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God … hath … spoken … by His Son.
The Epistle to abruptly, like 1 John, without either greeting from the author, address to the church, or words of introduction. This omission distinguishes these two from every other epistle in the New Testament, and creates of itself a strong presumption that St. Paul was not the author. It is obviously not due to any attempt at concealment; for the tone of personal authority occasionally assumed, and the personal allusions towards the close, show that the author was well known to his readers, and affected no disguise. The character of the Epistle supplies an obvious explanation: the dignity of an oratorical address demanded Some personal reserve; and this dignity is especially conspicuous in the measured rhythm and elaborate antitheses of the opening period. (F. Rendall, M. A.)
The wisdom of the apostle is strikingly displayed in the manner of commencing this letter. He is writing to Jews for the purpose of removing their misconceptions and allaying their prejudices; and the line of argument which he intends to pursue, requires him first of all to treat of the native and essential dignity of Jesus Christ. But he so constructs the opening sentence of his letter, that on the wry fore-front of it there stands a spontaneous acknowledgment of the heavenly origin of the system which they so much admired. The Jews were apt to imagine then Christians undervalued the ancient institutions. Paul does not wait to state his views afterwards in the shape of a concession; but the very first words that flow from his pen do homage to Moses and the prophets. In dealing with an adversary, if it is your wish to persuade him, if you are not merely actuated by the empty desire of gaining a triumph over him, by all means frankly and at once acknowledge whatever you believe to be good and sound in his views. The same acknowledgment, afterwards made and viewed as a concession, will not produce the same effect. The Scriptures display a profound knowledge of human nature. (W. Lindsay, D. D.)
Christ and the prophets
This long, sonorous sentence forms the introduction to the whole Epistle if as it were, the portico of an august temple, its many weighty clauses being as rows of stately ornamental pillars supporting the roof. This temple front has a most imposing aspect! It fills the mind with awe, and disposes one to enter the sacred edifice in religious silence, rather than to indulge in critical remarks. In these opening verses the writer announces at once the theme of his discourse, and introduces the leading thoughts on which he intends to expatiate. The first point to be noticed in the proem is the contrast drawn, in anithetic terms, between the Old and the New Testament revelations. By “the prophets” may be meant those strictly so called, but more probably the phrase is meant to cover the whole Old Testament revelation, including the law-giving; the recognition of the angels as the agents by whom the law was given being rather a concession to Jewish opinion than the expression of the writer’s own view. To be noted is the use of the phrase “the fathers” absolutely, as the recipients of the ancient revelation. It implies that the Epistle is meant solely for Jewish readers. Very remarkable are the terms employed to describe the character of the Old Testament revelation. It is characterised as a piecemeal multiform revelation. For what purpose are these epithets employed? Hardly for the purpose of mere literary description, to suggest, for example, the picturesque nature of the Hebrew literature; still less for the purpose of pointing out its spiritual excellences. Rather, to indicate the inferiority of the earlier revelation, that the Hebrew Christians might not cling to it as something final. This end these epithets are well fitted to serve. The first of the two points to a fact with which the first readers of the Epistle were perfectly familiar. They knew that the Divine communications to Israel came bit by bit: the promise by Abraham; the law by Moses; the song of the sanctuary by David and other poets; the wisdom of life by Solomon and the other sages of Israel; and by the prophets commonly so called, to relieve the gloom of the present, successive rays of light concerning Messiah and the Messianic kingdom. And of course they understood that no one of these partial fragmentary revelations could be regarded as complete or final. Each successive piece of revelation proved the incompleteness of all that went before. But might not all the pieces taken together, when the last had been given, and the Hebrew canon was complete, amount to a full, adequate revelation, possessing the character of finality? The presumption was the other way. The likelihood was that the prophets collectively, including under that category all the men by whom the Hebrew books were written, were but luminaries of the night--street lamps set in a row to show travellers their way through the gloom; stars set in the spiritual firmament to mitigate the darkness till the sun should arise, bringing in the day. This presumption is converted into certainty by the second epithet, which greatly strengthens the argument against finality suggested by the first. It gives us to understand that the ancient revelation was communicated, not only in many parts, but in many modes. The general idea intended is plain. It is that the revelation made to each prophet was relative--relative to him temperament, circumstances, and historical position. This relativity or subjectivity of the ancient revelation makes it impossible to add together the separate pieces of revelation, and so bring out the whole final revelation. For the pieces are not homogeneous fragments of one whole. They are heterogeneous wholes, often incapable of combination. This is most clearly seen in the Messianic prophecies uttered by successive prophets, which are not separate fragments of one picture of the future capable of being combined into a harmonious whose, but independent pictures, each exhibiting the future from its own point of view. Of Him by whom the much needed new revelation was made the writer next proceeds to speak. “God hath, in the end of these days, spoken unto us in (His) Son.” The revelation made in the Son is not qualified by descriptive epithets, as in the case of the earlier revelation, the reason being that such epithets in this case are not needed. The finality of the revelation made through the Son is expressly taught by the phrase “ in the end of these days.” The writer expresses himself in accordance with the Jewish mode of viewing the history of the world as divided into two great periods, the present age, and the age to come. He conceives of Christ as the divider and maker of the ages (as of the worlds), coming at the end of the old time and inangurating the new. Having made mention of the Son, the writer proceeds to invest Him with all due honours, Divine and mediatorial, to win for His word fitting attention. The elaborate encomium which follows presents a very high view of the Person of Christ. It ascribes to Him (by implication) pre-existence, an essential and therefore eternal relation to God, universal heirship, participation in the Divine functions of making and upholding the world. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
God’s revelation of Himself
I. The revelation of the will of God, as to all things which concern His worship and our faith and obedience, IS PECULIARLY AND IN A WAY OF EMINENCE FROM THE FATHER.
1. The whole mystery of His will antecedently to the revelation of it, is said to be hid in God, that is, the Father (Ephesians 3:9), it lay wrapt up from the eyes of men and angels, in His eternal wisdom and counsel Colossians 1:26-27).
2. The revelation of the mystery of the will of God, so hidden in the counsel of His will from eternity, was always made and given out in the pursuit, and for the accomplishment of the purpose of the Father; or of that eternal purpose of the will of God, which is by the way of eminence ascribed unto the Father (Ephesians 1:8-9).
3. This purpose of God being communicated with, and unto the Lord Christ, or the Son, became the counsel of peace between them both Zechariah 6:13). The Son, rejoicing to do the work that was incumbent on Him for the accomplishment of it (Proverbs 8:30-32; Psalms 40:7-8), it became peculiarly the care and work of the Father to see that the inheritance promised Him upon His undertaking (Isaiah 53:10-12) should be given unto Him. This is done by the revelation of the will of God unto men, concerning their obedience and salvation, whereby they are made the lot, the seed, the portion and inheritance of Christ.
4. The whole revelation and dispensation of the will of God in and by the Word, is, as was said, eminently appropriated unto the Father. “Eternal life (the counsel, the purpose, ways, means, and procurer of it) was with the Father, and was manifested to us by the Word of truth” (1 John 1:1-2). And it is the Father, that is, His will, mind, purpose, grace, love, that the Son declares (John 1:18); in which work He speaks nothing but what He heard from, and was taught by the Father (John 8:28). And thence He says, “the doctrine is not Mine,” that is, principally and originally, “but His that sent Me” (John 7:16). And the gospel is called, the “gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11), which is a periphrasis of the person of the Father, who is the “Father of glory” (Ephesians 1:17).
And from the appropriating of this work originally and principally to the Father, there are three things that are particularly intimated unto us.
1. The authority that is to be considered in it; the Father is the original of all power and authority; of Him the whole family in heaven and earth is Ephesians 3:15).
2. There is also love. It was out of infinite love, mercy, and compassion, that God would at all reveal His mind and will unto sinners. This mixture of authority ant love, which is the spring of the revelation of the will of God unto us, requires all readiness, willingness, and cheerfulness in the receipt of it, add submission unto it.
3. There is care eminently seen in it. The great care of the Church is in, and on the Father. He is the husbandman that, takes care of the vine and vineyard (John 15:1-2).
What directions from these considerations may be taken for the use both of them that dispense the word, and of those whose duty it is to attend unto the dispensation of it, shall only be marked in our passage. For the dispensers of the Word, let them
1. Take heed of pursuing that work negligently, which hath its spring in the authority, love, and care of God (see 1 Timothy 4:13-16).
2. Know to whom to look for support, help, ability, and encouragement in their work (Ephesians 6:19-20).
3. Not to be discouraged, whatever opposition they meet with in the discharge of their duty, considering whose work they have in hand (2 Corinthians 4:15-16).
4. Know how they ought to dispense the Word, so as to answer the spring from whence it comes; namely, with authority, love to, and care for ,he souls of men.
5. Consider to whom they are to give an account of the work they are called to the discharge of, and entrusted with (Hebrews 13:7).
And for them to whom the Word is preached, let them consider
1. With what reverence and godly fear they ought to attend to the dispensation of it, seeing it is a proper effect and issue of the authority of Hebrews 12:25).
2. How they will escape if they neglect so great salvation declared unto them from the love and care of God (Hebrews 2:3).
3. With what holiness and spiritual subjection of soul unto God, they ought to be conversant in and with all the ordinances of worship, that are appointed by Him (Hebrews 12:28-29).
II. THE AUTHORITY OF GOD SPEAKING IN AND BY THE PENMEN OF THE SCRIPTURES, IS THE SOLE BOTTOM AND FOUNDATION OF OUR ASSENTING TO THEM, and what is contained in them, with faith divine and supernatural. He spake in them: He then continues to speak by them, and therefore in their word received (2 Peter 1:20-21).
III. GOD’S GRADUAL REVELATION OF HIMSELF, His mind and will unto the Church, was a fruit of infinite wisdom and care towards His elect.
1. He over-filled not their vessels; He gave them out light as they were able to bear.
2. He kept them in a continual dependence upon Himself, and waiting for their rule and direction from Him, which, as it tended to His glory, so it was exceedingly suited to their safety, in keeping them in an humble waiting frame.
3. He so gave out the light and knowledge of Himself, as that the great work which He had to accomplish, that lay in the stores of His infinitely wise will, as the end and issue of all revelations, namely the bringing forth of Christ into the world, in the way wherein He was to come, and for the ends which He was to bring about, might not be obviated.
4. He did this work so that the pre-eminence fully and ultimately to reveal Him, might be reserved for Him, in whom all things were to be gathered unto a head. All privileges were to be kept for, and unto Him, which was principally done by this gradual revelation of the mind of God.
5. And there was tender care conjoined with this infinite wisdom. None of His elect in any age were left without that light and instruction which were needful for them in their seasons and generations. And this so given out unto them, as that they might have fresh consolation and support as their occasions did require.
IV. We may see hence the absolute perfection of the revelation of the will of God by Christ and His apostles, as to every end and purpose whatever, for which God ever did, or ever will in this world reveal Himself, or His mind and will. For as this was the last way and means that God ever designed for the discovery of Himself, as to the worship and obedience which He requires, so the person by whom He accomplished this work, makes it indispensably necessary that it be also absolutely perfect; from which nothing can be taken, to which nothing must be added under the penalty of the extermination threatened to him that will not attend to the voice of that prophet. (John Owen, D. D.)
The method of the Divine Teacher
I. THE DIVINE METHOD AS TO TIME.
1. As the ages passed on, first one and then another truth was revealed; first one and then another aspect of a truth was made known, until, in the fulness of time, the glory of God shone in the face of Jesus Christ. There is in the East an anticipatory dawn, a sort of premature twilight, which always disappears before the true dawn commences. So in the history of the world, especially in the history of Israel, have there been many dawnings of light, to be followed perhaps by periods of obscurity, yet graciously illumining the successive ages, and heralding the coming of the Light of the world.
2. Is there not even fuller light for the individual, even fuller light for the Church, until we come to that city where the glory of God shall shine forth with unclouded splendour? God always gives light as we are able to
(2) Use it.
II. THE DIVINE METHOD AS TO MODE.
1. God presents the truth to the individual in such a form as may best secure his obedience. The Spirit of God shows the things of Christ in an intellectual, ethical, imaginative, emotional light, according to the genius of those to whom He may appeal.
2. God influences the preacher, that in the selection and presentment of his themes he may best win his congregation.
3. God knows the special truths for the times; or the particular aspect in which the truth needs to be recognised.
III. THE DIVINE METHOD AS TO ORGAN. Not any men, but certain men, of spiritual susceptibility and force were selected to be the organs in which God would “speak to the fathers”; and the same rule of selection obtains still, for Christ makes Himself known to the world through certain spiritual agents a d holy ministries. Lessons:
1. Let unconverted men learn the greatness of their responsibility.
2. Let the Church take encouragement touching the salvation of the word.
3. Let the Church be more faithful, that she may increase in the knowledge of Christ.
4. Let the Church be more pure, that she may the better make Christ known. (The Metropolitan Pulpit.)
God’s revelation of Himself
I. THE KNOWLEDGE WE POSSESS OF GOD WAS SUPERNATURALLY COMMUNICATED. Language--the words we use to utter our thoughts and feelings must have been a supernatural gift in the first instance. If the casket came from hearers, much more the jewel. ‘l he mind of man was created as much to receive the thoughts of God, as the eye was to receive the light of the sun, and to behold the many beauties of creation. All the truest and best thoughts of our mind are heaven-inspired.
II. THE KNOWLEDGE WE POSSESS OF GOD WAS GRADUALLY AND VARIOUSLY REVEALED. There was, first of all, the morning star, then the soft grey dawn, which spread itself by degrees over the horizon, until, in these latter days, the whole world was overtaken by the fuller light of the meridian sun.
III. IN CHRIST WE HAVE A FULL AND FINAL REVELATION OF GOD’S TRUTH. We sometimes find the light in our houses small and feeble, not because there is an insufficient quantity of the means of lighting manufactured, but because a large portion of it is shut up in the meter; only a small quantity is allowed to run into our dwellings, consequently the light is faint, and only illuminates a very small space; but when it is turned on in full force, the light is abundant, lighting up every nook and corner of the apartments in which it is kindled. When men depended on the amount of light which was in the prophets, they could not see far; only a small quantity of Heaven’s light was allowed to flow, or could flow into them, and therefore they could only emit a faint glimmer upon those who wooed to them for illumination; they only saw through “a glass darkly” themselves, and so their power to impart light could not be great. But of Christ it was said, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of none.” Between the measure of light that came by the first prophets and that which came by Christ there is no comparison, but a perfect contrast. Just as there is no comparison between the degree of the light of a star and the sun; the star has just enough light to show the darkness, but the sun chases the night away and makes it day. It is our inestimable privilege to live in the meridian light of Him who said, “I am the Light of the world.” (D. Rhys Jenkins.)
The manner of revelation
I. TIME. Centuries were required to complete the scheme, Man was to be taken at a low and infantile point, and raised up to the fulness of the stature of a perfect manhood; from “a living soul” to “a quickening spirit.” By no one sudden blow could the benevolent design of giving man the true knowledge of God, and his own duty and destiny, be executed. The laws of progress, gradation, and periodicity must be observed in regard to our higher nature. One age was to witness one attainment, and another, another. It has much to establish the unity of the Deity; it was more to develop the Idea of the Father.
II. AGENTS AND EXAMPLES. Again, the manner of revelation is not abstract, but concrete. The ordinary as well as supernatural agencies are employed. If angels are sent, so are men; if the special messenger raised up, sanctified, and commissioned be the Son of God by excellence, yet a long line of the good and the great bear up the ark of God; and patriarch, king, and priest, and prophet, and apostle, are seen at different intervals along the majestic procession. In selecting men to act so distinguished a part in the designs of God towards His children, we perceive a part of the same system which we witness in business, art, science, government, and literature. For if “History be philosophy teaching by example,” then is revelation religion teaching by example. In this feature of the mode of communication we see the wise adaptation of means to ends, the use of causes to produce effects, such as we should anticipate from so great a Designer.
III. LANGUAGES AND BOOKS. In two principal languages, Hebrew and Greek, with a few passages in the Chaldee--in sixty-six books, written by at least thirty-nine authors--the Jewish and Christian Scriptures present that fertility of human genius, as well as of sacred truth, that fitly entitles it to be called the Bible--The Book. Here are flowers of every hue and fragrance, fruits of every taste and nut iment. The sinner cannot read far without meeting with his warning, nor the saint without hearing his beatitude nor the sad without alighting upon his consolation, nor the weak without touching the wand of spiritual strength, nor the poor without opening the mine of heavenly treasures, nor the rich without being reminded that they brought nothing into this world, and that they can carry nothing out.
IV. MIRACLES. Most of us are so earthly-minded that some extraneous means to arouse us from indifference are needed. We want a bell rung to call us to the temple of the Lord to receive His gracious message. Miracles are that tell. They prove nothing by their solitary selves. It would be hard to defend miracles in general, but not the Christian miracles; for they subserve a great and good end, worthy of the interposing finger of God. All along, too, in speaking of His signs and wonders, Jesus very remarkably and clearly points out their office. It was that men might believe on Him, and believing, have life. They added no weight to the truth as truth, but they did add weight to truth, as received by the ignorant, the degraded, and the inattentive.
V. INSTITUTIONS AND ORDINANCES. The institution of Moses, however puerile they may seem to a Christian, were yet admirably adapted to raise up a low and barbarous people, and give a race of idolators the knowledge and we, ship of the One True and Living God. But if we turn to the Christian revelation, the institutions are more simple, as becomes a more perfect faith and spirituality. Forms are not absolute, but relative; not essential, but important; they have place, but it is not the first place. They are a species of gigantic language, whose letters are facts and whose sentences are customs. They are to be observed, not for their own sake, but for the spiritual purport they imply and convey. (A. A. Livermore.)
The various classes of prophetical announcement
I. DREAMS were a frequent mode by which the future was opened up to the minds of the prophets. There is something peculiarly solemn in the thong it of these revelations of the future made to the mind, whilst the body is in a state of repose and temporary insensibility. They illustrate the capabilities and susceptibilities of the human mind, independent of the corporeal frame: the power of the Most High and His grace and condescension in thus communicating to man H s counsels and purposes. They prove the fact of God’s interest in what concerns the human race, and His constant intercourse with a family of His intelligent creatures, perhaps the most unworthy of His notice. The state of the body, too, when these revelations were made, may be regarded as a type of the respective conditions of the mind and body, when death has severed the bond that unites them. The body asleep in the grave, the mind conversant with the plans of the Almighty, and blessed with the vision of His glory. The body at rest--the cares of life, its scenes, its passions all hushed--its conflicts and struggles succeed, d by repose; the mind released from its attention to what was immediate and temporary; but in that solemn hour of release, God, its Creator, appears; the future is unveiled, and truth revealed leaves its right and unqualified impression.
II. The second class of prophetical announcements may be ranged under the head of VISIONS. Dreams and visions are not always distinguished in sacred scripture. Sometimes the same revelation is said to be made by a dream and a vision. Thus Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is called the visions of his head (Daniel 2:28). A vision, then, may be defined as a representation of things made to the mind of the prophet while he was awake. The eyes rest on the object, the impression is not only as distinct and vivid as if the object were present to the senses in an ordinary way, but more so, from the extraordinary manner, of its appearance. The most terrible elements of nature--the most beautiful of its inanimate objects--all that is magnificent and costly in art, all that is dignified in personal form, formed scenes surpassing in splendour the conceptions of the most brilliant fancy. They were fitted and intended to produce a due measure of impression on minds like ours, necessarily more affected by what is thus clothed and presented to the eye and the imagination in vivid forms, in order to its awakening attention, and giving a just conception of the importance of the events thus represented. Our responsibility is great, and our gratitude ought to be intense.
III. Another method in which these announcements were made, and to which we must advert, is AN AUDIBLE VOICE. Moses at bush. Giving of law. Elijah in cave.
IV. But although it pleased the Lord to communicate His will to men, and the knowledge of His purposes, by such direct addresses to the senses, or to the imagination, yet a great part of the sacred Scriptures was written under A MORE DIRECT INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY GHOST, communicating immediately to the mind, the doctrines and facts to be recorded.
1. From them all we learn that the communications thus made, various as they were--sometimes judgments, and at others most signal mercies--all furnish striking illustrations of the providence and government of God.
2. The condescension of God.
3. Our responsibilities.
4. The unbroken continuity of the Divine government, and unity of God’s purposes. (J. Robinson.)
A revelation from God to man both probable and necessary
I. The infidel meets us with this PRELIMINARY OBJECTION--A REVELATION FROM GOD IS CONTRARY TO ALL THE EXPERIENCE AND ANALOGIES OF OUR COMMON HISTORY. Now I maintain, in the first place, that a revelation is not contrary even to fact. For how was Adam instructed? Where got he language?’ God must have taught him. And now we proceed, further, to maintain that a revelation is not contrary to our experience or to the analogies of nature. We allege that there is every probability that God would give a revelation of His will. Can we believe that the God of nature is benevolent, yet leaves millions of the family He fashioned to grippe in “darkness that may be felt”? I say, the surprise should not be that God has given a revelation; the matter of surprise would be if He had not. Observe that such a revelation of God’s will is not contrary to the analogies of nature. Now, observe how we are taught. You find the child is taught by its father; the scholar is taught by his tutor; the inexperienced taught by the experienced. Now what is a revelation but just the extension of this plan, just the addition of another link? If the young be taught by the aged, the stripling by the patriarch, the inexperienced by the experienced, you have only to add another link to the chain, and you come to the inference that the world may be taught by its Creator, the human family by its Almighty Father. Let me ask, in the next place, what is the nature of the instruction that we derive one from another. Is it not of an experimental and a moral kind? In other words, when you see the patriarch or the aged teaching the group that is around him, what is the nature of his teaching? He is teaching them all the dangers and the difficulties through which he had come; he is telling them how to withstand this peril, how to overcome that trial, how to meet this emergency, how to unravel that perplexity. Now what else is God doing in revelation? Just teaching us how we are to meet the difficulties, to overcome the trials, to vanquish the foes, and to inherit the glory and the happiness which lie before us.
II. I observe, in the second place, that a revelation is not only probable, but THAT IT WAS ABSOLUTELY DEMANDED BY THE EXISTING STATE OF THE WORLD. Here I might show you that there are wants in man’s heart, which all the philosophy of a Plato cannot satisfy; that there are feelings and perplexities in man’s moral constitution, which all the writings of all the moralist, in the world cannot meet. I might show you that there is a consciousness of sin and a dread of punishment, which cannot be stilled unless by the pages of the oracles of God. But I forbear from that, and I take facts; and I will show you, first, from the admitted state of the ancient heathen; secondly, of the modern heathen; and, lastly, of infidels themselves, that a revelation from God was a desiderarum, for which all creation groaned, and for which all mankind earnestly (though unintentionally) prayed. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The reasonableness of a Divine revelation
The question before us is, whether the great Author of truth, the inexhaustible source of pure celestial light, can--and if He can, whether it be probable that He would--and if it be probable that He would, whether He has--rolled back the veil that hangs between Himself and us; whether it be true that “ He giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding,” and whether “He revealeth the deep and secret things.”
I. In entertaining this grave inquiry, it will be proper, in the first place, to ascertain WHETHER IT BE POSSIBLE FOR THE SUPREME MIND TO REVEAL HIMSELF TO MEN. Two things must be proved. First, that there is a Supreme Being, the Maker and Preserver of all being. And, secondly, that we are rational creatures, capable of entertaining the question at present in debate. It is then admitted that we all are the offspring of God. Such is the testimony of reason, or rather of the common sense of mankind. But surely it will not be denied that He who made us can influence and inform our under-standings--can, in one word, operate up ,n our souls, in any manner that shall be suitable to its faculties.
II. Presuming that we are agreed on the possibility, let us advance another step in the argument. Let us cart fully inquire whether there are not considerations us, THAT RENDER IT HIGHLY PROBABLE THAT THE SUPREME INTELLIGENCE WOULD FAVOUR MAN WITH A REVELATION. The question is this: whether, taking into our consideration the character of the Supreme Being, our necessary connection with Him, the peculiar capacities with which we are endowed, and the deplorable condition in which we find the human family, it be not most probable that this infinitely benevolent Being would make important communications to mankind.
1. It cannot be rationally denied, that the human spirit is capable of enjoying intercourse with “the Father of our spirits.” Minds correspond with fellow-minds, and hearts sympathise with kindred hearts. But who will say that that noble spirit, with which the Almighty has distinguished us, is not formed for communion with Him who is a pure spirit, and who has been sublimely defined as Light and Love. Now if it cannot reasonably be denied that man is formed for such lofty communion, then it is highly irrational to deny that God would impart such instructions to him as would lay the foundation for this communion.
2. But if it be rational to suppose that the chief end of our being is to know, and love, and obey our Maker, to glorify God, is it not equally rational to suppose that God would make such communications to His creature as should enable him at once to fulfil the end of his being? Can it be rationally, believed that God would create the first man, or the first men, capable of religion, and designed for its obligations and its exercises, and then abandon him to gather up the necessary information as best he might?
3. We must not, however, overlook the real condition of mankind. Indeed, who can deny that man is the subject of moral derangement--the child of misery? Ask yourself whether it be, or be not, an improbable thing that his compassionate Creator should mercifully make some discoveries that should enlighten and relieve him in relation to his condition, the means of his restoration to happiness, and his final destiny?
III. I would ascend another step in the argument, and endeavour to show THAT SUCH A REVELATION IS NECESSARY.
1. It has been the practice amongst a certain portion of the community, to speak of those who are believers in a Divine revelation as being, on that account, weak and irrational persons, seduced by prejudice, and overreached by designing and self-interested men. Now it may be as well to remind those who thus judge of their fellow-countrymen, that men of all ages and all creeds--Heathens, Jews, Christians, and disbelievers in Christianity--have not thought it a proof of an irrational weakness to believe that our Creator has made some revelations to us, His creatures. Nay, many in each of these classes of persons have entertained the conviction that a revelation is even necessary to teach men language. Even Hobbes gives it as his decided opinion, that God taught Adam this useful invention.
2. But I am to show that God has given to men something more than the faculty of receiving knowledge, and reasoning upon such knowledge. I contend that He has actually unveiled to our race His own character and His law. The constitution of our nature renders the knowledge of these great things absolutely necessary. But was it possible that this knowledge could have been originally acquired otherwise than by revelation?
3. But the necessity of such revelation is most fully sustained by facts. Read history, and learn what man has been; look around you, and see what man is; and turn your eyes within, and analyse yourself; and then candidly say whether such a process has not induced the conviction that revelation is necessary.
IV. In conclusion, I would DIRECT ATTENTION TO THE BIBLE. WHICH PROFESSES TO BE GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD.
1. I remark that the disclosures which the Bible makes, relating to the character of the Supreme Being, are such as commend themselves to right reason. Let not those who live in a country where the revelations of the Bible are known forget the manifold information which, whether they think so or not, they cannot but have derived from this source.
2. Again, the disclosures which the Bible makes to us, relating to the Divine Law, are such as commend themselves to right reason. That Jaw, which this book records as coming from God, will be found to accord with the characters which it ascribes to God. There is no discrepancy between the Lawgiver and His enactments. This law is well deserving the description of “holy, just, and good.” It has, moreover, the high advantage of being spiritual; insinuating itself into the soul--reaching the heart--and convincing the understanding. It is further possessed of the character of universal adaptation. It suits men in all conditions, ages, and circumstances. And then it ought, to be particularly remarked of it, that it possesses two points of excellence which every other code must be acknowledged to want--it exhibits a fixed standard, and adequate motives.
3. Once more; I argue, that the things which the Bible reveals, relating to the system of reconciliation, commend themselves to right reason. We are accustomed to trace out the fitness of things in the works of nature. The soil of the earth is made for its vegetable productions, and those vegetables are fitted to the soil in which they grow--the fish is made for the waters, and the waters for the fish; the eye is made for the light, and the light for the eye; and the lungs are made for the air, and the air is adapted to the lungs. Now if we are accustomed to trace these contrivances of the material avid visible world to an all-wise Contriver, can we refuse to allow that a system, which, like nature, is adapted to the end it seeks to accomplish, is likewise from God? A few instances may be sufficient to bring out this fitness of Christianity to the wants of man. Are we not ignorant? And does not this revelation impart all necessary knowledge? What is there necessary to be known about the Supreme Being--our relation to Him--our own nature and responsibilities--our immortality--our death--the final judgment and our ultimate destiny--which this book does not unfold? Jesus Christ is the light of the world; and he that believeth in Him shall not walk in darkness. Have we not broken the Divine Law? In other words, are we not guilty? Do not our consciences accuse us of guilt? And does not the doctrine of Christ’s substitution meet our ease? Yet again; are we not conscious of being in a state of moral pollution? Must not all agree that our minds are darkened, and our hearts depraved? Can anything, then, be more rational than the doctrine of a spiritual influence--the influence of God” the Spirit renewing us in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, after the image of Him that created us? This the scheme of redemption provides. (H. Christmas, M. A.)
God’s revelation to man
I. HE HAS ACTUALLY MADE A REVELATION OF HIMSELF TO MAN.
1. Man has a capacity to appreciate, to some extent, God’s thoughts.
2. Man stands in need of God’s thoughts.
3. Man is bound to study God’s thoughts.
II. HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF TO MAN THROUGH MAN.
1. To increase the intelligibility of God’s thoughts.
2. To increase the attraction of God’s thoughts.
III. HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF TO MAN IN A VARIETY OF WAYS.
1. The necessity of modesty in pronouncing concerning the methods of Divine influence.
2. The importance of keeping the soul ever in a waiting attitude.
IV. HE HAS MADE CHRIST THE FINAL REVELATION OF HIMSELF. Christ, as the final organ of Divine revelation to man, transcends all preceding organs
1. In His relation to the universe.
(1) He is the inheritor of the creation. “Appointed heir of all things.”
(2) He is the creator of the universe. “By whom also He made the worlds.”
(3) He is the sustainer of the universe. “Upholding all things,” &c.
(4) He is the Sovereign of the universe. On the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
2. In the completeness of His Divine manifestations. Represents Him more accurately than the impression on the wax represents the seal that produced it.
3. In the moral service He has rendered to humanity.
4. In His superiority to all angelic intelligences.
(1) In His position.
(2) In His reputation. (Homilist.)
I. THE SUPERNATURALISM OF THE TENTH. It is impossible for nature to reveal
1. The spiritual Deity.
2. The special truths needed for fallen man.
II. THE IMMORTALITY OF THE TRUTH. It is truth about
1. The unchangeable God.
2. The immutable law.
3. The eternal universe.
III. THE UNITY OF THE TENTH. The Divine revelation is a plant of life and healing in which the different parts are not essentially different, but variously developed according to the will of God and the differing conditions of the human race in successive generations.
IV. THE FULNESS OF THE TRUTH. In Christ we have the truth
2. Finally. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The superiority of the Christian revelation over the prophetic
I. ITS SUPERIORITY IN THE EXCELLENCY AND EXTENT OF THE DISCOVERIES MADE.
1. In reference to the perfections of God. His existence, unity, holiness, goodness, love, &c.
2. In reference to the doctrine of providence.
3. In reference to a future life.
4. In reference to the method of salvation.
II. ITS SUPERIORITY IN THE MODE OF MAKING THESE DISCOVERIES.
1. The authority of the medium.
2. The finish and perfection stamped upon it.
3. The simplicity, clearness, mildness, and benignity which characterise it.
4. The superior energy and influence with which it is accompanied. (James Bromley.)
The old and new covenants one in Christ
The great object of the Epistle is to describe the contrast between the old and the new covenant. But this contrast is based upon their unity. The new covenant is contrasted with the old covenant, not in the way in which the light of the knowledge of God is contrast d with the darkness and ignorance of heathenism, for the old covenant also is of God, and is therefore possessed of Divine glory. Great is the glory of the old covenant; yet greater is the glory of the new dispensation, when in the fulness of time God sent forth His own Son and gave unto us the substance of those things of which in the old times He had shown types and prophecy. “God hath spoken unto the fathers”; and by that expression “unto the fathers” the apostle reminds us that without a church, without a union of believers, without a manifestation of God in grace, historically, among a people whom He had set apart for His service, there would have been no Scripture; and that there was a congregation of the Most High from the very beginning of the world. “Unto the fathers “ whom He had chosen that they might have fellowship with Him, God spake in old times, even as in the last times unto the Church--unto those who are called both from among Jews and Gentiles--He has made fully known His purpose in Christ Jesus. This, then, is the great resemblance. The Father is the author of revelation in both. The Messiah is the substance and centre of the revelation in both. The glory of God’s name in a people brought nigh unto Him, to love and to worship Him, is the end of the revelation in both. The two are one. Martin Luther has quaintly compared it to the two men who brought the branch with the cluster of grapes from the promised land. They were both bearing the same fragrant fruit; but one of them saw it not, yet he knew what he was carrying. The other saw both the fruit and the man who was helping him. Thus is it that the prophets who came before Jesus testified of Him, although they did not yet behold Him; and we who ,ire in the fulness of limes see both the Christ of whom they testified and themselves who were sent by God to witness of Him. But let us consider the marvellous unity of the two covenants. “Sod hath spoken.” This is the first point. Oh, how little do we think of the grandeur and majesty and all-importance of this simple declaration, “God hath spoken.” A living God and a loving God must needs speak. The god of the philosophers is a silent god, for he hath neither life nor affection; but our God, who created the heavens and the earth, who is and who loves, must speak. Even in the creation, which is an act of the condescension of God, He utters His thoughts; and when He created man as the consummation of the world, it was for this purpose, that man should hear Him and love Him, and should rejoice in His light and in His life. When sin enters into the world silence ensues. Man dreads God, and the melody of praise and prayer ceases; but the need of a revelation remains continually the same. When man forsakes the fountain of living water he cannot get rid of the thirst, and he cannot divest himself of the nature with which God had endowed him; so that there is still within man the same absolute necessity for a revelation of God from on high. And God does speak. Often we read the words and do not realise what marvel of condescending love they reveal, what great and central mystery they unfold. Unless God speaks we do not know the thoughts of God. But notice, secondly, man having by his own sin fallen away from God, and silence reigning now, it is only the infinite compassion and love of God that induces Him to speak. If there was no redemption, there would be no revelation. The love of the Father, and the blood of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; behold, these are the three” necessary foundations upon which the Scripture rests. God, the Triune Covenant God, hath spoken. God hath spoken: in old times unto the fathers by the prophets; fully and perfectly unto us by His Son. In both dispensations the same God, on account of the same sacrifice, impelled by the same love, and for the same sublime and gracious purpose. Both Old and New Testaments are of God; the New Testament, as the Church-father Augustine said, is enfolded in the Old, and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New. Nor can we, who live in the times of fulfilment, dispense with the record of the preceding dispensation. As an old author writes: “As the brilliancy of the sun appears far greater when contrasted with the darkness of the shade, so this epistle compares the light of the gospel with the shadows and types of the Old Testament, and by this means displays the glory of the gospel in full relief; for as shadows are images of bodies, so the ancient shadows are images of Jesus Christ, of His power and of His graces, and assist us to recognise more and more the substance and the truth; but from hence we derive also this additional advantage, that although the shadows of other bodies serve only to obscure them, the shadows of the Old Testament are so many reflectors, contributing light to the gospel.” But now let us consider the contrast. Jesus Christ was not born till four thousand years after the creation of the world. “At sundry times and in divers manners” did God speak unto the fathers by the prophets. These three things constitute a prophet: direct commission from God Himself, gift of the Holy Ghost, and being entrusted with the very thoughts and words of the Most High. It is not merely by the prophets that God spake. They were chosen not merely as the channels of separate and isolated revelation. God spake in them. They were the personal bearers of the message, the representatives and exponents of Divine truth, Their words and typical actions were inspired, and in them the word of the Lord came unto Israel. Yet let us consider what were the imperfections of these messengers. The first imperfection was this--that they were numerous; they were many. One succeeded another. They lived in different periods. Another imperfection was, that it was “in divers manners,” in dreams, in similitudes, in visions, in symbols. Each prophet had his peculiar gift and character. Their stature and capacity varied. They were men of different temperament and tone of mind. The manner in which the revelation of God was given to them varied; even in the case of the same prophet the One Spirit appeared in various manifestations. Another imperfection was that they were sinful men. Another imperfection was that they did not possess the Spirit constantly. Of a sudden, after a long pause, the Spirit of God came upon them. God spake unto them’, and gave unto them His message. But it was not like a continuous river. The word came to them from time to time; they did not possess the word. Another imperfection was this, that of that message that was entrusted to them they did not understand the heights and the depths. They themselves had to search diligently, and to inquire what the Spirit that was in them did signify of the sufferings and glory that should come. Another imperfection was that, as they did not understand adequately that portion of the message that was given unto them, they could still less comprehend and contain the whole message. They saw only one aspect of it, only one portion of it in connection with the peculiar history and the peculiar trials of the people at the period to which they were sent. Another imperfection was, that they all testified, like John the Baptist, “I am not the light. I am only sent to witness of the light.” They were only finger-posts directing the pilgrim, as he was in pursuit of the heavenly city, to go on further, until he would come to the pearly gates of the new Jerusalem. We notice the imperfect and fragmentary character of the old dispensation, when we consider n,4 merely the words, but the types, which are living prophecies. There was not a single one which could stand by itself, it had always to be supplemented. Wherever we go we find it is in fragments. There is an altar; there is a sacrifice. There is a fourfold sacrifice, a sin-offering, a burnt-offering, a peace-offering, a meat-offering. There is a high priest; there is a tabernacle; there is a holy of holies; there is a candlestick; there is a shewbread; there is a veil. Everything a fragment; everything in itself showing unto us some aspect of truth, some portion of the pressure, without which we would be poor; but we must combine them all to see the fell and blessed truth. But now the time of fragmentary, imperfect, and temporary revelation is past. God speaks to us now in another and more glorious manner. Look now at the contrast. The whole contrast is in one word--in our language in one syllable--“by the Son.” The prophets were many: the Son is one. The prophets were servants: the Son is the Lord. The prophets were temporary: the Son abideth for ever. The prophets were imperfect: the Son is perfect, even as the Father is perfect. The prophets were guilty: the Son is not merely pure, but able to purify those that are full of sin and pollution. The prophets point to the future: the Son points to Himself, and says, “Here am I.” God has spoken to us “by His Son.” He is the true and faithful witness, whose testimony is co-xtensive, if I may so say, with the counsel and the things of God: the Prophet whose mind is adequate to understand the mind of the Father. He is not merely the true and faithful witness because He is from everlasting, He is also the beloved of God. Notice this in the word “ Son.” “The only begotten,” says John, “who was in the bosom of the Father,” who is His treasure and delight, the infinite object of His love in whom from all eternity was His rejoicing, who shares with Him all His counsels. This beloved one of God--oh surely He is the true messenger who will reveal all the secrets of the Father’s heart, and who will tell unto us all the fulness of His counsel, and all the purposes of His grace! God hath spoken to us by His Son. Let me remind you how in the Son all the message of God is contained. You who know the Scripture, and you especially who have come through the law unto the gospel, will understand me when I say that if the sinner knew nothing else but this, “God has sent a messenger, and this messenger is His own Son,” he might discover in this the whole gospel; for, in order to send unto us condemnation, in order to give unto us the knowledge of our sin and of our desert, His own Son is not needed. Any angel would suffice for this work; any servant could proclaim this message. When God sends His own Son into the world, when God makes the stupendous sacrifice of allowing His only begotten to take upon Him our flesh and blood, there can be only one meaning in it--salvation. It can only have one purpose--our redemption. It can only have one motive--the overwhelming love of God. God has spoken to us by His Son, and therefore we know that He has spoken peace to us. But notice, secondly, as the Sonship is the beginning of the gospel, so it is also the end and purpose of God’s message. God, speaking to us by His Son, shows unto us that we also are to become the sons of God. In the Incarnate Son the Father has brought many sons unto glory. The only begotten of the Father has, after His death on the cross, become the firstborn among many brethren. The Holy Ghost, coming through the glorified humanity of Jesus, unites us to Him, who is the beloved Son, and in whom the eternal and it, finite love of the Father zests upon all His believing people. In the Son we know and have the Father; in the Son we also are the children of God. Lastly, remember this is the ultimate revelation. There can be nothing higher; there can be nothing further. If Christ is our life, then, when the Son of God shall appear, we also who are the sons of God--nosy in weakness, suffering, temptation--shall be made manifest with Him in glory. (A. Saphir.)
