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The Simplicity of Christian Ritual.
The simplicity of worship in the Christian Church is a sign of spiritual advancement
I. Inasmuch as it arises, in some measure, from the fact that the Gospel rites are commemorative, whilst those of the former dispensation were anticipative.
II. Inasmuch as it arises from the fact that, whilst the rites of Judaism were mainly disciplinary, those of Christianity are spontaneous and expressive.
III. The simplicity of the Christian rites affords a safeguard against those obvious dangers which are incident to all ritual worship. (1) The first of these is the tendency of the unspiritual mind to stop short at the symbol; (2) the next is the too common tendency to mistake aesthetic emotion for religious feeling.
J. Caird, Sermons, p. 272.
Worship in Spirit and Truth.
I. Apart from revelation men have not the idea of God as Lord, Spirit, Father; and even after the light of Scripture has appeared, God is to many only an abstract word, by which they designate a complex of perfections rather than a real, living, loving, ever-present Lord, to whom we speak and of whom we ask the blessings that we need. Without revelation prayer is regarded not so much as asking God in order to receive from Him, but as an exercise of mind which elevates, ennobles, and comforts. It is a monologue.
II. Unto the Gentiles God never gave an Aaronic priesthood, an earthly tabernacle, a symbolical service. From the very commencement He taught them, as Jesus taught the woman of Samaria, that now all places are alike sacred; that the element in which God is worshipped is spirit and truth; that believers are children who call God Father; that they are a royal priesthood who through Jesus are brought nigh unto God, who enter into the holy of holies which is above. How difficult it is to rise from the spirit of paganism to the clear and bright atmosphere of the gospel! Priesthood, vestments, consecrated buildings, symbols, and observances all place Christ at a great distance, and cover the true, sinful, and guilty state of the heart which has not been brought nigh by the blood of Christ. The sinner believes, and as a child he is brought by Jesus unto the Father. High above all space, high above all created heavens, before the very throne of God, is the sanctuary in which we worship. Jesus presents us to the Father. We are beloved children, clothed in white robes, the garments of salvation, and the robes of righteousness. We are priests unto God.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 76.
Reference: Hebrews 9:1-12 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 469.
The Holy Chest.
"Of which we cannot now speak particularly," said the author of the epistle. If he had gone into particulars further exposition would have been needless. What was the lesson taught by this wonderful article of tabernacle furniture? Are we not to look upon it as a picture of Christ?
I. Let us consider the outside. What do we see? A chest most likely about three feet long, by eighteen inches wide, and eighteen inches deep. It is a box made of common wood, but covered with fine gold. And is not our Jesus both human and Divine? Both are there, and you cannot separate them; just as the ark was not perfect, though the right shape and size, till it was covered with fine gold, so Christ could not be Jesus without the gold of divinity. The Jews stumbled here; they were ready to receive a human Messiah, but they would not have anything to do with the Divine element. Still we do not overlook the wood, though it is covered with gold. It is sweet to know that Jesus shares our nature. He passed over the cedar of angelic life, and took the common shittim, the tree of the wilderness. (1) At each corner there is a ring of gold to receive the staves by which the Levites carried the ark on their shoulders. The people were safe if they went where the ark went. It would be a blessed thing if the Church of God would be persuaded to go where Christ would have gone. (2) At each end of the ark are the cherubim, the representatives of the angelic world. They gaze with interest upon the mercy-seat. Is it not Jesus who links heaven to earth? As the cherubim gazed on the blood on the mercy-seat, so in heaven the Saviour is the centre of attraction, "a Lamb as it had been slain."
II. We will now look inside the ark, and what do we see? (1) "The golden pot" filled with manna. Does not this teach that in Christ we have spiritual food? (2) The rod that budded convinced the people that Aaron was chosen priest. So Christ has the true, God-chosen, God-honoured, God-prevalent priesthood. (3) The tables of the covenant, the new, unbroken tables, remind us that in Christ we have a perfect law. He is our righteousness. (4) Wherever the ark went it meant destruction to the foes of the Almighty; so if Jesus be with us we shall win the day. And in the last struggle, when we cross the bridgeless river, we shall need Christ as the Israelites needed the ark when they crossed over Jordan.
T. Champness, New Coins from Old Gold, p. 45.
References: Hebrews 9:4 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. vi., p. 469. Hebrews 9:6-9 . R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 186.
Christ entered in by His own blood.
We who believe that Christ has entered by His own blood into the holy of holies have thereby received a fourfold assurance.
