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Let us therefore fear
Fearful of coming short
WITH WHAT DOES THE FEAR ENJOINED IN THE TEXT MAINLY CONCERN ITSELF? Now, the apostle cannot mean that we are to fear lest we should come short of heaven for want of merit. There is not a man living who will not come short of heaven if he tries that road.
1. The great point is lest we come short of the heavenly rest by failing in the faith which will give us rest. Note, then, that it becomes us to be peculiarly anxious that we do not come short of fully realising the spirituality of faith. Many are content with the shells of religion, whereas it is the kernel only which can feed the soul.
2. The exhortation of our text leads us to say that we must take heed lest we fail to discern the fact that the whole way of salvation is of faith.
II. WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES MAY SUGGEST THE NECESSITY FOR THIS FEAR?
1. First, it is certain that many professors apostatise. Now, if others apostatise, may not we also?
2. Note, again, that we ourselves know others who are, we fear, much deceived, and fall short of true salvation. Though we have very much that is morally excellent, it may be that we are destitute of the real work of grace, and so come short of the rest which is given to faith,
3. Yet more, remember there are some professors who know that they are not at rest. “We that bare believed do enter into rest,” but you know you have no peace.
III. WHAT SOLEMN TRUTHS DEMAND THE FEAR SUGGESTED IN THE TEXT? If we should really come short of heaven we shall have lost all its bliss and glory for ever. And we shall have lost heaven with this aggravation, that we did begin to build, but were not able to finish. Oh, fear lest ye come short of it. Nay, begin sooner, fear lest ye seem to come short of it, for he that is afraid of the seeming will be delivered from the reality.
IV. HOW DOES OUR FEAR EXERCISE ITSELF? Our fear of coming short of the rest must not lead us to unbelief, because in that case it would make us come short at once. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A check to presumption
I. The gospel is not only a revelation, but A PROMISE, and a promise exceeding great and precious. It not only holds forth to our view, but it proposes to our hope eternal life, and whatever is previously necessary to the acquisition of it. The promise was early made, and was often renewed with enlargements. Yes, in this blessed Book we have “ a promise left us of entering into His rest.” But what is this rest? We may view it as it is begun upon earth, or completed in heaven. Even while the believer is upon earth, this rest is not only ensured, but begun.
1. View him with regard to his understanding, and you will find that he has rest.
2. View him with regard to his conscience, and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from the torment of fear and the horrors of guilt.
3. View him with regard to his passions and appetites, and you find he has rest. While pride, and envy, and malice, and avarice, and sensual affections, reigned within, often striving with each other, and always fighting against the convictions of his judgment, the man’s breast was nothing but a scene of tumult; he was “like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.”
4. view him once more with regard to his “condition and circumstances,” and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from those anxieties which devour others, who make the world their portion, and have no confidence in God. With all his advantages here, a voice perpetually cries in his ears, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest.” However favourable the voyage, they are now on the treacherous ocean; and by and by they will enter the harbour--“then are they glad because they are quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven.” At death we are told the righteous enter into rest. And this rest is pure, undisturbed, and everlasting. They shall rest from “ their labours.” Though all activity, they shall be incapable of fatigue, for their powers will be fully equal to their work.
II. THE STATE OF MIND IN WHICH WE SHOULD REGARD IT--“Let us therefore fear,” &c. The fear here enjoined is not that of the sluggard dismayed by difficulties, or of the unbeliever who suspects that the promise shall not be accomplished; but a fear of caution, vigilance; a fear which leads us to examine ourselves, and allows us, in this awful concern, to be satisfied with nothing less than evidence whether we have a title to heaven and are in a fair way to obtain this blessedness.
1. To excite in you this fear, remember the possibility of your coming short. Remember that out of six hundred thousand Israelites who came out of Egypt to possess the land of Canaan, two only entered!
2. Consider the consequence of coming short. Is it not dreadful to be deprived of that “fulness of joy” which God hath promised to them that love Him? What would it be to lose your business, your health, your friends, compared with the loss of the soul? And remember, there is no medium between heaven and hell; if you miss the one, the other is unavoidable. And remember also the aggravations which will attend the misery of those who perish in your circumstances. There is nothing so healing, so soothing, as the expectation of hope; and of course there is nothing so tormenting as the disappointment of it, especially where the object is vastly important. Yea, remember also that you will not only be disappointed in coming short, but you will be punished for it.
(1) Let us observe, first, how thankful we should be for such a promise left us of entering into His rest! For surely we could not have reasonably expected it.
(2) Let us, secondly, see how necessary it is in religion to avoid passing from one extreme into another. The gospel encourages our hope; but then it enlightens it and guards it. “Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Be not highminded, but fear. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
(3) What are we to say of those of you who know nothing of this salutary concern? (The Congregational Pulpit.)
Necessity for religious caution
I. WE HAVE ACTUALLY A PROMISE MADE TO US OF AN ETERNAL REST. Christianity is no cunningly devised fable, but a certain offer of inconceivable felicity. It finds us wretched, and poor, and blind, and miserable. It finds us exposed to the inflictions of Divine wrath; it brings near to us the good news of pardon, grace, and mercy through the mediation of Jesus Christ. The adaptation of this rest to the weariness of man is very striking.
II. THIS REST IS PROMISED TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD, AND TO THEM ALONE. Into that world of light and of love nothing enters that defiles. No revolt, no alienation, no reluctance, no coldness towards God is felt in heaven; God is love, and all who dwell near Him “dwell in love”; love to Him and to each other.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF COMING SHORT OF THE BLESSEDNESS OF HEAVEN IS AN IDEA SO TREMENDOUS, THAT IT MAY WELL AFFECT THE MIND WITH AWE. The apostle says, “Let us therefore fear,” &c. The apparent improbability of retrieving error after death is so plainly stated, that the supposition of carelessness in so great a matter, is a supposition fearful is the extreme. All human evils are tolerable, because they are momentary. Earthquake, shipwreck, loss of property, death of friends--these calamities are limited; but the loss of salvation is an intolerable evil, because it is an evil which seems to admit of no termination. There is no object more pitiable than that of an immortal being wasting the few precious hours of life in the frivolous occupations of pleasure, or in the severer pursuits of gain, while yet he is reckless of the pains and pleasures, the gains and losses of eternity! (G. T. Noel, M. A)
Fear and rest
The two words which claim our special consideration in this section are “fear” and “rest.”
I. We know only in part, in fragment. It is difficult for us to combine different aspects of truth. The earnest counsel of the apostle in this chapter, “Let us fear,” may seem to be incompatible with his emphatic teaching that we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; that he is persuaded that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus; that we are to rejoice in the Lord always. Yet a superficial glance at the Epistles, and at the Scriptures in general, will show that fear is an essential feature of the Christian. When Christ is accepted, there is peace; but is there not also fear? “With Thee is forgiveness of sin, that Thou mayest be feared.” Where do we see God’s holiness and the awful majesty of the law, our own sin and unworthiness, as in the atonement of the Lord Jesus? We rejoice with fear and trembling. It is because we know the Father; it is because we are redeemed by the precious blood of the Saviour; it is as the children of God that we are to pass our earthly pilgrimage in fear. This is not the fear of bondage, but the fear of adoption. Looking to God, our loving Father, our gracious Saviour, our gentle and indwelling Comforter, we have no reason to be afraid. The only fear that we can cherish is that of reverence and awe, and a dread lest we displease and wound Him who is our Lord. But when we look at ourselves, our weakness, our blindness; when we think of our path and our work, of our dangers, we may well feel that the time for repose and unmixed enjoyment has not come yet; we must dread our own sinfulness and our temptations; we must fear worldly influences.
II. BUT THE RELIEVER HAS REST NOW ON EARTH, AND HEREAFTER IN GLORY, Resting in Christ, he labours to enter into the perfect rest of eternity. But what did God mean by calling it His rest? Not they enter not into their rest, but His own. Oh, blessed distraction! God gives us Himself, and in all His gifts He gives us Himself. Does God give us righteousness? He Himself is our righteousness, Jehovan-tsidkenu. Does God give us peace? Christ is our peace. Does God give us light? He is our light. Does God give us bread? He is the bread we eat; as the Son liveth by the Father, so he that eateth Me shall live by Me (John 6:1-71.). God Him-elf is our strength. God is ours, and in all His gifts and blessings He gives Himself. By the Holy Ghost we are one with Christ, and Christ the Son of God is our righteousness--nay, our life. “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Or again, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Or as the Lord Himself, in His last prayer before His crucifixion, said to the Father, “I in them, and Thou in Me.” Thus God gives us His lest as our rest. Our souls long for rest. “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! Then would I fly away and be at rest! “ is the sigh of every soul. And this rest is only in God’s rest. Death brings no rest to our souls. It is Jesus Christ who alone can give rest to man; for only in Him we are restored and brought into communion with God. The great promise of Christ is rest. For He is the Restorer. We enjoy rest in Christ by faith. But the perfect enjoyment of rest is still ,n the future. There remaineth a sabbatism for the people of God. Believers will enter into rest after their earthly pilgrimage, labour, and conflict, and the whole creation will share in the liberty and joy of the children of God The substance and foretaste of this rest we have even now in Christ. (A. Saphir.)
Use of fear
God planted fear in the soul as truly as He planted hope or courage. Fear is a kind of bell, or gong, which rings the mind into quick life and avoidance upon the approach of danger; it is the soul’s signal for rallying. (H. W. Beecher.)
A promise … of entering into His rest
The promise of entering into God’s rest
Man from the first has been a restless creature. He lives by hope. His best pleasures are not in the things he actually possesses, but in the things he hopes for. He is always looking forward to to-morrow. Man’s true life is the heavenly, and his earthly life is true only as it tends towards that.
I. THE REST THAT GOD HAS PROMISED TO MAN. It is the undisturbed peace, the holy joy of the Divine nature, which nothing but likeness to the Divine can bring.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF COMING SNORT OF GOD’S REST.
1. A man may come short of the rest of the Sabbath.
2. Many of the Jews, to whom the rest of Canaan was promised, came short of it.
3. Man will never enter fully into the ideal life until he believes in God fully, trusts God with all his heart, ceases from his own self-will to be and do in harmony with the will Divine.
III. HOW TO GUARD AGAINST THE POSSIBILITY OF COMING SHORT OF THE DIVINE REST.
1. Guard against unbelief.
2. Guard against presumption.
3. Cling to the great hope itself, and rejoice in it evermore. Think about it often, and all other hopes will pale when placed beside this. (E. D. Solomon.)
The promised rest
I. GOD HAS LEFT US A PROMISE OF ENTERING INTO HIS REST; a promise enough to satisfy all our desires, and to engage our heartiest endeavours after it.
1. The greatness of that reward which God has promised to us in the gospel.
2. Of this rest we should most certainly be made partakers, if we live so as we ought to do.
II. IT IS AS CERTAIN THAT WE MAY BY OUR OWN FAULT COME SHOAT OF IT. For the promise of this rest is not absolute, but conditional It depends upon a covenant in which there are duties to be fulfilled on our part, as well as a reward to he made good on God’s. And if we fail in the one, there is no reason to expect that He should perform the other.
III. Let us take the advice of the text, and FEAR LEST WE SHOULD CHANCE SO TO DO. One might justly think that instead of arguing with men upon this subject, we ought rather to apologise for the absurdity of making that an exhortation which all men desire, and therefore must needs endeavour to attain unto. What is this but as if one should go about to argue with a covetous wretch not to neglect a fair opportunity of growing rich.
IV. THE BEST WHY TO SECURE TO OURSELVES THE PROMISE OF THIS REST, is to live in a continual fear of coming short of it.
1. This will be the most likely to engage our own care.
2. It will also be the best means to entitle us to God’s favour.
(1) This will above anything qualify us for the gracious assistance of His Holy Spirit, to enable us to discharge that duty which is required of us.
(2) It will the best dispose us for the pardon of those sins which, when we have done all that we can, we shall still continue more or less to commit. Because he who thus fears will either never willingly fall into any sins, and then there can be no doubt that he shall find a very ready pardon of his involuntary offences. Or if he should be at any time led away by the deceitfulness of sin, yet this fear will soon awaken him, and bring him both to a sense and a deep abhorrence of it. (Abp. Wake.)
The fear of losing the promised rest
I. THE REST WHICH IS HERE SPOKEN OF. Union with Christ.
II. THE EFFECT WHICH IT SHOULD PRODUCE UPON OUR MINDS. We must fear
1. Because we have numerous enemies who would rob us of this rest.
2. Because we have great interests at stake.
3. Because we have but a short and uncertain period to secure an interest in Christ, and be washed from the stains of sin.
III. THE DREADFUL CONSEQUENCES OF COMING SHORT OF THIS REST. TO mistake the way to heaven is to sink into hell. (Neville Jones.)
Fear of perishing
1. A race must be run ere we come to our full rest.
2. The constant runner to the end getteth rest from sin and misery, and a quiet possession of happiness at the race’s end.
3. The apostate, and he who by misbelief breaketh off his course, and runneth not on, as may be, cometh short, and attaineth not unto it.
4. The apostasy of some, and possibility of apostasy of mere professors, should not weaken any man’s faith; but rather terrify him from misbelief.
5. There is a right kind of fear of perishing; to wit, such as hindereth not assurance of faith; but rather serveth to guard it, and spurreth on a man to perseverance.
6. We must not only fear, by misbelieving to come short; but to seem or give any appearance of coming short. (D. Dickson, M. A.)
The Christian’s privilege, danger and duty
I. THE CHRISTIAN’S PRIVILEGE: promised rest.
1. The character supposed. The promise of entering into the heavenly Canaan peculiarly belongs to those who have turned their backs on spiritual Egypt, and are journeying under Divine direction towards the “better country.”