The prophetic revelation contrasted with the filial revelation made by Jesus Christ
I. First let us note and consider well, touching this doctrine which we are taught, by Christ--THE CERTAINTY OF IT, WHICH IS FIRST IN THE AUTHOR, WHO IS GOD HIMSELF, EVEN THE SAME GOD OF OUR FATHERS, which so many times and ways spake ever by His prophets; even He, in assured truth, hath also spoken by His Son. Thus giving the authority of the word of Christ to God the Father, that it might be confessed true, and to take away all vain quarrelling of contentious men, who under pretence of the name of God, would easily have disputed against our Saviour Christ, and said: We know God is true, and He spake to Moses, He spake to the prophets; but this man speaketh of Himself, and we will not hear Him.
II. Now, as our Saviour Christ is our certain teacher of undoubted truth, so HOW FAR THIS TRUTH IS TAUGHT BY HIM APPEARETH ALSO IN THE WORDS, “many times,” “many ways,” “by many prophets,” “of old,” “to our forefathers.” Of all these we must set the contrariety in our Saviour Christ, that God spoke by Him, not many times, revealing His will by measure, now some, then more; but once He has sent Him, filled with all treasure of wisdom and understanding. And before God spake many ways, either by angels, or by the cloud, or between the cherubims, or by Urim, or by visions, or by dreams; but now He hath spoken one way, even by Christ made our brother, with the voice of a man, in the midst of the congregation, plain and evident in all men’s hearing, and all variety shall cease for evermore. Likewise before God spake by many prophets; now He doth not so, but hath sent His Son alone instead of all, that all His people should hear him. Likewise those times they are old and past; but the time of Christ’s teaching passeth not, but is for ever. And that was to the fathers, men of divers calling, but this is to us all of, one condition.
1. Now let us see the difference here spoken of between our Saviour Christ and all other prophets, what we may learn of them was at divers times revealed, but that which Christ teacheth is reveal d but once. And this is twice after expressly noted by the apostle (Hebrews 9:26; Heb 22:26.) And thus it is which St. Jude saith of the Christian faith, “that once it w is given to the saints”; which once doth mean the time of Christ in earth; for so he saith it was by His Son.
2. The second difference, that the doctrine of Christ is taught after one sort. For though first were miracles, and now none; first apostles, now none: these were but means to confirm the preaching, the Word only was the power of salvation, which is the same it was then. Which because it is but one, therefore it is perfect.
3. The third difference here is, that that was old, and therefore abolished; for it cannot be but that which waxeth older and older must at last vanish. But the testament of Christ, it is still new, yea, through it were from the beginning, yet it is still the same, and the day passeth not in which it was given, but it endureth with the age of man.
4. The fourth difference is in the fathers with whom the first covenant was made, who though they were all called in Jesus Christ, yet was there a difference of their honour, and every one more exalted, as God approached more near unto them. So Abraham and His posterity were a more honourable people than the others before him. So the Israelites that had received the law, and dwelt in the land of promise, had greater blessing than their fathers in Egypt. So John Baptist more than all Israel. But now they that are called of Jesus Christ by His own voice, and in Him crucified before their eyes, have attained a singular honor, and the least of them touching their calling are greater than all patriarchs and prophets. And these all in like precious faith, like spirit, like promises, like covenants, like accepted of God, every man in his own measure of grace.
5. The fifth difference is, that God then spake by His prophets, now by His Son: by prophets, meaning the continual succession of prophets in all ages. For as they were men taken away by death, so it was necessary for others to come in their places: and because no prophet was able to give his grace to other, or of his fulness make other learned in the mysteries of God, but they were all taught of the Lord; therefore they had the credit of their word every one in himself, and none judged by another’s gifts. But so it is not with the Son of God; for both He liveth to appoint us teachers still, and of His fulness He giveth all other their continual increase of grace; for which cause now the warrant of all dependeth upon Him alone; and the greatest apostle that ever was hath no other glory but only to be His servant and messenger; for He is that Redeemer whose word must be in the mouth of His seed, and in the mouth of His seed’s seed after Him for evermore. (E. Deering, B. D.)
Divine revelation under the law, and under the gospel
I. THE MATTER OF THE DOCTRINE. It was given them by piecemeal, now a part, then a part. They had one part of it in Adam’s time, another in Noah’s; one in Abraham’s, another in Moses” time; one in David’s time, another in Jeremiah’s, Isaiah’s, and the rest of the prophets. It was parcelled out to them as the capacity of the people in sundry times did require; but we bare the doctrine of salvation at one lamp propounded to us, in one whole and entire sum. Thus God hath dealt more graciously and bountifully with us. They had one flower now and another anon; we have all the flowers in God’s garden sweetly smelling all at once in our nostrils. They had now a loaf and then a loaf; now a draught and then a draught of the Lord’s wine; the whole magazine of God Almighty is open to us. Then Low thankful ought we to be to God above them! And how careful should we be to enrich ourselves with these heavenly wares, that may freely enter the whole storehouse of the Lord of Hosts!
II. THE MANNER. God delivered His will to them after divers manners: to Abraham by angels in the shape of men; to Moses in a bush and a cloud; to Samuel in a dream; to Ezekiel in visions; by the oracles and answers of the priests, in soft wind, etc. To us He hath delivered His will in one manner, by the sweet, comfortable, powerful voice of His own Son. This one manner far surpasses all the manners whereby God spake to them. Those were dark and obscure, this plain; many of those were terrible to the hearers, this was a rues, mild and amiable manner.
III. THE TIME. He spake to them of old time, in the first and oldest age of the world; He speaks to us in a now time, whereto all things are made green, fresh, and flourishing by our Saviour Christ.
IV. THE PERSONS by whom and in whom it was delivered. They were men; Christ, by whom God speaks to us, is God and man; thy were wise, could foretell things to come, aptly and pithily interpret the Word of God, yet all their wisdom and knowledge was berry wed; Christ was wise of Himself, clad with His own feathers; they mortal, dust and ashes; Christ never saw, corruption but abideth for ever and ever; they were servants m the House of God; Christ is the Son, yea, the Lord and owner of the house. Therefore wonderfully hath Go, honoured ,.s in the time of the gospel above them in the time of the law. If a king should speak to us by one of his privy council, it is much; but if he speak to us by his son and heir apparent to the crown, it is a greater dignity. Many (prophets and kings) have desired to see these things which we see, and have not seen them. God give us grace ,to use our happiness to His glory and the salvation of us all. (W. Jones, D. D.)
The progressiveness of revelation
In these few words are set forth the relation in which the two dispensations stand to one another, the light in which the revelation as a whole is to be regarded. No words can more strongly lay down a principle which was for long regarded with suspicion. That revelation was given by degrees. This truth is necessary in order to prove the necessity or even the allowableness of Christianity; the incompleteness of the first covenant must be admitted ere the reason for the existence of the second could be perceived. God had undoubtedly spoken, but how had He spoken? He had spoken at sundry times and in divers manners.
1. At sundry times, or rather, by divers portions. It was by degrees--fragmentarily--one truth at one time another at another. And the degree in which God was known, in which He had been manifested to successive generations, was clearly not the same in all. There might be faith, there might be obedience in all ages to Him who was invisible; but unquestionably, though the men of one generation might not be better than the men of another--though,, unfortunately, in all sin and unbelief had prevailed, yet who could not see that, as time went on, there were new truths insisted on, new discoveries made as to His holiness and His spirituality; that while it was the same eternal One whom men served or dishonoured, the way in which His will revealed itself varied from age to age; that the knowledge of David or of Jeremiah was different from the knowledge of Noah or of Abraham? This difference--this evolution, we might almost call it--lies upon the surface of the Old Testament. The history which is recorded there is, as has frequently been pointed out, like the biography of an individual life. It narrates so palpably the childhood, the youth, the manhood of a race; the education in Divine things, the development of spiritual truth. There were times when there were no Scriptures and no solemn ceremonies; there were times when men observed the complicated ritual of the law; there were times when men worshipped amid the splendours of the Temple; there were days when in exile they could not sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. Thus gradually, thus at different times, as they were able to bear it, they heard God speaking.
2. And varied as were the times in which He had spoken to men, equally varied were the modes which He had employed to make them listen. How diversified was that volume in which they thought they had eternal life. By what different means were its lessons conveyed: by commandments and by promises, by similitudes and by symbols, by prophecy and by visions. History, psalms, proverbs, poetry, philosophy, all were in turn employed; the heart, the mind, the imagination were in turn appealed to. How different also from one another were those to whom the Word of the Lord came. But amid all the variety there was unity, amid all the diversity of means there was oneness of end and aim. There was progress, there was order. The whole revelation pointed onward, confessed itself imperfect and shadowy, placed its completion and glory in the future, could not be realised until what it showed forth in figure and under a veil should be fully manifested. “Consciously or unconsciously,” as has been said by Dean Stanley. “the character and writings of the rest of the Bible fall into their relative places around the gospel history, as surely as in that history itself the soldiers, priests, disciples, Jews, and Romans de, ire their interest and significance from being grouped round the central figure, and round the Cross on Calvary.”
3. God hath spoken in His Son, the brightness, the effulgence, the shining-forth of His glory, the express image of His Person, the impress of His substance, the essence of the Divine Being, the revelation of the very heart of God. In Him has been seen the embodiment of the Eternal Power by which the worlds were made. In Him has been unveiled the Eternal Love by which all things are preserved and sustained. In His sacrifice has been seen that offering of Himself through the Eternal Spirit without spot, to God, which alone can purify and reconcile a guilty world. In His exaltation to the right hand of God is seen the completion of the Divine purpose, the final triumph of the kingdom of heaven, our own deliverance from sin and faultless appearance before the throne, the gathering together in one of all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. (P. M.Muir.)
The Old and the New Testament dispensations compared with respect to the different ways in which the will of God was revealed in each
I THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD COMMUNICATED HIS WILL IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES. This He is said in the text to have done “at sundry time., and in divers manners.” The sundry times here spoken of may perhaps refer to the three great eras of the Old Testament history--the patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the prophetical ages of the Church. But as This view of the subject, however warrantable in itself, would conduce but little to the elucidation of the subject, namely, the manner in which the will of God was revealed, we shall consider the sundry times here spoken of as referring simply to the gradual and sucessive intimations of God’s will, which were given to the fathers, or Old Testament saints, from the time of Adam to the time of Christ. During the whole of that period, though the manners in which He spake were divers, yet there is one common property which belonged to the mode of all His communications, namely, that they were made “ by the prophets.”
1. Let us, then, briefly glance at the means by which, when the prophets had ascertained the will of God for themselves, they communicated it to the people. The two great means by which the prophets communicated God’s will to the people were words and representative acts.
2. But before it could be comunicated by the prophets to the people, it required first of all to be announced to the prophets themselves. And this also God accomplished not only at sundry times, but in divers manners. Sometimes it was effected by an impulse or inspiration of the Spirit upon the mind--“holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”--and sometimes by an audible voice, as it was to Elijah when he stood upon the mount before the Lord (1 Kings 19:11-13). But there was yet another mode of communication between God and His prophets more striking and wonderful. We find frequent instances in the Old Testament history of the appearance of a mysterious visitor from heaven, who talks with His servants face to face. This is to be understood of Christ our own Immanuel, the great Prophet of the Church. It was the eternal “ Word,” though not then “made flesh,” whose voice was heard by the first guilty pair in Eden, in the cool of the day, who appeared to Abraham, and wrestled with Jacob. It was our identical Saviour who, having heard the groaning of His people in Egypt, came down to deliver them, and gave Moses his commission from the midst of the bush. In short, it was He by whom the scheme of salvation has been administered from its commencement, and shall continue to be administered till its close. What a glorious consistency is thus stamped upon the whole scheme of grace!
II. THE MODE IN WHICH GOD IS NOW ADDRESSING US UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT DISPENSATION. God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” The use of the word “spoken” is here striking and peculiar. It is not said that God hath sent us a message, but that He hath spoken to us by or in His Son. It seems to contain an allusion to one of Christ’s titles--“The Word.” Just as a wore spoken or written is an audible or visible representation of invisible thought, so is Christ “the visible image of the invisible God.” “No man hath seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Farther, He hath declared Him.” Now, as we have already seen that there were two ways in which the prophets addressed the people, namely, by words and by representative acts, so there are two ways in which the Son of God addresses us. He speaks to us both by His preaching and by His patience, by what He said and by what He suffered. Is there not a speaking power in the humbleness of His birth, and the stedfastness of His obedience--in His fasting, and watching, and temptation--in His tears, and His agonies, and His cries. As He hung upon the Cross, a spectacle to angels and to men, His latest words, “It is finished,” tell of His completed obedience, and the full purchase of eternal salvation to as many as believe. And even after tits body has ceased to breathe, and His heart has cease d to beat, what mean those outstretched arms--those bleeding hands? Do they not tell of the efficacy of His Mediatorship for reconciling sinners to the Holy One?
III. Let us no, COMPARE THESE TWO MODES IN WHICH GOD HAS REVEALED HIS WILL BY NOTICING A FEW POINTS OF RESEMBLANCE AND CONTRAST BETWEEN THEM.
1. Now it is obvious to remark that the revelation contained in t e Old Testament and that contained in the New have the same author. Both are from God. Nor is there any difference in regard to their substance. Christ is set forth as the object of saving faith in both.
2. Let us now consider wherein they differ.
(1) First, then, there is this obvious difference between them, that the way of salvation is more clearly revealed to us than it was to the fathers. The Old and the New Testament revelations thus resemble the lesser and the greater lights which were made, the one “ to rule the night,” the other “to rule the day.”
(2) But, again, the will of God is now revealed more extensively than it was under the ancient economy. Under that economy the written revelation of God’s will was confined to the Jews.
(3) Once more, the revelation made to us in the gospel is final, and therefore more enduring than that contained in the Old Testament Scriptures. The revelations which those Scriptures contained, and the economy with which they were more immediately connected, were not intended to be final.
(4) But, finally, the most important distinction of all remains to be noticed. In times past, God spake to the fathers by the prophets, hut He hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son. Not that we are to suppose that m former times God spake to the prophets directly and immediately without the intervention or mediatorship of the Son. We have already seen that it has always been the office of Christ to reveal as well as to purchase salvation for His people. But the grand distinctive difference consists in this--that while formerly the Son of God, in His Divine person, revealed thewill of God to the prophets; in these last times, Jesus Christ, Incarnate, hath revealed the will of God to the Church. In conclusion, are there any who, while gratefully alive to the importance of all these distinctions, and joyfully appreciating the pre-eminent privileges now possess-d, yet feel as if all these advantages were counterbalanced by the fact that the Jewish people lived under a theocracy, and that prophets were raised up to address them from time to time, according to the ever-varying exigencies of their condition, while Christ is now gone “to His Father and our Father,” and we have no farther revelation to expect, however our circumstances may vary? Now it is most true that the Shekinah is no longer visible, resting upon the mercy-seat, and that He whom the Shekinah represented no longer tabernacles among men. “The heavens haw received Him until the time of the restitution of all things.” Yet He has not left His people comfortless. Among His latest words we find the promise recorded, “Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” But the objection keeps out of view the important truth that Christ still “walks among the seven golden candlesticks”--that He sends forth His Spirit to enlighten His people’s eyes, and to comfort His people’s hearts. Indeed, the objection seems to be anticipated and answered by the very form of expression in the text. “God hath spoken to us by His Son”; as if He had said, You are not dependent merely upon a dead book for counsel and consolation; you have a living teacher, an ever-present guide! (A. Grierson, M. A.)
The heavenly voice
God has now ceased to speak in sundry times and in divers manners; there ore, if you dream, you are not to put a construction on your dream as if God inspired it. And hence, if God has ceased thus to speak, we may expect now that the Bible, beginning with Genesis and closing with the Apocalypse, is the completed volume of all God’s will and God’s ways; and that we are not to expect any additional revelation in the course of this present dispensation; for God has now, says the apostle, in this passage, spoken to us by His Son. Man left to his own fancy falls into all sorts of idolatries and delusions; and it is only when God speaks that man re ponds rationally, and justly, and purely, and worships Him who is a Spirit in spirit and in truth. We must notice here what is very remarkable; God speaks to us by His Son. You must have heard sometimes those who object to the Bible as the only rule of faith argue that they want a speaking judge; they want a living high-priest, or prelate, or pope, who will speak audibly as well as infallibly to them. We answer, though they may feel the want of it, yet if such an officer be not given, it is presumptuous evidence that it is not necessary. But the fact asserted here, that God speaks in the Bible, is evidence that we actually have a speaking tribunal. The Bible is spoken every day; there is a freshness in every chapter of the Bible that makes us feet that we are reading something higher than man’s writing, and are in contact with God speaking to us in these last days by His Son. I might argue, in the next place, the great necessity of such a revelation. If this earth were as it once was before sin corrupted it, it would be a lesson-book that any one might adduce as quite sufficient to teach us all we ought to know. But if there were place,! in your hands a book with a great many precious lessons in it, but all stained and blotted with ink, and so stained and blotted that whole pages are illegible, that fragments of other passages only are legible, and those fragments broken sentences, that you cannot fully understand, some of which at times convey meaning positively opposite to that which they originally were designed to convey, you would be very anxious to have some book clearer, distincter, and more intelligible. This world of ours is that blotted book, stained by sin; and what it revealed when it was made in Paradise as the grand and the illuminated lesson-book, it has lost and is now unable to reveal. And if we appeal to the inner page of conscience for an estimate of God, there is in ,he conscience of the holiest up on earth, so much sin, that if we look at God through the m sty and broken atmosphere of our own consciences, our sins will instantly suggest the notion of an angry and an offended God. If, again, we look into the law; if we stand with the Israelites at the bottom of the burning mouser, and see the lightning and hear the thunder, and listen to God’s voice as He proclaims, “Thou shalt, and thou shalt not,” we like Moses, must quake; and like the children of Israel, we, too, should beg that God would be silent, and not speak any more to us. God in nature is above us, and inscrutable by our investigation to a very great extent; God in the law is against us; but God in Christ is God with us, our Father and our Guide. And, therefore, we rejoice now to hear the apostle say in this passage that God, who spake at sundry times and in divers manners in times pact, has now spoken to us by His Son. But what has He spoken? Words of truth, words of life, words of peace, and happiness, and hope, and joy. The Bible was not written to teach me anything hut religion. If the geologist come and consult it for lessons in geology, the oracle is dumb; if the astronomer come and ask for explanations about the stars, it is dumb; if the philosopher ask it for explanations about metaphysical subjects, the oracle is also dumb. But if the humblest peasant or the poorest mechanic inquire of it the way to heaven, it will tell him in a thousand places, by a thousand different similitudes, so plainly, so intelligibly, that the wayfaring man need not err therein. Now, what He has said m tills blessed book by His Son, and what He still speaks in it, is a word for all; it is an encyclical, addressed from heaven to all that God has made, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same; so much so, that if you are not acquainted with the Bible, it is not because the Bible was not sent to you, but because you have not studied it. Let us be thankful that God has thus spoken to us; let us study this precious book; let us pray that the Spirit would lead us unto all truth; and especially plead that promise that He will take of whatsoever Christ has said, thai is, whatsoever God has spoken by His Son, and will show it unto us. (J. Gumming, D. D.)
The variety of prophetic revelation
Some men ask, If the prophets spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, why did they not all speak in the same manner? why these varieties of style? I will answer that by a-king you another question: Why do not all the pipes of that organ give one and the same sound? What awakens all the sounds, but one and the same blast from the wind-chest? If there be a mono-blast, why is there not a mono-tone? Because the pipes are of different shapes and different sizes: the awakening breath is one, the intonation varies with the shape and size of the pipe. The inspiration was one, but the style and manner varied with the all-position and character of the individual employed. (H. M’Neile.)
It is impossible rightly to comprehend Scripture if we read it as we read the Koran, as though it were in all its parts of equal authority, all composed at one time, and all are addressed to persons similarly situated. (Thos. Arnold, D. D.)
Judaism and Christianity
Canon Stubbs says in his “History of England” that “the roots of the present lie deep in the past, and that nothing in the past is dead to the man who would learn how the present comes to be what it is. The political forces which are operating now are the result of forces which have been operating ever since English history began. What they are cannot be understood except on condition of understanding whence they come. On the same condition only can it be foreseen whither they tend.” Now, as it is with politics so is it with religion. The present is the outgrowth of the past. The roots of the tree of Christianity lie deep in the soil of Judaism. The New Testament comes from the Old. (J. Fleming, D. D.)
These last days
The last days
It hath pleased God that these last days should be many, that the world might the longer enjoy the bright light of the gospel, and that all that are ordained to life might in their due time be called. Why are they called the last days (as here), the last time (1 John 2:18), the ends of the world (1 Corinthians 10:11), and why in the beginning of this time was the coming of the Lord said to draw nigh (James 5:8), and the end of all things to be at hand? (1 Peter 4:7).
1. By the exhibition of Christ the prophecies and promises that in former times were made of Christ were accomplished, therefore as the days wherein these promises and prophecies were first made known were counted the first days so these wherein they were accomplished the last.
2. The new covenant of grace is in these last days fully revealed by the gospel, and ratified by the death of Christ; so as no clearer revelation, nor former ratification can be expected, and in this respect also they are fitly styled the last days.
3. No alteration of the stale and order of God’s Church is to be expected after Christ exhibited, but a final end of all by Christ’s second coming unto judgment; therefore these days may be accounted the ends of the world, and the end of all things to be at hand.
4. As God at first made all things in six days, and rested the seventh, so He continueth to govern the world in six distinct times, which may be accounted as six days of the great week of the world, and eternity following an everlasting Sabbath. The first of these days was from Adam to Noah; in it the covenant of grace was first made to man. The second was from Noah to Abraham; in it that covenant was renewed. The third was from Abraham to David; in it that covenant was appropriated to Abraham and his seed. The fourth was from David to the captivity of Israel; in it that covenant was established in a royal line. The fifth was from their captivity to Christ’s coming in the flesh; in it as the brightness of that covenant was eclipsed by the captivity; so it was revived by Israel’s return out of the captivity and re-edifying the Temple. The sixth was and still is and shall be from Christ’s first coming in the flesh to His second coming in glory; even to the end of the world. In it that covenant most clearly and fully laid open, was most firmly and inviolably ratified. Now when the sixth day, which is the last day, is come, then the end of the week may well be said to be at hand; and the coming of the Lord, following thereupon, to draw nigh. (W. Gouge.)
Our condition under the gospel
1. In those that were the first days some new doctrine was daily to be expected, but in these last days God hath opened to us His whole counsel, there is no mint of any new doctrine to be looked for. If an angel from heaven preach any other doctrine than that which we have received in these last days let him be accursed.
2. In the last days there is greatest abundance of knowledge. “In the last days I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.” God then was sparing Of His Spirit, He sent it down by drops, but now He pours it out upon the Church. They had the moonlight, we have the sunlight. Therefore if we be ignorant our condemnation shall be the greater. The preaching of the Word is a well of water, but we will not come with our buckets to fetch water at this well, or if we do we come with riven buckets, the water runs out by and by.
3. These last days wherein we live are the most dangerous; sin overfloweth with a full stream. In the last days perilous times shall come. Never did sin show herself with such a brazen face as it doth now. Men now stick not to set themselves against the Word of God itself, to call the authority of the Scripture in question, whether all things be true in it or not.
4. Seeing they be the last days, let us not be so much in love with them. Will any be bestowing great cost on his house the last day, when he is to go out of it? In the first days, when they entered first into the farm of the world, they might be merry; we live in the last days, when we cannot have long to tarry in it, therefore let us not be wedded to it; let us use this world as if we used it not, for the fashion of this world fadeth away in these last days; let us so live that wheresoever Christ comes to judgment we may meet Him joyfully in the air and be translated with Him into His kingdom of glory. (W. Jones, D. D.)
By His Son
Christ the Son
Two critical remarks.
1. “Sundry times”--more literally, sundry portions--sections, not of time, but of the matter of the revelation. God gave His revelation in parts, piecemeal, as you teach a child to spell a word--letter by letter, syllable by syllable--adding all at last together. God had a word to spell--His own Name. By degrees He did it. At last it came entire. The Word was made flesh.
2. “His Son,” more correctly, “a Son”--for this is the very argument. Not that God now spoke by Christ, but that whereas once He spoke by prophets, now He spoke by a Son. The filial dispensation was the last. I am to show, then, that the manifestation of God through a Son was implied, not realised, in the earlier dispensation. “Sundry portions” of this truth are instanced in the Epistle. The mediatorial dispensation of Moses--the gift of Canaan--the Sabbath, &c. At present I select these:
1. The preparatory dispensation.
2. The filial and final dispensation.
I. IT WAS IMPLIED, NOT FULFILLED, IN THE KINGLY OFFICE. Three Psalms are quoted, all referring to kingship. In Psalms 2:1-12. it was plain that the true idea of a king was only fulfilled in One who was a Son of God. In the 110th Psalm a new idea is added. The true king must be a priest. “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Further still. The Epistle extends this idea to man. The psalm had ascribed (Psalms 8:6) kingly qualities and rule to manhood--rule over the creation. Thus the idea of a king belonged properly to humanity; to the Jewish king as the representative of humanity. In Jesus of Nazareth alone all these fragments, these sundry portions of the revealed idea of royalty met.
II. CHRISTIANITY WAS IMPLIED IN THE RACE OF PROPHETS. The second class of quotations refer to the prophets’ life and history (Hebrews 2:11-14; Psalms 22:22; Psalms 18:2; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 8:18). Remember what the prophets were. They were not merely predictors of the future. Nothing destroys the true conception of the prophets’ office more than those popular books in which their mission is certified by curious coincidences. But in truth, the first office of the prophet was with the present. He read eternal principles beneath the present and the transitory, and in doing this of course he prophesied the future; for a principle true to-day is true for ever. But this was, so to speak, an accident of his office: not its essential feature. A philosopher saying in the present tense the law by which comets move, predicts all possible cometary movements. Now the prophet’s life almost more than his words was predictive. The writer of this Epistle lays down a great principle respecting the prophet, “Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.” It was the very condition of his inspiration that he should be one with the people. He burned with their thoughts, and expressed them. He was obliged by the very sensitiveness of his humanity to have a more entire dependence and a more perfect sympathy than other men. The sanctifying prophet was one with those whom he sanctified. Hence he uses those expressions quoted from Isaiah and the Psalms above. He was more man, just because more Divine--more a son of man, because more a son of God. He was peculiarly the suffering Israelite: His countenance marred more than the sons of men.
III. THE PRIESTHOOD CONTINUED THIS IDEA LATENT.
1. The Jewish priest represented the holiness of the nation; he went into the holy of holies, showing it. But this great idea was only implied, not fulfilled in the Jewish priest. He was only by a fiction the representative of holiness. Holy he was not. He only entered into a fictitious holy of holies. If the idea were to be ever real, it must be in One who should be actually what the Jewish priest was by a figment, and who should carry our humanity into the real holy of holies--the presence of God; thus becoming our invisible and eternal Priest.
2. Next it was implied that his call must be Divine. But in the 110th Psalm a higher call is intimated than that Divine call which was made to the Aaronic priesthood by a regular succession, or as it is called in the Epistle, “the law of a carnal commandment.” Melchizedek’s call is spoken of. The king is called a priest after his older. Not a derived or hereditary priesthood: not one transmissible, beginning and ending in himself Hebrews 7:1-3), but a priesthood in other words, of character, of inward right: a call internal, hence more Divine: or, as the writer calls it, a priest “after the power of an endless life.” This was the idea for which the Jewish psalms themselves ought to have prepared the Jew.
3. Again the priests offered gifts and sacrifices. Only Christ’s all-perfect sacrifice of Himself can avail in the sight of God. He is the only High Priest of the universe. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
God hath spoken by His Son
I. The first truth which God has made known to us, the important conclusion resulting from His message by Christ, is the infinite VALUE OF THE SOUL, and the misery to which it is reduced by sin: that is, by a thoughtless neglect of God, or a practical disobedience to His will.
II. The second truth which is declared to us in the gospel relates to THE WAY OF SALVATION; the way in which this fearful interest of the soul may be secured.
III. The third truth which I mention at present as brought to light by the gospel, is THE NEED OF THE RENEWAL OF THE SOUL IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Archbp. Sumner.)
God revealed by Christ
Imagine a painter who loved his art, and who had a son he loved so well that he would not do a bad piece of art. By and by the painter dies, and one day the son enters a gallery and stands and hears all the empty talk and idle judgment of the crowd, as they stand before his father’s great masterpiece and fail to understand it. How would that son say to himself, “These do not know thee; but I know thee, and my knowledge shall vanquish their ignorance.” What is here imagined has happened. When this generation was young the greatest painter of the day was unknown. Tarrier awaited an audience; but Ruskin arose, saw and interpreted him, and the world suddenly found itself enriched not simply by the works of a great painter, but also of a great writer and thinker as well. So let us mark that if we are to reach God as Christ knew Him it must be through the Christ who knew. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)
The final revelation: its helpfulness
Fathers, mothers, when you set your little ones some task, and they come and ask you how it is to be done, very likely you have repeated instructions over and over again; but still they do not understand. And then you have taken it in your hands and worked it out before their eyes, and shown the principle, that you could not explain or define embodied in actual form; and they had then to study the realised product, to see bow to copy it, and work it out again in their own way. God has asked from His earthly children the task of the true life, truly lived; they have asked of Him its principles and the method of their application; and by the mouth of lawgiver, and prophet, and priest, He has explained and defined. But the mind of man could not comprehend. There remained one way, and only one. It was that God Himself should take in hand the task of life, and live it out before the world. It was that He should work out its principles, and make them actual in flesh and blood, and leave to men the will of God embodied for all time in the exemplary and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. He is the end and crown of revelation. From the study of that life it is possible to derive all guidance in all difficulty. It is the law of every nature. It is the commandment of God for us; and it is the inspiration and potency of all our effort, and the reward of all our life. For us, then, Jesus Christ and our knowledge of Him is at once our matchless inspiration, and the measure of our shortcoming and our sin. It would be possible for us to keep the Ten Commandments and yet to live lives of very low morality. The standard is raised; the standard is rising. The influence of the Spirit of God, in unfolding the holiness of Christ, is beginning to condemn many things that past generations were content to condone. “God is not dumb that He should speak no more.” The holiness of Christ is dawning on the world. There is the world’s hope. (C. S. Home, M. A.)
Revelation by Jesus; its certainty
It is four hundred years since the heroic Columbus sailed over the Atlantic, and unveiled to the world a new continent. The poets had sung of the lost island Atlantis. Geographers had tried to guess the secrets of the great ocean, Many theories had floated about, but there was no certainty. But when the brave Genoese landed in Spain with his trophies and his wonderful story of the new land, his words were not as other men’s. He had seen a new world, and men crowded to hear his tale. There was not such another man in Europe. He had uncovered or discovered a new world, and his achievement made him a unique man. Even so our Lord discovered to us the great spiritual world--the Eldorado of the soul--the world of God, of perfect life, of freedom from sin, and sickness, and death. He came from that world, and revealed to us what was there. He was not as other men; He had unique experiences, and so was empowered to tell us what none other could. He gave us not waifs from an unknown world. He was not like Isaac Newton, a learner on the shore of an unexplored ocean of truth. He had explored that ocean, and mastered its secrets, and His story is a statement of facts. (Archibald Hadden.)
If Christianity is Divine, why was it so long in being given to the world?
