthened with angelic hopes. (E. L. Hull, R. A.)

Within the veil

There in the temple, in the day of the old Hebrew service, there hung the veil, heavy, gorgeous, mysterious itself, and in its fabrication concealing mystery; made and suspended “after the pattern given in the mount.” Very glorious was the embroidery of that impressive symbol, “the purple, the blue, the scarlet, inwrought with the fine twined linen,” and the forms of the golden cherubim spread over the richly coloured vesture (Exodus 26:31-32). Thus, behind the veil, lay enshrined all the gorgeous symbols and heraldries of the Jewish history and faiths; the veil concealed their splendours, and defended their beauty--it was a parable and a mystery.

I. WHAT WAS THAT VEIL, AND WHAT DID IT SAY TO THOSE WHO BOWED PROSTRATE BEFORE IT, AND WHAT DRIES IT SAY TO US NOW? When the Jew bowed there, and heard from behind the veil the sound of the bells upon the beautiful vestments of the priest, and heard the echo of feet moving to and fro, and saw the priest stepping in whither he could not follow, lifting that veil, entering that door; what think you were the feelings of the ancient Jew? what did it all say to him? This was what it said, “Separated, separated! cut off from holiness; cut off from God.” That was what it said, and the echo within the heart of the Jew said, “Separated, separated.” What do you feel, and what are you able to realise now? What is that veil to us? What says the apostle? “The veil, that is to say, His flesh.” Behold that broken body, behold that pierced side; this is the world’s great wonder, and the church’s too. That is the tree veil. It is sinful humanity which hangs between our happiness and God. It is our human nature which cannot go up into the holy of holies. Christ took up that infirm, sinful human nature, bore it, lived in it, died in it, and resumed it after He had laid it down. He took it again, glorified it, and by it “ broke down the middle wall of partition contained in ordinances, and by Himself made one new man, so making peace.” I look down to my nature, laden with sin, and I despair; I look up to Christ’s nature, and rejoice with “joy unspeakable, and full of glory, receiving the end of my faith, even the salvation of my soul.” I look down to my nature, and I see my helplessness; I look up to Christ’s nature, and see my hope. I look down to my nature, and see my sin; I look up to His, and see His holiness, and I know it is mine. That veil which separated me from God, becomes now the “fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints,” in which I approach him, and say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, and with the garments of salvation.”

II. And now, WHAT IS WITHIN THE VEIL, WHAT DOES MY TEXT OR CONTEXT FIND?

1. And lift up thine heart, Christian; lilt it up, for IT is there--the immutable and the unchangeable will. We need strong consolation, and the apostle fetches the strong consolation for the heirs of promise from behind the veil. Surely I need not detain you by so trite a remark as that we stand in the midst of mystery. “The day breaks, and the shadows flee away,” where we understand the body of our Lord, where we pass through that sacred veil. There is a life not to be accounted for by human conditions, and time, and space. His will is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,” immutable! Hence, within the veil, is God’s Divine map; there is the plan to Him all known, and clearly seen; infinite consciousness, and prescience, provision, and providence--this is the everlasting and unchangeable God.

2. Within the veil. Who is within the veil? He is there. Do you find it difficult to realise it? Do you find it difficult to send your heart to Him, and to see Him? But where is He but there? Where should He be but there? “Yet a little while,” said He, “and the world sooth Me no more, but ye see Me, and because I live, ye shall live also.” Dying saints have seen Him. Yes, He lived, He died, He rose to be revived, and He is there waiting till He shall come without sin unto salvation.

3. Within the veil. What is there P They are there, they are there. The loved but not the lost; why, then, their loss deplore? They are there, the holy, and the immortal, and the pure, and the true. They are there! Beyond the flesh. “Where should the dying members rest?” All mystery supposes a solution of the riddle; they are beyond the enigma. All is plain now within the veil.