2. The blessing promised: “His rest.” In the present we may have rest from the tyranny of sin (Romans 6:12-14); and from the distraction of anxious care, whether it precede our justification, and refer to our soul’s safety (see Hebrews 4:3), or follow it (Isaiah 26:3; Romans 8:38-39). Yet, however, the Christian may have rest now from the clamours of conscience, painful forebodings, &c., it is to heaven that he must look for
(1) A rest from toil.
(2) A rest from pain. Glorified bodies are “safe from disease and decline.”
(3) A rest from sorrow.
3. The security offered is that of Almighty God. Men may promise largely, but not be able to fulfil. He is all-sufficient.
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S DANGER: “Lest any of you should seem to come short of it.” Unbelief the principle of ruin, hence so earnest (Hebrews 3:11-12; Hebrews 3:18-19, and Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:11). Nor is this without reason, for unbelief may operate destructively.
1. By means of open transgression. In these passages we are cautioned against the principle. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, its sad effects are exhibited.
2. By means of secret wickedness. Hence lusting after evil things is deprecated (1 Corinthians 10:6; see also Matthew 5:28; Psalms 66:18).
3. By means of worldly mindedness. Faith apprehends invisible realities, and influences and saves us accordingly. But unbelief is the soul’s blindness.
4. By means of indolence. Faith prompts us to do, and sustains us in suffering. Unbelief leads to negligence; and neglect is ruin (Hebrews 2:3).
III. THE CHRISTIAN’S DUTY: “Let us therefore fear.” If the apostle feared for the Hebrews, it equally became them to fear.
1. Because of the shame, the personal disgrace of coming short. Not to pursue a worthy object when it is proposed is sufficiently disgraceful. To relinquish the pursuit is doubly so. Even sinners despise such inconsistency.
2. Because of the mischief of coming short. He is like one of the unbelieving spies who tempted Israel into sin and suffering (Numbers 14:4; Numbers 14:23).
3. Because of the ruin of coming short. Apostates sin against greater advantages, have gained a greater enlargement of capacity, fall from a greater elevation; therefore their punishment will be more severe. But how? Not with a desponding paralysing fear.
(1) With a fear of caution, that properly estimates difficulty and danger, and induces circumspection (Hebrews 12:12-15).
(2) With a fear of vigilance; that narrowly watches first declensions, and promptly opposes the first advances of the enemy.
(3) With a provident fear; that leads to husband our resources, to avail ourselves of the assistance of our fellow Christians, and to cry to the strong for strength. And let it be an abiding fear. “Blessed is the man that feareth always.” Improvement:
1. God hath promised a rest.
2. In prospect of the promised rest, let saints sustain the hallowed cross: “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,” &c.
3. Let us exhort one another daily; both by the example of those who have halted, and of those who “inherit the promises” (Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 6:11-12). (Sketches of Sermons.)
The gospel of rest
The Christian salvation is here presented under a third aspect as a rest, a sabbatism, a participation in the rest of God; the new view, like the two preceding, in which the great salvation was identified with lordship in the world to come and with deliverance from the power of the devil and the fear of death, being taken from the beginning of human history as narrated in the early chapters of Genesis. One aim of the writer of the Epistle in this part of his work was doubtless to enunciate this thought, and so to identify the gospel of Christ with the Old Testament gospel of rest. But his aim is not purely didactic, but partly also, and even chiefly, parenetic. Doctrine rises out of and serves the purpose of exhortation. In so far as the section (verses 1-10) has a didactic drift, its object is to confirm the hope; in so far as it is hortatory, its leading purpose is to enforce the warning, “let us fear.” The parenetic interest predominates at the commencement (verses 1, 2), which may be thus paraphrased: “ Now with reference to this rest I have been speaking of (Hebrews 3:18-19), let us fear lest we miss it For it is in our power to gain it, seeing the promise still remains over unfulfilled or but partially fulfilled. Let us fear, I say; for if we have a share in the promise, we have also in the threat of forfeiture: it too stands over. We certainly have a share in the promise; we have been evangelised, not merely in general, but with the specific gospel of rest. But those who first heard this gospel of rest failed through unbelief. So may we: therefore let us fear.” To be noted is the freedom with which, as in the case of the word “apostle” (Hebrews 3:1), the writer uses the εὐηγγελισμένοι, which might have been supposed to have borne in his time a stereotyped meaning. Any promise of God, any announcement of good tidings, is for him a gospel. Doubtless all God’s promises are associated in his mind with the great final salvation, nevertheless they are formally distinct from the historical Christian gospel. The gospel he has in view is not that which “begun to be spoken by the Lord,” but that spoken by the Psalmist when he said, “To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Not less noteworthy is the way in which the abortive result of the preaching of the gospel of rest to the fathers is accounted for. “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Is the word mixed with faith in the healer, or by faith with the hearer? and what natural analogy is suggested in either case? The one thing certain is, that he deemed faith indispensable to profitable hearing: a truth, happily, taught with equal clearness in the text, whatever reading we adopt. At verse 3 the didactic interest comes to the front. The new thought grafted into verse 1 by the parenthetical clause, “a promise being still left,” now becomes the leading affirmation. The assertion of verse 2, “we have been evangelised,” is repeated, with the emphasis this time on the “we.” “We do enter into rest, we believers in Christ.” A rest is left over for the New Testament people of God. The sequel as far as verse 10 contains the proof of this thesis. The salient points are these two:
1. God spoke of a rest to Israel by Moses, though He Himself rested from His works when the creation of the world was finished; therefore the creation-rest does not exhaust the idea and promise of rest.
2. The rest of Israel in Canaan under Joshua did not realise the Divine idea of rest, any more than did the personal rest of God at the Creation, for we find the rest spoken of again in the Psalter as still remaining to be entered upon, which implies that the Canaan-rest was an inadequate fulfilment. The former of these two points contains the substance of what is said in verses 3-5, the latter gives the gist of verses 7, 8; whereupon follows the inference in verse 9, a rest is left over. A third step in the argument by which the inference is justified is passed over in silence. It is, that neither in the
Psalmist’s day nor at any subsequent period in Israel’s history had the promise of rest been adequately fulfilled, any more than at the Creation or in the days of Joshua. Our author takes the oracle in the Psalter as the final word of the Old Testament on the subject of rest, and therefore as a word which concerns the New Testament people of God. God spake of rest through David, implying that up till that time the long promised rest had not come, at least, in satisfying measure. Therefore a rest remains for Christians. He believed that all Divine promises, that the promise of rest in particular, shall be fulfilled with ideal completeness. “Some must enter in”; and as none have yet entered in perfectly, this bliss must be reserved for those on whom the ends of the world are come, even those who believe in Jesus. “There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.” A sabbatism our author calls the rest, so at the conclusion of his argument introducing a new name for it, after using another all through. It embodies an idea. It felicitously connects the end of the world with the beginning, the consummation of all things with the primal state of the creation. It denotes the ideal rest, and so teaches by implication that Christians not only have an interest in the gospel of rest, but for the first time enter into a rest which is worthy of the name, a rest corresponding to and fully realising the Divine idea. This final name for the rest thus supplements the defect of the preceding argument, which understates the case for Christians. It further hints, though only hints, the nature of the ideal rest. It teaches that it is not merely a rest which God gives, but the rest which God Himself enjoys. It is God’s own rest for God’s own true people, an ideal rest for an ideal community, embracing all believers, all believing Israelites of all ages, and many more; for God’s rest began long before there was an Israel, and the gospel in the early chapters of Genesis is a gospel for man. We have seen that our author borrows three distinct conceptions of the great salvation from the primitive history of man. It is reasonable to suppose that they were all connected together in his mind, and formed one picture of the highest good. They suggest the idea of paradise restored: the Divine ideal of man and the world and their mutual relations realised in perpetuity; man made veritably lord of creation, delivered from the fear of death, nay, death itself for ever left behind, and no longer subject to servile tasks, but occupied only with work worthy of a king and a son of God, and compatible with perfect repose and undisturbed enjoyment. It is an apocalyptic vision: fruition lies in the beyond. The dominion and deathlessness and sabbatism are reserved for the world to come, objects of hope for those who believe. The perfect rest will come, and a people of God will enter into it, of these things our author is well assured; but he fears lest the Hebrew Christians should forfeit their share in the felicity of that people: therefore he ends his discourse on the gospel of rest as he began, with solemn admonition. “Let us fear lest we enter not in,” he said at the beginning; “let us give diligence to enter in,” he says now at the close. Then to enforce the exhortation he appends two words of a practical character, one fitted to inspire awe, the other to cheer Christians of desponding temper. The former of these passages (verses 12, 13) describes the attributes of the Divine word, the general import of the statement being that the word of God, like God Himself, is not to be trifled with; the word referred to being, in the first place, the word of threatening which doomed unbelieving, disobedient Israelites to perish in the wilderness, and by implication, every word of God. The account given of the Divine word is impressive, almost appalling. It is endowed in succession with the qualities of the lightning, which moves with incredible swiftness like a living spirit, and hath force enough to shiver to atoms the forest trees; of a two-edged sword, whose keen, glancing blade cuts clean through everything, flesh, bone, sinew; of the sun in the firmament, from whose great piercing eye, as he circles round the globe, nothing on earth is hid. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
Christ’s legacy of rest
This promise of spiritual rest is a promise left us by the Lord Jesus Christ in His last will and testament, as a precious legacy. Our business is to see to it that we be the legatees; that we lay our claim to that rest and freedom from the dominion of sin, Satan, and the flesh by which the souls of men are kept in servitude, and deprived of the true rest of the soul, and may be also set free from the yoke of the law, and all the toilsome ceremonies and services of it, and may enjoy peace with God, in His ordinances, providences and in our own consciences, and so have the prospect and earnest of perfect and everlasting rest in heaven. (M. Henry.)
Seem to come short of it
The appearance of failure
It is a great principle under the Christian dispensation, that “ none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” We are “members one of another,” so associated by intimate and indissoluble ties, that we ought never to consider our actions as having a bearing only on ourselves; we should rather regard them as likely to affect numbers, and sure to affect some, of our fellow men, to affect them in their eternal interests, and not only in their temporal. We have again the same principle, the principle that membership should influence actions, involved in a precept of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” There is something of a fine sound in advice which is often given, “Do what you know to be right, and care not what others may think”; but, after all, it is not universally, nor perhaps even generally, good and Christian advice. A Christian should consider the opinion of his fellow Christians. Be not engrossed with securing your own salvation; see to it that ye be not, at the same time, endangering the salvation of others. In the chapter preceding that which is opened by our text, St. Paul had been speaking of those Israelites who, though delivered by Moses from Egypt, never reached the Promised Land, but perished, through unbelief, in the wilderness. From this the apostle took occasion to warn Christians that they might have some progress towards heaven, and still be in danger of missing its possession. And if this had been the whole tenor of our text, it would have afforded but little place for commentary, though much for private and personal meditation. But you will observe that St. Paul does not speak of “ coming short,” but of “seeming to come short.” He “seems to come short” of the promised rest, who, in the judgment of his fellow men, is deficient in those outward evidences by which they are wont to try the genuineness of religion. But surely, all the while, he may not actually “come short”: human judgment is fallible, and can in no case be guided by inspecting the heart, which alone can furnish grounds for certain decision; and, doubtless, many may be found in heaven at last, of which entrance thither survivors could entertain nothing more than a charitable hope. And is it not enough, if we do not “come short “? why should we further concern ourselves as to the not “seeming to come short”? We might answer, as we did in regard of the “appearance of evil,” that it is a dangerous thing to approach danger. He who “ seems to come short” must almost necessarily be in some peril of failure; and where heaven is at stake, no wise man, if he could help it, would run the least risk. Besides, it can hardly be that he, who seems to others to come short, should possess decisive and Scriptural evidences of his acceptance With God. But whilst there may thus be many reasons given why we should fear the seeming to come short, even were our personal well-being alone to be considered, the full force of the text, as with that which enjoins abstinence from the appearance of evil, is only to be brought out through reference to our being members the one of the other. We shall, therefore, take the passage under this point of view. In other words, we will examine what there is, in an appearance of failure, to do injury to the cause of Christianity, and therefore to justify the apostle in so emphatically calling upon you to learn, “lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Now as there are undoubtedly many ways in which we may actually come short, so must there be many in which we may apparently come short: who can tell up the methods in which the soul may be lost? neither can any one enumerate those in which it may seem to be lost.
1. And it must, we think, commend itself to you in the first place, that none will more “seem to come short,” than those whose practice is in any way inconsistent with their profession, so that lookers-on can decide that their conduct is not strictly accordant with the principles by which they declare themselves actuated. He who professes to “ walk in the light as God is in the light,” may occasionally wander into dark paths, and yet be mercifully restored; but it can hardly fail but that the impression produced on observers, especially on men of the world, will be one as to the weakness of his principles, or a want of power in that religion which professes itself adequate to the renewing the world. And who will pretend to compute the amount of damage done to the cause of vital Christianity by the inconsistencies of those who profess themselves subjected to its laws, and animated by its hopes?