A teacher dare not plunge a child all at once in medias res. He begins with the alphabet and brings him on little by little. The Hebrews, not less than the heathens, were unprepared in the primitive ages for the full blaze of gospel day. They would not have been prepared to understand either the grandeur of Christ’s teaching, or the grandeur of His life, or the grandeur of His death. Let the boy be taught his letters and his grammar, and then put Milton before him. And, in like manner, God’s plan seems to have been to give the world a few centuries of typical teaching and training among the bills of Judah, and then present them with the wondrous Loges, the Word by whom all things were made. Besides, it seems to have been the purpose of the Most High to let the heathen nations find out the vanity of their false systems of religion and philosophy. Then, when the mind of man was in a state of disquietude and unrest, Jesus came to whisper His heavenly “Peace, be still.” Paganism’s lords many and gods many were being laughed at by all sensible men. Even in the hands of Plato philosophy had declared herself to be only a tiny lamp; whereas surely a Sun would be sent to illumine our darkness. At length the fulness of time arrived, the clock struck twelve on the great horologe of the world, and lo! “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (Evangelical Repository.)
Difficulties in the Old Testament do not warrant the rejection of Christianity
It is a logical mistake to abandon faith in the Lord Jesus because of difficulties, insoluble perhaps to us, which occur in the books of the Old Testament. Look at the block of marble which has only just begun to feel the formative hand of the sculptor, and you may be uncertain whether or no the great master has realty had anything to do with the rough hewing of the still unshapely mass; but because of this you will not hesitate when the idea of the artist is perfected, when the marble has been inspired with beauty, majesty, and strength, and seems to have caught an immortal life from the imagination of genius. And so, whatever difficulty any of you may have for a time--and I believe it will only be for a time--in discovering the presence of God in His primitive revelations to the human race, this should be no reason for regarding with diminished faith the full revelation He has made of Himself in His Son. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
Jesus the manifestation of God
The devout heart yearns after a personal God. It craves for something more than the works of God, however replete with proofs of His power and glory; it wants to get near Himself. Its instinctive desire is after a Father and a Friend--a loving ear into which its sorrows may be poured--a loving heart on which its weariness may rest. But Omnipresence, Omnipotence, Being without form or place, Existence without beginning or end, Eternal Rest without change or motion; these, in their very sublimity, constitute a notion which tends to repel rather than to attract, to overwhelm and crush rather than gently to raise and foster our human sympathies and desires. Our mortal feebleness shrinks from it in trembling awe. The heart cannot feed on sublimities. We cannot make a home of this cold magnificence; we cannot take Immensity by the hand. The soul lost in such contemplations, like a trembling child wandering on some mountain solitudes, longs, amidst all this vastness and grandeur, for the sound of some familiar voice to break the stillness, or the sight of some sheltered spot in which it may nestle with the sense of friendliness and security. Now that which is thus the deep-felt want of our natures is most fully and adequately met in the Person of Jesus Christ. For here is One whom, while we may reverence and adore as God, we can think of as clearly, and love as simply, trustingly, tenderly, as the best known and loved of our earthly friends. Here is a point which our shadowy conceptions may condense, a focus towards which our aimless aspirations may tend. Here we have set before us the Boundless, limited in form; the Eternal, dwelling in time; the Invisible and Spiritual God revealed in that Word of Life which human eyes have seen, and human hands have handled. (J. Caird, D. D.)
Revelation of God
When a prince, affianced to the heiress of some distant kingdom, has sent his portrait to her by the hand of his vicegerent, and the casket comes, it is so glowing with diamonds and with sapphires rare that it seems itself to be priceless; and yet, on being opened, so royal is the face within, and so does it blaze with superior diamonds, that the casket becomes forgotten. So God is revealed as a worldbuilder arid material worker, as a physical governor, as grand past human language; but when you open the casket and behold Jesus Christ, and hear His voice as revealing what God is in His interior disposition and mother soul, you forget the other. (H. W. Beecher.)
Heathen anticipations of the Messiah
From the remotest ages prophetic utterances, announcing better times and a coming deliverance, had pervaded the ancient world. Such mutilated and ancient prophecies are found amongst the most widely differing nations. It was the hope of the Persians that a time would come, a Messianic time, in which Ahriman would be annihilated, the world renewed, and delivered from all evil; in which all mankind would be converted to a state of obedience to law, and the happy condition of former times restored. The Indians expected, at the end of the present age of sin, the tenth Avatar, that is, incarnation. That of Buddha was the ninth, and this would be an incarnation of Vishnu, who would appear under the name Kalki, overthrow all evil, and restore the happy times which had prevailed at the beginning of the world. Even the Chinese were not without such Messianic hopes. The advent of a great and Holy One in the West is frequently announced in their sacred books--One who was not only to lay down the way of perfection, but also to destroy the ancient idols. Nor were similar expectations less familiar to other Oriental nations. Among the Greeks they were profoundly expressed in the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus chained to the rock, in daily torment, utters the oracle, known to himself alone, that the dominion of the false god Zeus will one day be terminated b, a Son of God, who will be mightier than Zeus, while he himself beholds Hercules as his deliverer in the distant future. But this deliverance--as Hermes announces to him--is not to take place without vicarious suffering:
“And of that anguish, look not for the end
Before some god shall come to bear thy woes,
And will to pass to Hades’ sunless realm
And the dark, cloudy depths of Tartarus.”
And this is done by Chiron, the most just and wise of the Centaurs, the son of Chronos, sacrificing himself for him, while Hercules kills the eagle at his breast, and so delivers him from his torments. AEschylus made this significant legend the subject of a dramatic trilogy, of which, indeed, only a fragment, the “Prometheus Bound,” remains. Enough has, however, been preserved to show us how the deep ideas of the Greek world concerning guilt, atonement, and the redemption of mankind are poetically reflected therein. This poetic legend is indeed almost a prediction of the true Redeemer. (Prof. Luthardt.)
The gospel of the Son
1. As the Son is above the servants, so is Christ above the prophets. And no reason, that the Jews should think so much of Moses, and the prophets, as for them to misregard Christ’s doctrine and stick to the Levitical service under pretence of estimation of the prophets.
2. The glory of the gospel is greater than the glory of the law.
3. The glory of the ministerial calling of preachers of the gospel is by so much the greater, as it hath the Son of God first man in the roll thereof; as first preacher, and prince of preachers.
4. Christ’s sermons are all of them directed unto us: and so much the more highly should the doctrine of the gospel be esteemed of by us. (D. Dickson, M. A.)
Christ explains past revelations
A singer will sometimes sit down to an instrument and strike a few mysterious chords, or pick out a few bars of melody, which excite only vague thoughts and vaguer emotions within us; but soon the rich sweet voice steals in, uttering articulate words, and then our vague thoughts and emotions take definite forms, and we comprehend what it was that touched and moved us in the prelude. Not till God uttered His voice in Christ could men understand the preluding notes which the prophets were constrained to sound, or put dear, definite, authentic meaning into these yearning, mysterious tones. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Whom He hath appointed heir of all things
Christ appointed heir
God is said to appoint His Son
1. By ordaining in His eternal counsel that His Son should be heir. As Christ was delivered by the determinate counsel of God to be slain Acts 2:23) so was He appointed to be heir (1 Peter 1:20).
2. By sending Him into the world, or by giving Him to be incarnate for that very end (Philippians 2:7-9).
3. By raising Him from the dead, and setting Him at His right hand in heaven. On these grounds St. Peter thus saith, “God hath made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). This word “appointed” showeth the right that Christ hath to His supreme dignity. That which is said of Christ’s being Priest (Hebrews 5:5) may be applied to this dignity “Christ glorified not
Himself to be an heir; but He that said to Him, Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee,” appointed Him heir. (W. Gouge.)
Jesus heir of all things
Be married to this heir, and have all. (J. Trapp.)
The heir of all things
God has appointed Christ heir of all things. What, then, is the preparation being made for the inheritance? The history of the earth is carrying the preparation. How slowly this history unfolds itself, as if it were some long procession. And as we think of that, people following Jesus, the key to the whole situation in the world’s history is connected with their combination and their prospect. The history of the world is preparing the inheritance for Jesus Christ. Now take a glimpse of the inheritance itself. This we shall gain if we can look forward with the eye of faith to the consummation of all things. If we can pass away from the tumult, the conflict, the iniquity, the disappointment, the woe, all belonging to us, and go forward to that place where Christ shall stand when He gathers His ransomed to Himself, not one wanting, and receives the inheritance from the Father, we shall have a glimpse of that which He is providing that His Son may be glorified. And towards that distant yet glorious time we may turn with something of the feeling of those who, after they have been battling on the billows for long months, strain the eye to see the first outline of the native land to which they are returning; with something of a gladness like that we may contemplate the coming glory of our Redeemer when He shall receive the inheritance provided for Him. But it must often be with us as with a master of a ship when the clouds have shut out from him the light of the sun, and there has been no visible token by which reckoning could be made for days. What can there be in such a case but uncertainty? And yet the course is fixed. When the clouds break up and pass away, and the dear sun shines once more, reckonings will be simple, adjustments will be prompt, and the haven will be secure. So it must be with us. It is an idle expectation which we cherish in our hearts when we anticipate that all our difficulties are thus to be cleared at once from our path. There is no progress made by us, not a single step which we do not claim as an achievement for ever. So that our progress must be onward and upward until we stand on the level where Christ is. And how much we are now turning our backs upon that will tell us how steadily things are moving; how we are advancing along the way towards coming glory? For what are these things left behind? They belong to the scene of conflict, and as such they must vanish away. The time for ploughing the fields, and for reaping the harvest will come to a close; we shall see the end of conflict, and of all the weariness it brings; we shall see a close of sin, and all that terrific sorrow which has kept trailing along the path on account of our transgression. These are the things which we are leaving behind. The progress of the world means perfect righteousness. For this is the teaching of the Bible, that even worlds wear out and pass away, as a scroll which has been burnt up, and we look for a new heaven and a new earth; not a place tarnished by iniquity, not a place blurred by sorrows, not a place so often the scene of temptation, where wickedness has had dominion--we look for a new heaven and a new earth. This inheritance, then, shall include all the good as it is coming towards perfection. Christ’s inheritance is the consummation of all things. If this be so, then He is teaching us that man is destined for an eternal service. And this is the faith that moves in the soul of the human race; this is the faith which has taken possession of it, the faith which dominates it, for the human race will not believe that its life is mere bone and muscle. Man will not believe it, and ought not to; if he has a conscience he cannot. He will rather believe, as the Bible teaches, that he is “little lower than the angels.” For Jesus Christ has His inheritance in the souls of men made perfect in the fellowship of saints and angels. In drawing our meditation to a close, let me ask you to remember that as we think of progress we must also place alongside of it the lesson concerning deterioration. Progress is a thing of life; eternal progress, that which belongs to a life which can never die; yet we hear of a second death. (H. Calderwood, LL. D.)
The superiority of Christianity as shown in the glory of its supreme Head as Son of God
I. CHRIST AS THE SON OF GOD THE PROPHET OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. Notice the Divine authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.
2. Notice God’s gracious adaptations in qualifying His messengers to meet the demands of each age.
3. Notice the transcendent glory of Christianity.
II. CHRIST, AS SON OF GOD, UNIVERSAL PROPRIETOR.
1. His heirship is absolutely universal.
2. Christ’s universal ownership is used by Him for the highest moral and spiritual purposes.
3. This investment of Christ with all power is the all-sufficient encouragement of the Church.
III. CHRIST, AS SON OF GOD, SUPREME HEAD OF ALL DISPENSATIONS.
1. Christ has been the leader in every dispensation of the past.
2. Christ will be the leader of future dispensations (Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 7:24; Hebrews 7:28).
IV. CHRIST, AS SON OF GOD, THE REVEALER OF THE ETERNAL FATHER.
1. Christ reveals the supreme excellence of the Divine character in its totality.
2. Christ reveals the infinite perfections of the Divine nature in their individuality.
V. CHRIST, AS SON OF GOD, IS THE ALMIGHTY SUSTAINER OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE.
1. The absoluteness of His omnipotence is here set forth.
2. The ultimate triumph of Christianity is thus assured by virtue of the power of its glorious Head.
VI. CHRIST, AS SON OF GOD, THE WORLD’S REDEEMER.
1. Notice the personal suffering of Christ by which redemption was wrought.
2. The perfect character of the work.
3. The glorious reward received.
VII. CHRIST, AS SON OF GOD, INFINITELY SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS.
1. By virtue of His Sonship (Hebrews 1:4-7).
2. By virtue of His Kingship (Hebrews 1:8-9).
3. By virtue of His Creatorship (Hebrews 1:10-12).
4. By virtue of His ultimate Mastership over all His enemies (Hebrews 1:13-14).
1. The unspeakable glory of Christianity.
(1) As seen in its being God’s last masterpiece.
(2) As seen in the glory of its Prophet, Priest, and King.
(3) As seen in its intimate object in bringing this fallen race into practical relations with God.
2. the unspeakable obligation the world is under to Christ through Christianity.
(1) In giving us the only true conception of God.
(2) In giving us the only true conception of the value of the soul.
(3) In giving us the only true conception of true manhood in its means and nature.
3. The unspeakable deadness to all that constitutes true moral excellence, seen in indifference to Christ, to Christianity, and to the privileges it offers. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The supreme glory of Christ
I. THAT CHRIST IS GOD.
1. The Lordship of Christ.
2. The Creatorship of Christ.
3. The Governorship of Christ.
II. THAT GOD IS MADE KNOWN IN CHRIST.
1. God is unknown out of Christ.
2. God is revealed in Christ.
(1) We can only know God in Christ.
(2) In Christ we know God as He is. Not indeed fully, but really, truly, blessedly.
III. THAT GOD IS MADE KNOWN IN CHRIST AS THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. (The Metropolitan Pulpit.)
Of the Kingdom or Lordship of Christ
The grant of dominion in general unto the Messiah, is intimated in the first promise of Him Genesis 3:15). His victory over Satan was to be attended with rule, power, and dominion (Psalms 68:18; Isaiah 53:12; Ephesians 4:8-9; Colossians 2:15), and confirmed in the renewal of that promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18). For in Him it was that Abraham was to be heir of the world (Romans 4:13). His kingdom was fully revealed unto David, and is expressed by him (Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 45:3-8; Psalms 89:19-24, &c., Psalms 72:6-9, &c., Psalms 110:1-3). As also in all the following prophets: see Isaiah 11:1-2; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 63:1-3; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Daniel 7:13-14, &c. As this was foretold in the Old Testament, so the accomplishment of it is expressly asserted in the New. Upon His birth, He is proclaimed to be Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). And the first inquiry after Him is, “Where is He that is born King?” (Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:6). And this testimony doth He give concerning Himself, namely, that all judgment was His, and therefore all honour was due unto Him (John 5:22-23). And that all things were delivered unto Him, or given into His hand (Matthew 11:25), yea, all power in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), the thing pleaded for. Him who was crucified did God make both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:35-36), exalting Him at His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31). He is highly exalted, having a name given Him above every name Philippians 2:9-11), being set at the right hand of God in heavenly places, far above, &c. (Ephesians 1:20-22), where He reigns for ever 1 Corinthians 15:25), being the King of kings, and Lord of lords Revelation 5:12-14), for He is Lord of quick and dead (Romans 14:7-9). Thus is the Son made heir of all in general; we shall further consider His dominion in a distribution of the chief parts of it, and manifest His power severally in and over them all. He is Lord or Heir, παντων that is, of all persons and of all things. Persons, or rational subsistences here intended, are either angels or men; for it is evident that “He is exempted, who hath subjected all things unto Him” (1 Corinthians 15:27). Angels are of two sorts:
1. Such as abide doing the will of God, retaining that name by way of eminence.
2. Such as by sin have lost their first habitation, usually called evil angels, or devils.
The Lord Jesus hath dominion over all of both sorts of them. Men may be cast under one common distribution, which is comprehensive of all distinctions, either elect or reprobates. And the Lord Jesus hath rule and dominion over them all. Things that are subject unto the Lord Jesus, may be referred unto four heads: for they are either
1. Spiritual; or,
2. Ecclesiastical; or,
3. Political; or,
4. Natural. Again, Spiritual are either
(1) Temporal, as Grace, Gifts; or,
(2) Eternal, as Glory.
Ecclesiastical, or Church things, are either
1. Judaical, or Old Testament things; or,
2. Christian, or things of the New Testament.
Political and civil things may be considered as they are managed
1. By His friends;
2. His enemies.
Of natural things, we shall speak in a production of some particular instances to prove the general assertion. Those in the first place assigned as part of the inheritance of Christ are the angels, and the good angels in especial.
1. His pre-eminence above them is asserted by the apostle in verse 4. He is made better, more excellent than the angels.
2. As He is exalted above them, so by the authority of God the Father they are made subject unto Him (1 Peter 3:22).
3. They adore and worship Him; the highest act of obedience, and most absolute subjection. This they have in command (Hebrews 1:6).
4. They always attend His throne (Isaiah 6:1-2). Thus His lordship over angels is universal and absolute, and their subjection unto Him answerable thereunto.
The manner of the grant of this excellence, power, and dignity unto Him, must be further cleared in the opening of these words of the apostle (verse 4), “being made better than the angels”; the original right and equity of this grant, with the ends of it, are now only to be intimated.
1. The radical fundamental equity of this grant lies in His Divine nature; and in His creation of angels; over whom, as Mediator, He is made Lord.
2. It is founded in that establishment in the condition in which they were created, which they received by His interposition to recover what was lost by sin, and to preserve from ruin the untainted part of the creation.
And as this act of God in appointing Christ Lord of angels hath these equitable foundations, so it hath also sundry glorious ends.
1. It was as an addition unto that glory that was set before Him, in His undertaking to redeem sinners.
2. God hereby gathers up His whole family, at first distinguished by the law of their creation into two especial kinds, and then differenced and set at variance by sin, into one body under one head, reducing them that originally were twain, into one entire family (Ephesians 1:10).
3. The Church of mankind militant on the earth, whose conduct unto eternal glory is committed unto Christ, stands in need of the ministry of angels.
II. There is another sort of angels, those who “ by sin left their primitive station,” and fell off from God, of whom, and of their sin, fall, malice, business, craft in evil, and final judgment, the Scripture treateth at large. These belong not indeed to the possession of Christ, as He is the heir, but they belong unto His dominion as He is Lord. Though He be not a King and Head unto them, yet He is a Judge and Ruler over them.
1. As before, this right is founded in His Divine nature, by virtue whereof He is ἱακανος, fit for this dominion. He made these angels also, and therefore, as God, hath an absolute dominion over them.
2. The immediate and peculiar foundation of His right unto rule over fallen angels rendering the special grant of it equal and righteous, is lawful conquest. This gives a special right (Genesis 48:22). Now that Christ should conquer fallen angels was promised from the foundation of the Genesis 3:15). The ends of this lordship of Christ are various, as
(1) His own glory (Psalms 110:1).
(2) The safety of the Church (Matthew 16:18; Revelation 12:7-9).
(3) Exercise for their good
(a) By temptation (1 Peter 5:8-10).
(b) Persecution (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 12:10); both which He directs and regulates to their eternal advantage.
(4) The exercising of His vengeance on His stubborn enemies, whom these slaves to His righteous power seduce, blind, harden, provoke, ruin, and destroy (Revelation 12:15; Revelation 16:13-14; Psalms 106:1-48.).
III. All mankind (the second sort of intellectual creatures or rational subsistences) belong to the lordship and dominion of Christ.
1. He is Lord over all flesh (John 17:2), both living and dead Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:9-10).
2. Particularly He is Lord over all the elect.
1. They were given to Him from eternity in design and by compact, that they should be His peculiar portion, … and He their Saviour (John 17:2)
2. His grant is strengthened by redemption, purchase, and acquisition. This was the condition of the former grant (Isaiah 53:10-12), and this condition was made good by Him; so that His lordship is frequently asserted on this very account (1Co 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 10:15; John 11:52; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 5:9).
3. Those thus given Him of the Father and redeemed by Him are of two sorts.
(1) Such as are actually called to faith in Him, and union with Him. These are further become His, upon many other especial accounts. They are His, in all relations of subjection, His children, servants, brethren, disciples, subjects, His house, His spouse.
(2) Some of them are always uncalled, and shall be so, until the whole number of them be completed and filled. But even before they are called they belong, on the former accounts, to His lot, care, and rule (John 10:6).
2. His lordship and dominion extends to the other sort of men also, namely, reprobates, and men finally impenitent. They are not exempted from that “all flesh” which He hath power over (John 17:2), nor from those“quick and dead” over whom He is Lord (Romans 14:9), nor from that “ world” which He shall judge (Acts 17:31). And there are two special grounds that are peculiar to them of this grant, and power, and authority over them.
(1) His interposition upon the entrance of sin against the immediate execution of the curse due to it, as befell the angels. This fixed the world under a dispensation of
(a) Forbearance and patience (Romans 2:4-5; Acts 17:30; Romans 9:22; Psalms 75:3).
(b) Goodness and mercy (Acts 14:16-17).
(2) He makes a conquest over them. It was promised that He should do so Genesis 3:15), and though the work itself prove long and irksome, though the ways of accomplishing it be to us obscure and oftentimes invisible, yet He hath undertaken it, and will not give it over, until they are every one brought to be His footstool (Psalms 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25). And the dominion granted Him on these grounds is
(a) Sovereign and absolute: His enemies are His footstool (Ps Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Act 2:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13).
(b) Judiciary (John 5:22-23). As He hath power over their persons, so He hath regard unto their sins (Romans 14:9; Acts 17:3; Matthew 25:31). And this power He variously exerciseth over them, even in this world, before He gloriously exerts it in their eternal ruin. He exerciseth rule and dominion over them in providential dispensations Isaiah 63:1-4; Revelation 6:15-16; Revelation 19:13). By all which He makes way for the glory of His final judgment of them (Acts 17:3; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10-15). And all this will He do to the ends
(i) Of His own glory.
(ii) The good exercise and safety of the church.
II. The second part of the heirship and dominion of Christ consisteth in His lordship over all things besides, which, added to the former, comprises the whole creation of God. In the distribution of these premised, the first that occur are spiritual things, which also are of two sorts
1. Temporal, or such as in this life we are made partakers of; and
2. Eternal, the things that are reserved for them that believe in the state of glory. The former may be reduced to two heads, for they are all of them either grace or gifts, and Christ is Lord of them all.
I. All that which comes under the name of grace in Scripture, which, flowing from the free and special love of God tends directly to the spiritual and eternal good of them on whom it is bestowed, may be referred to four heads. Now these are
1. Pardon of sin, and the free acceptance of the persons of sinners, in a way of mercy. This is grace (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5; Titus 3:7). And a saving effect and fruit of the covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:12).
2. The regenerating of the person of a dead sinner, with the purifying and sanctifying of his nature in a way of spiritual power. This also is grace, and is promised in the covenant, and there are three parts of it
(1) The infusion of a quickening principle into the soul of a dead sinner Romans 8:2; Titus 3:5; John 3:6; Ephesians 2:1-6).
(2) The habitual furnishing of a spiritually quickened soul, with abiding radical principles of light, love, and power, fitting it for spiritual obedience Galatians 5:17).
(3) Actual assistance in a communication of supplies of strength for every duty and work (Philippians 1:13; John 15:3).
3. Preservation in a condition of acceptance with God, and holy obedience to Him to the end, is also of especial grace. It is the grace of perseverance, and eminently included in the covenant.
4. Adoption as a privilege, with all the privileges that flow from it, is also Ephesians 1:5-6). All these, with all those inexpressible mercies that they branch themselves into, giving deliverance to sinners from evil, temporal and eternal; raising them to communion with God here, and to the enjoyment of Him for ever hereafter, are called grace; and do belong to the lordship of Christ, as He is Heir, Lord, and Possessor of them all. All the stores of this grace and mercy that are in heaven for sinners, are given into His hand, and resigned up to His sovereign disposal, as we shall intimate in general and particular.
1. In general (Colossians 1:19). There is a fourfold fulness in Christ
(1) Of the Deity in His Divine nature (Romans 9:5).
(2) Of union in His person (Colossians 2:9).
(3) Of grace in His human nature (John 1:14; John 3:34; Luke 2:52; Luke 4:1).
(4) An authoritative fulness to communicate of it unto others; that is the fulness here intended.
2. In particular
(1) All pardoning grace for the acceptance of our persons, and forgiveness of our sins, is His: He is the Lord of it (Acts 5:31).
(2) All regenerating, quickening, sanctifying, assisting grace is His John 5:21).
(3) The grace of our preservation in a state of acceptance with God, and obedience unto Him, is solely His (John 10:28). And so also
(4) Are all the gracious privileges whereof we are made partakers in our adoption (John 1:12; Hebrews 3:6). He is so Lord over the whole house and family of God, as to have the whole inheritance in His power, and the absolute disposal of all the good things belonging unto it.
II. All gifts that are bestowed on any of the sons of men, whereby they are differenced from others, or made useful unto others, belong also to the inheritance and kingdom of Christ. Gifts bestowed on men are either natural or spiritual, Natural gifts are special endowments of the persons or minds of men, in relation to things appertaining to this life; as wisdom, learning, skill and cunning in arts and sciences. I design only to show that even they also belong (though more remotely) to the lordship of Jesus Christ, which they do on two accounts
1. In that the very use of men’s reason, and their natural faculties, as to any good end or purpose, is continued to them upon the account of His interposition, bringing the world thereby under a dispensation of patience and forbearance, as was declared (John 1:9).
2. He is endued with power and authority to use them in whose hand soever they lie, whether of His friends or enemies, to the special ends of His glory, in doing good to His Church.
III. Spiritual gifts, which principally come under that denomination, are of two sorts--extraordinary and ordinary. The first are immediate endowments of the minds of men with abilities exceeding the whole system of nature, in the exercise whereof they are mere instruments of Him who bestows those gifts upon them. Such of old were the gifts of miracles, tongues, healing, prediction, and infallible inspiration, given out by the Lord Christ, unto such as He was pleased to use in His gospel service in an extraordinary manner. The ordinary gifts are the furniture of the minds of men, enabling them to comprehend spiritual things, and to manage them for spiritual ends and purposes. The end also why all these gifts are given into His power and disposal is evident.
1. The propagation of His gospel, and consequently the setting up of His kingdom in the world, depends upon them.
2. By these is His Church edified; and to that end doth He continue to bestow them on men, and will do so to the end of the world (1 Corinthians 12:7-14; Ephesians 4:8-13; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 3:10-11; Colossians 2:19).
3. And by these means and ways is God glorified in Him and by Him, which is the great end of His lordship over all the gifts of the Spirit.
IV. To close our consideration of this part of the lordship of Christ, there remains only that we show Him to be the Lord of all spiritual and eternal things, which in one word we call glory. He is Himself the Lord of glory 2 Corinthians 2:4) and the Judge of all (John 5:25). In the discharge of which office He gives out glory as a reward unto His followers (Matthew 25:32; Romans 14:10). Glory is the reward that is with Him, which He will give out at the last day, as a crown (2 Timothy 4:8; John 17:2). And to this end that He might be Lord of it, He hath
1. Purchased it (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 9:12; Ephesians 1:14).
2. Taken actual possession of it in His own person (Luke 24:25; John 17:5; John 17:22; John 17:24). And that
3. As the forerunner on whom He will bestow it (Hebrews 9:20). And this is a short view of the lordship of Christ as to things spiritual.
V. Ecclesiastical things, or things that concern Church institutions, rule, and power, belong also unto His rule and dominion. He is the only Head, Lord, Ruler, and Lawgiver of His Church.
1. He was the Lord of the Old Testament Church-state, and He exercised His power and lordship towards it in four ways.
(1) In, and by its institution and erection; He made, framed, set up, and appointed that Church, state, and all the worship of God therein observed.
(2) As its lawgiver, by prescribing to it when erected, a complete rule and form of worship and obedience, to which nothing might be added Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 7:12; Deu 7:32).
(3) By way of reformation, when it was collapsed and decayed Zechariah 2:8; Malachi 3:13).
(4) By way of amotion, or taking down what He Himself had set up, because it was so framed and ordered as to continue only for a season Hebrews 9:10; Deuteronomy 18:16-18; Haggai 2:6-7; Isaiah 65:17-18; 2 Peter 3:13).
2. Of the New Testament evangelical Church-state also, He is the only Lord and Ruler; yea, this is His proper kingdom, on which all other parts of His dominion do depend; for He is given to be “Head over all things unto the Church” (Ephesians 1:22).
(1) He is the foundation of this Church-state (1 Corinthians 3:11), the whole design and platform of it being laid in Him, and built upon Him.
(2) He erects this Church-state upon Himself (Matthew 16:18).
(3) He gives laws and rules of worship and obedience unto it, when so built by Himself and upon Himself (Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:2; Hebrews 3:2-6).
(4) Is the everlasting, constant, abiding Head, Ruler, King, and GovernorEphesians 1:22; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 2:19; Hebrews 3:6; Revelation 2:3).
VI. He is Lord also of political things. All the governments of the world that are set up and exercised therein for the good of mankind, and the preservation of society according to rules of equity and righteousness; over all these, and those who in and by them exercise rule and authority amongst men, is He Lord and King. He alone is the absolute potentate; the highest on the earth are in a subordination unto Him. That
1. He was designed unto (Psalms 89:27). And accordingly He is
2. Made Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16; 1 Timothy 6:15). And
3. He exerciseth dominion answerable unto His title (Revelation 6:16; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 18:16-20; Psalms 2:8-9; Isaiah 60:1-22.; Micah 5:7-9). And
4. Hath hence right to send His gospel into all nations in the world, attended with the worship by Him prescribed (Matthew 28:18; Psalms 2:9-12), which none of the rulers or governors of the world have any right to refuse or oppose, nor can so do, but upon their utmost peril. And
5. All kingdoms shall at length be brought into a professed subjection to Him and His gospel, and have all their rule disposed of unto the interest of His Church and saints (Daniel 7:27; Isaiah 60:12; Revelation 19:16-19).
VII. The last branch of this dominion of Christ consists in the residue of the creation of God; heaven and earth, sea and land, wind, trees, and fruits of the earth, and the creatures of sense, as they are all put under His feet Psalms 8:7-8; Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 15:27), so the exercise of His power severally over them is known from the story of the gospel. (John Owen, D. D.)
Heir of all
I. THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE POSITION.
II. MADE BY THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE AUTHORITY,
III. A TREMENDOUS CONTRAST WITH CHRIST’S EARTHLY CONDITION.
IV. THE POSSIBLE EXALTATION OF HUMAN NATURE.
V. THE ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Homilist.)
Of Christ the heir
The apostle here sets out the dignity of Christ under this title heir rather than Lord, as Acts 2:36.
1. To give proof of that relation which he noted before that Christ was truly and properly a Son, for He was the heir.
2. To show the perpetuity thereof; for the heir ever abideth in the house Genesis 21:10; John 8:35).
3. To manifest the right that we have to be adopted sons and heirs John 8:36). “If the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.” In this respect we are styled “Joint-heirs with Christ.” This dignity of Christ to be heir is further amplified by the extent thereof in these words, “of all things.” (W. Gouge.)
Heir of all things
Christ is this moment Lord of all the laws that govern material things; and is cognizant of the most elaborate as well as the most simple movements in the world of matter. His comprehensive vision surveys the whole, from the migrations of an atom to the swift revolutions of the most magnificent celestial planets. And He is Lord of all the principles that govern men and all rational beings; therefore He is heir to all the thoughts of men and angels. He has already received a grand return, in the form of the best thoughts and imaginations of the noblest and most illustrious intellects of the past and the present; and as the influence of the fine and ennobling thoughts of past ages grows and spreads amongst men, there will be an increase in the measure of fruit which Christ, as “heir of all things,” will receive from that source. He is heir to the affections of all men. There is not a heart beating at this instant in any human breast but should be setting its affections on Christ as its greatest, truest, and best friend. And, undoubtedly, the day is known to Him when all rational beings will be actuated by pure gospel principles; when all the thoughts and affections of humanity will be fixed upon Himself as the true heir to them all. The spring is heir to all the wealth of foliage in park, grove, and forest, when “all the trees on the hills open their thousand leaves.” How charming is the product of spring; its fresh inimitable green, so soothing to the eye and refreshing to the senses generally, after the darkness and barrenness of winter. Summer is heir to all the blossoms of the valleys, hills, meadows, and gardens of the world. What riches in bewitching colours, in forms of exquisite beauty, in floating fragrance, belong to the summer; its riches are verily unsearchable, suggestive of inexhaustible wealth in the Giver of them all, and certainly of infinite wisdom. The treasures of the floral world, how extensive they are I Autumn is heir to the vast wealth of fruit that is found in every part of the earth; its splendid thankoffering for the sunshine, rain, and dew which have so unstintingly been given to it during the year; and a noble offering it is. How very poor is the richest of men if compared with a rich autumn. Peter says that when God raised Christ from the dead, He made Him “both Lord and Christ”; and that “He is Lord of all.” He is “ heir of all things”; we understand “all things” to include all persons and things in the most unlimited sense (John 3:35; Matthew 28:18). All the angels of God are subject to Him, and are come to worship Him: the saints whom tie hath redeemed are His special heritage--His peculiar people. He is the heir and the dispenser of all spiritual blessings. (D. Rhys Jenkins.)
Heir of all things
A great king once said to a favourite, “Ask what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.” He thought,” If I ask to be made general of all the army, I shall get it; if for great riches of half the kingdom, I will gain it; but I will ask for what will give me all these.” So he said to the king, “Give me thy daughter to wife.” This made him heir to all the wealth and honours of the kingdom. So he who chooses Christ becomes an heir to all the wealth and glory of the Father’s kingdom.
By whom also He made the worlds
The creation of the ages
“Created the ages”--not the “ worlds,” which gives a false impression of the author’s meaning; for this clause does not describe an original creation of the material world of space (Cosmos), but the Divine exercise of a creative energy in the successive worlds of time (AEons). The term “ages” includes the idea of time and of the action that takes place in time; and the power by which God through the Son has shaped the course of life and action in the successive ages of man’s existence is regarded as a creation. For the Scriptural conception of creation did not consist in bringing matter into existence out of nothing, but in the infusion of life and motion by the moving of the Spirit of God on the face of the waters into matter which had previously existed as a waste void. (F. Rendall, M. A.)
The agency of the Divine Father and Son
The Father is said to do this and that by the Son for these reasons
1. To give proof of the distinction of Persons.
2. To set out the order of the Persons--the Father first, the Son second.
3. To declare their manner of working--the Father by the Son, and the Son from the Father (Genesis 19:24).
4. To show the consent of the distinct Persons, Father and Son.
5. To demonstrate the identity of the essence of Father and Son; that both are one Divine nature and essence, in that the same Divine work is attributed to both. This consequence is inferred upon a like ground John 5:17-18). As the Father is here said to make the worlds by His Son, so of God in reference to the Son indefinitely it is said, “By whom are all things” (Hebrews 2:10). The Son therefore is here declared to be true God. (W. Gouge)
The glory of the Son
And who may be this Son, who in the last days it is declared hath brought us speech of God? Read the Scripture in immediate connection (Hebrews 1:1; Hebrews 1:3). Possession--has He anything? Achievement--has He done anything? Character--is He anything? Position--is He where He can do anything?--these are the four great and universal tests of worth and power. To this Son, by whom, in these last days, God hath spoken to us, our Scripture applies these searching and settling tests of possession, achievement.