I. The redemption which Christ has obtained is eternal. Christ's precious blood can never lose its power till all the chosen saints of God are gathered into glory. It is a real redemption from the guilt and power of sin, from the curse of the law, from the wrath of God, from the bondage of Satan, and from the second death; an eternal redemption, because sin is forgiven; Satan, death, and hell are vanquished; everlasting righteousness is brought in; we are saved for evermore.
II. We have now access to God; we are brought into the very presence of God; we enter into the Holy of Holies. The veil no longer conceals the counsel of God's wonderful love; sin in the flesh no longer separates us from the presence of the Most High. Very awful, and yet most blessed and sweet, is this assurance. God is very near to each one of us. Though we see Him not, yet is He nearer to us than the very air we breathe; for our very being, and living, and moving are in Him.
III. Our consciences are purged by the blood of Christ to serve the living God. To us has been given what the old covenant saints did not possess perfection, the absolution and remission of sins.
IV. The things to come are secured to us by Him who is the heir, and in whom even now all spiritual blessings in heavenly places are ours.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 123.
Love in the Ordinance of Sacrifice.
I. In order to be acceptable to God, self-sacrifice must be unreserved and complete. It must be the perfect rendering up of the will to His will, of the being to His disposal, of the energies to His obedience. No reserve can be for an instant thought of. Accordingly, all that was dedicated to Him under the law was fully and unreservedly His; not to be recalled for ordinary cases, not to be divided from His service.
II. Now it must be obvious to us that such full and entire rendering up to God is impossible on the part of a man whose will is corrupted by sin. Every victim was to be without blemish. If each man would not for himself fulfil the spiritual meaning of the sacrifice, the sacrifice itself taught him something of a substitute for himself who in his stead might be offered to God. And the law working on this continually familiarised the people to the idea of one such substitute for all.
III. Again, in the substitution indicated by the sacrifice there must be represented a transference of guilt from the offerer to the substitute. For this the law also took special care (the scapegoat).
IV. The next point which we require is, that some method of communication of the virtue of the sacrifice and its acceptableness to the offerer must be indicated. The offerers partook of the sacrifice. The law was not only a negative preparation for Christ in pulling down the stronghold of human pride and bringing men in guilty before God, but it was a positive preparation for Him, in indicating, as it did, His complete atoning sacrifice, and in announcing Him by repeated prophetic intimations. They who as yet knew not Him could not then perceive the full significance of them; but we, looking back from the foot of the cross and the light of God's Spirit, can gather strong confirmation for our most holy faith from all this preparation and typical foreshadowing of Christ.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iv., p. 115.
References: Hebrews 9:10 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 421.Hebrews 9:11-12 . Homilist, vol. i., p. 184.
Self-oblation the true idea of Obedience.
I. St. Paul here tells us that Christ "offered up Himself," from which we may learn (1) that the act of offering was His own act, and (2) that the oblation was Himself. He was both Priest and Sacrifice; or, in a word, the atoning oblation was His perfect obedience, both in life and in death, to the will of His Father. His whole life was a part of the one sacrifice which, through the eternal Spirit, He offered to His Father; namely, the reasonable and spiritual sacrifice of a crucified will. We learn from this (1) into what relation towards God the Church has been brought by the atonement of Christ. The whole mystical body is offered up to the Father as a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. The Church is gathered out of the world and offered up to God; it is made partaker of the atonement of Christ, of the self-oblation of the Word made flesh. (2) The nature of the sacraments. Under one aspect they are gifts of spiritual grace from God to us; under another they are acts of self-oblation on our part to God. He of His sovereign will bestows on us gifts which we, trusting in His promises, offer ourselves passively to receive.
II. We may learn from this view of the great act of atonement what is the nature of the faith by which we become partakers of it, or, in other words, by which we are justified. Plainly it is not a faith which indolently terminates in a belief that Christ died for us; or which intrusively assumes to itself the office of applying to its own needs the justifying grace of the atonement. Justifying grace is the trust of a willing heart, offered up in obedience to God; it is His will working in us, knitting us to Himself. Our faith, if we would endure unto the end, must be stern, unyielding, and severe. It must bear the impress of His passion, and make us seek the signs of our justification in the sharper tokens of His cross.
III. We learn what is the true point of sight from which to look at all the trials of life. We are not our own, but His; all that we call ours is His; and when He takes it from us first one loved treasure and then another, till He makes us poor and naked and solitary let us not sorrow that we are stripped of all we love, but rather rejoice for that God accepts us; let us not think that we are left here, as it were, unseasonably alone; but remember that, by our bereavements, we are in part translated to the world unseen. He is calling us away and sending on our treasures. The great law of sacrifice is embracing us, and must have its perfect work. Like Him, we must be made, "perfect through suffering."
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 242.