2. But there is another, if a less obvious mode of “seeming to come short.” It should be observed that, though the apostle, when speaking of rest, must be considered as referring mainly to that rest which is future, there is a degree of present rest which is attainable by the Christian, and which is both the type and foretaste of that which is to come. Thus St. Paul, in a verse which follows almost immediately on our text, says of Christians, “We which have believed do enter into rest”; and afterwards, “He that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His,” evidently making the entering into rest, a present thing, as well as a future. Our blessed Saviour bequeathed His own peace, as a legacy to His Church; and what Christ entailed on us, may surely be enjoyed by us. The religion of the Bible is a cheerful, happy-making religion: the very word “gospel” signifies “glad tidings”; and he who has received good news into his heart may justly be expected to exhibit in his demeanour, if not much of the rapture of joy, yet something of the quietness of peace. But it is in this that righteous persons are often grievously deficient. Hence, in place of struggling with doubts and endeavouring to extinguish them, they may be said actually to encourage them, as if they befitted their state, and either betokened or cherished humility. A great mistake this. There is commonly more of pride than of humility in doubts; he who is always doubting is generally searching in himself for some ground or reason of assurance; whereas, true, genuine humility, looks wholly out of self, not as forgetting the corruption which is there, but as fastening on the sufficiency which is in Christ. But, without dissecting more narrowly the character of the always doubting Christian, we cannot hesitate to say of him, that he is one of those who “seem to come short.” If a present, as well as a future, rest be promised to the righteous--and what else can be denoted by such words as these, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”?--certainly he, at least, “seems to come short” of that rest, who is continually the prey of fear and disquietude, who has never anything to express but apprehensions as to his deceiving himself, or who wears always the appearance of one ill at ease in regard of his spiritual interests. It could hardly fail to be a strong motive with religious persons to the cultivating cheerfulness of deportment, if they carefully rein inhered that others will judge religion by its apparent effects, and that, if they see it produce only sadness, they will be likely to shun it as opposed to all joy. A gloomy Christian may not be always able to help his gloom; but he should lament it, and strive with it; for what will a generous leader say of a soldier, who, commissioned to enlist others under the same banner with himself, makes his appearance in the world as a terrified and half-famished prisoner?
3. But now, having thus illustrated the text from inconsistency of conduct, and from the harbouring of doubts, either of which will cause a Christian to “seem to come short,” let us take one other case, one which is not perhaps indeed as much under our own power, but one against which we may be always endeavouring to provide. The great business of life, as we all confess, is preparation for death. And a Christian’s hope, a Christian’s desire, should be that he may be enabled to meet death triumphantly. It should not content him that he may pass in safety through the dark valley, though with little of that firm sense of victory which discovers itself in the exulting tone, or the burning vision. This indeed is much--oh! that we might believe that none of us would have less than this. But, in having only this, a Christian may “seem to come short.” And there is often a mighty discouragement from the death-beds of the righteous, when, as the darkness thickens, there is apparently but little consolation from the prospect of eternity. Even as, on the other hand, when a righteous man is enabled to meet death exultingly, as though he had to step into the car of fire, and be wafted almost visibly to the heavenly city, there is diffused over a neighbourhood a sort of animating influence; the tidings of the victory spread rapidly from house to house: the boldness of infidelity quails before them; meek piety takes new courage, and attempts new toils. And it ought not, therefore, to satisfy us that we may so die as not to come short of heaven: we ought to labour that we may so die as not even to “seem to come short of it.” It is doubly dying, if, in dying, we work an injury to our brethren; it is scarcely dying, if we strengthen them for their departure out of life. This is, in its measure, the doing what was done by the Redeemer Himself, who, “through death, destroyed him that had the power of death”: the believer, as he enters the grave, deals a blow at the tyrant, which renders him less terrible to those who have yet to meet him in the final encounter. And by continued preparation for death, by accustoming ourselves to the anticipation of death, that, through God’s help, our passage through the valley shall be rather with the tread of the conqueror, than with the painful step of the timid pilgrim. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The danger of falling short of the heavenly rest
I. THE NATURE OF THIS REST.
1. A rest from sin.
2. A rest from temptation.
3. A rest from trouble.
II. TO WHOM THE PROMISE OF IT IS MADE. It is made, it is left to us; yes, wherever the gospel is preached, this inestimable prize is offered to those who believe in its life-giving doctrines.
III. THE DANGER OF FALLING SHORT OF IT. Let me ask you, or rather ask your own consciences, Have you ever had any fears on the subject? If you have not, it can never have been an object of intense desire; it is impossible to be really in earnest about seeking the kingdom of heaven, without being anxious and fearful about it. Many who die with heaven in anticipation, it is to be feared will lift up their eyes in hell. Tremendous discovery this of their real state, when it is irretrievable, bitter knowledge of the truth, when it is too late to profit by it! I want you to fear now; now, when there is time and opportunity for repentance; now, when God waits to be gracious; now, when the atonement of Christ is available for your salvation: and mark the words of the text, for they are very explicit; like almost every thing in Scripture, they require minute inspection, in order to get their full force and meaning, “Fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” You are cautioned to startle, as it were, at the very appearance of failure--to be alarmed at the least indication of it. (J. P. Wright, M. A.)
Coming short of the promised rest
I. A THREEFOLD CERTAINTY.
1. There is a rest.
(1) A rest resulting from the inward assurance of God’s pardoning love.
(2) A rest from sin as a ruling and tyrannising power.
(3) A rest of adoption.
2. There is a promise of this rest.
3. The promise is to believers.
II. AN AWFUL UNCERTAINTY. Thus though the promise is made, there is in the case of many an awful uncertainty hanging over its issue. And how so? There is no accusation against God in the economy of His spiritual government; He does not arbitrarily unfold and withhold--no, God is our Father, full of compassion and tender in mercy. The accusation is proved against man himself. He wilfully shuts the open means of grace; he is the self-excluding and self-excluded from the pale of the promise. He comes short of it--it does not come short of him. (T. J. Judkin, M. A.)
The gospel preached
The gospel preached under the Old Testament
I. 1. They had the same gospel blessings and mercies that we have. That God would be their God. This includes
(1) Regeneration, or the new heart, the heart of flesh, the writing of God’s law in the heart (Jeremiah 31:33; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:25-27).
(2) Reconciliation and remission of sins (Isaiah 1:18; Je Leviticus 5:6; Leviticus 5:10).
(3) Everlasting life and salvation in heaven (Psalms 17:15; Psalms 73:24; Psalms 16:11).
2. They had these blessings upon the same account, and in the same way, as we have them now. We receive all from the mere mercy and free grace of God in Christ; and so did they (Psalms 51:1; Daniel 9:8-9; Daniel 9:18-19).
II. A second argument might be taken from an historical induction of all those former times, and the several gospel discoveries which the Lord vouchsafed to them all along from time to time.
III. Either the gospel was preached unto them of old, or else it will follow that they were all condemned, or else that they were saved without Christ; which to imagine were infinitely dishonourable to the Lord Jesus Christ Acts 4:12; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; Hebrews 13:8). Objections:
1. Why do we call it the Old Testament, if it was gospel? This is only in regard of the manner of dispensation.
2. That the apostle often speaks of it as “that ancient dispensation,” as if it was law and not gospel. We must distinguish between the thing preached, and the manner of preaching, between the shell and the kernel, the shadow and the substance. The thing preached was the gospel, though the manner of preaching it was legal.
(1) It was dark, but the gospel is clear.
(2) It was weak, but the gospel is powerful.
(3) There was much of external splendour, but little of that power and spirituality that is in gospel worship.
(4) It was a burdensome dispensation.
(5) The manner of administration was legal, in regard of the bondage and tenor of it. Uses:
1. Encouragement to study the Old Testament, and the types and shadows of the Law.
2. Direction how to attain to the understanding of those mysteries. Study the gospel.
3. There is no part of the Scripture but is of use. We might see much of God and of the gospel in the chapters of the Levitical law, if we had the skill to search out the meaning and mystery of them.
4. Encouragement to believe and receive the gospel. (S. Mather.)
The preached gospel
I. IT IS A SIGNAL PRIVILEGE TO HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED UNTO US; TO BE EVANGELISED.
As such it is here proposed by the apostle; and it is made a foundation of inferring a necessity of all sorts of duties. This the prophet emphatically expresseth (Isaiah 9:1-2).
II. Barely to be evangelised, to have the gospel preached unto any, IS A PRIVILEGE OF A DUBIOUS ISSUE AND EVENT. All privileges depend as to their advantage on the use of them. If herein we fail, that which should have been for our good will be our snare.
III. THE GOSPEL IS NO NEW DOCTRINE, NO NEW LAW. It was preached unto the people of old. In the preaching of the gospel by the Lord Jesus Himself and His apostles, it was new in respect of the manner of its administration, with sundry circumstances of light, evidence, and power, wherewith it is accompanied. So it is in all ages in respect of any fresh discovery of truth from the word formally bidden or eclipsed. But as to the substance of it, the gospel is that “which was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1). It is the first great original of God with sinners, from the foundation of the world.
IV. GOD HATH GRACIOUSLY ORDERED THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL TO BE PREACHED TO MEN, WHEREON DEPENDS THEIR WELFARE OR THEIR RUIN. The word is like the sun in the firmament. It hath virtually in it all spiritual light and heat. But the preaching of the word is as the motion and beams of the sun, which actually and effectually communicate to all creatures that light and heat which is virtually in the sun itself.
V. THE SOLE CAUSE OF THE PROMISE BEING INEFFECTUAL TO SALVATION IN AND TOWARDS THEM TO WHOM IT IS PREACHED, IS IN THEMSELVES AND THEIR OWN UNBELIEF.
VI. THERE IS A FAILING, TEMPORARY FAITH, WITH RESPECT TO THE PROMISES OF GOD, WHICH WILL NOT ADVANTAGE THEM IN WHOM IT IS.
VII. THE GREAT MYSTERY OF USEFUL AND PROFITABLE BELIEVING, CONSISTS IN THE MIXING OR IN CORPORATING OF TRUTH AND FAITH IN THE SOULS OR MINDS OF BELIEVERS.
1. There is a great respect, relation, and union, between the faculties of the soul, and their proper objects, as they act themselves. Thus truth, as truth, is the proper object of the understanding.
2. The truth of the gospel, of the promise now under especial consideration, is peculiar, divine, supernatural; and, therefore, for the receiving of it, God requireth in us, and bestoweth upon us a peculiar, divine, supernatural habit, by which our minds may be enabled to receive it.
This is faith, which is “not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.” (John Owen, D. D.)
On hearing the Word preached
Ever since these words were written the unprofitableness of preaching has been a subject of complaint to some, and of lamentation to others. On one side it has been alleged by the hearers that the word preached is unprofitable, not so much from want of faith or piety in themselves, as from want of zeal, of ability, of energy, or even of originality in the preacher. On the other hand, the person thus unsparingly assailed is led, perhaps unwillingly, to remark, that faults in hearers may be as numerous and as frequent as in him who speaks: and that the very best preaching has, in cases without number, been ineffectual through perverseness, inattention, or unbelief in the auditory.
1. A. very common impediment to edification, and one of which every Christian mind, alive to the importance of social ordinances, must be peculiarly sensible, is the practice of irregular attendance at the house of God.
2. I have already remarked upon those who have created obstacles to their religious welfare by being absent in body from the house of God, I now come to those, who, by being absent in mind and spirit, make their bodily presence of no avail.
3. I now proceed to the fault of those who are present, and who attend to the Word preached, but who attend with improper dispositions, either in regard to their minister or their fellow-hearers. With respect to their minister, they arc apt to be arbitrary and dictatorial; with respect to their fellow-hearers they are apt to be censorious in their application of the truth or duties inculcated. (J. Sinclair, M. A.)
Not being mixed with faith
I. ISRAEL’S HEARING OF THE GOSPEL.
1. We shall notice, first, that the good news brought to Israel was a gospel of rest for slaves, a promise of deliverance for men who cried by reason of sore bondage. This was a fit emblem of that news which comes to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. The good tidings to Israel was a gospel of redemption in order to their entering into the promised rest. You have heard the word of reconciliation, and you know its meaning. Have you rested in it?
3. Furthermore, it was a gospel of separation. When you read the words of the Lord to His chosen ones, you are compelled to see that He means them to be a people set apart for His own purposes. The Lord has of old separated to Himself, in His eternal purposes, a people who are His; and His they shall still be, even till that day in which He shall make up His jewels. These belong to the Lord Jesus in a special way. These have a destiny before them, even in this world, of separation from the rest of mankind; for Jesus saith, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
4. Still further, the gospel preached to the Israelites told them of a glorious heritage which was provided for them.
5. They had also preached to them the gospel of a Divine calling; for they were informed that they were not to enter into this land to be idlers in it, but they were to be a nation of priests. This, even this, is the gospel preached unto you. Count not yourselves unworthy of this high honour.
6. Once more: they had a gospel which promised them help to obtain all this. It is a poor gospel which sets heaven before us, but does not help us to enter it. “The Spirit helpeth our infirmities.” “God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. ISRAEL’S FAILURE TO PROFIT BY THE GOSPEL WHICH THEY HEARD.
1. Though they heard it from many, they clung to Egypt.
2. Worse still, they provoked the Lord by their murmurings and their idolatry.
3. Moreover, they were always mistrustful.
4. They went so far as to despise the Promised Land.
5. When the time came when they might have advanced against the foe, they were afraid to go up.
6. The end of it was, they died in the wilderness. A whole nation missed the rest of God: it will not be a wonder if you and I miss it, who are but one or two, unless we take earnest heed and are filled with fear “ lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it.”
III. THE FATAL CAUSE OF THIS DIREFUL CALAMITY. Why was it the gospel that they heard did not profit them? “Not being mixed with faith.”
1. Where there is no faith, men remain slaves to the present. If they did not believe in the milk and honey of Canaan, you see why they hankered for the cucumbers of Egypt. An onion is nothing comparable to an estate beyond Jordan; yet as they think they cannot get the estate, they pine for the onions. When men do not believe in eternal life, they naturally enough cry, “Give me bread and cheese. Let me have a fortune here.”