I. Behold the glory of this Son in the light of His Possession. “Whom He hath appointed heir of all things.” I spent a very interesting day in rambling through the vast naval station at Portsmouth, England. There were huge ironclads floating in the harbour, of enormous force of engines, and armament of thunderous guns; there were huge skeletons of iron ships upon the stocks in process of construction; there were almost miles of streets of anchors so strong and great it looked as though the nethermost rocks must give before their mighty flukes would break; there were circling piles of iron cables, every link of which seemed massive enough to hold against the stoutest storm; there were pyramids of balls and shells, and long, high armouries bursting with weapons; there were machine shops almost innumerable, and multitudinous piles of cordage, and immensities of things of every sort needed for a naval station of a world-including empire. And on every iron plank, and ball, and tool, and gate-post even, was stamped the broad arrow; and twisted into every bit of cordage there was the red line, marking and betokening the ownership of the sovereign. Everything was hers, and the sign of the sovereign’s ownership was written upon everything. It may not be so plainly seen; it may look dimmed sometimes even to the clearest vision of our faith, but, more really, deeply, indestructibly there is stamped upon the “ all things” which go to make up this universe the sign of their possession by the Son of God. God hath appointed Him heir of all things.
1. All the moneyed wealth of the world is the Son’s. In a real way Jesus Christ is possessor of the money of the world.
2. Of the mighty enterprises of the world Jesus Christ is possessor. They are all seen to hold most real relation to the advance of His kingdom--the invention of printing.
3. To the great natural forces of the world, already discovered and to be discovered, Jesus Christ has title--e.g., railroads, telegraphs, swift communications between continents all these are being laid hold of for the widening of Christ’s kingdom.
4. And on the thinking of the world the grasp of the Son’s possession is also placed. After all, the thought which gets its inspiration from the Bible is the thought that leads.
5. Even upon the wickedness and infidelity of the world Jesus Christ has grasp. Somehow He will compel these to lend ministry to His purpose.
6. And of all the unknown forces in farthest suns, stars, planets, the Son is in possession. God hath appointed Him of all things the heir.
II. Behold the glory of this Son in the light of His ACHIEVEMENT. Three things, the Scripture here declares, this Son, by whom in these lust days God hath spoken unto us, has achieved
2. Upholding. “And upholding all things by the word of His power.” “In Him all things consist”--stand together.
3. Redemption. “When He had by Himself purged our sins.”
III. Behold the glory of this Son in the light of His CHARACTER. “Who, being the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person.”
IV. Behold the glory of this Son in the light of His POSITION. “Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.” In view of the glory of this Son, see
1. The folly of expecting a farther revelation. He is the Father’s utmost revelation.
2. The folly of the thought of any other way of salvation than this Son’s way.
3. The wonder that Christians should not more appreciate the honour of confession and service of this Son.
4. The certainty of this Son’s triumph. He who by faith and self-surrender allies himself with this Son is on the winning side of things.
The world moderately admired as God’s workmanship
1. The world is of God’s making, therefore it is to be highly esteemed of us. The Tabernacle was of Bezaleel’s making, that was furnished with all skill and wisdom, therefore the more regarded by the Israelites; the Temple was of Solomon’s malting, the wisest man that ever was, therefore in that respect more honoured by the Jews. A picture of Apelles’ making would be in great request. The world is the glorious workmanship of God Almighty, therefore to be admired of us all. If a stranger be in a boat on the Thames he cannot but wonder at the brave buildings that be situate on it. Shall we pass through this famous frame, and super-excellent building of this world set up by God Himself, and not wonder at the wisdom, power, and goodness of God that made it? We see what a goodly coat the earth hath; Solomon in all his royalty was not so clothed as it. We see the sun in the firmament, the moon, the stars--God Almighty’s candles--birds of the air, beasts of the field, fishes of the sea, the admirable work of our own bodies, yet they do not make us almost to think of God. The Gentiles had no book but this to look upon, yet it left them without excuse. Let us all behold God, even in the creation of the world.
2. Though the world be a worthy work, and that of God’s making, yet let us not admire it too much; as there was a time when it was set up, so there is a time when it shall be pulled down. The disciples stood gazing on the Temple, wondering at the workmanship of it; but Christ told them that one stone should not be left upon another. This world is but an inn, wherein we take up a night s lodging. If thou comest to an inn, be it never so fair, wilt thou always continue there? Nay, thou wilt leave the inn, and make haste to thy house, though it be nothing so beautiful as the inn. Remember that this world is but an inn, be it never so goodly a piece of work. Hasten to that house that is made without hands, eternal in the heavens. (W. Jones, D. D.)
The brightness of His glory.--
Deity and atonement of Christ
I. Consider what is said of the person of Christ, PREVIOUS TO HIS BECOMING OUR SAVIOUR. He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person, and He upholds all things by the word of His power.” If this be not descriptive of His being truly God, it is not in the power of language to convey such an idea. The antecedent glory of Christ is a subject on which the Scriptures delight to dwell, as may be seen in various passages (Micah 5:2; John 1:1-3; 1 John 1:1-2).
1. Christ is here called the brightness of the Father’s glory. Christ is not the Father, yet there is such an equality that He is emphatically “ the brightness of His glory.” It is also through Him that the glory of the Divine nature is revealed and made manifest. God made the world by Him, and by Him He saved it; the Lord Jesus is therefore the shining forth of all this glory.
2. He is the express image of His person, the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15). There is not an attribute or a feature in the character of the Father but what is also in the Son. Here is likewise a personal distinction consisting with a oneness of nature, and without any other subordination than that which is relative, as between a Father and a Son.
3. Christ upholdeth all things by the word of His power. Nothing can be more expressive of His Godhead, for this is claimed as the special prerogative of God alone (Psalms 75:3).
II. Observe what is said of HIS WORK IN UNDERTAKING THE OFFICE OF A PRIEST. “He by Himself purged our sins.”
1. The efficacy of His sacrifice--“He purged our sins.”
The term alludes to the ceremonial cleansings under the law, which were effected by sacrificial blood (Hebrews 9:22). Hence David prayed Psalms 51:7). Our being cleansed by the blood of Christ is the substance of all these typical purifications (1 John 1:7; 1 John 1:9). By His death He removed the penal effects of sin, and through the application of it by faith, the conscience is purified. The gospel therefore connects repentance and remission of sins, and proclaims forgiveness amongst all nations Luke 24:47).
2. The ground or reason of this efficacy--“He by Himself purged our sins.” When the Scriptures speak of Christ’s miracles, they usually ascribe them to the authority of the Father, rather than the divinity of the Son. So also in His sufferings He was succoured by the ministry of angels, and upheld by the power of God, seeing He had taken upon Him the form of a servant, which required that He should act in subordination to Him that sent Him (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:8). But the Scriptures as uniformly ascribe the efficacy of His sacrifice to the divinity of His person, as giving value and virtue to His sufferings (1 John 1:7).
III. THE EXALTATION WHICH FOLLOWED UPON HIS OFFERING HIMSELF AS A SACRIFICE FOR US. “He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
1. By “right hand of God” is meant the first place in His favour. In all things He is to have the preeminence, for He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17-18).
2. This is mentioned as an honour which became Him. Conscious that He had done the will of God, and finished the work which He had given Him to do, the Lord Jesus took the place which belonged to Him. He sat down on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him (1 Peter 3:22). While all in heaven cry, Thou art worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (Revelation 5:12).
1. Seeing that God hath provided for us an all-sufficient Saviour, let us learn to trust Him, and to call upon His holy name, remembering that there is salvation in no other (John 3:35; Acts 2:21; Acts 4:12).
2. We see the way in which our sires are to be expiated and removed; not by tears or sufferings of our own, but by the precious blood of Christ, and that alone. Nevertheless sin must be confessed, or it cannot be forgiven 1 John 1:9).
3. The exaltation of Christ, as the reward of His humiliation, is to us a source of great encouragement. He is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and the remission of sins; and is able to save all that come unto God by Him.
4. The conduct of Christ in doing and suffering the will of God, and then entering into His glory, is given as an example for our imitation Hebrews 12:2). (Theological Sketch-Book.)
Christ the brightness of God’s glory
No resemblance taken from any other creature can more fully set out the mutual relation between the Father and the Son. For
1. The brightness issuing from the sun is of the same nature that the sun is.
2. It is of as long continuance as the sun; never was the sun without the brightness of it.
3. This brightness cannot be separated from the sun; the sun may as well be made no sun as have the brightness thereof severed from it.:4. This bright-Hess is from the sun, not the sun from it.:5. This brightness cometh naturally and necessarily from the sun, not voluntarily and at pleasure.
6. The sun and the brightness are distinct each from other, the one is not the other.
7. All the glory of the sun is in this brightness.
8. The light which the sun giveth to the world is by this brightness. How distinctly doth this metaphor set out the great mysteries of our Christian faith concerning God the Father and Son.
For they are
1. Of one and the same essence (John 10:30).
2. Co-eternal (John 1:1).
3. Inseparable (Proverbs 8:30).
4. The Son is from the Father; God of God, light of light, very God of very God.
5. The Son is begotten of the Father, by nature, not by will, favour, or good pleasure (Romans 8:7; Romans 8:32).
6. The person of the one is distinct from the other; for the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father (John 5:17).
7. The incomprehensible glory of the Father most brightly shineth forth in the Son (John 17:5).
8. All that the Father doth in relation to creatures He doth by the Son. As in these respects Christ is fitly and justly styled brightness, so in regard of His surpassing excellency He is said to be the brightness of glory. Of the Hebrew and Greek words translated glory. Glory attributed to a thing in the Hebrew dialect importeth the surpassing excellency thereof; as a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31), a throne of glory (Jeremiah 17:12), a name of glory (Isaiah 63:14), a most excellent and glorious crown, throne, and name. Thus to set out the surpassing excellency, and most glorious majesty of God, He is styled the God of glory (Acts 7:2), the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17). And His Son, the Lord of glory, the King of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8; Psalms 24:7). Never was any brightness like to the brightness here mentioned; well therefore might it, in regard of the excellency of it, be styled brightness of glory. (W. Gouge.)
The glory of Christ
The apostle hath taught that our Saviour Christ, the Son of God, hath been once sent unto us, an eternal Prophet, to teach us all things which God hath done for our salvation, and through the preaching of the gospel to sanctify us all unto Him; that Him alone we should acknowledge to be our leader unto eternal life. Now the apostle beginneth to prove this singular glory to belong only to Christ, which He doth by setting out a full description of Him, in which, as I said, He proveth Him to be eternal God.
1. By His rule over all creatures (Hebrews 1:2).
2. By the glory of His own person.
3. By His great power.
4. By His benefit bestowed upon us.
5. By His glory purchased to Himself (Hebrews 1:3).
6. By comparison with angels (Hebrews 1:4).
The rule of Christ over all creatures He showeth in this: that He is heir of all, and created all. By heir of all, meaning how in the person of a mediator He hath restored all, as in the person of the Son He was the wisdom of God to make all. And therefore called the heir, because He restored not the world, but by redeeming it, and purchasing it unto Himself, according as God the Father had given it to be a recompense unto His work; in which respect it is said that God appointed Him heir of all things. This our Saviour taught us (Matthew 23:28; John 16:15). The apostle addeth the second note of this authority. That by Him the world was made; by the world meaning all things in heaven, earth, and under the earth. For so St. John addeth to this testimony, “And without Him nothing was made, whatsoever was made.” Then if all creatures were made by Him, Himself was uncreate, and only Creator of all that is, that we might boldly give Him the glory of the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
2. The second thing wherein Christ is here exalted is the glory of His person.
(1) That He is the brightness of His Father’s glory, which title is absolutely given Him, as essential unto the Son of God, not only before us, but even before His Father; that as all the properties of the Godhead have their being in the person of the Father, so the brightness and beauty of them is in the person of the Son, and so this name was proper to Him before the world was made; noting that eternally He was of the Father. In which sense St. John calleth Him the word, not according to the time in which creatures have been, but an essential word before all creatures.
(2) The second thing here attributed to Him is, that He is the ingraven form of the person of His Father; noting hereby the unity of substance, as in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily. Even as St. Paul doth also call Him the image of God, distinguishing Him by this name from all shadows and figures, like as this apostle useth the word in the tenth chapter. And here expressly he addeth ingraven, above all the figures in the law, the ephod, the Urim, or the ark itself, showing the excellency that is in Christ.
3. The third title of honour here given unto Christ is of the greatness of His power, and that is that He beareth up all things with His mighty word. In this also it is assured that He is very God, the stay and strength of the world, without whose hand all things would fall into confusion.
4. He extolleth the person of Christ by the greatness of His benefits bestowed upon man, in these words, “By Himself having purged our sins,” put in here as a parenthesis, because it showeth the way how Christ purchased that excellent dignity to sit at the right hand of His Father, whereof after he speaketh. In that he saith purged our sins expressly he warranteth His Godhead, for what creature could have done so excellent a work?
5. The thing wherein Christ is here extolled is the high dignity which He hath gotten, in these words, He sitteth on the right hand of high majesty; noting hereby that God the Father hath taken Him up into His glory, so that He sitteth in power and majesty equal with His Father; and this is plain, in that He calleth it, the right hand of highest majesty. And the Scripture showeth this end of it, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool; showing that this is the power of God in Him, to sit at the right hand of God. Now a little further we will examine the words and apply them more particularly to our instruction. In that it is said first, God made Him heir of all, so that we see how these words of the apostle have every way their weight, to prove that Christ is the Son of God, the King of His people, God and man, mediator between God and us. We must learn of ourselves we have nothing, but being ingrafted in Him we are owners of all things. I may have from man my warrant here in earth that my house is mine, and my land is mine, and he is a thief and a robber that taketh it from me. But all the men in the world cannot give me my possession before the living God, but only His Son Christ, who is heir of all; and I am a thief and a robber if before God I claim any other right in it. Then, that our lands may be our own, our goods our own, our servants, our wives, our children ours, let us be Christ’s, that in Him we may have the good assurance of all our substance. And where it is further said, All things were made by Christ, we may boldly conclude that no man hath power over His creatures, but they must serve their Creator. What have I to do with another man’s work? God hath appointed His creatures a use; in it they are holy. It thou wilt set them another law thou profanest thyself in them. Further, in that it is said, that Christ is the brightness of glory, and ingraven form of the substance of His Father. Let us mark well why the apostle thus magnifieth the person of Christ. For no other cause but to warrant unto us the truth of His word, that He is our prophet and we must believe Him. Again it is said, He beareth up all things with His mighty word. Where, we must mark, he attributeth to God’s mighty power the governance of all things in our sight, either great or small, that we should learn not to measure the power of God by our weak senses. It is His mighty power that upholdeth the earth, that stretcheth out the heavens, that sendeth forth the winds, that raiseth on high the great waves of the sea, and these things we confess are great and mighty; but as it is here, so everywhere the mighty power of God maketh the feather to move, and His strong arm leadeth the fly in her way, and the same force which now shaketh a leaf, if He had sent it against a mountain it would have turned it up from the foundations; and the same strength that bloweth up the dust, if it came against the earth, it would shake the bottoms of it. And this should make us fear before Him, that whatsoever He hath done, whether it seem great or little, we should confess His handiwork, and according to His greatness so we should honour Him, that whatsoever He hath commanded, whether it seem weighty or light, all our obedience should be straight unto it. It followeth, by Himself He hath purged our sins. I do not doubt but you know how Christ hath purged our sins, and the more you know it I am sure you are the more glad to hear it. And because He saith by Himself He purged our sins, in this we see a clear discharge given to the tabernacle, and all the sacrifices at the door of it, not one of them purged sin. Now where it followeth in the apostle’s words, “That He sitteth at the right hand of high majesty,” we must first mark the change of words. Where it is usually said, He sitteth on the right hand of God; here he saith on the right hand of the highest majesty, which is, as it were, an interpretation of the right hand of God, signifying nothing else but the power and glory of God, given unto the person of the Mediator, according to that saying of Paul, “God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above all names.” (E. Doering, B. D.)
The glory of Christ
It is of the incarnate Son of God that the apostle speaks; and showing unto us His glory, he leads us, in the first place, to the end of all history.
1. He is appointed the heir of all things.
2. To the beginning of all history, in Him God made the ages.
3. Before all history, He is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being.
4. Throughout all history He upholdeth all things by the word of His power.
1. The end of all history. The Father has appointed the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, the heir of all things. Him, the Son of Abraham and the Son of David, the theocratic Son, the Messiah; not in His abstract Deity, but as the Son who became man; as the Word made flesh; as the Son who became the servant to fulfil all Jehovah’s good pleasure. “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands.” According to His deity there is no necessity for any gift, reward, or transfer. According to His deity incarnate, the Messiah, in the everlasting covenant, is appointed heir, and all things are given into His hand. What are these “all things”? It is clear that there is nothing excepted that is not given unto Him. So said the risen Saviour
“All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth.” In His intercessory prayer before His sufferings-He had said, “Thou hast given Him power over all flesh.” This is the first thing. The whole human race is given unto Him. And out of this whole human race, which belongs unto Him by eternal right, and by the right of His perfect and holy humanity, by the right of His unspeakable love, and of His death, God has chosen in Him a people, that the Son should give eternal life to “as many as Thou hast given Him.” And this Church Jesus Christ has obtained as the first and central part of His inheritance. As the material sun is placed in the firmament to be a source of light and heat and joy unto the rest of the creation of God, so God appoints the Church to be the first-fruits of His creatures--the body of Christ, wherewith He influences and blesses, whereby He guides and controls all things. And the material creation which God hath made in Jesus Christ He hath also given unto His Son, that Jesus, through the glorified Church, and by the angels in heavenly places, as well as through Israel and the nations dwelling on earth, should be glorified in the whole realm, which is His portion and His inheritance. How rich is our adorable Jesus!
2. All things are His. And this is so natural; because, in the second place, God has made “all ages,” or “all worlds,” by Him. It is natural that He who is the Alpha should also be the Omega. He is before all things (not merely as before and above time, but) as the idea and cause of all things. He is that eternal wisdom of which we read in the book of Proverbs, which was with God before the foundations of the world were laid. God has made all things by Christ according to Christ, and for Christ. What more natural, then, that He by whom and in whom all things were made should be also the inheritor of all things?
3. But the apostle goes still further. Before all history He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His being.” Wherever he looks he sees Christ, the light. Without Christ there is darkness. Think of the end of history, and you are lost in amazement; think of the beginning of the world, and you are lost in ignorance; think of before the beginning, and you are altogether lost in an element transcendent and incomprehensible, because it is not for our finite minds to contemplate such wondrous heights until the heavenly, Divine light of revelation comes to our aid. And who is the light? Christ is the light. The eternal, infinite God reveals Himself in Christ. The Son is the light, which maketh manifest; God is manifest in Him. Christ is “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being.” In Jesus we behold infinite power, wisdom, goodness, holiness, compassion, truth. All things that are in the Father are in the Son. It is as the Son that the eternal life, which was with the Father, was manifested unto us. He who declares unto us God, whom none hath seen, the Word, is God (John 1:1-51.), He is truth, substance; and the beloved disciple testifies of Him: He is the true God and eternal life.
4. And as the Lord Jesus is the heir, the end and consummation of all things and the beginning of all things, and the eternal Word before all things, the apostle tells us that throughout the course of history, in providence, He beareth all things with the word of His power. He is the inherent energy, truth and beauty of all things. He is as it were the spirit, the symmetry, the logic and substance of all that exists. By Him princes rule and senators decree justice. In Him every truth is rooted. By ‘Him everything that is firm stands. By Him all things are continued; for He is the Word of God--the expression of the eternal thoughts and truths of the Most High. Christ is Lord of all. The whole universe centres in Him. There shall be again wonders and signs in the heavens when the Son of man shall come in power. And both science and revelation teach us to look forward to a new earth. It is the Lord Jesus who shall make all things new. And all developments are borne up and moved by the word of His power. Now, when the apostle has given us this idea of the wonderful glory of the Lord Jesus, he continues by stating something still more marvellous. Why has this glorious being, in whom all things are summed up, and who is before all things the Father’s delight and the Father’s glory, come down to our poor earth? For what purpose? To shine? To show forth the splendour of His majesty? To teach heavenly wisdom? To rule by His just and holy might? No! He came to purge our sins. What height of glory I what depth of abasement! What a glorious Lord I And what an awful sacrifice of unspeakable love, to purge our sins by Himself! The manner and power of this purification form the subject of this whole Epistle. But in this short expression, “By Himself He purged our sins,” all is summed up. By Himself: the Son of God, the eternal Word in humanity. Himself: the priest who is sacrifice, yea, altar, and everything that is needed for full and real expiation and reconciliation. (A. Saphir.)
Christ the sunbeam of the Father’s glory
The sun is presented to us here as the emblem of the Father; the radiation proceeding from it, the emblem of Jesus Christ. Now this is well adapted to meet many a cavil which unbelief may call up against the absolute Godhead of Christ. It is asked, for instance, does not the relationship of Father and Son imply that the Father existed before the Son; and if so, is the Son eternal? Again: was the existence of the Son at all dependent upon the will of the Father? and if so, where is the self-existence, the “I am,” which is a property of Godhead? Now, St. Paul’s words in the text teach us, first, that the expressions, Father and Son, are employed, in consideration of our infirmities, to give us some idea of the relationship between two persons in the Trinity, but that we are to lay aside everything that is gross or earthly in contemplating this heavenly connection, retaining only the idea of the one being identical in existence and proceeding from the other. They the, put before us an image, calculated to enlarge and purify our view of this simple truth. There is the sun m the firmament, no unfitting type of God the Father; the sun of the great system that He has called into being, the author of light and life, both physical and spiritual! But in what way does the sun communicate with the different parts and provinces of his subject system? by his rays--the ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης--the brightness of his glory, the radiation proceeding from the central and substantial mass of light, that travels far and wide into the realms of space, and floods our universe with beauty and brilliance. And what are the rays? Now mark how the particular truths of Christ’s Godhead are all shut up in this emblem. The rays of the sun are of the very same substance with the sun; thus representing to us the perfect unity of substance between Christ and His Father. The rays are generated by the sun, and yet they are coeval with the sun: the first moment of the sun’s existence saw him scattering his rays into space around him. So Christ was the only-begotten of the Father, and yet co-eternal with the Father; the everlasting past, that has never been without the presence of the Father, having never likewise been without the radiated effulgence of Christ. But we have not yet exhausted our emblem. It has helped us to gather at least an idea of the pre-existent relationship of Christ to His heavenly Father. Now we shall see how it holds good in reference to, and illustration of, His present relationship to ourselves. The sun communicates, by its rays, with various other worlds besides our own; but in the case of ours alone, so far as we know, does it experience anything like difficulty or obstruction. Thus God communicates, by His Son, with the different provinces of His intellectual dominions; and everywhere He meets with a welcome worthy of the character He bears and the blessings He bestows. But when He sought to make His way to this earth of ours, there was a cloud to be penetrated, a dark and dense mass of noxious vapour exhaled from the moral corruption below. Yet not for that was the sunbeam of the Divine glory to be thwarted in its course. It had undertaken a mission to earth; it had undertaken to burst through the barrier, make the homes of men bright with a visitation from an hitherto offended and enclouded God. And those among us who have, on some doubtful day, watched the battle between sunshine and storm for the mastery, will surely grant that it affords no unapt emblem of the great spiritual conflict which decided whether our day of gloom were to deepen into everlasting night, or be followed by a morning of “clear shining after rain.” The hosts of darkness marshalled all their strength, and the solitary sunbeam seemed to be struggling, not for power, but for existence among them; nay, for a little season they closed over it, and it was hidden from the view of man, and, to all appearance, obliterated and extinguished. But again it bursts brightly forth; it manifests its indestructible nature; it manifests its prevailing power. And what is the consequence and the result to earth? Is there nothing more than the shedding down of light, thus revealing more clearly the barrenness of the moral landscape? Oh no! The sunbeam of the Father’s glory has a fertilising, as well as an enlightening power. “The wilderness and the solitary place are glad for it; and the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose.” Yet, observe, He has not altogether chased the clouds from our sky. He might have done it; blot in our peculiar condition, He knew them to be necessary for the fulfilment of His gracious designs. Sunshine and rain, in due proportions, bring to maturity the natural productions of the soil. And some tears, ay, and some temptations, alternating, with bright intervals of spiritual joy and consolation, give sweetness and ripeness to all those fruits of righteousness, which are, by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God. Again, observe how strikingly the relative condition and office of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is represented by this emblem. The Father’s place, like that of the celestial luminary, is in the highest heavens. Nothing that takes place below affects His condition. He sits in supreme majesty, in the midst of His own uncreated brightness. But it is by Jesus Christ, the ray proceeding from the central glory, that He visits us. Once more. The rays are the only means whereby we obtain an idea of the existence, the form, or the nature of the sun. No man ever saw the sun. We see a picture of the sun, wrought by the rays upon the retina of the eye. Just in the same manner, “no man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” It is only in His light that we can see light. The infinitude of God’s power, the purity of His holiness, and inflexibility of His justice, the excellence of His wisdom, the height, and length, and breadth, and depth of His love,--what should we have known of all, or any, of these attributes, but from beholding them embodied and illustrated in the person and character of Christ? And, observe, this knowledge is not purely speculative; for as the ray throws upon the human eye the very image of the sun, so we, “beholding as in a glass (i.e., through the medium of Christ’s humanity)
the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory.” (T. E.Hankinson, M. A.)
The outflashing glory of the Son of God
The original word is formed from a word which signifies” to flash out.” It may be interpreted accordingly as an “outflashing:” The glory of God is as light, and the Son is as its flash forth into view. You will get the idea if you conceive an intense light enclosed in a dark lantern; which is suddenly opened so that the rays dart out into the surrounding blackness. The flash is not something different from the light, but the light let out of limits and acting on the darkness. The Son of God is not represented as uncovering the glory of the Father. He is not the mere hand which draws the slide of the lantern so that the light breaks through. He is the light. It is not said of Him, “who” disclosing or showing, but “who being the brightness of His glory.” Expanding the idea, the ancient creed declared Him “light of light,” “very God of very God.” (J. T. Duryea, D. D.)
God as light
1. God is often called Light, because this bodily and visible light is glorious, and in several respects resembles that eternal glorious essence of God.
2. Here God is said to have light or glory, not that glory or light is an accident in God, but because He is said to have that which He is.
3. The similitude here used is taken not from accidental but substantial light, as the same s said to be a light. Purity, beauty, delectability in light teach us something of Him. (G Lawson.)
The dignity of Christ
I. THE DIGNITY OF HIS NATURE.
1. “The brightness of His glory.” The figure that comes to our minds immediately-the sun in firmament. Flood of light that pours down from it. All the dazzling glory of the Father pours down to us in the Son. In Him you may find all that is adorable in the Divine nature.
2. “Express image of His person.” Here we come to a deeper mystery. Just as I know something of light of sun, but nothing of hidden nucleus. So I may know something of the glory of God. But what do I know of God Himself?--substance, essence, being. And this is what the apostle means by the word translated “person.” Substance--essence--being would better convey his idea. Take the words if you will, “The express image of God’s substance.” The apostle teaches--You have that in Christ. Just as when you take your seal, and press it carefully on yielding wax. There on the wax you shall find the express image of your seal. No line, however deep or however faint or graceful, but see its likeness there. So in Christ you have the express image--counterpart of God. No attribute of the Father which does not belong to the Son. None that does not belong to Him in equal measure. His power not less mighty, wisdom not less keen, love not less tender.
II. DIGNITY OF HIS OFFICES.
1. The great Sustainer. “Upholding all things.” Son of God! Thou art the Sustainer! With Thy hand; nay, with Thy breath. Just as at the beginning Thou didst say, “Let light be … and light was.” Just as earth and sea, sun and moon, firmament and stars, appeared at Thy command. So at Thy command they are! Aye, and all the living things upon them. All breathing lungs and beating hearts and burning souls. “Thou upholdest all things.”
2. The great Sacrifice. What! The great Sustainer the great Sacrifice. The transition is so sudden! Contrast so immense! Then I feel nothing more is needed--the work is done! it is finished. “By Himself He has purged our sins.”
III. DIGNITY OF HIS REWARD. “Sat down on right hand of Majesty on high.”
1. What a place for Christ I For Him who sat down a weary traveller on well’s side. Who knelt in anguish under olives of Gethsemane. Who stood a criminal at the bar of Pilate. For Him who hung in blood upon cross, and lay a corpse in sepulchre.
2. What a power for Christ! “At the right hand of the King.” What influence He will have on the royal counsels. How able to befriend the cause of all He loves. And to promote all holy and gracious purposes.
3. How fitting a reward like this! As a Divine Being there was glory He had with the Father before world was. How meet that as Incarnate Deity exalted to equal glory. The work He did on earth was done in obedience to His Father. How meet that the Father should thus show His entire approval. Yet more than all, His work is not yet done. He was here a sacrifice for sin, now High Priest within vail. Here He poured out His soul unto death, there pours forth heart in prayer. (F. Tucker, B. A.)
The dignity of Christ
I. IN HIS RELATION TO THE FATHER. “Brightness in express image.”
1. he is essentially Divine.
2. He is a revelation of the Divine.
II. IN HIS RELATION TO THE UNIVERSE. He sustains and governs all things.
III. IN HIS RELATION TO MAN.
1. He has accomplished an effectual atonement for human guilt.
2. By self-sacrifice.
IV. IN HIS RELATION TO ETERNITY. “Sat down,” &c.
1. The completion of His work.
2. The acceptance of His work.
3. The recompense of His work. (T. Hughes.)
The brightness of His glory
In these remarkable words there are two ideas presented to us, which we will consider in order.
1. The first is that of a luminous body. As a sample of such bodies, let us take the sun. Now the sun, a vast luminous mass, at a great distance from our earth, is made visible to us by the rays of light which stream incessantly from its surface. The rays by which the sun becomes visible are not the sun itself. The two things are distinct; they have, if we may so express it, a distinct personality; but in point of fact they cannot be separated from one another. You cannot have the sun without the rays, and you cannot have the rays without the sun; they are contemporaneous; and if one should happen to be eternal, the other, of necessity, would be eternal also. This imagery then represents, as far as such imagery can do, the relation between the first and second persons of the ever-blessed Trinity. The Father and the Son are co-existent and co-eternal. As with the luminous body, and the rays that flow from it, although the Father and the Son are not the same Being, although there is a distinctness of personality, so that they may be conceived of and spoken of apart, yet they cannot be actually sundered, they must have existed together from all eternity. And yet again
2. As it is the ray which makes the luminous body visible, so it is the Lord Jesus Christ, in His pre-incarnate state, who is the expression of the Father, and brings God within the reach of the finite mind. Scripture tells us that “no one hath seen God at any time”; and it is probably intended that we should understand by the statement, that God in His essence, in His innermost Being, is so withdrawn from the comprehension of a finite mind, that, apart from the Son of God, it would have been impossible for the highest archangel to have understood the character and nature of Deity. It was Jesus in His pre-existent state who enabled the great created intelligences to grasp the conception of the Divine Being; just as it is Jesus, in His incarnate state, who makes God known to us. Thus, as we understand, the Son, in His pre-existent and preincarnate condition, is “ the brightness of God’s glory.” But He is also, we read, the “express image of His substance.” Now the “express image” seems to be the stamp or impression produced by a die. The impression thus produced is, of course, the exact counterpart of the implement that produced it. You stamp your seal upon the melted wax, and the result is a reproduction of every feature and lineament of the seal; nay, of every crack and flaw that may happen to be found in it. The two things exactly correspond. Here, then, is part of the idea. But what is the “substance of God”? The substance of a thing is that which lies under all appearances, and makes the thing to be what it really is. For instance: among many men, taken at random, you will find very great difference and variety. Some are tall, some short; some rich, others poor; some clever, others dull. There will be much diversity, too, of character and disposition. But underneath all these outward appearances there is to be found that which makes each of these a man; and this is their “substance.” Perhaps you may prefer to call it “nature,” or “essence,” or “inner being.” It matters little. It is that which makes the person to be what he really is. And so the “ substance of God” is the nature or inner being of the great Jehovah. Now we are told in the passage that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His pre-incarnate state, is “the express image,” the exact counterpart of the substance of God; that is to say, not of the external attributes of God (if such things there be), but of His very inmost essence,--of that which makes Him to be God. What language can be imagined that would describe a closer relationship, or a more complete identity of nature? Whatever constitutes the nature of God, we must attribute to the pre-existent Son. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
A royal Mediator
Sometimes there were more kings than one at Sparta, who governed by joint authority. A king was occasionally sent to some neighbouring state in character of a Spartan ambassador. Did he, when so sent, cease to be a king of Sparta, because he was also an ambassador? No, he did not divest himself of his royal dignity, but only added to it that of public deputation. So Christ, in becoming man, did not cease to be God; but though He ever was, and still continued to be, King of the whole creation, acted as the voluntary Servant and Messenger of the Father. (Illustrations of Truth.)
The. Saviour is God
It is sometimes idly said that our belief in our Lord’s divinity rests solely on the teaching of St. John. Centuries ago, Julian, the apostate emperor, exclaimed, “It is John, who with his remark, ‘And the Word became flesh,’ has done all the mischief.” I fear that in these days some at least of the critical attempts to disprove the genuineness of St. John’s Gospel are suggested and stimulated by the desire to overthrow our belief in the divinity of Christ. But should the writings of St. John, to our infinite loss, be obliterated altogether from the canon, there is yet not a single book in the New Testament in which the revelation of God in Christ is not directly asserted, or absolutely implied. Set aside St. John altogether and still on almost every page of revelation the truth stands out that Christ was the only begotten Son of the Father, the effulgence of His glory, the express image of His substance, God of God, Light of light, very God of very God. And in whatever way we hold, or explain, or imagine that we explain the blessed mystery of the atonement, this is certain, that its entire efficacy, as revealed to us in Scripture--in the Old Testament, where alone it is foreshadowed, or by the New Testament, where alone it is fully set forth--rests upon the truth that our Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. No man can redeem his brother, or make atonement unto God for him. It cost more to redeem our souls, therefore he must let that alone for ever. (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
Express image of His person
For the phrase “ express image “ there is a single word in the original, a word transferred and familiar in our own language, viz., character. It is formed from a word signifying to sharpen, then to scratch or furrow with a sharp instrument, to write, to engrave. Our term, therefore, means a writing or engraving, and in this sense we often use it. So, also, as a form is engraven on a seal, and then stamped upon wax, the word indicates a figure enstamped upon wax or soft metal. The figure impressed is precisely like the graving which determines it. The word accordingly signifies likeness. Then, from the notion of likeness, it extends to that of sameness, so that we say of one’s combined qualities, they constitute his character, and more emphatically the character is the man. It is the man revealed and known. The Son of God is, then, the revelation of the person of God. And to this term person, in the language of the New Testament, we do not attach the later metaphysical notion. It is simply equivalent to “self.” We have now the whole thought in this pregnant phrase: Jesus Christ is God’s very Self revealed and known. He could say of Himself truly, as He said, “He that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me.” (J. R.Duryea, D. D.)
Christ the revelation of God
To make religion possible, we must have a revelation from God. There is a science called stellar chemistry, the romance and mystery of science. We are able to estimate the ponderosity of the stars and the elements that compose them. How have we discovered these things? Not by crossing the separating spaces, but because the stars have sent their revelation to us. Abeam of light plays on the spectrum, and reveals the contents of these mysterious bodies. So with religion. We could not cross the illimitable space and find out God for ourselves, but in His Son we have the light that reveals Him. (W. Pierce.)
Definition of God
The god of M. Comte was what he defined as “the continuous resolutant of all the forces capable of voluntarily concurring in the universal perfectioning of the world.” That is not my God. I do not know him. I don’t want to-know him. My God is Jesus Christ, who came to pardon and to save a world. (Joseph Cook.)