References: Hebrews 9:13 , Hebrews 9:14 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1481; vol. xxxi., No. 1846; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 469; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., pp. 88, 89, 224; vol. vi., pp. 147, 333.
These words refer to, perhaps, the most remarkable of all the typical ordinances of the Old Testament. One of the chief defilements contracted under the law was that caused by contact with a dead body. So rigid was the law that the priests were forbidden to take part in funeral rites, except for the nearest relations, lest they should, by possible contact with the dead, be incapacitated for the ministerial office. It was a perpetual testimony to the truth that God made not death that death is the strange thing superinduced by sin upon the rational creation. As Christ's one death cleanses all sin even to the end, so the ashes of a single heifer served to the purifying of many generations. Now to this remarkable ordinance St. Paul alludes: If the sprinkling of the water containing a portion of the ashes of this slaughtered bull avail to remove the ceremonial defilement of death, and that not for one but for many generations, how much more shall the blood of Christ, shed once for all, purge the innermost conscience!
I. What are the dead works which, like the touch of a corpse, pollute the conscience of man, and disqualify him from standing up as a servant of the living God? They are twofold. First, you are to understand by the term all acts of false worship, the homage paid by the heathen to their idols; secondly, all acts of low or unsound morality, all acts are themselves vicious, or of semi-virtue. These are comprehended in the phrase "dead works." They are works having, you see, a semblance of life, just as the soulless flesh will preserve awhile the hues of health, misleading some even as to the fact of death, and being nevertheless to the more experienced eye wholly devoid of the breath of existence. The conscience of the old world before Christ was defiled and weakened. Wherever the Christian Church was implanted, and the name of Christ adored, the conscience was, as it were, awakened from the dead.
II. There are two or three short lessons which grow out of the subject. (1) The first concerns the true character of the work which the Church of Christ has to do in a nation. Now, there are two ways of dealing with men in spiritual things. The one is that of accustoming them to lean entirely upon others; the second is that of teaching them with God's help to walk by themselves. The surest sign of vigorous Church life is in the quickened and enlightened conscience of the people. (2) The whole argument brings out in undissoluble union the connection that exists between the doctrines of the gospel and the morality of the gospel. That which this modern world of ours wants is the public honesty, the domestic purity of Christian life, without mystery, and God manifest in the flesh. It may not be. The conscience of mankind has not been purged by a system of morals, but by the life and death of the incarnate God. (3) What a warning there is here against allowing ourselves in anything which has the least tendency to pollute the conscience.
J. R. Woodford, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 496.
References: Hebrews 9:15-22 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 73.Hebrews 9:15-23 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 470. Hebrews 9:16 , Hebrews 9:17 . Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 489. Hebrews 9:20 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1567. Hebrews 9:22 . Ibid., vol. iii., No. 118; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 33; H. J. Wilmot Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 134; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 16; Bishop Crowther, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 385; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 527.
I. and II. The sacrifice and intercession of Christ are, of course, distinct in idea; but, in fact, are so united that it is more convenient to consider them together. Sacrifice is intercession, not in word, but in act. It makes atonement for man with God, that is, sets God and man at one. It comes between: that is, in the literal sense of the word, intercedes, mediates between the two, reconciles them; all which terms apply with equal propriety to the one office as to the other, sacrifice and intercession. Every description of Christ's High Priesthood establishes the truth that it is exercised now continually in heaven. The effect which the continued intercession of Christ must exercise over our destiny cannot be measured by any estimate of ours. His prayers are uttered night and day, hour by hour, whether men pray or whether they sleep. And then think how great a motive it is for men to pray, that their prayers may vibrate along the chords of His. We may take our prayers and have them moulded after His, and stamped with His name, and authorised by His image and superscription, as men carry to the royal mint the ingots of gold which their hands have dug out of the earth, and have them coined into money that shall pass current in the land.
III. Consider what comfort exists in the possession of the sympathy of Christ, and in the knowledge that He exists in the body of man, alive to all the human wants and natural infirmities of the heart. In heaven is the presence of One who has raised our nature to Himself to glory. And so long as He retains that nature (which is for ever) we believe that "there is no other thing which He will not effect for us." For our souls He represents His all-sufficient sacrifice; our prayers He sustains by his intercession; our troubles He soothes by the comfort of His sympathy, and our whole body He will change that it may be like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.
C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 63.
Presence of Christ Incarnate in Heaven.