III. “SEEING, THEN, IT IS SO, WHAT MANNER OF PERSONS OUGHT WE TO BE?” Such is the plea of the apostle. All this veil must be dissolved. They can hear us and see us, even behind the curtain. Therefore believe, and wait, and rejoice, and aspire. Within the veil! Are not these comfortable words? Within the veil! Even now has not “the darkness passed”? Is it not true that “the true light now shineth” beyond the veil? Henry IV. was told of the king of Spain that he had great acquisitions, and was asked what he had to say to it? He replied, “I am king of France:” but he is king of Castile; “I am king of France”: but he is king of Navarre; “I am king of Franc”: but he is king of Portugal; “but I am king of France: “He is king of the Sicilies; “but I am king of France”: he is king of the New Indies; “but I am king of France.” To he king of France answered all questions, and was to him equal to all. So thou and I, oh, Christian, have an answer for all questions, and equal to all, “within the veil.” Your church is imperfect and erring, and small in the world’s esteem. Ah, but “within the veil”! You are yourself dark and cloudy, and desponding, and you cannot see the promised land or the Saviour. Yes, but “within the veil!” And as with the world, so with your family; death invades and breaths in on your household, and your household loves. True, but “within the veil.” And sin accuses you, and conscience stings, and beyond is the judgment-seat. But “ within the veil.” (E. P. Hood.)

Anchored within the veil

I. What is this “soul” of ours? Always like a barque, tossed about and sure to drift and drift, on shoals and on rocks. What a bitter picture is the history of this “soul” of ours! All unstable, and never continuing long in one strain; with no power of itself to help itself.

II. And WHERE is it? In an ocean? And all the while that soul is so rich an argosy, laden with treasures which cannot be told; bought at the highest possible price, carrying in it an eternity into the very presence of God.

III. WHAT, THEN, DO WE WANT? “An anchor.” “An anchor” which is “ sure” to be “steadfast.”

IV. Now look at SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS WONDERFUL CONNECTION OF THE “SOUL “ WITH THAT “ANCHOR WITHIN THE VEIL,”

1. And first, how perfectly safe that soul must be. God’s eternal counsel, God’s very being, and God’s oath passing into Christ. A Christ unseen; wearing a body Himself in heaven; who secures and seals your pardon. Your strength, your peace, your life, your glory.

2. Then how restful should your soul so “anchored” be! What mean all these doubts and fears? What though you be tossed about, you are held as by chains of adamant, and your soul shall never perish! You cannot be lost! There cannot be any shipwreck to a soul that is “anchored” “within the veil.”

3. And by that token that you are “anchored,” you cannot be very far from shore. You may not see the land of promise; you may not yet hear the songs of its inhabitants; but there is no anchorage out in the mid-sea, you must be near the coast, nearer perhaps than you guess now, in this dark night; but you will be surprised to find how close you are all the while when the morning breaks. Therefore you must make haste to be ready to go ashore, for the voyage may be nearly done, and you only wait the order to step out, and be at home.

4. Meanwhile, remember this, a ship always drops towards her anchor. And before you land you must be nearing and nearing Christ and heaven: your thoughts there, your focus there, your tastes and your desires there; and your “hope” must become more real and more perfect every day. There must be more realisation of the land you are about to touch; more affections there; more appreciation of its loveliness; more familiarity with its language, and love, and praise. You must be practising what you will have to do when you arrive. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The nearness of heaven

The nearness of heaven is suggested by the epithet “ veil.” A veil is the thinnest and frailest of all conceivable partitions. It is but a fine tissue, a delicate fabric of embroidery. It waves in the wind; the touch of a child may stir it; an accident may rend it; the silent action of time will moulder it away. A mere cord breaking, a mere” socket of silver “ starting from its place would have opened the veil of the temple. It was lifted up by the priest “ once in the circuit of a year”; and at the crucifixion it was parted by an invisible hand. The veil that conceals heaven is only our embodied existence, and though fearfully and wonderfully made, it is only wrought out of our frail mortality. So slight is it that the puncture of a thorn, the touch of an insect’s sting, the breath of an infected atmosphere, may make it shake and fall. In a bound, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, in the throb of a pulse, in the flash of a thought, we may start into disembodied spirits, glide unabashed into the company of great and mighty angels, pass into the light and amazement of eternity, know the great seer, t, gaze upon splendours which flesh and blood could not sustain, and which no words lawful for man to utter could describe! (C. Stanford, D. D.)