Charles Kingsley’s view of Christ
Charles Kingsley is writing to Thomas Cooper, a man sometime Christian, in the stirring time of that agitation Chartist, then captured by the Strauss mythical theory and wandering in the dreary wastes of unbelief, then coming back--and largely through the influence of Charles Kingsley--to the most hearty and joyful acceptance of Jesus as incarnate God and Lord and only Saviour. Charles Kingsley is writing, to this Thomas Cooper, and thus he writes: “But my heart, Cooper, demands the Trinity, as much as my reason. I want to be sure that God cares for us, that God is our Father, that God has interfered, stooped, sacrificed Himself for us. I do not merely want to love Christ--a Christ, some creation or emanation of God’s--whose will and character for aught I know may be different from God’s. I want to love and honour the absolute, abysmal God Himself, and none other will satisfy me--and in the doctrine of Christ being co-equal and co-eternal, sent by, sacrificed by, His Father, that He might do His Father’s will, I find it--and no puzzling texts, like those you quote, shall rob me of that rest for my heart, that Christ is the exact counterpart of Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. I say boldly, if the doctrine be not in the Bible, it ought to be, for the whole spiritual nature of man cries not for it.” There has arisen a new branch of the science of astronomy called sidereal photography. Until lately only collodion plates could be used in photography. But such plates must be used wet. They could suffer only short exposure. They must be immediately developed. And so when exposed heavenward but a momentary flash from the stars could be caught and kept on their sensitive surfaces. But recently gelatine plates have been introduced. These are capable of long exposure. These can lie beneath the stars for hours. And lying thus, the shyest traits of the most distant stars can fasten themselves in pictures accurate, and gazing into them, fresh wonders are disclosing and a new door is opened into heaven’s depths. Like the gelatine plates, Charles Kingsley held his soul in such steady and long openness towards the incarnate Christ that in unusual measure the Christ revealed Himself to him, was seen by him to be the pre-eminent and luminous focus of the Divine revealing, became for him the object of the most passionate personal love. (Wayland Hoyt, D. D.)
Upholding all things by the word of His power
Christ the universal Upholder
The poets write much of one Atlas that bore up the heavens with his shoulders; but out- Saviour Christ is the true Atlas that beareth up heaven and earth. As He made the world, so He bears up the world, and keepeth it up from falling. If it were not for Him, the sun, moon, stars, and all the host of heaven would fall to the ground; if it were not for Him, the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, the beasts of the field would drop away in a moment; the earth would sink down under our feet, the sea would overflow its banks and drown us all. Our Saviour Christ bears up all; in regard of their nature He beareth up the devils themselves, and all his instruments in the world; He does not bear them out in their wickedness, but He beareth up their essence. In Him all live, breathe and have their being. But more particularly, in love and mercy He beareth up His children, and the members of Christ; as a father beareth his son and taketh him up into his arms, so doth He those whom He hath adopted in Christ. This may be a singular comfort to us all wheresoever we be, on the water or on the land, in the day or night, though we be among the thickest of our enemies, nay, among devils; yet the Lord Jesus beareth us in His hands, and none can take us out of His hands. This should cause us all to stand in awe of Him, to be afraid to displease Him. Will any be so mad as to make holes in the ship that beareth them? Will any hew down the pillars that bear up the house? Shall a child scratch out the eyes of the nurse that beareth him? Our Saviour Christ bears us up all: therefore let us not like rebels fight against Him by our sins; let us please Him all that we can, by whom we are borne up. They of Tyre and Sidon sought Herod’s favour because their land was nourished by him; all men throughout the wide compass of the world are nourished by our Saviour Christ. The breath would quickly be out of the nostrils of us all if it were not for Him. Kings, princes, noblemen, gentlemen, merchants, clothiers, rich and poor depend upon Him; if He take away His hand we are all gone. Therefore let us serve Him with all our might that beareth us up with His mighty word. (W. Jones, D. D.)
The world’s sustainer
The “word of His power” is the word that expresses and conveys His power. He “upholds all things,” i.e., sustains the organic body of the universe in all its applications, as one who made the world (Hebrews 1:2). In Colossians 1:17 the idea is slightly different; there the Son is the element in which the universe holds together, here He consciously sustains it. (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
Christ upholding the worlds
The other day, on one of the London streets, I saw a contrivance to judge a man’s strength by the power of his breath. You breathe into the machine, and by the weight you lift will be accurately estimated the power of your lungs. And Jesus Christ keeps the stars floating by the power of His breath just as children keep bubbles on a summer eve; He breathes and the planets swim as feathers in a breeze. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)
The word of power
I. THE UNIVERSAL REQUIREMENT. The nature and character of all created things is their inability to sustain themselves.
1. Material things. All are governed by law, and each has its own laws, by which all its actions and purposes are governed.
2. Animal life. “The eyes of all wait upon Thee,” &e.
3. Human existence. Not a breath is drawn but is given by God. Not a thought passes through the mind, nor a throb animates the heart without His Divine direction and supervision.
II. THE ALMIGHTY INSTRUMENT.
1. The Divine power. It is not susceptible of failure. Consider its vastness, different developments, continuity.
2. The method of manifesting this power. No exertion. No manual labour. (Homilist.)
Purged our sins
Expiation in order to reconciliation
The purification here specified is not the sanctification of the sinner’s soul; for the work is said to have been realised before Christ ascended into heaven. Atonement, or propitistion--an end attributed in so many other texts to the death of Christ (Isaiah 53:5-6; Isaiah 53:10-11; Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24-26; 1Co 1Ti 2:6; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 1:5; &c.)--is certainly what is meant. The language by which the idea is here denoted probably refers to the purification by sacrifice under the Levitical economy, as set forth in Leviticus 14:16. The work of expiation is here associated with human” sins”; atonement having an essential reference to sin as what requires expiation to be made in order to reconciliation between God and man. Christ is represented as having made the expiation “by Himself”--a view which both indicates the greatness of His condescending mercy in the matter, and accounts for the fact that, by His one sacrifice, such a mighty multitude of sins are pardoned, and such a mighty multitude of sinners are saved. It is strange, indeed, that “the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of God’s person”--that One who is Himself so glorious and so pure and against whom the sins of men are acts of foul rebellion--should have stooped so low, and suffered so much, and that for the very purpose of securing pardon and salvation for His foes. But the fact that He actually did so--here, and in so many other passages declared--evolves and exhibits magnificent and animating views alike of the transcendent mercy of His heart, and of the transcendent virtue of His work. (A. S. Patterson.)
Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high
The justly awarded remuneration
I. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE PERSON SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT IS DESCRIBED.
1. As “the brightness of the Father’s glory”--the manifestation of all that is essentially excellent in the Divinity.
2. As “the express image of His person.” Not that we are to infer that there either is, or can be, in the universe any image of the Divinity such as there may be of an object that is material; for the Divinity, in His essential character being absolutely invisible, because absolutely spiritual, cannot be materialised; and therefore, to think of Christ the Son of God as being the image of the Divinity in the same way in which one material object may be the image of another, were to degrade Him. But though in this respect He is not “the image” of the Divinity, yet not more exactly does an impression correspond with the seal, or a coin with the die, than Christ the Son of God corresponds with the Divinity. Of Him He is the image, and not merely the image, but the express image;--a resemblance, a likeness in entire conformity to its archetype; a clearly expressed, a complete likeness of the person, of the substance, of the essence of the Divinity;--such a likeness, such a resemblance, as comports with personal distinction; yet such as can originate only in sameness of existence or mode of existence,--as can originate only in perfect identity of nature.
II. THE WORK WHICH HE IS REPRESENTED AS HAVING PERFORMED. “Purged our sins.” That to which reference is here made, evidently proceeds on the principle that the circumstances of universal man by nature, were circumstances of moral degradation; and not only of moral degradation, but of moral danger--the sad consequence of the apostasy of the great earthly progenitor of man. Nay, more: it evidently proceeds on the principle that it lay not within the sphere of human ability to make reparation for the evil, and thus to remedy the one, and rescue him from the other. No agency was adequate but the agency of One who was Divine. For what, according to Scripture, is the expression “purged,” but another phrase for atonement by sacrifice? And what is this but what was required, that the work of “purging our sins” might be performed? But whilst, in order to this, an atonement by sacrifice was required, it was not an atonement by sacrifice of any description, but an atonement by sacrifice, in point of efficiency, unassailable, unquestionable. And is not this what Christ’s sacrificial atonement was, being as it was,
(1) superlative in its value,
(2) vicarous in its nature, and
(3) propitiatory in its result?
III. THE STATE TO WHICH, BY WAY OF REWARD, HE HAS BEEN EXALTED. It is more than probable, from the lessons taught us in this Epistle, that the primary idea intended to be conveyed is the official greatness of Christ as a priest, when contrasted with the priests under the law. Even the high priest, the chief of those priests, when he entered within the veil with the blood of the typical sacrifice which be had offered for the sins of the people, never sat down in the Holy Place, but, having stood for some time before the mercy-seat making intercession, he retired to offer a new sacrifice, that he might return anew to make intercession; and thus never, so to speak, accomplishing or completing the design of his office, he continued to go the round of his sacred duties. And as it was with the high priest, so it was, according to their order, with the other priests who were subordinate to him. “Every priest,” says our apostle, “standeth daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man,” even Christ, “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins,” to intimate the completion of His work, “for ever sat down on the right hand of God.” Although, however, this idea may have been the primary, yet other ideas, doubtless, are conveyed by the expression.
1. It conveys the idea of honour; and if of honour, of glory and felicity. “Nothing was accounted too costly, of an earthly kind, to render the Jewish temple of old in some degree a befitting audience-chamber for Him whose immensity pervades all space; and is there aught, the scope of infinite wisdom to devise, or of infinite power to effect, which we may not imagine to be brought into full operation in elevating, as the reward of His humiliation, the body of Christ--the most holy shrine of the Divinity--to the highest perfection of which that which is material is capable?” But Christ’s having sat down at the right hand of God conveys not merely the idea of honour, and glory, and felicity, but also
2. The idea of power; and if of power, of authority and dominion. (Alex. Jack, D. D.)
The mediatorial work, glory, and claims of Christ
I. THE LORD JESUS HAS PERFORMED A MOMENTOUS MEDIATORIAL WORK. With regard to the intrinsic nature of the work, it arose, as is suggested, by the expression of our text, from the condition of the human race, as being sinners against God, rebels against His authority, and therefore condemned by His law. And this state of sinfulness must be assumed as characterising them without exception and universally. The manner in which He accomplished the office was by descending from the altitude of His primeval dignity to the assumption of human nature by miraculous incarnation, and in that nature which had sinned, though Himself unsullied, and holy, enduring agony and death as a sacrifice to the Divine justice on behalf of the guilty. The sufficiency of His expiation is frequently brought before us in Scripture contrasted with the insufficiency of the Jewish offerings, which were typical of this. No matter how aggravated and complicated sin may be, it at once becomes blotted from the records of condemnation; and the transgressors are made inheritors of full acceptance and everlasting joy. You must recognise its sufficiency also in relation to time. It is permanent and inexhaustible. But then, while we remind you of the sufficiency of the Saviour’s sacrifice we must also remind you of its exclusiveness. For the purpose of expiatory redemption the sacrifice of Christ remains exclusive and alone.
II. THE LORD JESUS IS EXALTED TO A SPLENDID MEDIATORIAL GLORY.
1. Observe the station which He holds--“On the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This expression is intended to denote the revelation of God the Father as He displays the brightest manifestations of His glorious magnificence in heaven. The right hand of the sovereign is always esteemed among men as the place of peculiar honour; and the highest honour is offered to our Lord as the incarnate Mediator.
2. You will also observe, along with the station He holds, the posture He assumes. It is said, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”--a statement of attitude by no means insignificant.
(1) He bad a season of calm dignity after the tremendous struggles He sustained against the direct adversaries of God and man. He sits at the right band of the Father, as denoting His rest.
(2) Here also is denoted His authority. The ruler sits while those around him stand in token of inferiority and of reverence. The Saviour, we know, possesses authority and sovereignty with the Father, as being one with Him, and all power is given to Him in heaven and in earth. In the emphatic expression of the inspired writer--“He sits and rules upon His throne,” as the sign and token of His authority.
(3) Again, here also is denoted His discontinuance. The attitude before us is the sign of permanence. In heaven, whither the Saviour has gone, is His permanent abode, His home.
3. Observe also the operations He conducts. And here it is delightful to remember that, while in heaven the Lord is glorified and while in heaven He reposes from the toils and labours of His state of humiliation, He still is employed in avocations of incessant and earnest activity in order to secure the application of His sacrifice and to accomplish the results for which it was designed. “At the right hand of the Majesty on high” He intercedes--He is there still as the Priest of His people. There He presents, in some mode we cannot conjecture, the memorials of the sacrifice which once He perfected on the Cross of Calvary, and pleads that blessings may descend upon men, that they may be renewed, that they may be perfected, that through the power of the gracious Spirit which has been secured by His sacrifice they may be made meet for the inheritance of the saints. “He is gone,” and what a world of poetry as well as sublime truth is in the expression--“He is gone to appear in the presence of God for us.” “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
4. “At the right hand of the Majesty on high” He governs. The administration of the universe is committed to His hand. According to the expression of the earlier part of the verse, He “upholds all things by the word of His power.” There is not a distant star but is sustained and guided by Him; there is not an intelligent being in all its faculties and passions but is controlled by Him; there is not a material thing vast or minute but is wielded by Him. He has all power. The universe from its utmost limits is His own. In relation to the world in which we live, while the operations of Providence are at His bidding, He works in a special mode: It is His right and He will redeem it to Himself. He employs therefore His gospel, the truth which discloses and explains His attributes and functions, rendering effectual the announcements of truth by the power of the Spirit secured by His death and intercession, and thus accomplishing the recovery and conversion of individual men, overturning the vast combination of evils which have existed for so long a succession of ages and crushed millions in degradation and ruin, and finally accomplishing the triumph of His own dominion of peace, righteousness, purity, and happiness until all things shall be subdued unto Himself; for He shall have dominion and glory and the kingdom, the people of all nations and languages shall serve Him.
III. THE LORD JESUS POSSESSES IMPERATIVE MEDIATORIAL CLAIMS. The announcement in the text is for the purpose of vindicating and enforcing His claims; and men should do homage to His dignity; they should trust to His merits and devote themselves to His cause. (J. Parsons.)
The greatness and glory of the Redeemer
I. EXCELLENCY OF HIS DIVINE MAJESTY: THE OUTBEAMING OF HIS FATHER’S GLORY. By Him, as a medium, it becomes visible, and is brought within the range of our comprehension.
1. He is the Creator of all things: and, therefore, the glory of God, displayed in the creation, is through Him.
2. Displayed in His character as Mediator and Redeemer.
3. In Him the Divine glory essentially resides, and has been manifested by His various appearances since the foundation of the world. It is said of man, indeed, that he was made in the image of God, but Jesus Christ only is the express image of the substance of God, the exact representation of that in which the Divine nature differs from all other being.
II. THE ENERGY OF HIS ALL-CONTROLLING POWER. “He upholds all things by the word of His power.” All things--whole universe--things visible and invisible, small and great. “Upholds,” sustains, preserves, and regulates. “Word of His power,” powerful word! “He speaks, and it is done.”
III. “BY HIMSELF PURGED OUR SINS.” This refers to the Jewish ceremonies. “By Himself”: not by offering the greatest among men or angels. Such would not have been adequate to the occasion. To purge our sins He shed His blood.
IV. “SAT DOWN,” &c. This expresses His exaltation.
1. To the exceeding power of God.
2. To the highest dignity and honour.
3. By means of the right hand gifts are dispensed.
Gifts are the source of happiness. Therefore, the right hand of God is the place of celestial felicity. (Thomas Galland, M. A.)
Christ sitting in heaven
1. If Christ sitteth above in the highest places, then He beholdeth all things here below. A man that is upon the top of some high tower may see far: and Christ being in the high steeple and tower of heaven, can see all things on the earth. He that is upon the top of an high tower, may see men, but he cannot discern who they be: Christ sees them, and discerns them too. If the wicked be laying of plots and snares against His children, Christ being in heaven sees them, and in due time will overthrow them: and He that sitteth in heaven laugheth them to scorn. This is a singular comfort, that our Head, King, and Defender is in heaven, and hath equal power, glory, and majesty with God. If thou hast a friend in the court that sits daily by the king, and is in favour with him, wilt thou care for any in England? We have a friend that sitteth on the right hand of God, and hath all power in heaven and earth; therefore let us fear nothing; He will keep us, none shall do us any harm, but it shall all turn to our good in the end.
2. As Christ sitteth in the heavens, so we shall one day sit there with Him. Let this comfort us against all the calamities of this life: here the children of God are oftentimes made the wicked’s footstools, they sit on them, and tread on them: no reckoning is made of a godly man. A rich man that is a common drunkard and whoremaster shall be more esteemed of by many than a godly poor man. Here they sit weeping and wailing for their sins, for their children, for crosses in goods, in bodies, in good name; the wicked deriding them, jesting at them: but let this comfort us against them all; how contemptible soever we sit here, we shall sit with Christ Jesus, though not in that degree of glory, yet in the same kingdom of glory with Him for ever. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Being made so much better than the angels
The superiority of Christ to the angels
THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS NATURE.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS PREROGATIVE.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS OFFICE.
IV. THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS UNCHANGING EXISTENCE. Learn:
1. The error of those who would confound Christ with the angels.
2. The error of those who would bide Christ by the angels.
3. The error of those who would expect the success of Christianity from the intervention of the angels.
4. The error of those who think the Christian Church weak because it lacks angelic phenomena. We have the Cross; we have Pentecost; we need not seraphs or archangels. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Christ’s excellences above angels
1. Christ’s Divine nature is infinitely more excellent then an angelical spirit; yea, His human nature, by the hypostatical union of it with the Divine, hath likewise a dignity infinitely surpassing an angel’s nature.
2. Christ is the express image of the person of His Father, which is more than to be created, as angels were, after God’s image.
3. Christ is the brightness of God’s glory: therefore more glorious than the most glorious angels.
4. Christ is in heaven at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty: therefore in place of residency higher than angels. Christ’s function, to be a Mediator between God and man, is greater than any of the functions of angels.
6. Therefore Christ is more excellent than angels in their greatest excellences. Yet there is a greater excellency, wherein Christ doth further excel angels, comprised under this phrase, “a more excellent name.” This is that name which is above every name, at which every knee should bow Philippians 2:9-10). By virtue of this name He became a fit Mediator between God and man, and fit Saviour and Redeemer of man, a fit King, Priest, and Prophet of His Church; yea, and by virtue of this name, absolute dominion over all creatures, infinite majesty, Divine dignity, and all honour and glory is His; all worship, service, subjection, and duty is due unto Him. This name therefore must needs be beyond all comparison a most excellent name: and in this respect Christ may well be said to have a more excellent name than angels, because there is no comparison between them. The comparative epithet, translated “more excellent,” is derived from a compound verb that signifieth to “differ in excellency, or to excel” (1 Corinthians 15:41). It is translated “to be better “(Matthew 6:26), or” to be of more value” (Matthew 10:31). The positive of this comparative, signifieth divers or different (Romans 12:6). This word of comparison “more excellent,” is not to be taken of an exceeding in the same nature and kind, as one man is more excellent than another, but in different natures and kinds for Christ, as the Son of God, is of a Divine nature, even the Creator of all, and preferred before all created spirits; which though they be the most excellent of created substances, yet not to be compared with the Son of God. His name is infinitely more excellent then theirs; for by reason of this name He is the Lord of angels.
1. As He is the true, proper, only begotten Soil, by eternal generation. For the Father in communicating His essence to Him, communicated also this excellent name here intended.
2. As His human nature was hypostatically united to His Divine nature. For though according to the flesh He was not born of God the Father (in that respect He was, without Father, born of a Virgin), yet that flesh being personally united to the only begotten Son of God, He was born the Son of Luke 1:35). He was not then by grace and favour of no Son made the Son of God; but as God, and as God-man, He was the true begotten Son of God; and in both these respects the name here spoken of, by right of inheritance belonged to Him. (W. Gouge.)
Scripture speaks often of the angels. Let me remind you of some of the doctrines which the Bible contains concerning them. In the first place, human beings know nothing about angels except what God pleases to tell them. Hence all that human poets have imagined about them is of no value, unless it agrees with the Scripture. With regard to the angels, I may notice three tendencies to error. The first tendency to error we see in the Epistle to the Colossians, and we may call it “the Gnostic error,” when men, following their own speculative reason, endeavour to penetrate mysteries which are not revealed, and form erroneous views of the angels as to their nature, and their relation to God and to Christ. Secondly, the Romish error, according to which the angels are placed in a false mediatory position, and are invoked, when men rely upon their intercession, or call upon their aid. And the third tendency is what I may call the Protestant one--to think too rarely and in too isolated a manner about them, and not to remember vividly that they are constantly with us, that we and they are members of one great family.
1. Notice the multitude of angels: “We have come to an innumerable company of angels.”
2. This innumerable multitude is a polity, a state. There are gradations in it, groups, orders, legions of angels. There is a kingdom with gradations, with order. This kingdom is intimately connected with the kingdom of grace. When a sinner is converted, the angels rejoice; and when Jesus comes again, the angels will come with Him. They will last for ever, though they are not yet seen by us; and when all that is unreal and shadowy shall disappear, then they shall be made visible at the appearing of our great God and Saviour. Whenever there is a crisis in the history of God’s kingdom the angels appear, as at the giving of the law, and at the incarnation of the Son of God. When He conies again multitudes of angels shall come with Him and separate the evil from the good; before the angels Jesus shall confess His people. Angels are connected not merely with salvation and with the spiritual kingdom of God, but with all the kingdom of God; with all physical phenomena. God does not move and rule the world merely by laws and principles, by unconscious and inanimate powers, but by living beings full of light and love. His angels are like flames of fire; they have charge over the winds, and the earth, and the trees, and the sea. Through the angels He carries on the government of the world. Now, glorious as the angels are, they are in subjection to Jesus as man; for in His human nature God has enthroned Him above all things. Their relation to Jesus fixes also their relation to us. We know they love us; for they rejoice when a sinner turns from ungodliness and takes hold of salvation as it is in Jesus. They watch us in our dangers, in our difficulties. And after having ministered unto God’s people to the end of this age, they shall rejoice when they hear His voice saying unto the children, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” For Jesus’ sake, “are they not all ministering spirits?” Oh, how great is Jesus! How great is the covenant of grace! How great is the glory of the Son, and how wonderful is our position as children of the Father! (A. Saphir.)
Thou art My Son
The eternal Sonship of Christ
In the Divine generation these distinct points following are observable
1. God as a Father, even the first Person in Trinity, begetteth. In this respect the Son of God is called the begotten of the Father (John 1:14).
2. God the Father begat the Son of His very substance, very God of very God. The title God properly taken and frequently applied to this Son, gives proof hereto (John 1:1; Romans 9:5), and especially the title Jehovah, which is given to none but the true God (Genesis 19:24; Joshua 5:14).
3. God the Father communicateth His whole essence to the Son. He begat another self of Himself, even that which He Himself is. In which respect this Son of God saith, “I and My Father are one. The Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:30; John 10:38).
4. God the Father’s begetting His Son is truly and properly eternal. It was before all time, it continueth throughout all times, it shall never have any date, or end. In relation hereunto saith this Son of God, “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth: before the hills was I brought forth,” etc. Proverbs 8:23-25). In this sense He was called the firstborn Colossians 1:15). Firstborn, because He was begotten before all things; and only-begotten, because He alone was properly begotten of God.
5. God the Father’s begetting His Son, manifesteth an equality of Father and Son. For if the nature of both be inquired after, it will hereby be found to be God, and not one greater than another. This also did the Son receive of the Father. He did not beget Him equal, and then add to Him, when He was begotten, equality, but in begetting Him He made Him equal. For being in the form of God, to be equal with God was no robbery Philippians 2:6), but nature: because He obtained it by bring begotten, He did not usurp it by a proud advancing of Himself. Where equality is, there is the same nature, and one substance. (W. Gouge.)
This day have I begotten Thee
Sonship in the resurrection
I. THE SENSE IN WHICH WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND THE DIVINE AFFIRMATION. “I have begotten Thee.” Says Meyer: “I think that neither His eternal generation alone, as He is God, nor His temporary generation, as He is man, is here meant, but both. I have begotten Thee from eternity, in respect of Thy Divinity, and in time, as set forth by the term ‘this day.’ I have, by the overshadowing of My Spirit, begotten Thee of the Virgin Mary, according to Thy humanity, so as it may appear to all the world that Thou art both God and man, and so My most noble Son and the Prince of heaven; this being made evident sundry ways, but especially by Thy rising again from death to life.” That is, the resurrection was the day in which God made manifest that He had begotten the Lord Jesus as His Son; not that He was that particular day begotten, but the fact was then made patent, and proclaimed as the grand evidence of that article of faith which teaches us to say, “I believe in the resurrection of the dead.” Thus the act of our Lord’s resurrection presents the proof alike of His natural and eternal Sonship, being both divinely begotten. It sheds an equal lustre upon His eternal Deity and glorified humanity; and while the power which effected His resurrection exhibits Him as truly God, His condescension to the flesh, and death which preceded it, discovers Him as really Man; for who but man could die? and who but God could rise again? Death was the peculiar, and for aught I know, the exclusive sentence which was passed on man; life which could triumph over death, which is God’s ordinance, is the sole prerogative of God.
II. WHY WE THINK THE TERM “THIS DAY” EXCLUSIVELY DISTINGUISHES THE DAY OF HIS RESURRECTION,
1. Our first reason is, the position which the words occupy in the second Psalm, and the seventh verse, from which they are quoted. It is after “the heathen had raged, and the people had imagined a vain thing,” namely, that they could annihilate the pretensions of Jesus by His death; it is after the conspiring of the kings of the earth and their rulers that the decree is uttered, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” That is, the resurrection which succeeded the crucifixion manifested in the most signal manner, that notwithstanding the enmity, apparent success, and short-lived triumph of the Jews, “Truly,” after all, as the centurion confessed, “this man was the Son of God.”
2. Our second reason for considering this day the resurrection, is because the assembled apostles so applied the Psalm in the fourth chapter of Acts, the twenty-fifth and following verses, where, having pointed out the accomplishment of the former verses of the second Psalm, in the conspiracy of the rulers and people against Christ, it is added in the thirty-third verse, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection.”
3. A third reason we find in the Epistle to the Romans, the first chapter and the fourth verse, where St. Paul draws the distinction between Christ’s “being made of the seed of David, according to the flesh, but declared (not made) to be the Son of God, according to the Spirit of holiness, by His resurrection from the dead.” The word “ declared,” in this place, is of the same force as the Hebrew word which is translated “begotten,” and which also means “exhibited, or manifested”; or as Paul saith “declared.” “Thou art My Son; this day have I declared Thee”--that is, this day of Thy resurrection, I have owned Thee, manifested Thee, as the Son of God.
4. If there be any remaining doubt as to the application of this passage, I refer you fourthly, to the thirteenth chapter of Acts, and the thirty-third verse, where, after speaking of the promises of God made to the fathers, Paul adds, “God hath fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm--Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee”; that is, the raising up of Jesus was the evidence of His Sonship, and His Sonship is the pledge for the fulfilment of the promises.
5. Once more: in the fifth chapter of Hebrews, and the fifth verse, where it is asserted that Aaron, the first high priest under the legal dispensation, and Christ the first High Priest of the gospel, took not this office upon Himself till He was called, the calling of Christ is referred to the same event and in the same terms as in the text are employed to prove the superiority of His nature over that of the angels. Then the day of His resurrection was the day of His ordination to the high priesthood.
III. WHAT WAS THE OFFICE AND COMMISSION CONFERRED UPON THE LORD JESUS BY THE DIVINE TESTIMONY? “ Thou art My Son.” Angels needed not this attestation. They had often heard the grand acknowledgment in heaven. The eternal Sonship of the Christ was no secret there. But as Jesus said of the answer which mysteriously reached Him from the clouds at the raising of Lazarus, so might He have said of the testimony which accompanied His own resurrection--“Because of the people who stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me”; that is, God condescended visibly and audibly to acknowledge His Son on earth, that man might believe that He was sent from heaven.
1. The title of the Son of God imports dignity. Hence the apostle’s argument in the text” Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son?”
2. The title of the Son of God imports office. It implies, in connection with His other title, “the Son of man”--which is applied to Christ about eighty times by the evangelists--a mediatorial office; that the Son of man, equally as the Son of God, is the connecting link between God and man, both natures being reconciled by His office as the two are united in His person.
3. Again: as the Son of God, Christ is our Prince and Judge. Henceforth, said He, “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son”; and Peter adds, “He is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” This is His present office; His sovereignty is now wholly exercised in grace. It now deals in love, mercy, and forbearance. Now He pleads at the throne--hereafter He will sentence from the throne.
4. Once more: as the Son of God, Christ is “the Firstborn among many brethren.” The term “firstborn” does not necessarily infer that the person to whom the epithet is applied is a creature; it often imports no more than excellency, or supremacy, or peculiar favour. Thus Job speaks of “the firstborn of death”--that is, the chief strength of death; so Christ is called in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, and the fifteenth verse, “the Firstborn of every creature,” “the Firstborn from the dead”--that is, the chief and supreme of all the creatures, as the Rabbins themselves spoke of Jehovah as “ the Firstborn of the creation,” or at the bead of the universe. It is also a term of endearment and special favour. Thus the Lord said in the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah, and the ninth verse--“Ephraim is My firstborn”; in other words, that His people were very dear to Him. In all these senses Christ is to us the Firstborn of God. He is our Strength and Excellency, our “Firstfruits from the dead”; and “because He lives, we shall live also”; for we are said to be “ begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And further, “He is Head over all things to His Church”; and as there is a name given unto Him which is above every name, so that name is ours. Christ’s people are called Christians. “I will write upon you,” said He, “My new name”; and that is “the everlasting name which shall not be cut off.” (J. B. Owen, M. A.)
Christ the First-begotten
I. We understand by this title, THE ETERNAL GENERATION AND SONSHIP OF OUR LORD; His possession of a seed and family made like unto Him here in holiness and hereafter in glory; His rule and preeminence in the house and family of God; His character, as head over all things to the Church.
II. We understand by the bringing in of the First-begotten into the world--THE MANIFESTATION OF THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD IN OUR FLESH--His birth, according to the prophet, of the Virgin Mary. Great indeed is this mystery: let us adore it reverentially! The joy which should pervade our hearts must be a holy joy; the feelings that should possess cur minds should be of lively gratitude and ready obedience.
III. But let us notice WHAT IS TO BE INFERRED FROM THE ADORATION ENJOINED UPON THE ANGELS: this adoration we find rendered at the birth of this wondrous personage; at His agony in the garden they waited on Him; at His resurrection and ascension they were in attendance upon His Majesty; and still they worship and adore. What can we conclude from the adoration of angels, but that He whom angels adore is God and Lord? Again, may we not conclude that the work of our redemption has been undertaken by One who is altogether equal to the task? May we not thus far be of good courage, and place our entire confidence in the virtue of His redemption? Lessons:
1. The unspeakable humiliation of our Lord. How low has He stooped to do us service! Are we filled with the opinion of our own importance? Let us turn to the manger and the stable; let us dwell upon the matchless humility of the Lord of life and glory; let us learn from it to be lowly in our own eyes.
2. Though we cannot copy the act, yet we can copy the motive, the spirit which brought the First-begotten into the world. By love we must serve one another.
3. Again, we are instructed hereby to deny self. (H. J. Hastings, M. A.)
Christ the First-begotten
That which the apostle here intendeth under this title “first-begotten,” is to set forth the excellency of the person of Christ, as God-man, and that
1. In His priority, which is eternity, as He is God (Proverbs 8:24-25).
2. In His dignity, being the most excellent of all (Genesis 49:3).
3. In regard of His dominion over all (Psalms 2:6-7).
4. In regard of the largeness of His inheritance (Psalms 2:8). (W. Gouge.)
And let all the angels of God worship Him
These words are an exact quotation from Deuteronomy 32:4, as it stands in the LXX. version, but are not found in the original. The use of that passage as a Jewish liturgy of praise probably led to its expansion into a fuller song of triumph by additions borrowed from other parts of Scripture; and these words may have been taken from Psalms 97:7, as it stands in LXX. version--“Worship Him all ye His angels.” In the farewell song of Moses, the verse is introduced on occasion of a majestic prophecy of the Lord’s appearance to judge the enemy and avenge His people. All such prophecies were interpreted in a Messianic sense; therefore the Epistle makes the reappearance of the firstborn the occasion for that angelic worship. In Deuteronomy the adoration is rendered to Jehovah; in the Epistle it is not clear whether it is rendered to Him or to the firstborn; it is therefore right to follow the Old Testament meaning the passage is quoted by way of exhibiting the subordinate position of angels as mere worshippers. (F. Rendall, M. A.)
Christ the object of angelic worship
I. IF ANGELS WORSHIP CHRIST, HIS CLAIMS TO WORSHIP ARE UNDOUBTED. There are only two conceivable causes for the worshipping of false gods:
1. The want of intelligence.
2. The want of right sympathies.
II. IF ANGELS WORSHIP CHRIST, THEN THE OBLIGATIONS OF MEN TO DO SO MUST REIMMENSE. Besides being the brightness of His Father’s glory, He is the expiator of human sin, &e.
III. IF ANGELS WORSHIP CHRIST, THEN A PRESIDING SYMPATHY WITH HIM IS THE NECESSARY MEETNESS YOU HEAVEN. It is even connected with two things:
1. An appreciative knowledge of Him.
2. An unreserved concurrence with Him. (Homilist.)
Christ worshipped by angels
I. THE FIRST THING WHICH THE TEXT TEACHES IS THAT CHRIST IS A PROPER OBJECT OF DIVINE WORSHIP. We know who has said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10), and we know also, from St. John’s description in the Apocalypse, of the worship of heaven, that the Church universal, saints and angels, will pay Divine honours to Him who appeared upon earth as the gentle Babe of Bethlehem (Revelation 5:13). Thus speaks the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity (Isaiah 42:8). If Christ Jesus be not God, how can the Almighty Father contradict Himself, and say even to the bright intelligences that minister about His throne, “Let all the angels of God worship Him?” If Christ be not a proper object of Divine adoration, how is it that we hear the meek and lowly Son of Mary declare, without hesitation or reserve, that “All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father”? (John 5:23). If Christ Jesus be not one with the Father and the Blessed Spirit, in the glory of the Eternal Trinity, why did the disciples who met Him after the resurrection bow themselves down and worship Him? Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52).
II. The text suggests another point--THAT THE INCARNATION AFFORDS A SPECIAL CALL UPON ALL IN EARTH AND HEAVEN TO ASCRIBE UNTO HIM THE HONOUR WHICH IS DUE UNTO HIS NAME. During the reign of Theodosius the Great, in the fourth century, the Arians put forth their strongest efforts to undermine that all-important doctrine of the divinity of our blessed Lord. The interesting event of making his son Arcadius the sharer with him of his throne was happily overruled to his discovering the fearful error which was thus sapping the foundations of the faith. Among the bishops who came to congratulate Theodosius on the occasion was Amphilochus, Bishop of Iconium, a man most highly esteemed. Approaching the emperor, the bishop addressed him in fitting words, and was about to withdraw from the presence chamber, when the angry father exclaimed, “Do you take no notice of my son? Have you not heard that I have made him a partner with me in the empire.” The good old bishop gave no direct answer, but going up to Arcadius, a lad of sixteen, he laid his hands upon his head, saying, “The Lord bless thee, my son!” and once more turned to depart. Even this did not satisfy the emperor, who inquired, in a tone of surprise and displeasure, “Is this all the respect you pay to a prince that I have made of equal dignity with myself? “ The bishop indignantly answered, “Do you so highly resent my apparent neglect of your son, because I do not treat him with equal honour with yourself? What, then, must the eternal God think of you, who have allowed His co-equal and co-eternal Son to be degraded from His proper divinity in every part of your empire?” Theodosius felt that the withering rebuke was well deserved, and he ceased from that moment to show the least indulgence to such as ventured to cast dishonour upon the Son of God. It is not only our duty, but our precious privilege, to worship our Divine Saviour. (L N. Norton, D. D.)