I. Consider first the question of a body possibly existing in heaven. If Adam had kept His state of innocence, he would not have died, nor would he, we imagine, have continued for ever in Paradise, among the trees and the beasts of the earth. We believe that he would have been translated in his body, glorified, to heaven. Enoch was thus removed, and afterwards Elijah. Again, Moses, though his body had been hidden in the earth, appeared after a thousand years, above a hill of Paradise, and was heard to talk. Whence did his body, and that of Elijah, come? None can say. It is enough for our purpose to admit that their presence at the Transfiguration is a proof that bodies can exist somewhere above the range of this lower earth.
II. "The Word was made flesh," the manhood of Christ was perfect. He took not on Him the form of angels, but the seed of Abraham. It is a characteristic of human nature, that once man is man for ever. If, then, Christ is a perfect man, He is man for ever. The eternal Son, marrying Himself to our nature, became with it our flesh. Therefore in heaven, far above Paradise, the world of spirits, the Head of our race already lives in the form and fashion of man.
III. Consider the influence which the presence of Christ incarnate in heaven has upon man below, and the practical difference which this doctrine causes in our estimate of His work for us. (1) According to this doctrine, it is nothing strange, disparaging to the love of God in Christ, if we find that a special promise of grace is pledged to particular modes of seeking Him. If Christ be not really and spiritually present in the ordinances which He has instituted, in a sense of more close and intimate communion than can be applied to the generally diffused mercy and power of God, then the idea of any church is a fiction. Our acts of worship are not fictions, our sacraments are not representations. There is an electric current ever circulating from Christ incarnate through the members of His body, which is the Church.
C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 51.
I. What ought to be our feelings who know that our Lord and God, who reigns in heaven, is man too, that He is man now, and will be for ever in the fulness of glorified human nature. Different feelings possess us as we contemplate this glorified human nature in Christ, our judge or our intercessor. Our judge is one who appeared as man upon earth, and who is man now, "with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature in heaven." He knew the secret motives upon which the Scribes and Pharisees acted, although these were covered by the most pious exterior. Their hidden thoughts were discovered to Him. Well, then, He who knew what was in man in the days of His flesh, He who judged man then, knows and weighs man now in heaven even the Man Christ Jesus. He judges us now, though not openly; He looks into our hearts, He knows what is true and what is false there, what is sound and what is corrupt. Our hearts are open to one who is man; we are searched and tested by His infallible insight. If we fear the face of mere man, shall we not dread the face of Him who is both God and Man?
II. We celebrate, then, this day the Ascension of our great Judge into heaven, where He sits upon His throne and has all the world before Him; every human soul, with its desires and aims, its thoughts, words, and works, whether they be good or bad. Every man who is running now his mortal race is from first to last before the eye of Him who as on this day ascended with His human nature into heaven. But we also celebrate the entrance of Christ into heaven to sit there in another character, viz., as our Mediator, Intercessor, and Advocate. He sits there as High Priest, to present to the Father His own atonement and sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It is our Lord's supreme place in the universe now, and His reign over all the worlds, visible and invisible, which we commemorate in His Ascension. We are especially told in Scripture never to think of our Lord as having gone away and left His Church; but always to think of Him as now reigning, now occupying His throne in heaven, and from thence ruling over all. He rules in His invisible dominions, among the spirits of just men made perfect; He rules in the Church here below, still in the flesh. There He receives a perfect obedience, here an imperfect one; but He still rules over all; and though we may, many of us, resist His will here, He overrules even that resistance to the good of the Church, and conducts all things and events by His spiritual providence to their great final issue. Let us worship our Lord Jesus Christ, then, both with fear and love; but also remembering that in those in whose heart He dwells, perfect love casteth out fear.
J. B. Mozley, University Sermons, p. 244.
References: Hebrews 9:24 . J. J. S. Perowne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 216; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 145; vol. iii., p. 44.
The Threefold Manifestation of the Redeemer.
I. The Redeemer's first appearance in the world was His Incarnation in the fulness of time as a member of the human race, to endure the death appointed to sinners, and to obtain for us eternal redemption.
II. The Ascension entrance into the presence of God was the glorious end and consummation of the Redeemer's atoning appearance on earth. There is a certain change in the word now employed by the writer that suggests a boundless difference between the humbled and the exalted state of our Lord Himself. He appears boldly and gloriously before God. His manifestation in time was throughout marked, not only by self-abasement, but also by visitation from above. But now is Christ risen and ascended back to His Father's bosom. He has returned from the far country whither His love carried Him to seek and to find the lost. It was a prelude of this eternal complacency that glorified Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. But though He received honour and glory there, He saw in the distance that other mount, and descended again into the valley of humiliation to reach it. He goes up to be glorified eternally. He "appears in the presence of God to go out no more." The emphasis rests on the words "for us." Our Lord is in heaven the accepted propitiation for human sin. He pleads the virtue of His atonement, which is the virtue of His Divine-human self, as the glorious Anti-type of the typical High Priest entering the holiest on the day of atonement. For all who are His He receives the heavens. His presence there is the security that they shall be there also.