2. If a man hears and has no faith, he learns nothing. What would be the use of your listening to lectures upon science if you disbelieved what the professor set forth? You are no pupil, you are a critic; and you cannot learn. Many professors have no faith, and, consequently, whoever may teach them, they will never come to a knowledge of the truth.
3. The truth did not affect the hearts of Israel, as it does not affect any man’s heart till he has believed it. A man’s soul touched by the finger of the gospel resounds the music of God. If the gospel is not believed, those fingers touch mute strings, and no response is heard.
4. A man that has no faith in what he hears does not appropriate it. There is gold I Eagerly one crieth, ”Let me go and get it.” Unbelief restrains him, as it whispers, “There is no gold, or it is beyond reach.” He does not go to get it, for he does not believe. A hungry man passeth by where there is entertainment for needy travellers. Believing that there is food for his hunger, he tarries at the door; but if unbelief mutters, “There is a bare table within, you might as soon break your neck as break your fast in that place,” then the traveller hurries on. Unbelief palsies she hand, and ,t appropriates nothing. That which is not appropriated can be of no use to you.
5. Lastly, these people could not enter in, because they had no faith. They could go to the border of the land, but they must die even there. They could send their spies into the country; but they could not see the fertile valleys themselves. Without faith they could not enter Canaan. Shall it be so with us, that, for want of faith, we shall hear the gospel, know something about its power, and yet miss its glories, and never enter into possession of the life eternal which it reveals? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Not being mixed with faith
There is always a pathetic interest, made up of sadness and hope together, in the sight of any good thing which fails of power and of its fullest life because it is a fragment, and does not meet the other part which is needed to complete the whole. A seed that lies upon the rock, and finds no ground; an instrument which stands complete in all its mechanism, but with no player’s hand to call its music forth; a man who might do brave and useful things under the summons of a friend’s enthusiasm, but goes through life alone, a nature with fine and noble qualities that need the complement of other qualities which the man lacks to make a fruitful life; a community rich in certain elements of character--as, for instance, energy, hopefulness, self-confidence, but wanting just that profound conscientiousness, that scrupulous integrity which should be the rudder to those broad and eager sails; a Church devout without thoughtfulness or liberal without deep convictions--where would the long list of illustrations end? Everywhere the most pathetic sights are these in which possibility and failure meet. Indeed, herein lies the general pathos which belongs to the great human history as a whole and to each man’s single life. One of these failures is described in the text. Truth fails because it does not meet what the Scripture calls faith. This is evidently something more than mere assent that the truth is true. The essential relations between truth and the nature of man are evidently comprehended in their whole completeness. All that the hearer might have done to truth, all the welcome that he might have extended, all the cordial and manifold relationship into which he might have entered with the Word that was preached unto him--all this is in the writer’s mind. All this is summed up in the faith which the truth has not found. Faith is simply the full welcome which the human soul can give to anything with which it has essential and natural relationship. It will vary for everything according to that thing’s nature, as the hand will shape itself differently according to the different shapes of things it has to grasp. Faith is simply the soul’s grasp, a larger or a smaller act according to the largeness or smallness of the object grasped; of one size for a fact, of another for a friend, or another for a principle: but always the soul’s grasp, the entrance of the soul into its true and healthy relationship to the object which is offered to it. As soon as we understand what the faith is which any object or truth must find and mix itself with before it can put on its fullest life and power, we are impressed with this: that men are always making attempts which never can succeed to give to objects and truths a value which in themselves they never can possess, which can only come to them as they are taken home by faith into the characters of men. We hear men talk about the progress of our country, and by and by we find they mean the increase of its wealth, the development of its resources, the opening of its communications, the growth of its commerce. These do not make a country great. They are powerless until they are mixed with faith; until they give themselves to the improvement of the human qualities which any real national life, like any real personal life, is made, and make the nation more generous, more upright, and more free. They may do that. It is in the power of a nation as of a man to grow greater by every added dollar of its wealth, but a dollar is powerless until it mixes itself with faith and passes into character. And so of far more spiritual things than dollars. You say: “How headlong my boy is! Let me give him a wise friend, and so he shall get wisdom.” You say: “Here is my brother, who has been frivolous. Behold, a blessed sorrow is gathering about him, and out of the darkness he will come with a sober heart! “ You say: “This man is coarse and brutish; let me set him among fine things, and he will become delicate and gentle.” You say: “This selfish creature, who has not cared for his country in what seemed her soft and easy days, let the storm come, let the war burst out, or the critical election rise up like a sudden rock out of the calm sea, and patriotism will gather at his heart and set his brain to lofty thoughts and strengthen his arm for heroic deeds.” For ever the same anticipations from mere circumstances, the same trust in mere emergencies, in facts and things, and for ever the same disappointment--no crisis, eyelet, fact, person is of real value to the soul unless it really gets into that soul, compels or wins its welcome, and passes by the mixture of faith into character. So, and so only, does a wise friend make your boy wise, or sorrow make your brother noble, or fine and gentle circumstances make the coarse man fine, or the need of his country make the selfish man a patriot. Now, all this is peculiarly true with reference to religion. We put confidence in our organisations: let us plant our church in this remote village; let our beloved liturgy be heard among these unfamiliar scenes; and so men shall be saved. It is not so much that me have too much confidence, as that we have the wrong kind of confidence in the objective truth. “Let this which I know is verity come to this bad man’s life, and he must turn.” There is all about us this faith in the efficacy of ideas over character. The orthodox man believes that if you could silence all dissent from the old venerated creed the world would shine with holiness. How like it all sounds to the cry we hear in the parable coming forth from the still unenlightened rain of a wasted life: “Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead they will repent!” Ideas are mighty. There is no real strength in the world that has not an idea at its heart. To declare true ideas, to speak the truth to men, is the noblest work that any man can covet or try to do. To attempt to gain power over men which shall not be the power of an idea is poor, ignoble work. But yet it is none the less certain that no man really does tell the truth to other men who does not always go about remembering that truth is not profitable till it is mixed with faith, that the final power of acceptance or rejection lies in the soul. But we must go farther than this. The mind of man is far too delicate and sensitive for anything unappropriated and not made a part of itself to be in it without doing it harm. The book which you have studied, but whose heart you have not taken into your heart, makes you not a wise man, but a pedant. And so it is with institutions. The government under which you live, but with whose ideas you ere not in loyal sympathy, chafes and worries you, and makes you often all the more rebellious in your heart the more punctiliously obedient you are in outward action. And so especially it is in all that pertains to religion. What is the root and source of bigotry, and of that which goes with bigotry--partisanship? Is not the real reason of these morbid substitutes for healthy belief always this--that truth has been received but not” mixed with faith,” not deeply taken into the very nature of the man who has received it? Take any truth the truth, for instance, of the Lord’s incarnation. Let it be simply a proved fact to a man, and how easily he makes it the rallying cry of a sect; how easily he comes to hate with personal hatred the men who do not hold it; how ready he is to seek out and magnify the shades of difference in the statements which men make of it who do hold the great truth along with him I But let that same truth be “mixed with faith,” let it enter into the depth of a man’s nature where it is capable of going, let it awaken in him the deep, clear sense of the unutterable love of God, let it reveal to him his human dignity, his human responsibility, his human need, and then how impossible it will be for him to be a bigot! What the bigot needs is not to be freed from the tyranny of his belief, but to be taught what it is really to believe. The partisan’s partisanship is a sign, not of his faith, but of his infidelity. This is what we all need to keep always in our minds as we read religious history, or look around us at the imperfect religious life of to-day. It is possible for us to believe the same everlasting truth which the bigots and the persecutors believed and yet escape their bigotry and terrible intolerance. But we must do it not by believing less deeply, but by believing more deeply than they did. The path to charity lies not away from faith, but into the very heart of faith, for only there true, reasonable, permanent charity abides. How vast a future this idea of faith opens to humanity! We think sometimes that we have come in sight of the end of progress, that we live where we can at least foresee an enchanted world. Our ships have sailed the sphere around; our curiosity has searched to the roots of the mountains and swept the bottoms of the seas. Men have played every role before us which imagination and ambition could suggest. What can there be before the eyes that are to come when we are gone but endless reiteration of old things? Is not the interest of life almost used up? No! Thee interest of life is not in the things that happen, but in the men who see. If man be capable of perpetual renewal by ever-increasing faith, then to the ever new man the old world shall be for ever new. What a light, too, this throws upon the life which many a fellow-man is living now close by our side. How much richer than we can begin to know the world must be to our brother who has a faith which we have not The world is more to every true, unselfish man when he knows that his perception is no measure of its wealth, but that the deeper souls are all the time finding it rich beyond all that he has imagined. This same truth gives us some light upon the everlasting life, the life beyond the grave. Let us be sure that the new name in the forehead is what makes the reality of heaven far more than the gold under the feet. The new circumstances shall be much, but the new man shall be more. We can do nothing now to build the streets and gates, but by God’s grace we can do much now to begin to become the men and women to whom one day heaven shall be possible. Then heaven when it comes will not be strange. Only a deepening of the faith by which we sought it shall we receive and absorb, and grow in and by its richness for ever and for ever. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Cause of the unprofitable hearing of the Word
I. In vindication of the principle, that NO UNBELIEVER CAN BE PROFITED BY THE PRIVILEGE AND BLESSINGS OF THE GOSPEL, IT WILL NOT REQUIRE MUCH PAINS TO SHOW THAT SUCH AN APPOINTMENT IS PERFECTLY CONSISTENT WITH GOD’S FAITHFULNESS AND TRUTH. God, no doubt, promised that He would confer upon His ancient people the heritage of Canaan; but surely He is Himself the best interpreter of His own will; and if we find that many, to whom the promise was given, entered not in because of unbelief, it is only reasonable to conclude that the giving of the promise at first was not irrespective of, but dependent on, the character and conduct of those to whom it was given. Jehovah was sincere, but for that very reason He required sincerity. He was willing to fulfil the promise, but His rebellious people were unwilling to receive it. God’s promises are all sovereign. If they be laid hold of, they will and must be enjoyed. If, however, they be not laid hold of, if they be disbelieved, then they are void; for this reason, that they are revealed in such a shape that they become our property only when we believe them. The gospel will not enrich us unless we receive it with faith. The two truths, therefore, are quite compatible and harmonious, that salvation is absolutely gratuitous, while we can get it only by vigorously acting in faith upon Jesus Christ. To illustrate the matter by a comparison: When we walk, it is not the material and tangible substance of which our limbs are composed, it is not the bones and sinews which are the cause of motion. They are mere instruments or secondary agents which move only as they are impelled. Taken by themselves, or viewed in their component parts, they are mere masses of organic matter, devoid of all power or energy, and subject only to changes or motions that may be impressed on them. The real cause of motion in the limbs is the vital principle, which, unseen and incomprehensible, controls every function, effects every movement, operates every change. It is not the limbs, then, that cause the motion; they only perform the motion: the cause of the motion is the element of life, the spiritual and nervous energy which pervades the limbs and qualifies them for the task they have to perform. Now, in like manner, it is not the sinner that effects his own redemption, but the grace of God that has appeared unto us and to all men, bringing salvation. This is the sole and the omnipotent agent. No other agent could perform the work. But this agent does not work without means, and these means are just the faculties and powers of the human mind. God’s grace operates through the instrumentality of our faculties, and if we chain up these faculties in indolent inaction, we virtually resist the Spirit of God, and say we will not have the Lord to reign over us.
II. EXPLAIN AND ILLUSTRATE THE GROUNDS OF THE DOCTRINE, THAT WANT OF FAITH VITIATES AND NEUTRALISES THE EFFECT OF SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES. Faith is, if we may so speak, the power of spiritual digestion. And as it does not discredit the excellence of wine or any other nourishing substance, that it is incapable of strengthening the sick and exhausted invalid whose constitution, is irreparably injured; so the promises of Divine grace are no way dishonoured when persons who want faith are found to derive from these promises no spiritual or solid advantage. The Word preached cannot profit when it is not mingled with faith in the hearer, for there can be no nutrition where there is no appropriation of food. There can be no vital circulation in the severed twig unless that twig be engrafted. The Word may be read, heard, studied, loved; but it is only the engrafted Word that is able to save our souls. It is only when believed that the gospel message is profitable. Faith, then, is necessary
1. Because, according to God’s own appointment, it is the preliminary step of our being received into His favour. It is the constituted deed of entitlement.
2. Faith alone can secure us victory over our spiritual enemies. Here, again, the value of faith depends on its being on God’s will and promise linked in connection with spiritual conquest. Our foes, Satan, sin, the world, and the flesh, are all mightier than our wills. But God has said this is the victory that overcometh them all, even our faith. Nothing else has such a promise.
3. Faith alone can impart peace to the soul. Such is its nature. For it is in fact just the belief that God is reconciled, attached to us, our Friend, our Father, even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless we be persuaded of this we cannot love Him.
4. Lastly, faith alone can make us holy. If we believe Christ died for our sins, we shall feel the constraining influence of a motive that more than any other will excite us to obey the Divine will. And then the spirit of sanctification accompanies the exercise of faith, and purifies the soul in obeying the truth. Faith, therefore, is universally profitable. It is the harbinger of every other grace. (Alex. Nisbet.)
The mercy of the gospel
1. It’s a great mercy in God to vouchsafe us the gospel, and to have it faithfully and constantly preached unto us so that we may hear it.
2. In this gospel there are precious promises, the chiefest whereof is that of entering into God’s rest.
3. Men may hear the gospel preached, and yet receive no benefit by it through their own fault.
4. Therefore it concerns us all to fear this sin of apostasy as we fear loss of heavenly rest, God’s eternal displeasure, hell, death, and eternal punishments. (G. Lawson.)
The gospel is a precious pearl, an unspeakable blessing of God, yet all that are partakers of it are not saved. Judas had the gospel, yet it profited him not. Simon Magus, Jerusalem, &e. The sun is not comfortable to all. The most delicate fare doth not make all bodies fat. The rain doth not make all grounds fruitful, neither doth the Word of God, though it be mighty in operation, profit all that partake of it (Lu Matthew 8:12); nay, it is the heaping up of a greater men, sure Of condemnation to some through their own default (John 15:22; John 15:9. ult.). Why did the gospel do them no good? Because it was not mixed with faith in themthat heard it. It is a metaphor borrowed from liquid things. A physician prescribes to a man a cup of strong wine, but he wills him to mingle it with sugar, lest it fume into his brain and make him sick; if he mingle it not and temper it well with sugar, he hurts himself. So because they mingled not the wine of the Word with the sweet sugar of faith it was their destruction, it turned them over even into hell. It is faith that makes the Word profitable. For the procuring of an harvest it is not enough to have ground, and seed cast into the ground, but rain must fall from heaven and be mingled with the ground. So it is not sufficient to bring ourselves as the ground to a sermon, to have the immortal seed of the Word sown in our hearts by God’s husbandmen, but there must be the drops of faith mingled with this seed to make it fruitful. (W Jones, D. D.)
The Word preached, net profitless
There are few things more perplexing than the contrast between the vastness and variety of the means employed for the creation of religious impression, and the scantiness of the results arising from their employment. For all this there must necessarily be a cause. Does the fault lie in the instrument employed? Is the Word itself defective, either from style, topic, or tone, to meet the indifference of man’s nature? Something there is in man’s nature that stands out against the power of Scripture, that counteracts the medicine which would restore us to health. And this is the assertion that the apostle makes with regard to Israel. Affirming elsewhere the power of the Word, he affirms here the deficiency of man’s faith.
I. GOD DID PREACH THE GOSPEL TO ISRAEL JUST AS GOD HAS PREACHED THE GOSPEL TO US. In popular thought and in popular language, it is oftentimes supposed that the gospel belongs rather to the Christian than to the Jewish dispensation. The truth is, that never was a moment in this world’s history since the fall of man in which the gospel of Jesus Christ has not been proclaimed. We grant you this, that it may have been announced sometimes with more of power, and more of expansion, and more of fulness than at other times. But no sooner did the necessity commence than the blessed remedy was proposed by God. Nay, more than this--so anxious does it appear that God was to make that instrument effective in bringing back wayward sinners to Himself, that we find God has so planned His gospel as to make it speak to the three great departments of man’s nature. He has made that gospel speak, in the first place, to man’s hopes; in the second place, to man’s senses; and lastly, to man’s understanding. So, you see, that by enlisting all these faculties of man in His service, by telling man to look hopefully, by telling man to look intelligently upon this system, the Lord has grappled with the obduracy of man’s nature, as it were fulfilling in all this His own declaration, “I will not let thee go until I bless thee.” … And, as if to make it clear that nothing was left undone which could give God’s truth a hold, a lodgment on the human soul, our blessed Master condescended to clothe His appeals in every possible variety of form. Affectionate expostulation, calm appeal, tender invitation, stern admonition--the attraction of promises, the thunders of threats--parable,illustration, allegory--the incidental remark, the studied discourse--the historical allusion, the original thought--the informal address at the sea-side, the deliberate comment in the synagogue. And yet, though thus the gospel was preached to them as to us, “the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”
II. THE CAUSE WHICH PREVENTED ISRAEL, AND PROBABLY PREVENTS US, FROM RECEIVING THE GOSPEL. And, if we are to apprehend this point aright, we must carry our thoughts into two channels, for it is necessary to determine what is meant by the reception of the gospel before we are in a position to admit the reason why the gospel is not received. Now, in reference to the former of these points, we are bold to express our belief that there exist most imperfect views respecting the reception of the gospel. Multitudes there are who conceive that they have accepted it because they listen to its truths and assent to its propositions. But we pray you to understand this, that if that were simply all that Scripture intends by receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should find that there was no work for faith whatsoever. We grant there is all the difference in the world in some respects between a man who receives the truths of the New Testament and a man who rejects those truths. You have, so far as the understanding goes, that which a man has accepted, and so far he may be admitted into the ranks of Christian discipleship. Bat, after all, what is the gospel of Jesus Christ meant for? It is not meant to be simply a system of instruction. If so it would apply itself to man’s mind. It was not meant simply to be a system of illustration. If so it would apply itself simply to man’s fancy. It was not intended like abstract rules in scientific matters, as in mathematics for instance, to lay down dry and abstract propositions to be taken up and to be believed by men simply because they could not gainsay the system. No, the gospel was intended for more than this. It was intended doubtless to enlighten us; doubtless to instruct us; doubtless to edify us. But the great use of our Master’s gospel is this: to win the whole man--the man of understanding, the man of intelligence, the man of religion--to win the whole man into a state of subjection to Christ Jesus. If there be amongst us any whose reception of the gospel is simply of that scientific kind that I have attempted to describe, it were not too much to say that that man has never received the gospel yet. “Not being mixed with faith in those that beard it.” Suffer me to expostulate with you, and to ask you honestly this question, what has the gospel done in the way of profit with you? Has it come down with a power greater than mortal power to your souls, and made you feel that you were sinners? Has it made you feel your own utterly impotent powerlessness to restore yourselves back to God’s favour? Has it made you feel this, that none but Jesus can stand between you and God as the effectual Atoner and the effectual Mediator? Has it come down into your conscience, making you to writhe under the sense of transgression? Has it done more than this, altered your habits? Is it building you up into conformity with the laws that are Christ Jesus’? If the gospel has been doing aught of this kind it has brought profit with it. But if it has only brought new ideas to your understanding, if it has only brought new thoughts to your intelligence, if it has qualified you, so to speak, to sit down and be catechised, then has this gospel not done God’s intention with regard to it, for it has not reclaimed the whole man and made that rebel a subject of Christ Jesus. (A. Boyd, M. A.)
Faith not to be mixed with fancies
1. Faith can stand with nothing, nor be mixed with truth but the Word; and the Word will not join, nor stand, nor mix with conceits, opinions, presumptions, but with faith; that is, it will be received, not as a conjecture, or possible truth, but for Divine and infallible truth; else it profiteth not.
2. Hearers of the Word may blame their misbelief if they get not profit.
3. Albeit a man get light by the Word, and some tasting of temporary joy and honour, and riches also, by professing or preaching of it, yet he receiveth not profit, except to get entry into God’s rest thereby; for all these turn to conviction. (D. Dickson, M. A.)
Preaching and practising
It is a popular error to mistake that length is the only dimension of a sermon. A man said to a minister, “:/our sermons are too short.” Said the minister, “If you will practise all I preach you will find them quite long enough.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
A person whose life was immoral urged his sister to go with him to hear his minister; but she smartly replied, “Brother, what are you the better for his preaching?” (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)
The gospel must be believed
A lady, travelling through the Southern States of America in a private carriage, one or two years after the Proclamation of Emancipation had been issued, chanced to be detained for the night in a little country inn, which stood so far off from the usual lines of travel, that it was evident a guest was very seldom entertained there. She was shown into a room, to prepare for tea, which was as full of dust as though it had not been entered or disturbed for years. She requested some attendance, and a poor, wretched looking coloured woman was sent to her, with no apparent life or energy; nothing but utter listlessness and indifference expressed in every movement. After watching bee useless performance for a few minutes, the lady said: “Auntie, I am from the North, and I am not used to having things this way at all. Now, you know, we Northerners set your people free, and I think you ought to try and make things comfortable for us when we come among you. Just see if you cannot make this room a little cleaner while I go down to tea.” Saying this, the lady left the room. She returned in about an hour, and found, to her astonishment, the dusty room transformed into a picture of neatness. But more astonishing even than the transformation in the room was the transformation in the woman herself. She stood there looking inches taller. Life and energy were in every muscle and every movement. Her eyes flashed fire. She looked like a new creature. The lady began to thank her for the change she had made in the room; but the woman interrupted her with the eager question; “Oh, missus, is we free?” “Of course you are,” replied the lady. “Oh, missus, is you sure?” urged the woman, with intense eagerness. “Certainly I am sure,” answered the lady. “Did you not know it?” “Well,” said the woman, “we heerd tell as how we was flee, and we asked master, and he ‘lowed we wasn’t, and so we was afraid to go. And then we heered tell again, and we went to the Cunnel, and he ‘lowed we’d better stay with ole massa. And so we’s just been off and on. Sometimes we’d hope we was free, and then agin we’d think we wasn’t. But now, missus, if you is sure we is free, won’t you tell me all about it? “ Seeing that this was a case of real need, the lady took the pains to explain the whole thing to the poor woman--all about the war and the Proclamation of Emancipation, and the present freedom. The poor woman listened with the most intense eagerness. She heard the good news. She believed it; and when the story was ended, she walked out of the room with an air of the utmost independence, saying, as she went: “ I’se free! I ain’t a-going to stay with ole massa any longer!” She had at last received her freedom, and she had received it by faith. The Government had declared her to be free long before, but this had not availed her, because she had never yet believed in the declaration. The good news had not profited her, not being mixed with faith in the one who heard it. But now she believed, and, believing, she dared to reckon herself to be free. (The Church.)
Faith increased by faith
Faith is learnt by faith; that is, it is maintained, increased, and strengthened by exercise, just as walking, speaking, writing, &e., are learnt by walking, speaking, and writing. (A. J. Begel.)
Hearing bat not profiting
Jedediah Buxton, the famous peasant, who could multiply nine figures by nine in his head, was once taken to see Garrick act. When he went back to his own village, he was asked what he thought of the great actor and his doings. “Oh!” he said, “he did not know; he had only seen a little man strut about the stage, and repeat 7,956 words.” Here was a want of the ability to appreciate what he saw, and the exercise of the reigning faculty to the exclusion of every other. Similarly, our hearers, if destitute of the spiritual powers by which the gospel is discerned, fix their thoughts on our words, tones, gestures, or countenance, and make remarks upon us which, from a spiritual point of view, are utterly absurd. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Faith, the necessary grace
There must be an union and closing with Christ by faith before there can be any communication from Him of the graces of the Spirit. There must be an ingrafting into the root before there can be a communication of sap from the root to the branches. The grace of faith enlargeth the heart to receive Christ, and after it hath received Him it retains Him. I found Him whom my soul loveth--I held Him, and would not let Him go. The grace of love entertains Him with the embracements of the will and affections. Faith, like Martha, goeth out for Him, and brings Him along with the promise to the soul. Love, like Mary, sits down at His feet, to attend what is His will, and execute His commands. Faith is the only grace whereby a soul properly receives Christ; for to receive Him and to believe in His name are equipollents. (William Colvill.)
We which have believed do enter into rest
The distinguishing characters of true believers
A sweet experience declared, “We do enter into rest.” It is an experience of a spiritual and heavenly benefit; whereof Caleb and Joshua’s experience was the type (Joshua 19:1-51.). And here consider
(1) The benefit experienced; that is, rest. Rest is a sweet thing, as all weary labourers do know. But of all rest soul-rest is the sweetest, and such is this. The rest here meant is the rest held forth in the promise of the gospel (verses 1, 2). And if ye ask where it is found? it is not in heaven only, for the believer enters into it now; but it is in Christ, whether in earth or heaven.
(2) The experience of that benefit, “We do enter.” He says not we shall enter, viz., at death, but in the present time, “we do enter. The believer’s rest is not altogether put off to another life. It is not complete, indeed, till we come to heaven; but it is begun here, we are entering into it, and do enter; and the very entrance of the rest is sweet.
2. The parties in whose name this experience is declared, “We which have believed,” viz., in Christ. Unbelievers still remain in their restless condition, but faith in Christ lays the soul to rest.
I. WHO THEY ARE THAT HAVE TRULY BELIEVED.
1. They who have believed, have believed the grace and goodwill of Christ to them in particular, held forth in His word of grace to them, viz., a good-will to save them from sin and wrath.
(1) They have believed Christ’s grace and good-will to them, notwithstanding felt unworthiness (Luke 15:18).
(2) They have believed His grace and good-will towards the drawing them out of the miry clay of their sinfulness, as well as out from the rolling waves of guilt, the curse and eternal wrath. For this is the good-will of Christ testified in the gospel (Matthew 1:21).
(3) The only foundation of their belief of it is the faithfulness of God in His word of grace (Galatians 3:21.
(4) They have betaken themselves to the grace and good-will of Christ in His word of grace, and laid all their weight upon it.
2. They who have believed, have believed on Christ as their own Saviour for life and salvation to them (Acts 15:11). The sinner believing on Christ betakes himself to Him only, wholly and for ever.
(1) He renounces utterly all expectations of rest to his conscience from the law, and betakes himself to a Crucified Christ for it (Philippians 3:3).
(2) He renounces utterly all expectations of rest to his heart from the world, and his lusts, and betakes himself to a full Christ for it (Jeremiah 16:19).
II. THE ENTERING OF THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED INTO REST IN JESUS CHRIST.
1. I am to show what is supposed in that those who have believed do enter into rest.
(1) Those who have not believed are in a stale of restlessness (Isaiah 57:20). Till the soul comes to Christ it can never get true rest: one may take rest as well on the top of a mast as get it in an ungodly, unregenerate, unconverted state. Those out of Christ have
(a) A restless station, an insecure standing (De
(b) A restless labouring (Matthew 11:28).
(c) A restless wandering.
(d) A restless burden-bearing.
(e) A restless eternal state abiding them (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
(2) Restless souls may be laid to rest in Jesus Christ.
(3) It is by faith the restless soul is laid to rest in Christ (Romans 15:13).
2. I proceed to show what is that rest in Christ which they who do believe enter into. It is twofold, spiritual and heavenly, initial and complete.
(1) They who have believed do enter into spiritual rest, which is their initial or begun rest. Though they should get little more rest for their bodies till they rest in the grave, they enter into soul rest (Matthew 11:29); they get rest for their souls in Christ. And none that know what soul-trouble is, but they will value it more than any rest out of heaven.
(2) Those who have believed do enter into heavenly rest at length. This is the rest completed. The grave is made a resting-place for their bodies for awhile, but the soul rests in Abraham’s bosom at death till the resurrection. And then the soul and body together will have an everlasting complete rest together.
3. What is the import of their entering into that rest in Christ.
(1) Sinners before they believe have a toiled, restless, uneasy life of it Matthew 11:28). No wonder, for they are God’s enemies, the law’s criminals, sin’s slaves, and Satan’s drudges.
(2) All that believe are wearied people, that find they need rest, and would fain have it (Isaiah 28:12).
(3) They see and believe there is a rest in Christ for them.
(4) They come to Him as a resting-place by believing on Him.
(5) They compose themselves for, and set themselves to rest in Him Psalms 116:7).
(6) They are active to get rest in Christ. Entering speaks activity, and that lies in the exercise of faith.
(7) They find a begun rest, but not complete; they are entered into it; though they are not yet come to the perfection of it, yet they are in the way to it.
(8) The believer all his life long here is but entering into that rest: we do enter. The Israelites were forty years entering into Canaan, after they came out of Egypt. And from the moment of the first believing till the soul comes to glory, it is but entering into rest; entering being but an initial and imperfect action. Hence they that have come to Christ are still said to be coming (1 Peter 2:4). But at length they shall have it full and complete.
4. I come now to show how the soul is entered into rest in the way of believing, or the influence of faith to bring and lay the soul to rest. This is a mystery to the blind world: nobody can truly know the rest of the soul in Christ but those that have experienced it; nor the influence of faith that way, but those that have felt it, though they may talk rationally about it and preach it.
(1) Faith discovers Christ as the only object commensurable to the desires of the soul (Psalms 73:25).
(2) Faith takes possession of Christ as such an object offered to the soul: knits with Him in a marriage covenant by trusting on Him for all to itself John 1:12). So it enters the soul to rest, as a wife in the house of her husband who has now made her final choice.
(3) Faith draws the sting of guilt out of the conscience, and so enters the soul to rest (Romans 3:24-25).
(4) Faith sets the soul in safety (Proverbs 1:33).
(5) Faith mortifies and breaks the power of reigning lusts (Acts 15:9).
(6) Faith cures the soul of the dog-like appetite, that painful hunger and thirst which the eating of the forbidden fruit left in all mankind. Lay one never so soft, if hunger be gnawing him, and thirst scorching him, he cannot rest. Such is the case of all unbelievers, they are hungering and thirsting for satisfaction from the creature: they eat of the husks, but are never satisfied.
(7) Faith contracts the desires of the soul into one point (Psalms 27:4).
(8) Faith sees it hath a fulness in Christ enough to answer all its needs: and hence the language thereof is, “I have all, and abound” (Philippians 4:18).
(9) Faith leaves all on Christ (Psalms 10:14).
I. Of information.
1. Jesus Christ is a resting place for the weary (Matthew 11:28).
2. True faith is an active and efficacious thing. It lays the restless soul to rest.
3. The way of believing is the way to solid rest.
4. Those who have believed may see what course to take at any time when their rest is disturbed. They must renew the actings of faith on Christ.
II. Of trial. Hereby ye may try whether ye have truly believed in Christ or not; for they who have believed do enter into rest in him.
III. Of exhortation. Ye who profess to have believed in Christ, rest in Him, and so evidence your faith. For motives consider
1. There is no need ye should go to any other quarter for what ye need; “For it pleased the Father, that in Him should all fulness dwell” Colossians 1:19).
2. There is no true rest to be found out of Christ (John 6:67).
3. It dishonours Him highly not to rest in Him. It gives out an ill report of Him to the world, whereby His name may be blasphemed, as if there were not enough in Him to satisfy in all cases.
4. Your not resting in Him will evidence your hypocrisy (Job 27:10).
5. Rest in Him now, and ye shall rest with Him for ever; but it ye forsake Him, He will cast you off, and ye will fall there where there is no rest for the ages of eternity. And it will aggravate your condemnation, that ye might have been well if ye could but have rested in Christ. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Rest for the true
1. Under all dispensations God has been holding out to mankind the promise of a glorious rest.
2. This glorious rest is something independent of all times, places, and privileges.
3. The enjoyment of this glorious rest is dependent upon a certain believing state of the soul.
4. This believing state of soul gives the enjoyment of this rest now.
I. FAITH IN THE GOSPEL INVOLVES CONFIDENCE IN THE PATERNAL PROVIDENCE OF GOD, AND THIS GIVES THE MIND REST FROM ALL SECULAR ANXIETIES.
II. FAITH IN THE GOSPEL INVOLVES AN ASSURANCE OF GOD’S WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE US AS SINNERS, AND THIS GIVES US REST FROM ALL DISTRESSING DOUBTS ABOUT OUR SALVATION.
III. FAITH IN THE GOSPEL INVOLVES A TRANSFORMING IMPRESSION OF GOD’S BENEVOLENCE, AND THIS GIVES US REST FROM ALL THE DISTRESSING FEELINGS OF A SELFISH LIFE.
IV. FAITH IN THE GOSPEL INVOLVES THE CENTRING OF THE SOUL UPON ONE OBJECT OF LOVE AND ONE COURSE OF ACTION, AND THIS GIVES REST FROM ALL THE PAINS OF DISTRACTION.
V. FAITH IN THE GOSPEL INVOLVES AN ASSURANCE IN A BLESSED IMMORTALITY, AND THIS GIVES US REST FROM ALL DISTURBING THOUGHTS ABOUT OUR OWN DEATH AND THAT OF OUR FRIENDS. (Homilist.)
The rest of God’s people
I. WHAT IS THE REST?
1. A rest from sin.
2. A rest from sorrow.
3. It consists of what is positive also.
(1) It is a bestowment of eternal life.
(2) It is being with Christ.
(3) It is working for God without weariness, and with full power to do so.
II. WHEN IS THE REST? It commences with the renewed soul when it first “looks not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” It brightens upon us more and more as we rise from the lower, the temporal, to the higher, the eternal life. It is fully revealed to us when we have done with mortality and sin.
III. FOR WHOM IS THE REST? Only for those who love holiness, and hate iniquity and sin. (Homilist.)
It appears from the text that even now persons of a certain character enjoy rest.
I. OF THE NATURE OF THIS REST. It is not a rest merely to hear of, to speak of, and to desire, but a rest in actual enjoyment. “We who have believed do enter into rest.”
1. That rest is pictured in some degree by its types--Canaan--the Sabbath--the Sabbatic year.
2. If the types may help us to a guess at the peace of the Christian, we may, perhaps, come at it a little more clearly by remembering the oppositions to peace which in the believer are removed. The believer rests from the guilt of sin because he has seen his sins laid upon Christ, his scapegoat, and he concludes that if sin were laid on Christ it is not on him.
3. Some conception of this rest may be gathered from the graces which a true faith begets and fosters in the Christian mind. After all, a man makes his own condition. It is not the dungeon or the palace that can make misery or happiness. We carry palaces and dungeons within ourselves, according to the constitution of our natures, Now, faith makes a man heavenly in mind; it makes him care more for the world to come than for that which now is; it makes the invisible precious to him, and the visible comparatively contemptible. Do you not see, therefore, what rest a true faith gives us amidst the distresses of this mortal life? Who cries for pebbles when he possesses pearls? The grace of faith, moreover, works in us resignation. He who fully trusts his God becomes perfectly resigned to his Father’s will.
The habit of resignation is the root of peace. Faith, furthermore, promotes unselfishness by kindling worthier affections; and so much is this for our peace, that it is most true that were a man perfectly unselfish it would be impossible for him to be disturbed with discontent. All our unrest lies at the root of self.
II. HOW DOES THE CHRISTAIN OBTAIN INTEREST? “We which have believed.” Do notice this, that the way in which the believer comes to his rest is entirely through belief or trust. And what is this believing? Why it is a simple trust; it is a trusting upon Christ as God’s appointed Saviour; it is trusting the Father and believing in His infinite love to us; it is trusting the Holy Ghost, and giving up ourselves to the sway of His Divine indwelling. Trusting brings rest.
III. WHAT IS THE GROUND AND REASON OF A CHRISTIAN’S REST? It is a dreadful thing to be at rest in extreme peril, lulled by false security. It is perilous to sleep in a house built on a foundation of sand, when the floods are out, and the winds are about, to sweep all away; it is horrible to be at peace in a condemned cell, when already the scaffold has been put up, and the hour of execution is hastening on! But the believer has good reason for being at peace, and why? He has these reasons amongst others. He trusts to be saved by a way which God has appointed. Here is a firm rock to rest on. What better person can we depend upon than Jesus, the Son of God? The believer, moreover, knows that all things which were necessary to save him and all the elect are already performed. In conclusion:
1. To the man who never has rested. Try God’s way of rest. Trust, and you shall rest.
2. The next word is to those of you who once did rest, but do not now. You backslider, this is your word, return unto thy rest. You never will find rest out of Christ--especially you.
3. Lastly to you who are at rest now, endeavour to keep it; and the way to keep it is the way you first gained it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A delicious experience
In the text we have a declaration of experience, “We which have believed do enter into rest,” to which is very singularly added, “As He said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest.” The happy declaration is supported by the tremendous oath of judgment, which shut out the unbelieving race. There is usually a promise embedded in a threatening, like gold in quartz; just as there is generally a threatening as the reverse of the golden coin of promise. I venture to say that the threatening in this case even gives a touch of rose colour to the promise, for it runs thus, “If they shall enter into My rest.” Whereas the declaration only says, “rest”: “we which have believed do enter into rest,” the word “My” is added. That little word is like a bright gleam amidst the blackness of the tempest. Oh, the glory of that which God calls “ My rest”!
I. THE PEOPLE TO WHOM THIS EXPERIENCE IS CONFINED. They rest, and no one else: they rest, because they have believed. As surely as unbelief shuts out, so surely does faith shut in. What is to believe?
1. To believe is, first of all, to accept as true the revelation of God; to give unfeigned assent and consent to all that God has made known in His Word, and especially to believe that He was, “in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
2. The operative point of faith is the next one: we trust ourselves with Him who is revealed; thus we carry our belief of truth to its practical conclusion.
3. Out of this trust must come action agreeable thereunto.
II. THE EXPERIENCE ITSELF: “ We which have believed do enter into rest.” We will propound no theory, and indulge no imagination, but keep to matters of fact.
1. Wherein do we rest?
(1) We rest where God rests: that is, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wondrous personality we see in Him! As God, He is the infinite delight of the Father. As personified Wisdom, our Lord Jesus says, “I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” We cannot tell how much the Father loves Him, and how perfectly He rests in Him.
(2) We rest in His work. Full atonement, perfect righteousness, glorious victory!
2. What is comprehended in this rest? All things. Here we lay every burden down.
3. What are the excellencies of this rest?
(2) A wonderful source of strength.
(3) An incentive to diligence.
(4) This rest also brightens life.
4. What are the limits of this rest? We may place them where we will. “According to your faith, so be it unto you.” “We which have believed do enter into rest.” It is an entrance, and no more, as yet. But when an Israelite had an entrance into Canaan, it was his own fault if he did not penetrate the interior, and traverse the land from Dan to Beersheba. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” “All things are possible to him that believeth.”
III. THE PERSONAL ASSERTION OF THIS EXPERIENCE: “ We which have believed do enter into rest.” I like the positive speech of the apostle for himself and his friends. I do not invite any of you to say that faith gives you peace unless it does so.
1. It must be a matter of fact. We want no empty profession.
2. This declaration, that we have rest, should always be made with a holy purpose. We must not go about boasting of our peace.
3. If you can say as much as this--“By believing have entered into rest,” be thankful; for this privilege is a gift of love. It is a wonderful instance of sovereign grace that such unworthy ones as we are should enter into God’s rest. But if you cannot say it, do not despair. Make it a point of question with yourself. Why have I not entered into rest? Is it because I have not believed? Oh, that all the way between here and heaven we may journey on with restful hearts, led beside the still waters! I have seen, in of the likeness, “Heaven was in him before he was in heaven.” Now, that must be so with us, for nobody gets into heaven who does not get heaven into himself first. Oh, to get heaven into us this meriting, and keep it there for ever! (Ibid.)
The state of believers under the gospel
I. THE STATE OF BELIEVERS UNDER THE GOSPEL IS A STATE OF BLESSED REST. It is God’s rest and theirs. God created man in a state of present rest. This rest consisted in three things.
1. Peace with God.
2. Satisfaction and acquiescency in God.
3. Means of communion with God. All these were lost by the entrance of sin, and all mankind was brought thereby into an estate of disquietment. In the restoration of these, and that in a better and more secure way doth this gospel-state of believers consist
(1) Without it our moral state in respect of God is an estate of enmity and trouble.
(2) There is in all men before the coming of the gospel a want of an acquiescency and satisfaction in God.
3. Unto peace with God, and acquiescency in Him, a way of intercourse and communion with Him is required, to complete a state of spiritual rest. And this also, as it was lost by sin, so it is restored unto us in and by the gospel.
II. IT IS FAITH ALONE WHICH IS THE ONLY WAY AND MEANS OF ENTERING INTO THIS BLESSED STATE OF REST. And that both negatively so that without it no entrance is to be obtained, whatever else men may plead to obtain it by; and positively, in that it alone effects it, without a contribution of aid and strength in its so doing, from any other grace or duty whatever.