Worship due to Christ from all
If the angels worship Christ, shall not we men that be dust and ashes worship Him? If the lords of the privy council stand bare to the king, shall not we silly men of the country do it? The angels that dwell in the court of heaven with God worship Christ; and shall not we on earth do it? Let us worship Him, and Him alone; let us not worship our gold and silver as covetous men do, and come within compass of idolatry; let us not worship our pleasures as epicures do, but let us worship Christ as the angels do. We worship Christ with our lips, we have His name in our mouth, but we worship Him not with our hearts and lives. A great number of Christians are like the soldiers that set a crown of thorns on Christ’s head, put a reed instead of a sceptre into His hand, clothed Him with a purple garment, and in the end did nothing but mock Him. So we talk gloriously of Christ and of His kingdom; in words we profess Him to be our King; but we do not worship Him in truth and sincerity, and serve Him in holiness and righteousness as we ought to do. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Who maketh His angels spirits
Angelic life and its lessons
It is true there are many who deny the existence of any spiritual beings save God and man. The wide universe is to them a solitary land without inhabitants. There is but one oasis filled with living creatures. There is something pitiable in this impertinence. It is a drop of dew in the lonely cup of a gentian, which imagines itself to be all the water in the universe. It is the summer midge which has never left its forest pool, dreaming that it and its companions are the only living creatures in earth or air. There is no proof of the existence of other beings than ourselves, but there is also no proof of the contrary. Apart from revelation, we can think about the subject as we please. But it does seem incredible that we alone should represent in the universe the image of God; and if in one solitary star another race of beings dwell, if we concede the existence of a single spirit other than ourselves, we have allowed the principle; the angelic world of which the Bible speaks is possible to faith. Our life with nature has lost its beauty, its joy, its religion. It was different with the ancient Jew and with the apostles and their followers. They lived in a world peopled with spiritual beings. They believed in invisible assistants, who were doing God’s pleasure and sympathising with His children. The hosts of heaven moved in myriads in the sky. The messengers of God went to and fro working His righteous will. The sons of God shouted for joy when the creation leaped to light. In every work of nature, in the summer rain and the winter frost, in the lifting of the billow on the sea and the growth of the flower on the plain, there were holy ones concerned who sang the hymn of continued creation to the Eternal Love. The very winds themselves were angels, and the flaming fires ministers of God.
I. Take first, THE RELATION OF GOD TO ANGELIC LIFE.
1. The first thing we understand of the angels is that in distant eternities God created them. God gave of His own life to others, and filled His silence with living souls. Here we have the principle of the social life of God. He listened with pleasure to the song of joy which filled His universe, and received and gave back in ceaseless reciprocation the offered love of the spirits He had made. And in that thought all social life on earth should be hallowed by being made like to that of God; we should be as gods and angels one to another, interchanging ever love and service. Is that the ideal which in society you strive to reach? Again
2. The angelic creation reveals to us the very principle of God’s proper life. He would not have a life which began and ended in Himself. His life was life in others. In giving of His life He lived.
II. I pass on to THE RELATION OF THE ANGELIC LIFE OF GOD. It is described as a life of exalted praise. The angels are pictured as employed in ceaseless adoration. The nearer that you live to God here, the nearer you will approach the angelic life. Our state of imperfection is characterised by prayer, the state of perfection is characterised by praise; and it is curious to mark in the history of some of the noblest of God’s saints, how, as they drew near the close of life and entered more into communion with the heavenly existence, prayer seems to be replaced by a sacred awe, and a deeper knowledge of holiness breaks forth into continual praise. So far for angelic life in connection with God.
III. We pass on to consider, AS IT IS DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE, ANGELIC LIFE IN CONNECTION WITH NATURE. The Hebrew religious feeling always retained some traces of its connection through Abraham with Chaldaea. The old pastoral faith which was born on the wide plains of the East, with a magnificent arch of sky above, in which the sun and moon and stars walked cloudless with what seemed the stately step of gods, was always breaking through the pure monotheism which God revealed to the patriarchs. And not only the ordering of the stars, but all manifestations of the forces of nature were, in the poetry of the Hebrews, directed by the angels. Certain masters in science will smile at all this, and ask if that be philosophy? And I answer, No, not philosophy, but something higher--poetry; and as such, not disclosing the relations of phenomena, but revealing, through symbolic phrase, a principle. It matters very little whether the angels be the directing powers of the elements and their combinations or not; but it does much matter to us as spiritual beings with what eyes we look upon the universe--as a living whole informed and supported by a living will, or as dead matter drifting on in obedience to dead laws. So do we grasp the truth of these old Hebrew sayings of the angels--that nature in essence, or rather, in that actual world of which it is the witness, is not inanimate, but living. Then the universe becomes clothed in a more glorious form. “The dead heavy mass which did but block up space is vanished, and in its place there flows forward, with the music of eternal waters, a stream of life and power and action “ which issues from the source of all life--the living will of God. Then it happens that to us the whole course of nature, and each separate thing within it, give up to us the secrets they half conceal and half express They speak not to intellect only or to feeling only, but to the entirety of our being. All God s living spirits are doing within the sphere of His life a portion of this redeeming work. The angels do it perchance as He performs it, finding a perfect joy in sacrifice; we are doing it in agony, finding every sacrifice a pain, and yet learning through the very pain to realise the sacrifice as joy; giving up our life with strong crying and with tears, but strangely discovering that we have been led into life: till at last the secret smites upon our heart in an ineffable light which transfigures all our being, and looking up to where, upon the cross of Calvary, all humanity was sacrificed and all life given away in infinite love that the life of the world might be, we know at last in Him the mystery of the universe. We see the very Life itself in the love which, in giving His Son, gave Himself. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
Angels and their alliance with nature
His angels spirits; better, His angels winds. The quotation is from Psalms 104:4, according to the Greek translation. Two things are expressed: first, the service of the angels; and second, their alliance in this service to the material elements; under God’s transforming hand they suffer a change into winds and a flame of fire. This idea is not to be pressed so far as to imply that the angelic essence undergoes a transformation into material substance, but only that the angels are clothed with this material form, and in their service assume this shape to men. Illustrations of the idea from the Rabbinical writers are not wanting. “The angel said unto Manoah, I know not after what image I am made, for God changes us every hour; why, therefore, dost thou ask after my name? Sometimes He makes us fire, at other times wind; sometimes men, at other times again angels.” God is named God of hosts because He does with His angels as He pleases; He makes them sometimes sitting (Judges 6:11), sometimes standing (Isaiah 6:2), sometimes to resemble women (Zechariah 5:9), sometimes men (Genesis 18:2), &c. “When His angels are sent forth as messengers they are made winds Psalms 104:4), when they minister before the throne of His glory they are flames of fire” (cf. Exodus 3:2)
. (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
A flame of fire
Angels likened to fire.
1. Fire is lightsome and strikes a terror into men, so do the angels when they appear.
2. Fire is of a subtle and piercing nature: so are the angels, they are quickly here and there.
3. Fire consumes and burns up; so do they the wicked, our enemies. This is the greatest honour of the angels to be God’s ministers and messengers; so must we count it the greatest dignity of all men on the face of the earth. Though thou beest a rich tradesman, a wealthy merchant, a gentlemen of great revenues, a knight, a lord, or a king; yet the most magnificent style thou canst have is this, to be God’s minister and servant, to be His messenger and to go on His errands. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Thy throne, O God, Is for ever and ever
Christ’s throne and sceptre
I. THE THRONE.
1. It is a mercy throne.
2. It is a rich throne.
3. It is a throne of plenty.
II. THE SCEPTRE.
1. Righteously acquired.
2. Christ makes war in righteousness.
3. Christ maintains the rights of heaven. (James Wells.)
I. THE. THRONE OF MESSIAH. The power of Christ is
(1) Moral, not secular.
(2) Personal, not derived.
(3) Universal, not local.
II. THE SCEPTRE OF MESSIAH. The righteousness of His
III. THE CROWN OF MESSIAH. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Divinity of Christ
So thoroughly intermingled with the whole texture of New Testament Scripture is the Godhead of the Saviour, that no criticism which does not destroy the book can altogether extinguish its testimony. We have seen a copy of the Gospels and Epistles which was warranted free from all trace of the Trinity, but it was not the Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We beheld it, and we received instruction. It did not want beauty; for the Parables and the Sermon on the Mount, and many a touching passage, still were there. But neither would a garden want beauty if the grass plats and green bushes still remained, though you had carefully culled out every blossoming flower. The humanity of Jesus still is beautiful, even when the Godhead is forgotten or denied. Or rather it looked like a coronation tapestry, with all the golden threads torn out; or an exquisite mosaic from which some unscrupulous finger had abstracted the gems and only left the common stones: you not only missed the glory of the whole, but in the fractures of the piece and the coarse plaster with which the gaps were supplied, you saw how rude was the process by which its jewels had been wrenched away. It was a casket without the pearl. It was a shrine without the Shekinah. And yet, after all, it was not sufficiently expurgated; for, after reading it, the thought would recur--how much easier to fabricate a Gnostic Testament exempt from all trace of our Lord’s humanity, than a Unitarian Testament ignoring His divinity! (James Hamihon, D. D.)
Christ is God
Think of all that is represented by that great word “God”; who can fathom it? Nothing is easier than to say the word “universe,” and yet it would take us millions of millions of years to bestow one hasty glance upon the surface of that small portion of it which lies within the range of our glasses. But what are all suns, comets, earths, moons, atmospheres, seas, rivers, mountains, valleys, plains, woods, cattle, wild beasts, fish, fowl, grasses, plants, shrubs, minerals, and metals, compared with the meaning of the one name God!” (C. Stanford, D. D.)
The dominion of Jesus Christ
I. The conferring and COMPARING OF SCRIPTURES IS AN EXCELLENT MEANS OF COMING TO AN ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE MIND AND WILL OF GOD IN THEM. Thus dealeth the apostle in this place; he compareth what is spoken of angels in one place, and what of the Son in another, and from thence manifesteth what is the mind of God concerning them.
II. IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL BELIEVERS TO REJOICE IN THE GLORY, HONOUR, AND DOMINION OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. Herein God is glorified. The kingdom of Christ is the glory of God; thereby is His name and praise exalted in the world; and therefore upon the erection and setting of it up are all His people so earnestly invited to rejoice and triumph therein (Psalms 95:1-3; Psalms 96:1-4; Psalms 97:1; Psalms 79:2).
2. Herein doth the honour and glory of Christ as Mediator consist, which is a matter of great rejoicing unto all that love Him in sincerity.
3. Our own concern, safety, present and future happiness, lie herein: our all depends upon the kingdom and throne of Christ. He is our King, if we are believers; our King to rule, protect, and save us; to uphold us against opposition, to supply us with strength, to guide us with counsel, to subdue our enemies, to give us our inheritance and reward, and therefore our principal interest lies in His throne, and in the glory and stability thereof. While He reigneth, we are safe, and in our way to glory.
4. The whole world, all the creation of God, are concerned in this kingdom of Christ. Except His enemies in hell, the whole creation is benefited by His dominion; for as some men are made partakers of saving grace thereby, so the residue of that race, by and with them, do receive unspeakable advantages in the forbearance of God; and the very creature itself is raised, as it were, into a hope thereby of deliverance from that state of vanity whereunto now it is subjected (Romans 8:20-21).
III. IT IS THE DIVINE NATURE OF THE LORD CHRIST THAT GIVES ETERNITY, STABILITY, AND UNCHANGEABLENESS TO HIS THRONE AND KINGDOM.
IV. ALL THE LAWS, AND THE WHOLE ADMINISTRATION OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST BY HIS WORD AND SPIRIT, ARE ALL EQUAL, RIGHTEOUS, AND HOLY. “His sceptre is the sceptre of righteousness.” The world indeed likes them not; all things in its rule seem to it weak and foolish (1 Corinthians 1:20-23), but they are otherwise, the Holy Ghost being Judge, and such they appear unto them that do believe; yea, whatever is requisite to make laws and administrations righteous, it cloth all concur in those of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Christ is vested with sufficient authority for the enacting of laws and rules of administration in His kingdom.
2. Christ is abundantly furnished with wisdom for this purpose. He is the foundation-stone of the Church, that hath seven eyes upon Him Zechariah 3:9). A perfection of wisdom and understanding in all affairs of it; being anointed with the Spirit unto that purpose (Isaiah 11:3-4). Yea, in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge Colossians 2:3), it having pleased the Father that in Him all fulness should dwell (Colossians 1:19), so that there can be no defect in His laws and administrations on this account.
3. They are righteous, because they are easy, gentle, and not burdensome.
(1) His commands are all of them reasonable, and suited unto the principles of that natural obedience we owe to God; and so not grievous unto anything in us, but that principle of sin and darkness which is to be destroyed.
(2) His commands are easy, because all of them are suited to that principle of the new nature, or Dew creature, which He worketh in the hearts of all His disciples.
(3) His commands are easy, because He continually gives out supplies of Life Spirit, to make His subjects to yield obedience to them.
(4) This rule and administration of Christ’s kingdom is righteous, because useful and profitable to His subjects. They make them holy, righteous, such as please God and are useful to mankind.
(5) Their end manifests them to be righteous. The worth and equity of laws are taken off when low and unworthy ends are proposed to induce men to observe them. But these of the Lord Christ direct unto the highest end, propose and promise the most glorious rewards.
V. (see Isaiah 11:1-7).
VI. GOD IS A GOD IN ESPECIAL COVENANT WITH THE LORD CHRIST, AS HE IS MEDIATOR, GOD THY GOD.
VII. THE COLLATION OF THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD CHRIST, AND HIS GLORIOUS EXALTATION, ARE THE PECULIAR WORKS OF GOD THE FATHER. “God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee.”
VIII. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS SINGULARLY IN THIS UNCTION. This is that which the apostle proves in sundry instances, and by comparing Him with others who in the most eminent manner were partakers of it.
IX. ALL THAT SERVE GOD IN THE WORK OF BUILDING THE CHURCH, ACCORDING TO HIS APPOINTMENT, ARE ANOINTED BY HIS SPIRIT, AND SHALL BE REWARDED BY HIS POWER (Daniel 12:3).
X. THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO SERVE HIM IN HIS CHURCH FAITHFULLY, ARE HIS COMPANIONS IN ALL HIS GRACE AND GLORY, (John Owen, D. D.)
Christ is an eternal King, so is no angel, therefore is to be honoured above them. Thus having made mention of His kingdom, then He describeth it more at large, that though we could imagine easily that angels in honour deserved the name of kings, yet such a kingdom no angel could ever have; an everlasting throne, a righteous sceptre, exalting troth, beating down iniquity: in worthiness whereof God hath anointed this king with gladness above all other, and hath called Him by the name of God Himself. In this Scripture there are four special things spoken. First, He is called God alone, and without additions, even as the prophet Isaiah Isaiah 9:7) also calleth Him the mighty God. By which warrant of the prophets being a most sure word, the apostles are bold to give to our Saviour Christ the name and power of the living God (John 1:2; John 1:20.; 1 John 5:20; Romans 9:4; Colossians 2:6). The second thing here attributed to Christ is, that His kingdom is everlasting, So the prophet Isaiah had said (Isaiah 9:7). The same testimony the angel gave of Hiskingdom when he came to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:33). And how can this be possibly applied unto Solomon so directly against the Scripture, that the sceptre should be taken once away, not only from the house of Solomon, but from all the tribe of Judah? And how could they not see with their eyes the ruin of that kingdom and the throne of Solomon quite forgotten. The third thing attributed here to Christ is, that the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of His kingdom, according as David saith Psalms 97:2). And the meaning of these words is after expressly added
- “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.” This is the sceptre ofrighteousness which He speaketh of, that is, that His government shall be without all respect of persons, a ministry of justice, and true judgment, even according to the will of God His Father, with whom there is no acceptation of the person of a man. And how can they attribute this to Solomon? They know how Solomon did fall away so far from righteousness, and hated iniquity so little ere he died, that he became a notable idolater. And how was his government in such justice when the whole people came after to Rehoboam his son, and said: “Thy father did make our yoke grievous, now therefore make thou the grievous servitude of thy father lighter, and we will serve thee” (1 Kings 12:4). The fourth thing here spoken of our Saviour Christ is, that for this cause God hath anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows. For this cause, saith the Scripture, because Thou lovedst so much justice, what mean they still to think here upon Solomon, and of such reward of his righteous rule, except they would have the Scriptures false that bear witness of Him. “He had turned has the prophet saith judgment into wormwood.” And how standeth it that he was anointed with the oil of gladness? that is, with gifts of the Holy Ghost above his fellows, when many kings of Judah have greater praise of God than he? and: scarce any did fall from God so grievously as he. Now one refuge behind, which they think they have, is nothing at all. They will say that all this was spoken in respect of his beginning, in which he was famous, with this oil of gladness above his fellows, and above all the world. True it is in respect of his government at the first; but are not the words plain that they are not meant of any that should begin well and then fall back? For saith not the text, that this sceptre of justice shall be in His kingdom for ever? know, where Christ is set out thus a King for ever, we are taught not by days and times to measure His commandments, but to hold them without change as the government for ever of His eternal kingdom, for it is too gross folly for us to say He is still our King if we dare abrogate His laws, for He is our Ruler for ever, and yet without Him we will make laws continually? Was it ever heard among earthly kings that subjects could either repeal or change their prince’s laws? or make laws without them in their own kingdom? or can there be greater treason than to conspire for such a lewd liberty? And now to the end we may the more willingly do this, both we and our kings whom God hath set over us, let us mark this further which the apostle addeth of our Saviour Christ, that “His sceptre is a sceptre of righteousness”; meaning (as I said) that His government is all in truth and righteousness. And here let us also mark how the apostle setteth out this righteousness of Christ. “Thou hast [saith he] loved transgression and sin So the prophet David saith: “I hate vain inventions, but Thy law I love.” And again, “Thy law I love, but I hate falsehood and abhor it” (Psalms 119:113; Psalms 119:163). Even so must we hate iniquity if we love righteousness, and abhor falsehood if we love the truth. And this is that eternal law which God gave from the beginning. I will, saith He, set enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It followeth in the end of this seventh verse, “Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” In this we may learn another notable cause why we should acknowledge Christ our only King and Lawgiver. Because He is thus anointed, that is, in Him dwelleth all fulness of grace, and the treasures of all wisdom and knowledge are hid in Him; so that leave Him, leave His laws, leave His sceptre, we leave instruction, we leave righteousness, we leave eternal life. And here note that the oil of gladness is the gift of the Spirit of God; gladness to ourselves, because it filleth us with joy in the Lord, and gladness to others because it poureth grace into our lips, to comfort the weak-hearted, and to make us a sweet savour of life unto life, to all that hearken unto us. (E. Deering, B. D.)
The Messiah’s throne
I. A THRONE suggests many a sad and yet many a brilliant contrast. When one thinks of thrones, one cannot but compare how frail have been the noblest thrones that emperors and kings have sat on, but how enduring that throne on which the Lamb is enthroned for ever and ever. Alexander’s throne is a mere word in history; the throne of Caesar has passed into the hands of a miserable superstitious priest. Thrones that once awed the world by their majesty, and from which voices came that shook the nations, are relics stored in museums, or studied by inquisitive antiquaries. The occupant of this throne, we read in this passage, is God. If Deity were not the occupant, if Omnipotence were not its foundation, the past history of this throne would be a prophecy of its everlasting duration. Sin rushed against it at the Fall; Satan predicted its overthrow; one would have thought it could scarcely withstand the force of an element that had thrust itself into the world in spite apparently of God. Infidelity has ass ,fled it with all its might. “He must reign,” it is truly said, “till he has made all His enemies His footstool.”
II. But, in the second place, let me notice a great element in this throne--ITS RIGHTEOUSNESS. “A sceptre of righteousness.” We are told in Scripture that all the laws that come from it are righteous laws; that its mercy is righteous, that its blessings are righteous, that its whole economy is righteous. And all thrones on earth partake of the strength of this just in the ratio in which they reflect its glorious character. What a great truth, that just in proportion as true religion saturates the masses of Great Britain, in the same proportion does it become strong, united, lasting! Let us now see where and over whom Christ reigns.
1. He reigns in the world; His throne is in the midst of the nations. Over the world He does not yet reign, for it is not yet universally reclaimed. In the world He does reign, or the world would go absolutely to ruin. Things that are wrong He restrains; things that He permits He overrule to His own glory. Depend upon it, Christ is in history; Christ is in its every chaplet, His presence in its every winding, His power giving direction to its every movement; and the explanation of all that is inexplicable now, He tells us that we shall know hereafter.
2. But Christ’s throne, or His reigning or governing presence, is not only in the world, it is also in the Church. What is good in it He inspires; what is evil in it He overrules. Again, every open door for the spread of the gospel in the visible Church results from the influence of the throne. The free course that is given to the Scripture is also the creation of Him who watches over the destinies of His own, and provides for the spread of the everlasting gospel. Because Christ’s throne is in that Church, we expect the increase of tidal Church. The darkness that now broods over the magnificent lands of the East shall one day be dissipated, and the rays of a rising sun of Righteousness shall be reflected from mosque and minaret, over the length and breadth of Eastern Christendom. The deadly superstition that now broods over the Western nations of the earth is soon to be scattered.
3. Let me ask now, in conclusion, is this throne, so precious in the world and in the Church--that makes us see all things adverse or friendly, co-operating or contributing only to its greater grandeur and magnificent.
in your hearts? Is Christ , our Prophet that teaches you, your Priest that pleads for you, your King that rules over you? Do you see Him in all that betides you as individuals, present in the tiniest rivalet of private life as truly as in the great cataracts of national history; in the individual
Christian’s heart a presence as precious as in the government of the world; in the development of the Church, in the spread of His kingdom and the glory among all nations? Do you find your afflictions sanctified to you? do you feel your losses and your crosses weaning you from earth and winning you to God? (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness
Christ’s holiness and unction
Jesus as mediator is advanced by God, not only above all men, but also above all angels. In handling of this point--I shall speak of the holiness of Christ; His unction, which is the consequent and fruit of it.
I. THE HOLINESS OF CHRIST, BOTH AS TO HIS PERSON AND OFFICE.
1. AS to His person. There we must consider the original holiness of His natures, Divine and human. Divine; He is called “ A just God and a Saviour” (Isaiah 45:21). Human; He was wholly free from that original contagion wherewith others that come of Adam are defiled (Luke 1:35). Now add to this His perfect actual obedience to God both in heart and life, and this either to the common law of duty that lieth upon all mankind, for it “ became Him to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), or that particular law of mediation which was proper to Himself Hebrews 5:8), “Though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things He suffered”; by which He answered the end of the law which we have broken, and was also the meritorious cause of the covenant of grace, by which all blessings are conveyed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Well, then, His personal holiness did make Him acceptable to God, and should make Him amiable to us.
2. Now let us see how He showeth this love to holiness and hatred to iniquity in His office as well as in His person. The general term whereby this office is expressed is mediator. The three particular functions are those of prophet, priest, and king.
(1) As to the general term mediator, whose work it is to make peace between God and man, all that He did therein was out of His love to righteousness and hatred of iniquity. So much we are told (Daniel 9:24). Now, because His heart was so much set upon this, God “anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows.”
(2) Come we to those three particular functions wherein this office is exercised, those of prophet, priest, and king.
(a) As a Prophet, by His doctrine He showeth that He loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity, for the whole frame of it diseovereth and breatheth out nothing else but a hatred against sin and a love to holiness (John 17:17; Psalms 119:140). All the histories, mysteries, precepts, promises, threatenings, aim at this one business, that ,in may be subdued in us, and brought into disrepute in the world.
(b) His priestly office consists in His oblation and intercession, as the High Priest under the law did both offer sacrifice and intercede for the people. Now what was the intent of Christ’s sacrifice but to put away sin? Hebrews 9:26).
(3) The next thing is a King. He is one whose heart was so set upon the love of righteousness, and the hatred of all iniquity, that He would come ,s a prophet Himself to teach the lost world how to become holy again. And as a priest to die for the guilty world to reconcile them to God. Surely He was fit also to rule the world. There are two parts of government--laws and actual administration. His laws are all good and equal, the same with His doctrine. As He giveth notice of these things as a Prophet, so He giveth charge about them as a King. Now in the righteous ordering the affairs of His kingdom He showeth Himself to be one that loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity. As the laws are good and equal, so the administration is right and just. Well, then, we must neither rebel against His government nor distrust His defence; for Christ administereth justice in His kingdom, defending the good, and destroying the wicked, and He will in time earnestly espouse the cause of all holiness and righteousness.
II. THE UNCTION OF CHRIST, which is the consequent fruit of the former.
1. The author of this unction--“God, even Thy God.” Is this spoken to Him as God or man? It may be true in both senses. But especially is this spoken of Him as Mediator, so Christ is one of God’s confederates. The redemption of sinners is not a work of yesterday nor a business of chance, but well advised, and in infinite wisdom contrived. There was a preparatory agreement to that great work before it was gone about, and therefore it should not be slighted by us, nor lightly passed over.
2. The privilege itself; to be anointed with the of gladness. It noteth His solemn exaltation and admission to the exercise of His office. By oil all agree is meant the Spirit, by which Christ was anointed. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He hath anointed Me” (Luke 4:18).
(1) Christ was anointed at His conception in His mother’s womb, when He was sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
(2) Again, Christ may be said to be anointed at His baptism, which was the visible consecration to His office, when the Holy Ghost descended upon Him “in the form of a dove” (Matthew 3:16-17, John 1:33).
(3) He may be said to be anointed at His ascension, when he received of the Father the promise of the Spirit to pour Him forth upon His disciples Acts 2:33). This I take to be the sense here, His glorious exaltation at the right hand of God, where, being possessed of all power, He joyfully expecteth and accomplisheth the fruits of His redemption. I am the more confirmed in this
(a) Because the exaltation of Christ, is as it were His welcome to heaven after all the sorrows of His humiliation.
(b) The term, “the oil of gladness,” implieth it; for that was the entertainment of honourable guests invited to a feast.
3. The persons anointed.
(1) One singular in this unction, the Lord Jesus Christ. There are two sorts of privileges
(a) Some things only given to Christ, not to us; as the name above all names to be adored (Philippians 2:9); to be the Head of the renewed Ephesians 1:21), the Saviour of the body (Ephesians 5:23); to have power to dispense the Spirit, to administer providences, etc. All this is proper to Christ; neither men nor angels share with Him in these honours.
(b) There are other things given to Christ and His people; as the sanctifying and comforting Spirit, the heavenly inheritance, victory over our spiritual enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh; these are given to us and Him; only God doth grace His Son above His fellows. “That He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
(2) Others are admitted to be partakers of this grace in a lower degree, called “His fellows.” They are also dignified and graced by God above the rest of the world, but not as Christ was. Two things I will observe here
(a) They must be His consorts and fellows. Sometimes they are called “His brethren” (Hebrews 2:11); sometimes members of His mystical body) Ephesians 1:22-23), sometimes joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17); meaning thereby all believers, who are companions with Him both in grace and glory.
(b) That all these may have somewhat of this unction according to their measure and part which they sustain in the body (1 John 2:20).
I shall exhort you to two things.
1. To holiness. If there were no more than that it is pleasing to Christ, and visibly exemplified in His own person, this should induce us. It was love to holiness and hatred of sin that brought Him out of heaven, and put Him on the work of our redemption. Nothing doth more urge us to do a thing than love, or to forbear it than hatred. These were Christ’s motives to undertake the redemption of sinners. Now we should love what He loveth, and hate what He hateth.
2. To look after more of this unction. He is Christ the anointed of God; we must be Christians. “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” Acts 11:26); anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power, that we may understand the mind of God, consecrate ourselves to Him, work His work, and engage in His warfare, fighting against the devil, the world, and the flesh, till we triumph with Christ in heaven. All must be anointed.
(1) This is the fruit of Christ’s exaltation, to send and shed abroad the Spirit.
(2) Consider the necessity of this grace. Our love to righteousness and hatred of iniquity is the fruit of this unction, for affections follow the nature.
(3) Consider the utility and profit. It is for our comfort. The Spirit is called “the oil of gladness,” because the benefits whereof we are partakers are matters of great joy (Acts 13:52). (T. Manton, D. D.)
Christ’s superiority to all created beings
I. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
1. He loved righteousness. He loved it so as to be a perfect model of all righteousness.
2. But not only did Christ love righteousness, He hated iniquity. A man may admire excellency of character, and yet not follow in the steps in which it walks; he has not the moral courage to forsake his evil courses; and there is in the very best of men at seasons not that perfect hatred of sin which is proper. Not so our Emmanuel. He hated iniquity with as much force as He loved righteousness; not only sometimes, but always.
II. CHRIST’S CONSEQUENT EXALTATION.
1. The apostle wishes to show the Hebrews the fact of Christ’s unequalled superiority to every created being in the universe. He therefore commences by showing Christ’s superiority to men, to the greatest of men that have ever lived--such as the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament dispensation. They were indeed vastly superior to the men of the age in which they lived -superior in point of gifts and endowments from heaven, superior in respect of the close intercourse they held with God. But they were infinitely inferior to the Son, as Christ is here called by way of pre-eminence, by whom God has spoken to us in these latter days.
2. But not only does Paul her prove Christ’s superiority to men, he proves the superiority of Christ to angels also. What does the term “angel” mean? It signifies messenger. The Son is greater than a messenger.
III. CHRIST’S RELATIONSHIP TO US. We are Christ’s “fellows.” This singular expression is supposed by some to refer to the angels; but at once that supposition is rebutted by the fact that Christ took not on Him the nature of angels; He assumed the nature of man, and assuming the same torture seems to be the meaning of the expression. Man has a fellowship of nature with Christ; all men have this fellowship; but the redeemed--namely, all those that are sanctified by Christ’s Spirit--are Christ’s fellows in the highest and closest sense. (R. Jones, B. A.)
Oil of gladness
This Hebraism here intendeth two things
1. The excellency of this gladness. No external joy is to be compared to it.
2. The quantity of that joy. It far surpasseth all the joy that ever was or can be, which is manifested in this phrase following--“above Thy fellows.” This epithet “ gladness” is attributed to this oil in relation to Christ the head, and to all believers His members. It hath relation to Christ in two respects.
(1) As it quickened Him up and made Him joyful in all His undertakings for our redemption, Christ, being by His Father deputed to His function, most willingly and joyfully undertook and managed it. “As a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, He rejoiced as a strong man to run His race” Psalms 19:5). When He cometh into the world, He saith, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God” (Psalms 40:8). When He was in the world, He said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His John 4:34).
(2) Gladness hath relation to Christ by reason of the fruit that sprouted out from thence. His coming into the world, and doing and enduring what He did, was matter of rejoicing to others, in which respect the prophet exhorteth the daughter of Zion to shout, and to be glad and rejoice with all the heart (Zephaniah 3:14; Zechariah 9:9). And the angels that brought the first news of Christ’s birth do thus proclaim it: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
This epithet “gladness” hath relation to the members of Christ in two respects.
(1) As the things whereof in Christ they are made partakers are matters of great joy; for so many and so great are the benefits which believers receive from Christ by virtue of that anointing, as they very much rejoice their hearts. Many of these benefits are expressly set down (Isaiah 61:1-3). Other benefits are in other places distinctly noted--as redemption from sin, reconciliation with God, justification in His sight, adoption, regeneration, sanctification, and the end of all, eternal salvation. If any things in the world cause true joy and gladness, surely these effects which flow from the anointing of Christ will do it.
(2) As the members of Christ are quickened up by that Spirit which cometh from Him, do and endure readily, willingly, cheerfully, joyfully what the Lord calls them unto (Psalms 122:1; 1 Chronicles 29:9; 1 Chronicles 29:17). It is said of those on whom the Spirit rested, that “they received the Word gladly,” and mutually communicated together “ with gladness.” On a like ground the eunuch whom Philip baptized, and Paul’s jailor, are said to rejoice (Acts 8:39; Acts 16:34). This fruit of joy gives evidence of a believer’s union with Christ, and of the abode of Christ’s Spirit in him; for the Spirit is as oil, of a diffusing nature. Hereby we may gain assurance to our own souls, and give evidence to others of the Spirit that is in us. So did the Jews of old (1 Chronicles 29:9), and Christ’s disciples (Luke 10:17), and Christians in the primitive Church (Hebrews 10:34; Philippians 2:17-18). (W. Gouge.)
The gladsomeness of Jesus
If a lighted candle be brought into a room, we know that light streams from it. Lilies bring perfume, and spices exhale odours, from their very nature. The whole character of Jesus, when closely examined, is one that must have filled any dwelling where He came with gladness and comfort. (H. W. Beecher.)
Righteousness and gladness
Happiness is the light which flashes from the glittering armour of righteousness. If holiness be the priest, let happiness be the ephod of blue, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen, hung with bells and pomegranates, which be wears for glory and for beauty. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation
I. THE UNIVERSE HAD AN ORIGIN, AND IS DESTINED TO HAVE A DISSOLUTION.
II. BOTH THE ORIGINATION AND THE DISSOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE ARE ATTRIBUTABLE TO CHRIST. This fact serves
1. As an argument for His Godhood.
2. To present nature in new aspects of attraction.
III. CHRIST REMAINS UNALTERABLE, FROM THE ORIGIN, THROUGH ALL THE DISSOLUTIONS, OF THE UNIVERSE. No change in His
3. Heart. (Homilist)
Messiah and Nature
I. CHRIST BEFORE THE CREATION.
1. The material universe is not eternal.
2. The universe was created.
3. The universe had many beginnings. Earth, sun, stars, &c. Christ was before all beginnings.
II. CHRIST AT THE CREATION. He was the Creator, from the lowest to the highest; from the least to the greatest; from the first to the last. The Redeemer was the Creator; therefore
1. There are no contradictions between Nature and Christianity.
2. There are striking correspondences between Nature and
III. CHRIST WITHIN THE CREATION. The stars are the jewels on His brow; the sky His flowing train; the flowering landscapes, the shining seas, the gorgeous clouds--the fine needlework and wrought gold of His imperial raiment.
IV. CHRIST AFTER THE CREATION. The raiment waxes old, and is folded up, giving place to robes more glorious still; but He who is the fulness of the Godhead bodily is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Lessons:
1. Remember that in the gospel we come nearer to Christ than we do in nature.
2. Let us build on Christ. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Jesus Christ the cause and the consummator of all things
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE ASCRIPTION. We are transported to a distant period, ere time had, in its strictest sense, begun, or the mechanism of its notations had received shape or being. The revolutions of this firmament had not commenced, nor was there a sign for seasons, Nothing is necessary but God. All else is but an effect of His pleasure and power. He composed matter, He gave life, He communicated spirit. Some of the stages in this formative process may be traced. He “laid the foundations of the earth,” a figure which signifies His stability. That stability rests on certain laws which He has ordained. “The heavens are the works of His hands.” He garnished them with all their exquisite furniture, drew their orbits, studded their stars. His “fingers” wove that splendid web. And “when we consider His heavens,” with what admiration are we overwhelmed! Magnitudes, distances, systems, parallelisms, still rise upon us. Did He “lay the foundations of the earth”? “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” But this ascription not only predicates His creative greatness, and how He produced the entire universe--it proclaims that all these effects are now at His disposal and under Hiscontrol.
1. Observe His independence of them. They are not built for eternity. They shall “perish.” Their perdition and change shake not His throne nor obscure His glory.
2. Mark His identity among them. They are the subjects of incessant revolution and variation. There is a constant disturbance in the natural system; things take new forms and circumstances; and though principles are unaltered, the dispositions under them are often the most strange and unexpected. The very elements around us “wax old as doth a garment.” Only Deity can say, “I charge not.” “This is the true God, and eternal life”--essential and exhaustless, “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever!”
3. Trace His power over them. Nothing, once dependent and derived, can exist in defiance of His will. And what is there, or can there be, which this category does not include? Thus is the Lord Jesus exhibited to us! He “lays the foundations of the earth”; “the heavens are the works of His hands”: amidst their change and portended ruin He “remains”--He is “the same”; with Him awaits the dissolution of all things. He must be greater than those operations which He commands. Be must be apprised of the final causes of those operations which proceed from His unaided skill, and the more so, as, otherwise, he might close the great consummation with their imperfect fulfilment. Who, then, is this? “God over all.”