III. The Redeemer will appear a second time, without sin unto salvation. Here it must be remembered that a long chapter of the Church's expectation is omitted. The millennial history that precedes His advent, the glorious circumstances of His coming, and many and wonderful events that derive their glory from it, are all passed by. The atonement is consummated, and that is all; it ends, for He comes without the cross: it is perfected in the salvation of His saints. Our Lord will appear, to those who have no other desire in heaven or earth but Himself, not for judgment, but for salvation. They died with Him, and they shall live with Him; they suffered with Him, and they shall reign with Him. Here, we are saved by hope. In this life, salvation is of the spirit; and that salvation is perfect, save as the spirit is the soul, encompassed about by the infirmities of the bodily organ. Many penalties of sin remain untaken away while we live below. In Paradise these are gone, but there remains the widowhood of the disembodied spirit. Not that the salvation is incomplete, but it is perfect only in part. When we receive Jesus, and are made partakers of Him for ever, then will salvation be full, "complete in Him."
W. B. Pope, Sermons and Charges, p. 84.
References: Hebrews 9:26 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 759; vol. xvi., Nos. 911, 962; L. Mann, Life Problems, p. 55; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 39; R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 330; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 147.
I. It is appointed unto man once to die, but after that they are still men. No affection, no principle of human nature, is lost. The form of man is not lost. Before death, men are covered with the opaque earth-form, and therefore they cannot be judged. Death removes the earthly mask, and then they can be truly judged.
II. These two appearances of man correspond with the two appearances of Christ, the representative Man of the race. As Christ inherits to eternity what He acquired in His earthly humanity, so shall we. Our brief planetary existence is quite long enough for the inner and essential man to take the stamp, spirit, and general character of His endless after life. The progressive law of our being requires the opening of the books. Our lives make a nature in us, and as is the nature made, such will be the sphere of our existence, and such our associates.
III. A man is under no absolute necessity of considering the bearings of his present life, on his future standing in the eternal world. If he prefer he can allow himself to be fully absorbed, by desiring and minding the things that pertain to his ephemeral flesh. And if he does he will simply find himself, after death, made and formed according to this world, and wholly unfitted for association with kingdom of heaven men. There is no fear of his being judged unjustly. He will appear what he is. The dominant affections that are in him will manifest themselves whether we are made out of heaven, for heaven; or made out of more dusky elements, for the dusky world and its dusky associates. We shall have to keep the appointment that is made for us. All the laws without us and all the laws within us will urge us on to our own place.
IV. It is every way wise and friendly that time should close with us and eternity open. Time is the reign of appearances, eternity is the reign of truth. Death opens a new door, and we pass from behind our curtains and disguises into the great sunlight. God is the eternal sunlight. God is truth. If, with the unveiled face of our heart, we form the habit of beholding His face in Jesus, the glory of His face will change us into the same image, and our glorious Lord will be glorified in us.
J. Pulsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 401.
I. There is no undoing the past altogether. When the books are opened, we shall be judged out of the things which are written in the books, notwithstanding the book of life. The days of swine-keeping leave their mark. The woman of the city, to whom much was forgiven, loved much. But who that knows what repentance is can doubt that in the deepest depths of her love dwelt ever an earnest longing, which nothing in the present or the future could satisfy, a longing for the innocence that had been lost, and for a memory unscathed by sin?
II. There has set in of late a strange foolhardiness, as if in the present age it were an agreed point among all people of discernment that judgment to come is an idle tale. Very seductive this must be to the young. Even if there be a judgment after death, death to them seems a long way off; and they have heard that divines themselves do not nowadays paint the judgment so terribly as they used to do. God is good. May they not leave Him to bring goodness out of all things in the end?
III. Our Judge is human, not a piece of mechanism. But His judgment is even more exquisitely true than that of man's most exquisite workmanship. Let us look to Him now, that we may fear Him then. Let us seek to be one with His righteousness now, that we may then be one with His sentence.
J. Foxley, Oxford and Cambridge Pulpit, Dec. 6th., 1883.
References: Hebrews 9:27 . W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 182; Saturday Evening, p. 276; W. R. Thomas, Christian World. Pulpit, vol. xxxv., p. 37; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 342.Hebrews 9:27 , Hebrews 9:28 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 430; H. P. Liddon, Advent Sermons, vol. i., p. 69; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 369; J. Pulsford, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 401; Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 374; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 44.Hebrews 9:28 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 100; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 278.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany