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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 8

Verse 1

CHRISTIAN PRIESTHOOD

‘The right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.’

Hebrews 8:1

The soul of man in its transactions with God has to look to heaven. Once it could take its place in the outer court and wait while the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies. Between the two places, between the High Priest and the people, there was the holy place; a place of sacrifice and service. Between the Holy of Holies to which Christ has gone and the Christian soul there is no building made with hands; no holy place where priests may but others may not enter.

I. We are right to set apart certain men who shall be employed in the ministry of our churches, who shall lead the prayers and praises of the people, shall give all their time to the study of the Scriptures, the spiritual care of the young, the sick, and the ignorant. But to think that this excuses ‘unordained’ Christian folk from taking any part other than a silent one in these things is wholly to mistake the meaning of the Christian priesthood, which is the calling of every Christian.

II. Two especial dangers may be pointed out.

( a) We are apt to assume that a lower standard of holy life is expected of the laity than of the clergy. A clergyman cannot engage in the ordinary business of life because he has a life-work marked out for him which demands all his time. If there be any other reason than this which would make you shrink from seeing him share your everyday life, see to it, lest you are making a distinction for which you have no warrant; lest you are trying to keep a strict line of demarcation between the times you give to the service of God and to the ‘business of life’ respectively.

( b) God forbid that we should be thought to encourage the interference of the minister of Christ with secular things. Quite the contrary. It is the layman’s life which we would see spiritualised, not the clergyman’s secularised. His life is a blessed one, indeed, if it bring time for much study of the Bible, for converse about heavenly things, for communion with God. It is a glorious ‘eldership.’ The privilege of preaching the Gospel of Christ is unspeakably great. But the ordinary man neither sells his own privilege of doing definite work for Christ nor rids himself of the responsibility of doing so by supporting the clergyman with his presence and his purse.

Let us, then, set up the very highest standard of Christian life and service for every member of Christ, since every one is an attendant priest waiting until the High Priest shall come out from His Father’s presence and examine His work.

III. ‘Waiting,’ do we say?—Who knows how eagerly the Lord Himself may be waiting until we will do His work and let Him come? No little band of priests does the Church need; but it asks every member of it to realise his ordination as a priest and king unto God. Clad in the righteousness of our Lord, we are to stand and wait and work, offering up our powers of body, mind, and soul, and doing this cheerfully and perfectly, in heathen lands or at home, reckoning that no earthly business can excuse us from the duties of our high office. We are to live, too, a life of serious, high-minded thought as well as effort, for it becomes us to think much and deeply of the great truths whose witnesses we are. Petty things must not vex the priests of God; idle words they must not utter. They have been baptized with a baptism; they have died and risen with Christ; they must seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

Rev. Dr. Flecker.

Illustration

‘If the service of God cannot permeate the business of life you are in a wrong business and had better separate yourself from it. It is well to be perfectly outspoken on this matter. It is with recreations as with business. Theatre-going, card-playing, “gentle” gambling, are right or wrong quite irrespectively of the person who takes part in them. The “parson” and the working man have as much, or as little, right to bet as the wealthiest in the land; there lies a terrible danger in the notion that by approving of clergymen being punctilious and by “supporting” them on Sundays you have fulfilled all the law’s demands; that there is a little licence allowed you in the matter of eating and drinking, of reading, of amusing yourselves, of spending your money, which is not allowed to “the clergy.” ’

Verse 5

THE PATTERN IN THE MOUNT

‘See … that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.’

Hebrews 8:5

The building of the tabernacle, which was to be the visible sign and symbol of God’s presence among His people, suggests also a method and a duty capable of the widest application.

I. Is there not for all history and for all life, even for the common tasks of our daily duty, a ‘pattern in the mount,’ a thought of God waiting for our study and reproduction, realised in everything rightly said and thought and done, and hidden, thwarted, disturbed by sin?

II. The development of character includes two main principles—the principle of purpose and the principle of progress.

( a) The principle of purpose. Everybody who looks at the world about him must be struck by the fact how much of life is without a purpose; and, indeed, such a fact calls for perpetual astonishment and ever-abiding regret. Even in London, where there is so much activity and devotion directed to some definite end, you will find in every class of society thousands of men and women who live practically without an aim. So often men drift, drift like the dead leaves upon the current of a swollen stream.

( b) The principle of progress. I do not hesitate to say that the world is indebted to Christianity as an historical phenomenon for the whole idea of progress; that very idea which modern society, and especially modern democracy, is so proud to claim for its own. It is a Christian idea in its true sense and meaning. Look at any one who tries to live, but who has no ‘pattern in the mount,’ whose days pass only as days of enjoyment or days of business, unenlightened by the splendour of the thought of God. Do we not think of such that he makes no progress, no development, from one year to another does just the same? The months come and go, and leave him morally unchanged, at any rate for the better. He seems to have lost something; he has lost something, the secret of development.

III. If we ask how we shall restore it, and escape the fatal influence, how we shall find and live by ‘the pattern in the mount,’ we know that our moral sense makes answer, the study of the life of Jesus Christ.

—Rev. Canon S. A. Alexander.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/hebrews-8.html. 1876.