II. THE VALUE OF THE ARGUMENT. We must, at this point of the projected proof, look into our mind. There we behold a law, or a certainty of mental condition, which conducts us back from any result to a causative power.
1. Every effect of Divine power must be inferior to that power--that is, must be finite. It can create no rival being.
2. Upon the creative claim God has always been pleased to found Ills challenge of supremacy and exaction of worship. Then, whoever is Jesus
Christ, since the heavens are works of His hands, He is supreme, is entitled to worship, is authorised to require our service, is gloriously independent, and will pronounce the sentence of our endless destiny!
3. The works of creation are designed to be monumental of their immediate Author. When we investigate them, they speak a splendid panegyric to His fame. “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth His handywork.” They are the signals of His might, and skill, and love.
III. THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE CONCLUSION. The truth of the theme being once allowed, its influence will be instantaneous. Not for a moment can it remain an indifferent sentiment. Let it be believed, and all the doctrines of the gospel follow in a necessary order, as very corollaries.
1. It is supposed by the Incarnation; but what illustrations does that marvel derive from the descriptions of the text! “He laid the foundations of the earth,” where He hath not a place to lay His head. “The heavens are the works of His hands,” though they beat on Him with their tempests and chill Him with their dews; though their stars hold watch over Him when His soul is sorrowful unto death. He formed the instruments of all the suffering He endured. He caused the thorns to grow which were knotted round His brow; He prepared the worm that spun the flaunting attire which mocked His person; He sent down into the ground the fibres of the tree which gave the wood that was fashioned for His cross; He veined the mine whose ore was converted into nail and spear-head to transfix His flesh; He withdrew the restraints from our fallen nature, and let loose all its enmities on Himself!
2. The character of that expiation, which is the first quality and intention of His death, will be greatly determined by a representation such as this. The merit of an atoning act will altogether depend on the disposition and worthiness of the party who presents it. Nor can the mediation of every party be allowed. High attributes of worthiness must inhere in him who takes up the quarrel and offers the vindication of it. Who shall interpose between God and man, between the dishonoured law and the offender? That Surety must have a perfect knowledge of the tremendous dilemma. And did not He, who “laid the foundations of the earth,” understand the moral order which He then established, the holy law which He gave, the system of good which He instituted? Who could be equally cognisant of its excellence? Who could be equally intent upon its restoration?
3. He who has done all this achievement of power and goodness in creating the universe, designed our redemption to be the great object and glory of it. Shall a sphere, in those “heavens which are the works of His hands,” refuse its music to the Saviour, or withhold to swell the triumph of His salvation over the earth whose “foundations He has laid”? Again--and far sweeter and more majestic than that natal peal which floated above our new created world- let the morning stars sing together, and the sons of God shout for joy!
4. This Creator-Saviour must have the direction of all mundane affairs. He knoweth the way that we take. He telleth our wanderings. He seeth of what we have need. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is able to succour us when we are tempted. Neither in life nor death can we stray out of His dominion or beyond His care. To the verge of that earth whose foundations he has laid; to the bond of those heavens which are the works of His hands--how safe are His disciples! This is your triple security, ye who put your trust in this great God your Saviour! All things are for your sakes! All things work together for your good t
5. An immutability most tender and amiable is opposed by this subject to all our fluctuating circumstances. Who has never found occasion of complaint against human fickleness? Who has never known a mortifying coldness where his heart had lavished all its store of love? Oh, then, to take these words with us, and looking up to Him who loves unto the end, what a relief our wrung soul finds as it cries, “Thou art the same!” Bereavement is one of the heaviest portions of our lot. What sepulchres lie along our path! Oh, then, to speak this assurance, and in it to feel that nothing is lost while this is left, “Thou remainest!” Age brings with it decay and infirmity, misgiving and irresoluteness, slight and inattention, physical depressions and mournful reviews. Sense has failed in its varied gratifications, and the heart is smitten with a desolateness. Oh, then, to turn from all beside, to clasp our feeble hands, to raise our dimming eyes, and with our tremulous accents to exclaim, “Thy years shall not fail! “ How sweet are these supports! What a Saviour is ours! (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
Christ’s glory in creation
Where it is said further, “God laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of His hands.” We must consider the creation of the world is thus attributed to God, not only because all things were made by Him, but because He hath so made them that they carry a mark imprinted in them of the power and Godhead of the Creator. When I see the heavens I must see His greatness, who was able to set such a covering over the earth. When I behold the earth, I must behold His providence, who hath ordained such a place of nourishment for all creatures. When I look upon the unchangeable course in which all things are established, I must look upon His constant wisdom and goodness, who in a steadfast purpose hath extended His mercies over all His works. In the least of all the creatures of God, when I see wisdom, power, glory, more than all the world can reach their hands unto, let me humble myself under His high majesty, before whom no king, no prince, no power of the world hath any account; but all nations before Him are as nothing, and they are accounted unto Him less than nothing, and lighter than vanity itself. Another thing here we have to consider, that the apostle teacheth the excellency of Christ in respect of His continuance, before whom the heaven and earth are but a moment; for so in this comparison he speaketh of their age as a thing of nothing--“They shall perish, they shall wax old as a garment, they shall be folded up as a vesture”--making all the continuance of the heaven to be vanity, and of none account; for although it may seem he might have made his comparison with things of a more expressed show of vanity than a garment, as to have compared them with smoke, with the shadow of smoke, with the dream of a shadow, or such like; yet in comparing the time of the heavens, which are so many ages, with a garment which is scarce a year, it is as clear a testimony all is nothing as if all were not a minute of an hour. Besides this, the cause of this comparison with a garment was the similitude in which God hath set the heavens, who hath spread them like a curtain, and made them as a covering to all His creatures; it was not to make the comparison less in show of their vanity. Then here let us be wise-hearted as the prophet was, as oft as our hope is before our eyes, to see our Saviour Christ living for ever: let us not only confess that our own age is nothing in respect of Him, but let us boldly continue even the continuance of the heavens, and account all things nothing that hath an end; for let the days be never so many, which you can call into account, and multiply years into the longest continuance which your thoughts can comprehend, that thousand thousands be before you, and ten thousand thousands are in your mind, with one word you shall confute them all, and with the breath of your mouth you may blow them away, and, as the prophet saith, make them all as a garment that is rent and worn; for reckon up all thy thousands that thou canst, and put this word “past” unto them, and where are they now become? A thousand thousand thousand years past, what are they? And if time be such a tyrant to break the delight of the long age of the very heavens, that the wise heart of a man doth say even they are vanity, and wax old as doth a garment, what foolishness hath wrapped up all our understanding? and what blindness is in our hearts, that we see not our own life what it is? And shall yet this life, so short, so troublesome, so without pleasure, so fast hold us bound with blind desire, that we neither long for nor look after Jesus Christ, who liveth ever, and hast cast forth of His presence all sin, and sorrow, and death itself? (E. Deering, B. D.)
They shall perish; but Thou remainest
The world as a garment
As Christ had no beginning, so He shall have no ending. The heavens shall decay, but not He. He is immutable. They are young and old; so is not Christ: He remains always in the same estate and condition. All garments in the world in the end wax old (Deuteronomy 29:5). So the whole fabric of the world: there is not that clearness of light in the sun and moon that there was, not that force and strength in the stars, the earth is not so lusty and lively. Old things are not wont to be had in any price or estimation: who cares for an old pair of shoes that be not worth the taking up? Who regards an old coat that hath no strength in it, but is ready to be torn in pieces? Who will give much for an old house, the timber whereof is rotten, and it is ready to fall on his head? Now is the last age of the world, it hath continued many thousand years, it is now as an old house, an old garment that cannot last long: therefore let us not be too much in love with it. There was some reason why in former times, when this building was new and strong, when the coat and garment of the world was fresh, fair, and of good durance, that men should set their affections on it: but now when the beauty and strength of it is gone, why should we be enamoured with it? Let us use it as if we used it not, and let us long for that day when both the heavens and the earth and we ourselves likewise shall be changed and be translated with Christ into the kingdom of glory: the heavens are most fitly resembled to a garment. Observe the similitude and dissimilitude.
1. A garment covers a man: so do the heavens.
2. The substance of a garment must be before, as silk, velvet, cloth, else you can make no garment: but Christ made the heavens of nothing.
3. A garment must have a form or fashion: so has this an excellent one.
4. A garment stands in need of mending: we need be at no cost nor labour in mending of this garment; but Christ by the power of His providence upholds it. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Christ the Creator
We live in a world of change. The earth is not the same to-day as it was ages ago, and shall be ages on. The sun is radiating off its heat. The moon, no longer as of yore, burns and glows, and is but an immense opaque cinder, reflecting the sunlight from its disc. Stars have burnt out, and will. The universe is waxing old, as garments which from perpetual use become threadbare. But the dilapidation of the garment is no proof of the waning strength or slackening energy of the wearer. Nay, when garments wear out quickest, it is generally the time of robustest youth or mankind. You wrap up and lay aside your clothes when they have served their purpose, but you are the same in the new suit as in the old. Creation is the vesture of Christ. He wraps Himself about in its ample folds. Its decay affects Him not. And, when He shall bare laid it all aside, and replaced it by the new heavens and the new earth, He will be the same for evermore. With what new interest may we not now turn to the archaic record, which tells how God created the heavens and the earth. Those sublime syllables, “Light be,” were spoken by the voice that trembled in dying anguish on the cross. Rolling rivers, swelling seas, waving woods, bursting flowers, carolling birds, innumerable beasts, stars sparkling like diamonds on the pavilion of night, all newly made; all throbbing with God’s own life; and all very good; but, mainly and gloriously all the work of those hands which were nailed helplessly to the cross, which itself, as well as the iron that pierced Him, was the result of His creative will. (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)
God ever the same
On every Mohammedan tombstone the inscription begins with the words, “He remains.” This applies to God, and gives sweet comfort to the bereaved. Friends may die, fortune fly away, but God endures--He remains. (Perrine.)
Christ is everlasting and unchangeable
We may learn the dignity of our Lord from all the intermediate changes of the world between its creation and destruction.
1. First, then, we may observe that our Lord is everlasting. “They all shall wax old as doth a garment,” but “Thy years shall not fail.” What garments are to a man, the universe, with all its most glorious objects and element;, is to the Lord. These His glorious garments, then, in time shall wax old; but He who hath life in Himself, even as His Father hath life in Himself, shall continue still glorious as He was in His own glory, before He formed them and put them on.
2. And He is not only everlasting, but unchangeable. “As a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same.” He may indeed lay aside His vesture. But as a sovereign, when after the pomp of a public ceremonial he unrobes, when his crown and sceptre are deposited in their caskets, and his garments of state are folded and put away, is a sovereign still, so our Lord, when He puts off the earth and heavens like a vesture, shall be “still the same.” “There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” “Thou art the same”: or, if we closely follow the original, “Thou art He”--He, the ancient of days, who speaks also by the mouth of Isaiah, even to your old age, I am He yea, before the day was, I am He” “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof.” Time’s hurrying tide bears swift along our hopes, our joys, our vanities; ourselves, prone and struggling upon its waters. As we drive down upon the face of that gloomy stream, all our efforts seem vain, nothing is firm around, on whatever we lay hold, the same current is carrying it away, by which we ourselves are hurried on; till imminent danger forces from our souls the drowning cry, “Save, Lord, we perish.” The Lord extends His hand, and sets our feet upon a rock. He is Himself that Rock. He makes us, perishable creatures as we are, partakers of His stability, The various objects are carried rapidly by us, bat we are now upon solid ground. “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (T. Bogs.)
Destructive agencies at work in the world
Even now agencies are at work in God’s material works tending towards the dissolution of certain of them. Water, frost, and fire are all eating away portions of the world. But to these will be added, at the last, some swift and sudden convulsion, telling that her end is nigh at hand. Probably no particle of matter will ever be annihilated; and out of the ruins of the world it seems, from 2 Peter 3:13, as if “ new heavens and a new earth “ were to emerge. But still, the present world is to be utterly destroyed. The green earth and the azure heavens are to pass away. Both shall be consumed, and hurried into wreck and ruin, by the devastating fire that shall usher in “the great day of the Lord.” But even at this stage of the passage there is a direct testimony to the surpassing power and majesty of Christ. “Thou,” it is said of the Son--“Thou shall fold them up.” Christ, who, “in the beginning,” was theMaker, will, in the end, be the Destroyer, of the world. (A. S. Patterson.)
The solar system perishing
Change is necessarily going on in earth, sun, moon, and stars. It cannot possibly be avoided where there is motion. Day by day the alteration progresses. Millennium after millennium it advances. The earth is not now what it was millenniums ago. It will not be to-morrow what it was yesterday, or what it is to-day. The sun is radiating itself off, and must by-and-by cease to burn. “It is simply,” says Sir William Thomson, “an incandescent mass cooling.” Stars have already burnt out, or will. The moon no longer, as of yore, burns and glows. It is now an immense opaque cinder, only reflecting the sunlight that is thrown from afar upon its disc. (J. Morison, D. D.)
Thou art the same
The immutabulity of Christ
I. WHAT CHRIST IS IN HIMSELF.
1. As to His person, He is the eternal Son of God, who existed from everlasting (John 1:1).
2. As to His office. He is Mediator between God and man, fitted for it by assuming our nature into a personal union with the Divine, that as God and man in one person He might transact with both.
II. WHAT BELIEVERS HAVE FOUND HIM TO BE UNTO THEM.
1. It was Christ who awakened them to a sense of their lost, miserable state Ephesians 2:1).
2. Who received them upon their applying to Him for mercy and salvation, and believing on Him, He pardoned all their sins (Colossians 1:14).
3. Who adopted them into His family and gave them the earnest of their inheritance (Romans 8:15-16).
4. Thus passing into the number of His children, He continues to bless them, by subduing their corruptions, &c.
5. At death He receives their departing spirits.
III. AS TO ALL THIS THE TEXT IS APPLICABLE TO CHRIST. “Thou art the same,” &c.
1. He is the same in Himself, as to His person and offices.
2. As to His interest in His Father, and acceptance with Him: the Beloved, in whom He is always well pleased (Matthew 3:17).
3. And with regard to us, the same as to His ability and willingness to save Hebrews 7:25).
4. The merit of His death is the same it ever was (Revelation 5:6).
5. And He is the same, to pardon, justify, sanctify, and glorify.
1. If He is the same, let every Christless sinner seek an interest in Christ with the same diligence that ever any did; such have the same necessity, and the same encouragement.
2. Despair, under the gospel, is most unreasonable; seeing Christ came to save sinners, assures of His having saved the chief of sinners, and represents Himself as, after all, the same.
3. Let believers rejoice in Christ as unchangeable. (J. Hannam.)
Of Christ’s immutability
Though all these three phrases in general intend one and the same thing, namely, immutability, yet to show that there is no vain repetition, they may be distinguished one from another.
1. “Thou remainest,” pointeth at Christ’s eternity before all times; for it implieth His being before, in which He still abides.
2. “Thou art the same,” declares Christ’s constancy. There is no variableness with Him; thus therefore He saith of Himself, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).
3. “Thy years shall not fail,” intendeth Christ’s everlastingness; that He who was before all times, and continueth in all ages, will beyond all times so continue. Thus these three phrases do distinctly prove the three branch, as of this description of Christ, “which is, and which was, and which is to come” (Revelation 1:4). This name that Christ assumeth to Himself, “I AM,” and this, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14), and this also,
“JEHOVAH” (Exodus 6:3), do demonstrate a perpetual continuing to be the same. In this respect He thus saith, “I the Lord, the first, and with the last, I am He” (Isaiah 41:4). This immutable constancy of the Lord is confirmed by this testimony, ,’ with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning” (James 3:17), no show or appearance of alteration. This may be exemplified in all the things that are Christ’s.
1. His essence and being. This is especially here intended. So also Exodus 3:14.
2. His counsel. Immutability is expressly attributed thereunto (Hebrews 6:17). “It shall stand” (Psalms 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 48:10). It shall stand immutably, inviolably.
3. His attributes. Sundry attributes for teaching sake, by way of resemblance, are ascribed to the Lord. In this respect it is said, “His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). “His mercy endureth for Psalms 118:1). “His love is everlasting” (Jeremiah 31:3). “His righteousness endureth for ever” (Psalms 111:8). So His “truth” Psalms 117:2). So His “judgments” (Psalms 119:160).
4. His “Word” endureth for ever (1 Peter 1:25). This is manifested in the Law, whereof “not one tittle shall fail” (Luke 16:17), and in the gospel, which is an everlasting gospel.
5. His “bonds” whereby He binds Himself to us are unalterable as “promises” and “oaths.” These are the two immutable things intended Hebrews 6:18), and His covenant also (Jeremiah 32:20-21). (W. Gouge.)
Of the uses of Christ’s immutability
1. It domonstrateth Christ to be true God (Malachi 3:6).
2. It distinguisheth Him from all creatures, from idols especially (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6).
3. It strengtheneth our faith in all His Divine properties, promises, and former works (Psalms 44:1-2; Psalms 90:1; Psalms 9:2; Genesis 32:10-12; Hebrews 13:5-6).
4. It instructeth us in an especial use of God’s former dealings with men; which is in like good courses to expect like blessings, and in like evil courses to expect like judgments: for the Lord is ever the same, and ever of the same mind; what in former times was right in His eyes and acceptable unto Him, is so still (Romans 4:23-24). What formerly offended Him and provoked His wrath, still so doth (1 Corinthians 10:5-6, &c.).
5. It assureth us of His continual and perpetual care of His Church Matthew 28:20), yea, and of the Church’s perpetual continuance Matthew 16:18).
6. It encourageth us against all attempts of enemies present and to come Psalms 110:1; Revelation 2:10).
7. It teacheth us to do what in us lieth for perpetuating His praise; and for this end both to set forth His praise ourselves all our days (Psalms 104:33), and also to teach our posterity so to do (Psalms 78:5-6).
8. It directeth us bow to be like to Christ, namely, in constancy and unchangeableness in our lawful promises, oaths, vows, and covenants Nehemiah 5:12-13; Psalms 15:4; Ecclesiastes 5:4; Jeremiah 34:10; Jeremiah 34:18), and in our warrantable enterprises (1 Corinthians 15:58).
9. It admonisheth us to submit ourselves to the Lord’s ordering providence; all our strivings against the same cannot after this purpose 1 Samuel 3:18).
10. It establisheth such as have evidence of their election and calling against all Satan’s assaults and fears arising from our weak flesh (2 Peter 1:10). (W. Gouge.)
The unchangeableness of Christ
I. Let us consider, WHAT CHRIST IS IN HIMSELF, AND THIS AS TO HIS PERSON AND OFFICE.
1. As to His person, He is the eternal Son of God--the second Person in the glorious Trinity--who bad a being, and a very glorious one, before He appeared it, our world, even from everlasting.
2. As to His office. Though He was not incarnate till the fulness of time, the office of Mediator was what He was early appointed to, and consented to undertake; and so He speaks of Himself as “set up from everlasting, from the b ginning, or ever the earth was” (Proverbs 8:23).
II. Let us see WHAT HIS PEOPLE HAVE FOUND HIM TO BE UNTO THEM.
III. THAT WITH RESPECT TO BOTH THESE, IT MAY BE SAID OF HIM, “THOU ART THE SAME, AND THY YEARS SHALL NOT FAIL.”
1. He is the same in Himself, as to His person and office, God in our nature, the great Immanuel, and so the only Mediator between God and man.
2. The same as to His interest in His Father, and acceptance with Him: the Beloved in whom He is always well pleased.
3. And with respect to us, the same as to His ability and willingness to save. APPLICATION.
“1. May it be said of Christ, that “He is the same, and His years fail not “? Let this put every Christless sinner upon looking out after an interest in Him. And this for these two plain reasons.
(1) You have the same need of Christ and interest in Him with any that are gone before.
(2) You have the same encouragement to come to Christ, under the assurance that He is the same as to His person and office, His fitness for His work, and delight in it.
2. Despair is most unreasonable in such as sit under the sound of the gospel, which tells us of Christ’s coming to save sinners, assures us of His having saved the chief of sinners, and represents Him as after all the same.
3. Let believers rejoice in Christ as unchangeable. (D. Wilcox.)
I. AN EXALTED VIEW OF JESUS CHRIST. The text certainly implies
1. The Divinity of His nature. To be “the same,” is to be unchangeable; but immutability is an attribute of Deity.
2. The immutability of His perfections. Such are the amazing greatness and vast variety of the works of creation, that their Author must be God.
3. The perpetuity of His offices. When we speak of the offices of Christ, we have respect always to His character as Mediator, and His great undertaking as the Saviour of sinners.
(1) He assumed the office of a Prophet. In this character He went about teaching “the words of eternal life.” And He teaches now by His written Word, by the ministry of His gospel, and by His Spirit given to men.
(2) ‘He bore the office of a Priest. In this view He offered Himself a Sacrifice of atonement to God the Father, for the sins of all that believe. And He wears His priesthood still. Jesus, the Son of God, who is passed into the heavens, is our “great High Priest”: as such, He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”; He knows the trial of severe temptation; He bears us on His heart; He pleads for us above: “He ever liveth to make intercession.”
(3) He sustained the office of a King. In His regal capacity, all power in heaven and in earth is is given to Him. He is constituted Supreme Ruler. He presides the Head of the Church, and I-lead over all things to the Chinch. He now reigns, and He must reign, till the tranquillity of all His friends be effectually secured, and till all His enemies be subdued under His feet.
II. The subject furnishes various REFLECTIONS, by way of IMPROVEMENT. IS the nature of Christ Divine? Are His perfections immutable, and His offices perpetual? Is He uniformly “the same,” and shall His years “not fail”? Then
1. All is well respecting the government of the world. Its government is assuredly wise, perfectly and invariably right; for it is committed to Him who ever lives, and who lives for ever “the same”!
2. We may rest assured of the safety of the Church. Whatever becomes of the kingdoms of the earth, the Church is safe. For the Church the world stands; and all events are doubtless under the direction and control of Him who is “ King of nations,” and “King of saints.”
3. We are greatly encouraged as sinners to apply to Christ for salvation. Behold the glorious ability and fitness of the Son of God. What could you wish to find in a Saviour which you find not in Him?
4. Believers are hereby relieved under the pressure of their trials. You are in a wilderness, among briars and thorns; on an ocean, tossed with waves and tempests. You are subject to painful anxieties from various quarters. All around is lull of change; and there is nothing beneath the sun on which you can depend with confidence for an hour. Be it so there is One who is invariably “the same”; a Rock that never moves: a Refuge that never fails; and this Rock, this Refuge, is Christ. (T. Kidd)
Sit on My right hand
The exaltation of Christ
I. THE AUTHORITY OF GOD THE FATHER IN THE EXALTATION OF JESUS CHRIST AS THE HEAD AND MEDIATOR OF THE CHURCH, IS GREATLY TO BE REGARDED BY BELIEVERS. He says unto Him, “Sit, Thou at My right hand.” Much of the consolation and security of the Church depends on this consideration.
II. THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST IS THE GREAT PLEDGE OF THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE WORK OF MEDIATION PERFORMED IN THE BEHALF OF THE CHURCH. Now, saith God, “Sit Thou at My right hand”; the work is done wherein My soul is well pleased.
III. CHRIST HATH MANY ENEMIES UNTO HIS KINGDOM. Saith God, “I will deal with all of them.”
IV. THE KINGDOM AND RULE OF CHRIST IS PERPETUAL AND ABIDING, NOTWITHSTANDING ALL THE OPPOSITION THAT IS MADE AGAINST IT. His enemies rage, indeed, as though they would pull Him out of His throne; but it is altogether in vain. He hath the faithfulness and power, the word and right band of God, for the security of His kingdom.
V. THE END WHEREUNTO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WILL ASSUREDLY BRING ALL HIS ENEMIES, let them bluster while they please, shall be unto them miserable and shameful, to the saints joyful, to Himself victorious and triumphant.
1. God hath promised unto the Lord Christ from the foundation of the world that so it should be. And it cannot be that this word of God should be of none effect.
2. The Lord Christ expects this issue and event of all things, and shall not be frustrated in His expectation. Having received the engagement of His Father, He rests in the foresight of its accomplishment. And thence it is that He bears all the opposition that is made unto Him, and to His kingdom, with patience and forbearance.
3. He is Himself furnished with authority and power for the accomplishment of this work when and as He pleaseth. And He will not fail to put forth His power in the appointed season. He “will bruise them all with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
4. His glory and honour require that it should be so. This is a thing that He is very tender in. God bath raised Him up, and given Him glory and honour, and care must be taken that it be not lost or impaired. Now, if His enemies should go free, if they could by any means subduct themselves from under His power, or be delivered from His wrath, where would be His glory, where His honour?
5. His saints pray that it may be so, and that both upon His account and their own. Upon His, that His glory, which is dearer to them than their lives, may be vindicated and exalted. Upon their own account, that their miseries may be ended, that the blood of their fellow-servants may be revenged, that the whole Church may be delivered, and all their promises fulfilled. Now He will not disappoint their prayers, nor frustrate their expectations in anything, much less in those that are of so great importance.
6. His enemies deserve it unto the utmost; so that as well His justice as His glory, and interest, and people, are concerned in their destruction. In the most of them, their outrage against Him is notorious, and visible in the eyes of men and angels. In all of them there is a cruel, old, lasting enmity and hatred, which He will lay open and discover at the last day, that all shall see the righteousness of His judgments against them. (John Owen, D. D.)
God’s setting Christ on His right hand
God was pleased thus highly to exalt His Son in sundry respects.
1. In regard of that entire love which as a Father He did bear to a Son John 3:35; John 5:20).
2. In regard of the low degree of Christ’s humiliation (Philippians 2:8, Ephesians 4:9-10).
3. In regard of that charge which Christ undertook to provide for His Church, and to protect it. Hereunto is He the better enabled by that high advancement (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:2).
4. In regard of the saints who are Christ’s members, that they might with stronger confidence depend on Him (Psalms 80:17-18; 2 Timothy 1:12).
5. In regard of His enemies, that He might be the greater terror unto them, and be more able to subdue them (Psalms 110:2). (W. Gouge.)
Thine enemies Thy footstool
The Church’s enemies
Tell me, which of us having a long journey, by many thieves and wild beasts, or passing the rocky seas in great and violent storms, though he escape a place or two where no thief is, nor any beast hath molested him, yet at every place of danger his fear is still renewed. And though he have passed many high surges, and deep gulfs of water, yet at every wave he is still afraid, not careless, because he hath passed far, but still careful, because there is more behind; and this wisdom we use because we know we may as well fall toward our journey’s end and as well be drowned before the haven’s mouth as when we first began our dangerous voyage. Even so with the Church of Christ, in which this day we confess ourselves to have our portion, from the first day of her peregrination in earth till her last entrance into glory, there is a perpetual hatred between the serpent and her Head and between the seed of the serpent and her children, in which strife every one of us particularly have our fight, so that from our mother’s womb till we lie down in the grave our life is a warfare upon earth. No age, no condition of life, no day, no light, but brings his enemy with him, and the same enemy armed with sin and death, as well against the man of an hundred years old as against the child that is newborn, and as well we may fall into con-detonation through apostasy of old and crooked age as through concupiscence and pride of youth. And as the peril is great so we have heard the enemies are strong, and such as before whom we are very cowards; for be we otherwise never so valiant to endure pain, to quarrel, to fight, to despise any danger, as it is the manner of a great many ruffians, indeed, but men of good courage they would be called. Bring me one of them in battle against these enemies; we have to strive against pride, against concupiscence, against idle games, against all sin, and thou shalt see no boy, no woman, no sick man so very a coward. He hath not the heart to strike one blow, but yieldeth himself like a slave, and is led away as an ox to the slaughter-house. Let us therefore watch, let us pray; for in this dangerous battle, in which these strong men are very cowards, what can we do? Even let us deny ourselves, and trust unto Him that sitteth on the right hand of His Father, and He shall make all our enemies our footstool. (E. Deering, B. D.)
Are not they all ministering spirits?
The Church and the angels.
I. In the light of an ADMONITION.
1. Whilst Christ is one, the angels are many.
2. Whilst the individuality of Christ is powerfully brought out in the Scriptures, the angels flit past us in vaguest form.
3. Whilst Christ is supreme, the angels are ministrant.
II. In the light of a PATTERN.
1. The universality of their action. None idle.
2. The characteristics of their service.
3. The aim of their mission. They help the saints to make their calling and election sure.
III. In the light of CONSOLATION. Think of their number, strength, swiftness, love. (W. L. Watkinson.)
I. THEY ARE SPIRITS.
1. The features in which they differ from man. Greater vitality, power, knowledge.
2. Some of the features which distinguish them from each other. They differ in the amount of faculty, in the form of talent, in the date of their existence, in the sphere of their agency.
II. THEY ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS. This implies
2. Activity for others.
III. THEY ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS DIVINELY COMMISSIONED. How great must He be who directs the movements of these countless hosts, at whose throne the loftiest of their number bow in humblest homage, and whose behests each counts it his highest honour and blessedness to obey.
IV. THEY ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS DIVINELY COMMISSIONED TO HELP A CLASS OF MANKIND.
1. Their ministry to man implies that there is some method by which they can help us.
2. It implies that man’s salvation is of paramount importance.
3. It implies that service to the lowest is consonant with the highest greatness.
4. It argues the obligation of man to seek the spiritual good of his fellows. (Homilist.)
I. THE BEINGS INTRODUCED TO OUR NOTICE.
1. They are purely spiritual in their nature.
2. They are pure and holy in their character.
II. THE SERVICE THEY PERFECT.
1. They are called ministering spirits to indicate their employment in God’s service, and they are said to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation--to point out the service and assistance they render to the saints.
2. Angels serve the saints for Christ’s sake.
3. They sustain in time of depression. They avert danger in the path of duty.
4. They deliver from evils in a way which displays the omnipotence of Him whom they serve, and His love to His people.
5. They attend the departing scene of the believer. If a Lazarus die, angels bear his spirit to the abodes of the blessed. As Christ’s servants, they delight to wait upon those whom He loves, and to conduct them to His presence.
6. And they shall at last gather together the elect from the wicked and reprobate at the last day. (The Evangelical Preacher.)
1. Here we may see that the name of a minister is an honourable name. The magistrate is a minister, the angels are ministers, Christ Himself was a minister when He lived on the earth. We that be the ministers are servants to Christ the King of kings; therefore, think highly of us because of our office. Is it a grace to the angels to be called ministers, and shall it be a disgrace to us? Nay, we will glory in it, and shame shall light on them that contemn the ministers of Christ.
2. Whose ministers are the angels? They be our ministers, they minister for our sakes, and what be we in comparison of the angels? They are spirits, we flesh and blood; they holy, we unholy; they immortal, we mortal; they in heaven, we on earth; yet they be our ministers. They minister to Christ as to their Lord and Master; to us as to their fellow-servants. But what an honour is this to wretched and sinful man! As if the King should command an honourable Lord of his privy council to wait on a poor man in the country, to conduct him from the court to his own house. The angels are of God’s Court in heaven, and see His face continually. We are silly worms on earth, yet the Lord hath appointed them to attend on us, to be ore’ nurses, to carry us in their arms, that we dash not our foot against a stone. Let us praise and magnify God, that hath provided such keepers for us.
3. What an unspeakable comfort is this for us t What a tower of defence against Satan and his angels! As there be bad angels to hurt us, so there be good angels to defend us.
4. Since the angels are ever present with us, let us beware of grieving them by sin. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Angels are spirits which serve the Lord for His Church’s safety. If yet we will be vain still, and think; yea, but what are arch-angels, principalities, powers, rues, thrones, dominions? What are Cherubim and Seraphim? All these, howsoever they be called in divers respects diversely, they are all angels in condition and nature, as they are here so defined. For if any archangel, throne, or dominion, or any other name that is named, were any way greater than an angel, all this disputation of the apostle were nothing worth; for how could it prove the excellency of Christ above all creatures, because He is greater than angels, if Cherubim or Seraphim or any archangel were also greater than an angel? And, therefore, that the reason of the apostle may be, as it is, strong and unanswerable, we must confess, all blessed spirits whatsoever they be, they be all this, and this is their glory, that they be God’s ministers for the safety of His children. This doctrine the prophet David teacheth also very plainly Psalms 34:8; Psalms 91:11). And according as this is God’s word and His promise, so we have many examples how He hath at all times justified His faith in the performance of it, t at we might not stagger in this doctrine of angels. The patriarchs, the people of Israel, the prophets, the apostles the saints of the New Testament, our Saviour Christ Himself; we have seen how the angels have been with them in dangerous times, and ministered the help of God unto them. Now, touching the manner how the angels of God execute this ministry, even as it is not hard unto the Lord in the battles of men to save with many or with few, so God sendeth out His angels, more or less, even as He will, that it might be known the power is the Lord’s. When Jacob feared before his brother Esau, God sendeth to him a host of angels to comfort him. When Elisha was beset with the great host of the King of Saria, and his servant was now exceedingly afraid, Elisha prayed to have his eyes opened, that he might see the help of God which was present with them, and he saw immediately the mountain full of horses and chariots round about Elisha, which were God s angels sent for the prophet’s safeguard. When our Saviour Christ is in distress and anguish, God sendeth many angels which do minister unto Him. And so He testifieth of the usual work of God common to all His saints, and applieth it particularly unto Himself in reproving Peter, who would needs draw his sword to maintain His cause. “Thinkest thou,” saith He, “that I cannot now pray unto My Father and He will give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” And as thus God send, the out a great multitude for the safety of one, so contrariwise sometimes He appointeth but one for the safety of many. So God sent an angel to deliver Israel out of Egypt, and to guide them through the terrible wilderness; and ever after in all their troubles, when they called upon Him, “the angel of His presence,” as the prophet Isaiah saith, “was their Deliverer”; and when they should enter the land of promise, God sent an angel to drive out the Canaanites before them. When the army of the King of Ashur came and besieged Jerusalem, God sent an angel who delivered the city, and in one night slew 185,000 of the Assyrians. When David numbered the people and procured the wrath of God, God sent an angel into Jerusalem, who slew with the pestilence 70,000 of the people. So we have many examples, where, upon occasion, to one man God sendeth one angel; even as it is said of one that He came to comfort our Saviour Christ in the garden. To Lot God sent two angels, so to the women that came to the grave of our Saviour Christ two angels appeared, and told them He was risen again. When the apostles looked after our Saviour Christ at His ascension into heaven, two angels appeared unto them, to teach them what they had to do. When God would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He sent three angels to Abraham to tell him of it. In the vision that Ezekiel had of the destruction of the city, God senteth out six angels to execute that judgment. And why is all this diversity? To the end, no doubt, we should not be curious, hut rest in the doctrine which the Lord taught us, that the angels are His ministers, f r their safety who shall inherit His kingdom. The angels, of whom so much we bay spoken, and who e honour is such, that seeing our Saviour Christ exceedeth them, the apostle here proveth He is the God of glory. In that, I say, these angels serve for our safety, how great is our safety, and what shall we render unto God for this salvation? It were exceeding love to give to any n, an a guard of men about him. It were more to give him a guard of princes; but what are men, what are princes, what arc kings in respect of angels, which God hath made to pitch above us? How can we envy earthly blessings, of houses, lands, servants, to abound unto our brethren, except we be ignorant what God hath done for us? And why should we now fear to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and go boldly, whither truth, faith, holiness, duty calleth us? What if the word break with hatred, or men swell in malice against us, are the angels driven back with vain threatenings? Or, what if we do fall before the enemy, and he prevail against us, as it happened to our Saviour Christ Himself, is this a want in angels that watch over us? or is it not rather the good will of God that we should die with Christ the sooner to reign with Him? Last of all, let us know how this glory is given us, not of ourselves, but as we are members of Christ; for to Him it doth properly belong, who is our Head. He is the ladder which Jacob saw in a dream, reaching from heaven to earth, and the angels ascending and descending by it. So that this honour is ours, as we be Christ’s; to Him it appertaineth, and to us it is given, as we be made members of His body by faith. (E. Deering, B. D.)