III. THERE IS A MUTUAL INBEING OF THE PROMISES AND THREATENINGS OF THE COVENANT, SO THAT IN OUR FAITH AND CONSIDERATION OF THEM, THEY OUGHT NOT UTTERLY TO BE SEPARATED.
1. Because they have both of them the same rise and spring. They do both of them but declare the actings of the one holy God according to the distinct properties of His nature upon distinct objects.
2. Both of them, as annexed to the covenant, or as the covenant is administered by them, have the same end. God doth not design one end by a promise, and another by a threatening; but only different ways of compassing or effecting the same end. The end of both is, to increase in us faith and obedience.
3. Theatenings are conditional; and the nature of such conditions is, not only somewhat is affirmed upon their supposal, and denied upon their denial; but the contrary unto it, is affirmed upon their denial; and that because the denial of them doth assert a contrary condition.
4. The same grace is administered in the covenant to make the one and the other effectual. (John Owen, D. D.)
The Christian’s rest
Comparing the Sabbath of God’s rest at Creation with the Sabbath that is left to the people of God, he justifies the comparison by urging that “he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.” This, surely, would seem to show that when we cease from “our own works,” the sacred rest commences. What, then, are “ our own works”? By these I would understand all those wretched and laborious ways of life which have their origin and end in the corrupted principles of our own hearts, as contrasted with those ways of life and happiness which at once become ours, and with them a Sabbath-rest of spirit, when (and this is surely before the grave), abandoning all the miserable devices with which the wisdom of this world endeavours to delude itself into fictitious happiness, we cast our sins upon the sacrificed Lamb of God, our cares upon the Father of mercies, and, in the bright confidence of faith, walk humbly on to heaven, feeling already within us the dawnings of the heaven we are approaching. (Prof. Archer Butler.)
The rest of God
The great and outstanding characteristic of it is, that it is Jehovah’s rest. It is, in the first instance, God’s own rest before it becomes ours; and it becomes ours, only because it, in the first place, is God’s. The repose and blessedness of Jehovah Himself must be not only the model for, but identical with, the repose and blessedness of the creature, in so far as their capacities permit of it. But the history of God’s dealings with our race presents us with several and somewhat different examples of that Divine resting, which is the source and the foundation of the rest of His Church.
I. We have the rest of God THE CREATOR in the beginning, when He ceased from the work of creation, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made. In that rest which Jehovah Himself found in a sinless and unfallen world, when the days’ work was finished, and He kept and blessed the Sabbath day of creation, there was the foundation laid for the rest and blessedness of the unfallen creature.
II. We have another Divine rest spoken of in Scripture--THE REST OF GOD THE SON, WHEN HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD, HAVING FINISHED THE
REDEMPTION OF HIS PEOPLE AND CEASED FROM ALL THE WORKS THAT HE WROUGHT. He rejoiced in His finished work, calling upon His people to rejoice in it likewise. And there, where the Saviour found rest will the soul of the sinner find rest also.
III. There is yet another rest of the glorious Godhead referred to in Scripture--THE REST OF GOD THE SPIRIT, WHEN HE TOO SHALL HAVE FINISHED HIS LABOUR, and ceased from His works, and entered into His rest. The rest of the Spirit is yet to come. Nor can it dawn until the new creation, with all its glory, shall be finished, until the remaining power of sin in the elect creatures of God shall be destroyed, and until the Church of Christ, gathered out of every people, shall be complete in its members and perfect in their holiness, and so made ready to be presented unto God “ a glorious Church,” &c. And have the people of the election no share in this third and final rest of the Godhead, which shall sum up and include every other? Assuredly yes; for “ there remaineth” still “a rest for the people of God.” The unfallen creature of God was at the creation called upon to join in the Creator’s rest; and there, even amid the gladness of Paradise, he found his chief happiness and joy. The redeemed sinner was at the redemption invited to share his Redeemer’s rest; and there he found for his guilty soul pardon and peace. And the believer, at the dawn of the last and eternal Sabbath, shall be invited to share in the rest of the Spirit; and then he shall find himself made perfect both in holiness and happiness. Heaven is now gathering within its ample arms all the good and true upon earth--the lights of this world, of whom the world was not worthy, the prophets, the righteous men and the witnesses for God--all those that have been born of the Spirit. And earth, too, is ripening its fruit in expectation of the coming day of the manifestation of the sons of God. And those that have been quickened from above, the children of God here, are growing in grace and holiness, and preparing for the rest on high. And when that harvest shall be all gathered, the Spirit shall cease from His work, even as the Father and the Son ceased from Theirs before; and with Him the saints, whom He has called, and chosen, and perfected, shall enter upon the last and the highest rest of God. (J. Bannerman, D. D.)
The rest of God and of man
What, then, is the rest of God? The “rest which Genesis speaks about was, of course, not repose that recruited exhausted strength, but the cessation of work because the work was complete, the repose of satisfaction in what we should call an accomplished ideal. And, further, in that august conception of the rest of God is included, not only the completion of all His purpose, and the full correspondence of effect with cause, but likewise the indisturbance and inward harmony of that infinite nature whereof all the parts co-operant to an end move in a motion which is rest. And, further, the rest of God is incompatible with, and, indeed, but another form of, unceasing activity. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” said the Master; though the works were, in one sense, finished from the foundation of the world. Now can we dare to dream that in any fashion that solemn, Divine repose and tranquillity of perfection can be reproduced in us? Yes! The dewdrop is a sphere, as truly as the sun; the rainbow in the smallest drop of rain has all the prismatic colours blended in the same harmony as when the great iris strides across the sky. And if man be made in the image of God, man perfected shall be deiform, even in the matter of his apparently incommunicable repose. For they who are exalted to that final future participation in His life will have to look back, too, upon work which, stained as it has been in the doing, yet, in its being accepted upon the altar on which it was humbly laid, has been sanctified and greatened, and will be an element in their joy in the days that are to come. “They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them”--not for accusation, nor to read to them bitter memories of incompleteness, but rather that they may contribute to the deep repose and rest of the heavens. In a modified form, but yet in reality, the rest of God may be possessed even by the imperfect workers here upon earth. And, in like manner, that other aspect of the Divine repose, in the tranquillity of a perfectly harmonious nature, is altogether, and without restriction, capable of being reproduced, and certain in the future to be reproduced in all them that love and trust Him, when the whole being shall be settled and centred upon Him, and will, and desires, and duty, and conscience shall no more conflict. “Unite my heart to fear Thy name,” is a prayer even for earth. It shall be fully answered in Heaven, and the souls made one through all their parts shall rest in God, and shall rest like God. And further, the human participation in that Divine repose will have, like its pattern, the blending without disturbance of rest with motion. The highest activity is the intensest repose. Just as a light, whirled with sufficient rapidity, will seem to make a still circle; just as the faster a wheel moves the more moveless it seems to stand; just as the rapidity of the earth’s flight through space, and the universality with which all the parts of it participate in the flight, produce the sensation of absolute immobility. It is not motion, but effort and friction, that break repose; and when there is neither the one nor the other, there will be no contrariety between activity and rest; but we shall enjoy at once the delights of both without the wear and tear and disturbance of the one or the languor of the other. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Maurice speaks of learning to keep Sabbath days in the midst of the world’s din.
Why God rested
An architect who has built a majestic cathedral, a painter who has finished a glorious picture, a sculptor who has carved a noble statue, rests-not because his genius has been exhausted; it may even have been developed and exalted by his labour,--but because he rejoices when his idea has assumed a permanent form of grandeur or beauty. And so God rested-found delight in His material and spiritual creation. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
Faith and rest
Rev. T. Collins said to a man whom he visited, “Here, read this.” “Round thee and beneath are spread the everlasting arms.” “Whose arms?” “God’s.” “Where spread?” “Around my soul and underneath.” “Why man, say you so? Sink down upon them, then, and rest.” “I will try.” “ James, James! there you are again, trying instead of trusting. Suppose you placed your child in the cradle and said, ‘ Now, dear one, rest’; would you expect the little one to set itself shaking the cradle and to say, ‘ I am trying ‘? Would he rest so?” “No, sir, he must be still to rest.” “And so must you, James. Tell God,’ Thou art mine and I am Thine’; cast thyself on His fidelity; sink down upon Him, and on an arm firmer than rock, tenderer than a mother’s thou shalt rest.” (S. Coley.)
Rest in God
The nearer a thing is to its centre, the less is the motion experienced. You do not feel the pitching and rolling of a steamer or a sailing vessel midships as you do elsewhere. Pin a bit of paper to the rim of a carriage wheel, and how swiftly it is whirled round when the vehicle moves. Fasten it on the axle and it revolves very slowly. God is the centre of the universe, especially the centre of all created beings. Live near Him, and you will feel less the shocks of trouble and the vibrations of sin. (T. R.Stevenson.)
Those whose hearts are not at perfect rest resemble a bottle but partly filled with water, which is agitated by the least motion; those whose hearts are at ease are like the same bottle filled to the brim which cannot be disturbed.
Let us take that short division of time--to-day--the now--and consider what is the duty, the preciousness of each passing hour and day.
1. Let us notice that each day has its own gifts. A writer speaks of the hours passing by him like solemn virgins in long and silent procession. He sits in his garden and sees them pass. Their faces are veiled in their hands, they bear caskets full of various gifts, some trivial, some of inestimable value. Among these gifts are stores of brilliant diadems and fruits and faded flowers. He forgets his morning wishes, he lets the day pass by idly and neglectfully. At last, just as the evening is about to fall, he hastily snatches some of their slightest gifts, some harsh apple or withering rose, and as they turn and pass away in silence into the evening shadows, the veils slip from their faces, and he sees the look of scorn which their faces wear. Yes, every day has its gifts, but all good gifts are exactly what we make of them. Let us pray that God will teach us rightly to use His gifts of every day.
2. Each day has not only its own immediate gifts, but also its immediate opportunities. When the Roman emperor sadly lamented to his friends, “I have lost a day,” he meant that on that day be had not conferred a kindness upon any one. How often by selfishness and temper, by egotism, by vanity and want of thought, we miss those opportunities of helping others in little ways which the angels in heaven might envy us. We may see men and women on every side of us, not by any means only among the poor, but among our social equals, staggering along under heavy burdens, which it does not even occur to us to put out even so much as our fingers to help. A word spoken in due season, how good It is! When good John Newton saw a little child crying over the loss of a halfpenny, and by giving it another dried its tears, he felt that he had not spent a day in vain. But it is not only by our daily neglect of a thousand little kindness and courtesies of daily life that we so lightly regard as mere grains of coarse sand in the hour-glass--moments as precious as if they were grains of gold. We lose them in a thousand other ways--not only lose, but squander and fling them away, and, worse than all, pervert them into opportunities of unkindness. In the words of the man of business, Time for us is money. But that is the least thing it is--for time is eternity.
3. Again, every day has its own stores of pure and innocent happiness. To those who walk through the world with open eyes every day reveals something beautiful. We are self-tormentors only because we are selfish and egotistical and vain. Our taste is corrupted; there are few of us to whom God wholly denies the grassy field of contentment, the simple wild flowers of innocent gladness, the limpid spring of the river of the water of life. That was a true saying of the ancients, “Carpe diem”--pluck the blossom of to-day. Our best hopes, our richest treasures, our destiny on earth, yes, even our heaven itself, lie not in the visionary future, but in the here and in the now.
4. And again, every day has its duties. What a special gift of God is this! Riches may fly away, fame may vanish, friends may die, but duty never ceases. This saves our poor little lives from most of their perplexities. Are we happy? Let not our felicity make us falter in the performance of a single duty, for on these duties that happiness itself depends. Are we unhappy? Strenuously try not to grieve over the bitterness, for action is the surest of solaces. In every case we cannot do better than obey the brave old rule, “Do the next thing.” While we are doing our duty, it is always ours to say that we are doing the very thing for which God made us. One of the most charming of the Greek idylls tells us how two poor fishermen, weary and cold, before the earliest dawn, while the moon still rides high in the heavens, rise from their beds of dried seaweed in their miserable hut, and while the waves dash fiercely on the shore hard by, repair their nets by the dim and uncertain twilight; and while they repair them, one of the men tells the other the story of how on the evening before he had fallen asleep very hungry and weary, and had dreamed that he stood on the reck where he was used to fish, and had thrown his line and caught a huge fish. When, with straining rod and line, he drew it to land, he found the fish to be made of pure and solid gold. And in his dream he thereupon took a solemn oath that he would sell his prize, and get wealth, and never dip line in the waves again. And now his poor ignorant thoughts were troubled with his oath, and he doubted whether he should renew his fishing. “Cheer up,” says his old comrade, “you may fish. You did not take the oath, for you see you have not caught the fish of gold. What are dreams? But if not in a dream, in broad waking if you toil and watch, some good may perhaps come to your vision. Look out for the real vision, lest you die of hunger with your golden dreams.” Is not the moral of this Greek idyll to be found even in Scripture? When the apostles waiting through those great forty days after the resurrection, when the appearance of the risen Lord seemed for a time to be hopeless, conscious of the pressure of their want and waiting, when it lay heavily upon them, what was to be done? Thank God, there is always something to be done. Each day has its duty, and He who gave the day and the duty gives also the desire to fulfil it. But not only has each day its duty, but each day has its one supreme duty before which all others sink into insignificance--the duty of repentance if we are living lives of sin; the duty of getting nearer to God and seeing His face if by our Saviour’s mercy we have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Oh, if this duty be left neglected, no other duty can be a substitute for it. Everyday is but a single spoke in the swift wheel of the revolving week, and the weeks flash into the months, and the months into the years, and the years roll on into the world beyond the grave. How many days are there even in a long life? How very few may be left to us! If, then, as we have seen first, every day has its gifts which we often despise; and secondly, every day has opportunities which we often waste; and thirdly, every day has its sources of happiness which we often forget; and fourthly, every day has its duties which the best so imperfectly accomplish; and fifthly, every day has its one thing needful Which if left unaccomplished is utter ruin--ought we not to thank God that every day has also its gracious help. There is One of infinite help always at hand--God is our help and strength. He loves us, He will not forsake us. He who gave His own Son for our sins, shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? And is it not the Son who shall be our Judge? Is He not standing in heaven to make intercession for us at God’s right hand? Is not conscience His voice within us? Has He not given us His Holy Spirit? Is not duty which He makes so clear to us His eternal law? and though He is infinitely far above us, He has given us a ladder between heaven and earth, so that we may ascend heavenward in our supplications, and His answer will fall back in blessings. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
The immediate claims of religion
I. THE PROPOSAL. “If ye will hear His voice.”
1. By acknowledging His authority.
2. By considering His words.
3. By accepting the benefits which He offers.
4. By obeying His commands.
II. THE MEANS OF ACCEPTING IT. “Harden not your heart.” Beware of cruelty to your own souls. Beware of impenitence amidst the means and calls of religion.