The Forerunner is for us entered

The Forerunner

I. There is A PLACE referred to, here. “Within the veil “ is heaven, the shrine and dwelling-place of Deity. This is the goal of the believer’s sanctified ambition, the very consummation of his best and holiest desires--to enter in within the veil, to gaze on the unclouded glories of Jehovah’sface, and dwell forever with Him.

II. There is THE PERSON who has entered within the veil, even Jesus, by whom an entrance has been effected. To tell one of any one of my fellow-men, who has passed from earth to heaven, does not that proclaim that a way has been opened up into the holiest of all; that there is no impassable gulf, no insuperable barrier in the way, but that an entrance may in like manner be ministered to a great multitude? How much more so, that it is Jesus who has entered in! For none ever loved us like Jesus; never heart glowed and yearned like the heart of Jesus; and we may well feel assured that wherever He is, He will never forget us; and that He will be found just as willing to help us in heaven as He showed Himself to be walling to help us on earth.

III. There is THE CHARACTER HE SUSTAINS in thus entering; it is as a Forerunner for us. This character is not personal, but official and mediatorial; and therefore it exerts a pregnant influence upon all His people.

1. As a Forerunner He announces our future arrival in heaven. He makes it known that in coming up from this dim and distant region, where for a season He had dwelt, He comes as a pioneer on the march,--that His footsteps will be followed by myriads of the ransomed, so that from that day forward all heaven has been in an attitude of expectation.

2. As the Forerunner He takes possession of heaven on our behalf; for He enters in our nature and in our name.

3. As a Forerunner He bids His people welcome when they come, and presents them before His Father, and assigns them their position in the new Jerusalem. It is enough to insure to us no ordinary place in the affection and regard of the unfallen, to find that we are ushered in and welcomed there as friends of Jesus; to sustain a right relation t- Jesus is to stand right with all the upper universe of God. Above all, what a gracious reception will it insure to us from God the Father! None so dear to God as Jesus, and next to Jesus none so dear to Him as those who are His. (Thee. Main, D. D.)

Christ our Forerunner within the veil

The expression, “Forerunner,” here made use of by the apostle, is a military one, and refers to the custom which obtains in days of warfare, of the victor in a hard-fought battle despatching a messenger to the seat of government with the news of the successful valour which the army had displayed, that at head-quarters the welcome intelligence might be proclaimed, and purposes formed, and plans executed, and honours awarded, that might be meet and congruous with the happy results which had been achieved. No doubt, on such an occasion, a forerunner is generally inferior to those who come after him, under whose skilful management tee victorious prowess has been put forth; and he is so because he is a forerunner, and nothing more. Thus restricted, however, the term has no meaning when applied to Jesus Christ; for though He be the Forerunner of His people, yet the splendour of His character in this respect is to be traced to the circumstance that He is much more. Upon His shoulders was laid the conducting of that matter, on account of which He is now entered as a Precursor within the veil. He fought the battle; He slew the enmity; and He was Himself the Forerunner, because of the greatness of that which He had accomplished, and because it was not fit either that the enunciation, or the following of it up, should be committed to another.

I. CHRIST IS OUR FORERUNNER ENTERED IN WITHIN THE VEIL. We have several notices given to us in Scripture that the scheme of human redemption did ever excite great interest among the heavenly inhabitants--that it is a subject on which their curiosity is awakened, and their emotions roused, and their inquiries set on foot--that its commencement, its progress, its consummation, are apprehended as important, and felt as attractive, and worthy of the most solicitous investigation. Now, this desire was gratified on Christ’s visible departure out of the world, in the form of a literal ascent--on His entrance within the veil as the Forerunner of His people; and this is the first view that we may take of His character in this respect. He went into heaven proclaiming what He had done upon earth--that He had finished transgression--that He had made an end of sin--that He had brought in an everlasting righteousness--that He had sealed up the vision and the prophecy which did centre in Him--that, having sustained the pressure of avenging justice, He opened up a medium of access, a door even to the most rebellious--that, by virtue of His blood, He had obtained remission for sinners, paid the price of redemption for those who were captives, made reconciliation for enemies--that, in harmony with God’s attributes, and even while He did conserve the sacredness of His law, He had redeemed, from the power of all who did hate her, the Church whom He had eternally chosen--that he had delivered her from the dominion of sin, from the final dominion of death, and made that which was the fruit and punishment of transgression the door through which she enters on the sanctuary of immortality. Such is the intelligence with which Christ, as our Forerunner, has entered into that within the veil. And the very act of His going up did presuppose and ratify to them the most important truths, that He led captivity captive, just because He had ascended up on high. But again, our Lord has entered as a Forerunner within the veil, and there Be ever liveth. Now, there is a threefold life which Christ lives above. There is a life which He has as the Eternal Son of God, the life which belongs to His Divine nature; for as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself--given it to Him by eternal generation--given it to Him by communicating all His own attributes. There is also a life which belongs to Him, and which He doth live for Himself, in consequence of His having become man--a life of glory inconceivable in His nature as man. But, over and above these two different kinds of life which the Lord Jesus Christ doth enjoy, and which shall never come to an end, there is a life which He leads as Mediator in heaven, and in respect of which it is that He is a Forerunner within the veil. Though removed beyond the cognisance of the senses, He is still carrying on His great work in heaven, and is there the Prophet, Priest, and King of His Church as really and as effectively as when He dwelt upon earth. He died on our account, He liveth still on our account, and is entrusted with all power for the service of His Church; and though this life differs not essentially from that life of glory in His human nature which He liveth for Himself, it yet so far differs from it that it shall one day have an end. He will throughout eternity enjoy the life which He possesses as a Divine Being, He will throughout eternity e-joy the life which He possesses in His glorified human nature; but His life as Mediator, His life as a Forerunner, He shall cease to have when the work of His mediation shall have been finished, when the elect shall all have been gathered into the fold of the Good Shepherd, and the kingdom delivered up to God, even the Father. And what is it that, in this view of His character as a Forerunner, He is not fitted to procure? Are we not to trace to it all the gifts which are bestowed on the Church in general, for common edification, and on each member of it singly, for His particular benefit?

II. LESSONS in which this great truth is fitted to instruct us:

1. This view of Christ’s character is a proof of the perfection of His atonement. Can it for one moment be imagined that He should in this manner have been taken up, had there been any defect in His redeeming work, bad it come short in anything which the fitness of a righteous Government could require.

2. A forerunner, one who goes before, suggests the idea of some who are to follow after. (John Paul.)

The Forerunner

The forerunner of the ancient ship was the Anehorarius, the man who had charge of the anchor, and who carried it within the harbour, when there was not yet water sufficient to float the ship into it. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Christ going before to heaven

1. Is Christ gone before to heaven? Then let us be willing to follow Him in the way of obedience, and in the way of suffering, as well as to meet Him in the end.

2. To make haste after Him. Did He fly as an eagle towards heaven, and shall we creep like a snail? Is not the bosom of Christ more desirable than the arms of our dearest friends? Shall we not enjoy all comforts in the enjoyment of our Comforter?

3. Let our hearts at present be with Him. Oh[ where should our hearts be, but where our Head is? (W. Burkitt, M. A.)

Our Forerunner

I. Though parted from us, and taken up into heaven, we contemplate JESUS CHRIST AS THE HEAD OF THE GREAT SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM--AS THE ORIGINAL AND FINAL PRIEST--AND AS THE ALONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN.

II. WE ARE TO CONTEMPLATE JESUS IN HIS REPRESENTATIVE CAPACITY. He is a public person. He is a federal head of all mankind.

III. CHRIST’S PREPARATIVE RELATION. A representative takes the position of those who send him, and thereby excludes all others from the same place. It is not so with Christ; for He sustains an endearing relation to us, by virtue of which we are at the last to be with Him. This is indicated by the term “forerunner.” His presence on high is not to the exclusion of His people, but as a preparation and intimation of their final reception there. He is “the first-born among many brethren;” and “He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (R. M. Wilcox.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 6:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/hebrews-6.html. 1905-1909. New York.


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