Ministry of angels
I. SOME GENERAL REMARKS CONCERNING ANGELS.
1. They possess high natural perfections.
(1) Extensive knowledge. Said to be full of eyes. Doubtless have distinguished capacities” for knowledge and wisdom. Dwell in the clear, cloudless region of celestial light.
(2) Amazing power. Said to “excel in strength.” Scripture presents several striking proofs. The immense slaughter of the firstborn in Egypt, and the destruction of the 185,000 of the Assyrian army were effected by an angel. The various judgments described in the revelations are to be executed by angels.
(3) Astonishing activity. Doubtless they can move swifter than light; perhaps as rapidly as thought (Daniel 9:3; Dan 20:23).
2. They possess great moral perfections.
(1) Spotless purity. Often called holy angels. Compared to light, morning stars, Sons of God, &c. (Revelation 14:10).
(2) Exalted goodness. They love God, and they have displayed the greatest interest in the affairs of men.
(3) They are all perfectly obedient. They Lest not, but serve God incessantly. They do His work perfectly.
3. Let us notice some general things connected with angels.
(1) They dwell in God’s holy presence. The highest and most gracious station occupied by created intelligences.
(2) They are evidently diversified in rank and order. Hence we read of angels, archangels, seraphims, cherubims, thrones, powers, &c.
(3) They are exceedingly numerous (Daniel 7:10; Psalms 68:17; Hebrews 12:22.)
(4) They are all glorious and happy. Possessed of perfect harmony of powers, of moral goodness, and of resplendent beams of the favour of God’s favour.
II. THE OBJECTS AND CHARACTER OF THEIR MINISTRY.
1. Their ministry is by Divine appointment. “Sent forth.” They stand in God’s presence, ready to obey His commands. They go at H,s bidding, and are entirely subjected to His wise and benevolent appointments.
2. The objects of their ministry. “Heirs of salvation.” The children of God, “who are heirs of God,” &c. (Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:2).
3. The character of their ministry. To minister is to serve. Hence they wait upon and communicate to these heirs according to the Divine will and pleasure. They have sometimes
(1) Been instructors (Genesis 16:7; Genesis 48:2; 2 Kings 1:16; Luke 1:10; Matthew 1:20; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:3).
(2) As deliverers (Genesis 22:12; Genesis 19:29; Daniel 6:22; Acts 5:19-20; Acts 12:7).
(3) As comforters (Daniel 10:19; Acts 27:24).
(4) They rejoice at the conversion of sinners (Luke 15:10).
(5) They bear the souls of the pious to glory (Luke 14:22).
(6) Angels will assist at the saints’ coronation, and be their companions for ever (Revelation 5:9-13).
1. How dignified and happy are believers.
2. Let us be circumspect, on account of the presence of angels.
3. Let us try to imitate them as far as possible; be as wise, holy, good, and humble as angels.
4. Bless God for the service of angels.
5. Not trust in them, or pray to them, but in Jesus and in God only. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The worship of God and the service of man
What the text affirms is theft the angels are at once the worshippers of God and the servants of men. Our Lord sets forth the same idea when He says that the angels of the children behold the face of the Father in heaven. This combination of worship and service is of the deepest interest, not only because it exists in the angel life, of which we know so little, but because it is what we ought to aim at--the rule for all God’s servants on earth as well as in heaven.
I. IN RENDERING SERVICE TO MANKIND THEY OBEY A DIVINE COMMAND. They are sent forth. The particulars of the command we don’t know. Their service, as far as we are concerned, is secret service. It might give rise to superstition, and encourage false hopes, if we knew all the ways in which they render aid to men. It is enough to know that their errand originates in a word from the throne. In this respect their case does not differ from our own. There is a word from the throne for us to obey. When God’s worshippers on earth draw near to Him, they are met by commands which point out the duty they owe to their fellow-men.
II. THE MINISTRY OF ANGELS TO MEN IS INSPIRED AND DIRECTED BY A DIVINE EXAMPLE. The Being they adore is the Infinite Goodness, the Infinite Love. In watching the course of human history they have seen, perhaps, more clearly than we can, an what wonderful ways God has carried out His merciful designs towards our race. It is said that our Lord was “seen of angels,” as though to imply that in a very special sense their regard was fixed upon Him. His service was a pattern for theirs. Even if they had no special regard for the children before, they must have learnt it in watching their King. When Marshal McMahon entered Milan, after the baffle of Solferino, a little peasant girl, with a few flowers in her hand, stepped out of the crowd and offered them to him. Immediately he reined up his charger, had the little one lifted Oil to his saddle-bow, and rode into the city with her in front of him. The child was at once the idol of the army and the populace. When the King of Angels was here they saw Him take little children up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and bless them. Is it any wonder that they are content to watch over the little ones? What can be too much to be done for those whom the King delighted to honour? Is it surprising that angels should rejoice when sinners repent when they know how He loved them? But the motive which operates with them should operate with us. Their King is our King. To us His love has been revealed in bright and beautiful manifestations. Indeed, “we a nearer interest claim.” It is a most flagrant inconsistency that a man should profess to worship a loving God, a self-denying Saviour, yet keep a selfish heart towards his fellow-men--careless of the sins and sorrows of the world, whilst he wraps himself round with religious privileges, and dreams away his life in the luxuries of spiritual self-indulgence. He may call that indulgence worship, but it is unworthy of the name.
III. THE WORSHIP OF THE ANGELS PREPARES THEM FOR THE SERVICE OF MEN. They “ excel in strength,” yet their strength is not inherent. They derive their might from the Mighty One. He endows them with the energies they employ for the benefit of mankind. The sight of Him keeps fresh in them every gracious and loving impulse towards the children of men So with those who serve on earth. They can only maintain their capacity for service by communion with their Lord. (B. Bird.)
Ministration of angels
I. WHAT MAY RE LEARNED OF THIS SUBJECT FROM SCRIPTURE.
1. To minister for our good, is a part of the ordinary employment to which they are appointed.
2. This is not the work of one angel only, but “ they are all sent forth to minister” (Psalms 34:7; Hebrews 1:14).
3. They have had distinct employments assigned them on different occasions, as the honour of God and necessities of His Church required Luke 1:13; Acts 10:3; Acts 10:7; Acts 12:7-11; Daniel 3:28).
4. In this office they are servants of Jesus Christ, as the great Head of the Chinch.
5. Much of their work is to oppose the malice of evil spirits, who seek our hurt: and to defend us from their rage and subtlety (Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9; Matthew 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:18).
6. God by them suggests good motions to the minds of His saints. If it be asked, how these good motions from angels may be distinguished from the motions of the Holy Ghost, and His influence on the minds of believers? it is answered
(1) Angelic motions are from without, but the Spirit of our Father dwelleth in us.
(2) They consist in occasional impressions; and are made by advantages taken from outward objects, and the present dispositions of the soul; whereas the Holy Spirit, by His operations, engages all the faculties of the soul, really and immediately citing them to generous actions, according to their nature and qualities.
(3) Angels in their suggestions communicate no strength to perform good actions; they only stir us up to use the strength we have already in possession; but the Holy Ghost strengthens us with all might by His glorious power in our inner man, and effectually works every good work in us.
(4) Angelcal impressions are transient; but the gracious influences of the Holy Ghost are continual (John 4:13-14).
7. They are appointed in their ministry to be witnesses of our obedience, sufferings, &c. (1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:10).
8. They will attend Christ at His coming to judgment, to deliver His friends from every danger, and to execute the vengeance written upon all His obstinate enemies (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:49).
II. WHY GOD USES THE MINISTRATION OF ANGELS IN BRINGING HOME THE HEIRS OF SALVATION! Doubtless the principal reason is, “Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight”; yet the Scriptures assign several others, such as
1. It employs and manifests the obedience of the angels, that in them the Church militant may have a fair example.
2. Hereby a blessed intercourse and fellowship is maintained between the several parts of the family of God; consisting of saints on earth and angels in heaven (Hebrews 11:22).
3. To reproach, awe, and restrain the devil. It is inconceivable what mischief might be done by this arch enemy, were it not for the constant vigilance of these holy watchers (Revelation 2:10).
4. That the saints may see the greatness and glory of redemption, which even the angels desire to look into.
1. We should be very careful to use great sobriety in all our meditations on the subject, and never pretend “to be wise above what is written.”
2. Danger should not deter us from duty. We have the sacred word for our guide; let us abide by that, and we are safe; whether we treat of angels, who are still reserved holy and happy, or of such as have dreadfully fallen into sin and misery.
3. There is no sufficient reason to believe that every Christian has a particular guardian angel appointed to take care of him. It cannot increase our consolation, but has a dangerous tendency to superstition.
4. Such is the love and care of God towards His saints in their present state of trial, that He sends the glorious attendants on His throne to minister to them; He who gave His only Son to die for them, will certainly send His holy angels to bring them safe home to the purchased possession.
5. Let us always remember, that in all our approaches to God as humble worshippers, we join with the holy angels, and bear our part in the heavenly concert. (J. Hannam.)
Nature and employment of angels
I. NATURE OF ANGELS.
1. That they are the highest order of created beings that we have any account of. They are represented, in respect to their exist-nee, as prior and superior to men.
2. Angels are beings of superior power and wisdom. They are called “mighty angels.” They are said to excel in strength.
3. Angels are fixed in a state of permanent and superior holiness. They were once in a state of probation; but what was the test of their obedience we are nowhere expressly informed. It is, however, very probable that what proved the occasion of Satan’s falling, was the occasion of their establishment in holiness. They are called the elect angels.
4. Angels are not encumbered with such gross bodies as we have. The apostle calls them “ministering spirits,” and God says, He makes “His angels spirits, and His minsters a flaming fire.”
5. That there are various grades or ranks of angels. Whether the distinction in the orders of angels arises from any disparity in their powers, or from any distinct offices which they discharge, it is not easy to determine. It is, however, most agreeable to that beautiful variety which is everywhere to be seen in the works of God, to suppose there is a real diversity in the intellectual powers of individual angels. And they may be appointed to different offices, according to the difference in their mental powers and capacities.
II. THEIR EMPLOYMENTS.
1. Angels have been employed in bearing the messages of God to the Church. This was probably one of their first employments after the fall of man. And from this employment it seems they took their name.
2. It was the business of angels to attend upon Christ, from the time He came into the world to the time He went out of it. They were devoted to His service, and He could, as He intimated, at any time call more than twelve legions of them to His aid.
3. Angels are employed as executioners of God’s wrath, against His enemies and the enemies of the Church.
4. It is the employment of angels to take particular care of good men. “Arc they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? “ We may not pretend to point out all that angels do for particular saints; but yet the Scripture clearly mentions some important services which they perform for the heirs of salvation.
(1) They often protect them from danger. Lot, Jacob, Peter in prison.
(2) They assist good men in their duties and devotions. They are represented as present in the assemblies of the saints. Two large cherubim were carved in the temple. “And within the oracle,” we read, “were made two cherubim of olive tree, each ten cubits high.” These emblems signified the presence of angels in the temple. Now if angels are present with good men in duty, they may have the: power of assisting them in their devotions.
(3) There is reason to believe that angels minister to saints in their dying moments.
1. Since angels wore created an order of beings superior to mankind, we have peculiar reason to admire the great and discriminating grace of God in providing salvation for fallen men, while He suffered ,allen angels to perish without remedy.
2. Since all the angels are employed in promoting the work of redemption, it must be an immensely great and important work.
3. Since God employs all the angels to minister for the benefit of saints, we may justly conclude that they are very precious in His sight. They are His children, His heirs, His jewels, and the richest treasure He has on earth.
4. Since God employs all His angels to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, there is no god ground to believe that the departed spirits of good men are ever present in this world, to take care of the pious friends whom they have left behind.
5. Since angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, we may justly conclude that there is a great change in the circumstances of sinners, as well as in their character, when they become saints.
6. Since angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who are heirs of salvation, they must be fully acquainted with this world, and with the circumstances, characters and conduct of mankind in general.
7. Are all the angels ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation? Then Christians have no ground to fear in appearing on the Lord’s side, and in performing every duty He has enjoined upon them. Those that are for them are more and mightier than those that be against them.
8. Since angels are such great and amiable beings as they bare been represented, saints have a bright prospect, not only through life, but through death and through a boundless eternity
9. This subject shows the sinful and miserable state of all incorrigible sinners, both in time and eternity. They have no holy angels to guide and guard them in this world; but they are under the power and influence of the god of this world, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. They are constantly growing in sin and guilt, by all the light they have, and by all the mercies they enjoy, and by all the evils they suffer. The same evil spirits that attend them in life, will attend them at death, and drag their unwilling souls down to the chambers of eternal death. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
Angelic life in connection with man
Angelic beings do not appear now to our eyes, and yet I do not doubt that God speaks to us now as much as He did to Abraham, and saves men now from ruin as He saved Lot. And the Bible itself confirms this view. As we pass on from the early history of the Jewish nation to the later, the physical appearance of angels is Succeeded by the visionary appearance of angels, the conversation at the tentdoor by the vision of Isaiah and Ezekiel. It is the tendency of men in early times, when feeling is master of intellect, to represent spiritual impressions as sensuous impressions; indeed they feel so strongly that they see, and it is without the slightest want of truth that a patriarch would say that he heard God’s voice speaking to him when in fact he had only received a vivid spiritual impression. The whole account of Abraham’s intercession with the Lord is probably a poetic account of a real spiritual struggle in Abraham’s soul, the embodiment in words of the questions and replies of a passionate prayer.
1. The first principle, then, contained in the stories is that God speaks directly to man. We look upon these stories as isolated and preternatural. In this any we take all the comfort and reality out of the Bible. That book does not relate what God did once for men, but what God is always doing. If, in the wilderness, Hagar, in the hour of her bitterest desolation found that the Omnipresent was beside her; we know now and for ever that wherever a mother bends m misery over her dying child, there is then with her God’s never-faliling Love. The child may die, but He is there waiting to take it to His fatherhood, and keep it for her coming. Oh I take these Old Testament stories to your hearts. Realise a living God, who penetrates with His presence and His action every moment of your being. In whatever light we view these accounts of angels, this they suggest at least. There is not a struggle of your soul which is not known to Him, not a crisis in your life which your Father does not hang over with intensest eagerness, waiting for the fitting moment to speak.
2. And if this be true of our individual, so it is also true of our domestic, social, and national life. When the angel came to Monoah’s altar, the truth was revealed that God takes interest in each man’s home; that it should be pure and happy, a sacred altar of love, a school for sympathy and forbearance: a centre from which an impulse for wider work may spring, and whence self-sacrifice in daily trifles may swell into the self-sacrifice of a life for universal objects: a place where warriors may be trained for the army of Christ against the evil, a place where the heavenly life may be imaged forth by each living in the life of all.
3. Nor is the related interference of angelic powers with social and national movements without a meaning to us now. If it tells us in the form of certain stories that God was watching over and guiding Jewish society and Jewish national life, it tells us that God is watching over and directing English society and the English nation, every society and every nation. And God knows that we want here in England some belief of thug sort to protect us from despair and the sloth and indifference which are born of despair. And when God has thus brought by strange ways the body of English society into a more active life of self-sacrifice, a higher morality, and a wider love of the race, then I cannot but think that men will turn with new eyes contemplate the life of Christ and sue in Him the true King of the new society. And now, to sweep back for a moment to our first subject, we have found a ground for the hope that the future society will be constituted as a host warring against evil, under the leadership of Christ. If that be so, we shall not be devoid of the sympathy, nor apart from the communion, of the other spiritual beings who may inhabit God’s universe. Their life is no lazy dream, no indolent enjoyment. The spirit of the battle against evil is the spirit of there life. For “there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.” When we read that stanza in the symbolical poem of Apocalypse, our soul kindles. We have brother warriors, purer than we, who are waging the same great contest, and who watch us with faithful and sympathising eyes. The hosts of earth and heaven are bound together by the comrade spirit, by a common indignation, by a common devotion to the same Leader. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
The ministry of angels
I. SOME OF THE OBJECTS FOR WHICH SUCH MINISTRATIONS ARE EMPLOYED.
1. In imparting direction under circumstances of doubt and perplexity.
2. In affording consolation and support in seasons of distress and trial.
3. To defend and preserve in the hour of danger or peril.
4. As connected with the introduction of the believer to his final blessedness.
5. It seems further questionable whether angels may not have some special charge over the mortal remains of the believer (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).
6. There is one peculiarly striking circumstance noticed in the text, viz., that believers are represented as having been the subjects of this angelic attention prior to their actual possession of “a good hope through grace”:--they are “sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation.”And how interesting might it often prove for the believer to review that part of his life in which he lived estranged from God, with the remembrance of this fact. Perhaps, Christian, you have been once and again held back, you knew not how, when upon the very brink of ruin. It was the restraining grace of God that held you, but of that grace perhaps an angel was the friendly minister.
II. SOME REASONS FOR WHICH ANGELIC MINISTRATION MAY PROBABLY BE EMPLOYED.
1. To display the superior honour and glory of the Divine Redeemer.
2. To afford to angels themselves opportunity of contemplating the most illustrious display of the Divine perfections.
3. To illustrate the Divine tenderness and care over His Church and people.
III. THE PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS THE SUBJECT SEEMS NATURALLY TO SUGGEST.
1. Let an apprehension of their presence make us watchful over the correctness and propriety of our external deportment.
2. Let the dispositions which in such conduct they evince, be studied as a model to which our own should be conformed.
3. Let the believer rejoice in the prospect of intimate and endeared association with these ministering spirits. (Essex Congreational Remembrancer.)
The nature, office, and employment of good angels
I. First, FOR THEIR NATURE, THEY ARE SPIRITS. This is universally agreed by all that acknowledge such an order of beings; but whether they are pure spirits, divested of matter, and all kind of corporeal vehicle (as the philosophers term it). Hath been a great controversy, but I think of no great consequence. Not only the ancient philosophers, but some of the ancient Christian fathers, did believe angels to be clothed with some kind of bodies, consisting of the purest and finest material; which they call ethereal. And this opinion seems to be grounded upon a pious belief, that it is the peculiar excellency and prerogative of the Divine nature, to be a pure and simple spirit, wholly separate from matter; but the more current opinion of the Christian Church (especially of latter times) hath been, that angels are mere and pure spirits, without anything that is corporeal belonging to them; but yet so, that they have power to assume thin and airy bodies, and can, when they please, appear in human shape, as they are frequently in Scripture said to have done.
II. Secondly, We have here THEIR GENERAL OFFICE AND EMPLOYMENT; they are “ministering spirits”; they are (as I may say) domestic servants, and constant attendants upon that great and glorious King, whose throne is in the heavens, and whose kingdom ruleth over all; they stand continually before Him, to behold His face, expecting His commands, and in a constant readiness to do His will; for though the Omnipotence of God be stash, that He can do all things immediately by Himself, “whatever He pleaseth in heaven and in earth”; can govern the world, and steer the affairs of it, without any instruments or ministers; yet His wisdom and goodness has thought fit to honour His creatures, especially this higher and more perfect rank of beings, with His commands; and to make them, according to their several degrees and capacities, the ordinary ministers of His affairs, in the rule and government of this inferrer world; and this not for His own ease, but for their happiness; and He therefore employs them in His service, that they may be capable of His favour and rewards.
III. THE SPECIAL OFFICE AND EMPLOYMENT OF GOOD ANGELS IN REGARD TO GOOD MEN; and for this the apostle expressly tells us that “they are sent forth to minister for them (that as, in their behalf and for their benefit) who shall be heirs of salvation.” In which words there are three things very considerable for our instruction and comfort.
1. Their particular designation and appointment for this employment, expressed in these words, “sent forth,” as if they were particularly commissioned and appointed by God for rids very end. God Himself doth superintend all affairs, and by His particular designation, the angels execute the pleasure of His goodwill towards us. Hence it is so frequently said in
Scripture that God sent His angel to such and such a person for such and such purposes.
2. You have here the general end of their employment--for good men; they are sent forth on our behalf, and for our benefit; to take care of us and protect us, to succour anal comfort, to direct and assist, to rescue and deliver us.
3. Here is the more special end of their employment, in regard to good men, intended in those words, “for them who shall be heirs of salvation”; hereby signifying, that the angels are employed about good men, with regard more particularly to their eternal happiness, and for the conducting and furthering of the great affair of their everlasting salvation. This certainly is our greatest concernment; and therefore they have a more particular charge and care of us in regard to this. It has been a general and, I think, not ill-grounded opinion, both of the Jews and heathens, that good angels are more especially present with us, and observant of us, and assistant to us, in the performance of all acts of religion; that they are particularly present at our prayers; and therefore the Jews speak of a particular angel for this purpose, whom They call “ the angel of prayer”; that they observe our vows, and our breach or performance of them. So Solomon seems to intimate (Ecclesiastes 5:4; Ecclesiastes 5:6). But the angels are yet more particularly present in the places, and at the times, of God’s public worship. The placing of the cherubims in “the holy of holies,” seems to signify the presence of the angels in our most religious addresses to God. And Plutarch says that “the angels are the overseers of Divine service.” And therefore we ought to behave ourselves with all modesty, reverence, and decency in the worship of God, out of regard to the angels who are there present, and observe our carriage and behaviour (1 Corinthians 11:13). Nay, that the angels have some charge and ca e of the bodies of good men after death, may not improbably be gathered from the passage in St. Jude (verse 9). But to proceed: this we are sure of, that the angels shall be the great ministers add instruments of the resurrection of our bodies, and the reunion of them to our souls: for so our blessed Saviour has told us Matthew 24:30-31). All that now remains is to draw some inferences from this discourse, and so I shall conclude.
1. What hath been said upon this argument, and so abundantly proved from Scripture, may serve to establish us in the belief of this truth, and to awaken us to a due consideration of it.
2. We should with great thankfulness acknowledge the great goodness of God to us, who takes such care of us, and that, not only some inferior spirits, but the chief ministers of this great King those that “stand in His presence, and behold His face”; and not a few of these but the whole order of them are employed about us.
3. If the angels have the particular charge of good men, we should take heed how we despise, or be any way injurious to them: for how despicable soever they may appear to us, they are certainly very dear to God; since He deems them so considerable as to employ His chief ministers about them, and to commit the charge of them to those who, by their office, do more immediately attend upon Himself.
4. If God appointed angels to be ministering spirits on our behalf: we may thence very reasonably conclude that God did not intend that we should worship them.
5. We should imitate the holy angels by endeavouring to serve God as they do, in ministering to the good of others.
6. And we should learn also of them to condescend to the meanest services for the good of others. (Archbishop Tillotson.)
The practical side of the doctrine of angels
1. The existence of angels extends and enlarges our views regarding the city of God.
2. Their number is fitted to encourage us when we are cast down by the spectacle of general unbelief.
3. The lively part, the tender interest which the Holy Scripture assures us that they take in the triumph of the Church in general, and in the progress of each believer in particular, ought to be a precious consolation to us.
4. The hope of being one day associated with these glorious inhabitants of heaven presents to us one of the most ravishing prospects.
5. We may find in the love which they have to God and in the zeal with which these perfectly holy beings serve Him, a very effectual stimulant to lead us to diligence and activity in the service of the Lord. (Dr. Grandpierre.)
The angelic hierarchy
Casting even a fugitive look on material nature, a prodigious diversity is perceived among the creatures which God has called into existence. None of them resemble one another; all differ either in their essence, or form, or structure, or organisation, or capacities; and although the Supreme Author of everything that we see has marked all of them with that stomp of unity which causes us to recognise the Divine Architect, it seems nevertheless that, to reveal His inexhaustible wisdom, He has been pleased to scatter with profusion variety among the works of His hands. We have a striking illustration in the world of matter, which, in its present constitution, is destined one day to perish. Now, can we believe that God, who has shown Himself so productive and so rich in creative energy in the world of bodies, has not employed the same liberality in the world of spirits? That that God who has fashioned matter with so much intelligence and care, has not taken an equal pleasure in creating an innumerable multitude of spiritual intelligences? Can we admit that, in the midst of those creatures which He commands as master, man is feared the only one of his kind that has not above him creatures proportionally greater than himself, that he is himself greater than the nature of which he is chief priest? Therefore, when Scripture affirms that beyond the bounds of this world there exist spirits superior to man in light, in strength, in dignity, and that they are called thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, angels and archangels, seraphim and cherubim, celestial armies of the Most High, does it teach us anything so unreasonable, so difficult to receive and to comprehend? This is a first consideration; here is a second, which is closely connected with the first, and which flows immediately from it. Not only does the material creation present to us a great variety of objects, but it shows them to us in an uninterrupted series, and causes us to see them appointed, so to speak, according to the laws of one vast and magnificent hierarchy. From the stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from the animal to man, an immortal spirit, everything is in succession, everything is united, everything is tied by wonderful knots, by the most regular transitions. You have here the first extremity of a chain, of which all links are united one to the other, without leaving between them any interval. Having arrived at man, would you abruptly break that chain, so well knit together, and because your eyes of flesh do not see it prolong and extend itself in the invisible world up to the highest degrees of celestial hierarchies, would you pretend that it does not pass beyond this earth, and that the most beautiful works of God are shut up within the limits of the globe which we inhabit? Just as well might the insect which creeps under the herb, and has but some inches of horizon, deny the existence of all the beings which people the vast extent of the earth, because with its short view it cannot perceive them. Assuredly it would not be more insensate than the rash man who, under the pretext that he had never seen angels, affirms that there cannot be in other worlds than ours intelligences superior to his own. (Dr. Grandpierre.)
Twofold aspect of angelic ministration
The original Greek here expresses to separate aspects of that angelic service now going on in the Church. The angels are the ministers of God, giving to Him always their constant adoration and worship, add they are therefore sent forth by Him on behalf of those who are about to inherit salvation. In other words, because of the Incarnation which has made us one with God, and of our incorporation into the Body of Christ, they both worship with us and work for us. In the first place, then, their ministry in heaven, where stands the one Priest, presenting before the Father that sacrifice which was offered once for all on earth, their celebration with Him of the Eucharist on high, is one and the same with ours when we present to the same Lord and heavenly Father the memorial His Son hath commanded us to make. And so, though our souls are stained with sin, while they are spotless; though we are fallen and weak, while they have been kept upright and strong by the constant help of the Holy Ghost, nevertheless ours is the blessed though solemn privilege--an honour to which our adoption in Christ has raised us--of joining with them in their worship of Him who sitteth upon the throne. The angels have their work also. They are ever being “sent forth.” Yes, into the ways, the dangerous ways, by which even the children of the kingdom must go, they are sent to minister in their behalf. No doubt they joy in ministering thus unto us, in guarding us amid dangers, and protecting even when we think we re safe, but are not. And they joy most of all because we bear the likeness of Him to whom they came in His hours of temptation. (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)
O cannot fail to take hint of spirit ministry in material nature and in mortal life. By arbitrary habit of tradition we are given to conceive of lofty spirits, as absorbed in sacred exercises, and hold them to have no other function than that of teacher. We recognise no uses of their hands, if hands they have, or other members. They have been esteemed as the clergymen of heaven, the seers and sages of a spirit land, leading in worship and dealing only with the souls of men, and the moral interests of beings. Theologians have set them thus apart, as theologians like themselves, to abstractions and speculations of a grander grade. And in so setting them apart, have set them over upon the outer edges of the material realm, even as in a lower way they would set off and set apart the earthly ministries of men, to a sainthood that broaches not nor touches their secular affairs. It may surprise us, however, to discover that there is no warrant for this notion on the page of inspiration. Angels are there considered to be messengers, that often carry sublime and stately truths. But they are neither unskilled nor unemployed in natural processes. It might not be too much to say that they are its artisans and artists. The creative acts themselves are spoken of as commands. At the Christ coming, they were eager and alert. In the Christ consummation they are neither to march in spectacle of mere parade, nor stand inactive as observers of the scene. Meantime, in every ransomed and resuscitated life they ate intrusted with material ministries. One period of human extremity, one pass of human flight there is at which no earthly means avail, even as means. All the same, God works by means, and everywhere employs instruments at hand. There is no life which is not replenished and refreshed by some other to a certain point--no human creature is left utterly alone in helplessness. Up to a certain pass of destiny it can scarcely be that any human being is left utterly alone, or goes unprovided with a means, a ministry which, if it may not deliver and must not restore, at least shall soothe and serve. But every human career arrives at a pitch when all this ceases, when it is not only rendered futile, but imperceptible and unreal. To one who has been tenderly cherished, and from infancy enclosed by assiduous care and delicate attention, not less than to one who has known hard times in his rugged self-support, or his lonely isolation--not less, but rather more. Not less to one who has been beset by services, or encrowned with honour, reverence, and love, than to one who has led an Arab life of estrangement from all others. Not less, but rather more, to one who has been waited on and greeted, and decorated, and endeared, and jealously guarded from the elements, the world of chance and change. Not less, but more to such an one it comes to be at last, when human helpers falter and fall back, and all appliances alike are powerless. Then will the all-gracious Author of this workmanship leave His creature to be the prey of nature? You might as well allege that He will leave the globe itself to be the prey of its own forces, and explode in the concussion and convulsion of its own collisions, the dissolution of its subsistence, and the disintegration of its substance. You might as well imply that the mother of a child will desert it coldly because it has lost its way, and lost its footing, and has fallen. But what aid can interpose? Instrumentally, what is the recourse? What agency can be employed? Who shall bear a message? Who shall breathe a whisper to the retreating spirit? the only touch that van be felt is the touch of kindred on the spirit, the voice of soul to soul. Consciousness opens on the gaze of eyes that are not made of flesh and blood. In that supreme experience there must hover round about the couch some band of those who shall be found as qualified as they are willing. God sends guards to welcome their brethren within His glory; to soothe the while the parting pangs. The hour of earth’s failure is the hour of heaven’s support. Let the nurse come in the room, Lord; let the nurse come in; let the nurse come now, before the undertaker. Thou who didst give us in the charge of Thy servants, upon the earth in infancy, give us in nobler trust to loftier care; and when the flesh faints and fails let us find the spirit welcome at the gate. (H. S. Carpenter.)
The liturgy of angelic service
This liturgy of service is a literal fact. When struggling against overwhelming difficulties; when walking the dark, wild mountain-pass alone; when in peril or urgent need; we are surrounded by invisible forms, like those which accompanied the path of Jesus, ministering to Him in the desert, strengthening Him in the garden, hovering around His cross, watching His grave, and accompanying Him to His home. They keep pace with the swiftest trains in which we travel. They come unsoiled through the murkiest air. They smooth away the heaviest difficulties. They garrison with light the darkest sepulchres. They bear us up in their hands, lest we should strike our foot against a stone. Many an escape from imminent peril, many an unexpected assistance, many a bright and holy thought whispered in the ear, we know not whence or how, is due to those bright and loving spirits. “The good Lord forgive me,” says Bishop Hall, “for that amongst my other offences, I have suffered myself so much to forget the presence of His holy angels.” But valuable as their office is, it is not to be mentioned in the same breath as Christ’s. (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)
Ministry of angels
I went once to see a dying girl whom the world had roughly treated. She never had a father, she never knew her mother. Her home had been the poorhouse, her couch a hospital cot, and yet as she had staggered in her weakness there, she had picked up a little of the alphabet, enough to spell out the New Testament, and she had touched the hem of the Master’s garment, and had learned the new song. And I never trembled in the presence of such majesty as I did in the majesty of her presence as she came near the crossing. “Oh, sir!” she said, “God sends His angels. I have read in His Word,” Are they not ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ And when I am learning in my cot they stand about me on this floor; and when the heavy darkness comes, and this poor side aches so severely, He comes, for He says, ‘Lo, I am with you,’ and He slips His soft hand under my aching side, and I sleep, I rest.” (Dr. Fowler.)
Ministry of angels
The only child of a poor woman one day fell into the fire by accident, and was so badly burned that he died after a few hours’ suffering. The clergyman, as soon as he knew, went to see the mother, who was known to be dotingly fond of the child. To his great surprise he found her calm, patient, and resigned. After a little conversation she told him how she had been weeping bitterly as she knelt beside her child’s cot, when suddenly he exclaimed, “Mother, don’t you see the beautiful man who is standing there, and waiting for me?” Again and again the child persisted in saying, that, “the beautiful man” was waiting for him, and seemed ready and even anxious to go to him. And as a natural consequence, the mother’s heart was strangely cheered.
Heirs of salvation
The time and certainty of inheriting salvation
Though the possession of this inheritance be to come, while the heirs thereof here live, yet is it sure and certain. What title so sure among men as an inheritance? Much more sure is this inheritance of salvation than any earthly inheritance can be. For
1. It is prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34).
2. It is purchased by the greatest price that can be, the precious blood of the Son of God (Ephesians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:19).
3. It is ratified by the greatest assurance that can be, the death of Him that gives it (Hebrews 9:14).
4. It is sealed up unto us by that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).
5. God’s promise is engaged for it, therefore they who possess it arc said to inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).
6. The faith of believers addeth another seal thereto (John 3:33).
7. It is reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). In heaven “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves do break through nor steal” Matthew 6:20). (W. Gouge.)
Instructions and directions arising from the inheritance of salvation
Such an inheritance as salvation made sure to us, affords sundry instructions and directions. Instructions are such as these:
1. It commends God’s philanthropy, His peculiar love to men, who by nature are children of wrath and heirs of hell; yet made to be partakers of the inheritance of salvation (Ephesians 2:2-3; Colossians 1:12; Titus 3:3-5).
2. It takes away all conceit of merit by man’s works. For an inheritance is the free gift of a Father.
3. It is enough to uphold our spirits against penury, ignominy, and all manner of misery in this world. An heir, that as long as he is a child, differeth nothing a servant, but is under tutors and governors; yet, because he is lord of all, will not be dejected; but will support himself with this, that he hath a fair inheritance belonging to him.
4. It is a great encouragement against all things that may threaten death; yea, and against death itself; in that death brings us to the possession of this excellent inheritance. Directions are such as these:
(1) Subject thyself to thy Father’s will, and to that government under which He sets thee, because thou art His heir (Galatians 4:2).
(2) Raise up thy affections to the place of thine inheritance, and set thy heart thereon (Colossians 3:1; Matthew 6:21).
(3) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world (1 John 2:15). Salvation is not there to be had.
(4) Moderate thy care about earthly things; thou hast a heavenly inheritance to care for.
(5) Suffer with joy all things for thy profession sake, knowing that thou hast an heavenly inheritance (Hebrews 10:34).
(6) Search thine evidences about this inheritance. There is great reason that in a matter of so great consequence thou shouldst i e sure of thy evidence for thy right hereto (2 Peter 1:10).
(7) Expect with patience the time appointed for the enjoying this inheritance. Through faith and patience the promises are inheritedHebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:12).
(8) Walk worthy of this high calling (Ephesians 4:1), and of God who hath called thee to His kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
(9) Be ever thankful for this privilege especially (Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3-4).
(10) Despise not any of these heirs because they are here poor and mean James 2:5). Ishmael was cast out because he mocked the heir Genesis 21:9-10). (W. Gouge.)
“What is the use of being in the world unless you are somebody? “ said a boy to his friend. “Sure enough, and I mean to be,” answered the other. “I began this very day. I mean to be somebody.” Ashton looked George in the face. “Began to-day I how? What do you mean to be?” “A Christian boy, and so grow up to be a Christian man,” said George. “I believe that is the greatest somebody for us to be.” George is right. There is no higher manhood than Christian manhood; and it is in the power of every boy to reach that. Every boy cannot be rich; every boy cannot be President; every boy cannot be judge: but God asks you all to a Christian manhood--to be His sons, and so with His Son Jesus Christ to be heirs of heaven.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29