III. THE PERIOD TO WHICH IT REFERS. “To-day.”
1. To-morrow you may be indisposed to listen to the voice of God.
2. To-morrow you may be incapable of hearing His voice.
IV. THE END TO BE SECURED BY ACCEPTING IT. This the connection leads us to consider as “Rest.” The heavenly rest.
1. Rest from sin.
2. Rest from sorrow. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
We have two brief clauses to dwell upon: “If ye will hear His voice”; “Harden not your hearts.”
1. The word “will” is not in the original. The apostle is not speaking at present of a willingness on the part of man, but of a grace on the part of God. The exercise of the human will does not come into view till the next clause. This says merely, “If ye hear,” or “ shall hear,” God’s voice speaking. It is the recognition of the Divine freedom to speak or not to speak. “If ye should hear God speaking, listen.” It is conceivable that God may not speak. We may have wearied Him out by our inattention. He may say, “My Spirit shall no longer strive.” “If ye should hear His voice.” This awakens thought, quickens interest, arouses anxiety. What if I should have silenced that voice? Often have I heard without hearing. Often has the voice pleaded, entreated, besought, and there was nothing in me that regarded. Neither hope nor fear, neither love nor dread, neither interest, nor apprehension, no, nor curiosity. “If ye hear” says, “which haply ye may not.”
2. “Harden not your hearts.” The figure is taken from that process of drying and stiffening which is fatal to the free play of a limb or the further growth of a vegetable. The “heart,” in Scripture phrase, is that life-centre, that innermost being, out of which are the issues of thought and action, and upon the condition of which depend alike the decisions of the will and the habits of the living and moving man. When the heart is hardened, there is an end of all those influences of grace which till then can touch and stir, control and guide, inspire the quickening motive and apply the heavenward impulse. Sometimes this hardening is ascribed in Scripture to the operation of God. That is when the voice ceases to speak, and the will to disobey has become at last an incapacity to obey. But this we say, Never does the hardening b-gin on God’s side; and never does the Divine hardening preclude the human softening. “Whosoever will”--that is the condition: and without the willing salvation cannot be even if it would. These are deep as well as sorrowful mysteries. The text of this day lets them alone. It addresses itself to the will, which is the man, and says, “Harden not your heart.” If you will not harden it, certainly God will not. “Why will ye die, when He hath no pleasure in it?” If you hear, any one of you, the voice speaking--hear it say, “This is not your rest”; hear it say, “I am Thy salvation--come unto Me--abide in Me--I will refresh--in Me ye shall have peace”--harden not your heart. If the deceitfulness of sin should say within any of you, “The voice can wait--let it plead outside you till you have taken your fill of that which it cannot tolerate and cannot dwell with--then, when age comes, or sickness, or sorrow, or some shadow cast before of death or eternity, then hearken, then obey”--harden not your heart.
3. “To-day, if ye shall hear His voice.” The Epistle returns again and again to that word. What is “ To-day.” It is the opposite of two times and two eternities. It is the opposite of yesterday and to-morrow in time; it is the opposite of an immeasurable past, an inconceivable future, in the eternity which God inhabits. “To-day “ is at once the dividing line and the meeting point of the two--the barrier between the two finites, and the link between the two infinites. “To-day.” What a word of reproof and of admonition--of thanksgiving and of hope--of opportunity and of blessing. Is not each To-day the very epitome and abstract of a life? It has its morning and its evening; it has its waking and its falling on sleep; it has its typical birth and death; it has its hours marked out and counted; it has its duties assigned and distributed; it has its alternations of light and shade; it has its worship and its service, its going forth to labour and its coming back to reckon. Within these twelve or these sixteen hours a life may be lived, a soul lost or won. (Dean Vaughan.)
Opportunity to be seized
Opportunity is the flower of time, and as the stalk may remain when the flower is cut off, so time may remain with us when opportunity is gone. (J. Bond.)
How much the Bible has to say about “ to-day”--time present! This is really all we can call our own. It says very little about “yesterday” or “tomorrow.” “Yesterday” is like a closed book; its record is finished. As “the mill cannot grind with the water that is past,” so our work cannot be done with the strength and opportunities of yesterday. Of “to-morrow” we may repeat the old and significant saying, “It may never come!”
Opportunity has hair in front; behind she is bald. If you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her; but if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again.
Harden not your hearts
Hardening the heart
I. THE MEANING OF THE WORD “HEART,” AS HERE USED. Parents sometimes have the mortification of seeing their own children become stubborn against parental authority, and of seeing their requirements resisted and their counsels set at nought. Parents often see children, when they undertake to press them to do anything, instead of obeying, wax stubborn and rebellious. They stand and resist, and manifest a cool determination to persevere in their disobedience; and, so far as the philosophy of the act is concerned, resistance to God is just the same. The mind resisting truth “is hardening the heart,” in the sense of the text.
II. HOW IS IT THAT SINNERS DO HARDEN THEIR HEARTS?
1. This leads me to say that persons are very much in danger of hardening themselves, by holding fast to some erroneous opinion or improper practice to which they are committed. All their prejudices are in favour of it, and they are very jealous lest anything should disturb it. What danger such persons are in of assigning to themselves, as a reason for resisting the truth, that it clashes with some of their favourite notions! When they see its practical results contradict some pet theory of theirs, they will strengthen themselves against it. I recollect an instance of this kind. One evening, in the city of New York, I found among the inquirers a very anxious lady, who was exceedingly convicted of her sins, and pressed her strongly to submit to God. “Ah!” she said, “if I were sure I am in the right Church, I would.” “The right Church!” said I; “I care not what Church you are in, if you will only submit yourself to Christ.” “But,” she replied, “I am not in the Catholic Church, I am not in the right Church; if I were, I would yield.” So that her anxiety about the “ right Church” prevented her yielding at all, and she continued to harden her heart against Christ.
2. Others harden themselves by indulging in a spirit of procrastination. “I will follow Thee,” is their language, “but not now.”
3. I remark, again, that many persons strengthen themselves and harden their hearts by refusing, wherever they can refuse, to be convicted of their sins. They have a multitude of ways of avoiding the point, and force away the truth, and hardening themselves against it. Take care, for instance, of the practice of excusing sin.
4. But, again: Another way in which men harden themselves is that they are unwilling to come and do what is implied in becoming Christians. But a short time since, I was pressing an individual to yield up certain forms of sin of which I knew him to be guilty. “Ah,” said he, “if I begin to yield this and that, where will it all end? I must be consistent,” said he, “and where shall I stop? “Where should he “stop”? It was clear that the cost was too great, and that he was therefore disposed to harden himself and resist God’s claims, because he considered God required too much. This is a very common practice. If you ask persons in a general way, they are willing to be Christians; but “what will be expected of them?” Ah! that is quite a different thing! Now you have set them to count the cost, and they find it will involve too great a sacrifice. They are wholly unwilling to renounce themselves and their idols; and accordingly they betake themselves to hardening their hearts, and strengthening themselves in unbelief. I will cite the case just referred to for a moment. The conversation respected at that time a particular form of sin. Now, why did he not yield at once? He saw that the principle on which he yielded this point would compel him to give up others; and therefore he said, “If I begin this, where shall I stop?” He gathered up all the reasons he could, and strengthened himself in his position. Thus he was hardening his heart; this was just what the Jews did when Christ preached.
III. WHY MEN SHOULD NOT HARDEN THEIR HEARTS IN THIS WAY.
1. Perhaps the first thing that I shall notice will startle some of you. It is this: you should not harden your hearts, “because, if you do not do so, you will be converted.” God has so constituted the mind that, as everybody knows, truth is a most powerful stimulant, which invites and draws the mind in a given direction. Truth induces it to act in conformity with its dictates. Now, to do this, to obey the truth, that is conversion. If you do not obey it, it is because you harden yourself against it; for it is an utter impossibility to be indifferent to the presentation of truth, and especially is it utterly impossible to maintain a blank indifference to the presentation of the great practical truths of Christianity.
2. Another reason why you should not harden your hearts is that you will not be converted if you do. In other words, if you resist the Spirit, God never forces you against your will. If He cannot persuade you to embrace the truth, He cannot save you by a physical act of omnipotence, as, for instance, He could create a world. You are a free moral agent, and He can save you only in His own way. In other words, if He cannot gain your own consent to be saved in His own any, He cannot possibly save you at all.
3. Another reason why you should not harden your hearts is that you may be given up! God may give you up to the hardness of your hearts. The Bible shows that this is not uncommon. Whole generations of the Jews were thus given up. Some think there is not so much danger of this now; but the fact is there is more, because there is more light. He gives them up because they resist the light of the truth with regard to His claims.
IV. WHOSE “VOICE” IS HERE REFERRED TO? IS it the voice of a tyrant, who comes out with his omnipotent arm to crush you? “If you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Whose voice is it? In the first place, it is the voice of God; but, more than this, it is the voice of your Father I But is it the voice of your Father, with the rod of correction, pursuing you, to subdue you by force? Oh, no! it is the voice of His mercy--of His deepest compassion. A few further remarks must close what I have to say; and the first remark is this: persons often mistake the true nature of hardness of heart. Supposing it to be involuntary, they lament it as a misfortune, rather than regret it as a crime. They suppose that the state of apathy which results from the resistance of their will is hardness of heart. It is true that the mind apologises to itself for resistance to the claims of God, and, as a natural consequence, there is very little feeling in the mind, because it is under the necessity of making such a use of its powers as to cause great destitution of feeling. This is hardening the heart--that act of the mind in resisting the claims of God. For persons to excuse themselves by complaining that their hearts are hard is only to add insult to injury. I remark, once more, it is worthy of notice that the claims, commands, promises, and invitations of God are all in the present tense. Turn to the Bible, and from end to end you will find it is, “To-day “ if ye will hear His voice. “Now” is the accepted time. God says nothing of tomorrow; lie does not even guarantee that we shall live till then. Again: the plea of inability is one of the most paltry, abusive, and blasphemous of all. What! Are men not able to refrain from hardening themselves? I have already said, and you all know, that it is the nature of truth to influence the mind when it receives it; and, when the Spirit does convert a man, it is by so presenting the truth as to gain his consent. Now, if there was not something in the truth itself adapted to influence the mind, He might continue to present the truth for ever, without your ever being converted. It is because there is an adaptedness in truth--something in the very nature of it which tends to influence the mind of man. Now, when persons complain of their inability to embrace the truth, what an infinite mistake! God approaches with offers of mercy, and with the cup of salvation in His hand, saying, “Sinner! I am coming! Beware not to harden yourself. Do not cavil. Do not hide behind professors of religion. Do not procrastinate! for I am coming to win you.” Now, what does the sinner do? Why, he falls to hardening his heart, procrastinating, making all manner of excuses, and pleading his inability. Inability! What! Is not a man able to refrain from surrounding himself with considerations which make him stubborn? Once more: I said this is a most abusive way of treating God. Why, just think. Here is God endeavouring to gain the sinner’s consent--to what? Not to be sent to hell. Oh, no! lie is not trying to persuade you to do anything, or to consent to anything, that will injure you. Oh, no! He is not trying to persuade you to give up anything that is really good rather relinquishment of which will make you wretched or unhappy--to give up all joy and everything that is pleasant--to give up things that tend to peace--He is not endeavouring to persuade you to do any such thing as this. With regard to all such things, He is not only willing that you should have them, but would bring you into a state in which you could really enjoy them. (C. G. Finney.)
If Jesus [Joshua] had given them rest
Disparity between Joshua and Jesus
The first is in this difference, that Joshua conquered Canaan not only for the people of Israel, but also for himself, that he might have his part and portion with them for him and his posterity (Joshua 19:49-50). But our Lord Jesus hath purchased that heavenly Canaan only for our sakes, having had the possession of it before His incarnation Himself by the right of inheritance. He had a glory with God before the world was (John 17:5).
2. The second difference is, Joshua did not conquer Canaan by himself alone, but had all the tribes of Israel to assist as his auxiliaries in his conquest; but our Lord Jesus hath by Himself alone purchased that heavenly inheritance. He saith, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and none were with Me” (Isaiah 63:3).
3. The third disparity is, the conquest of Canaan did not cost Joshua bloodshed or death; but our eternal inheritance cost Christ both His bloodshed and death (Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
4. The fourth is, Joshua could not quite expel the Canaanites out of Canaan Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10, dec.). But our blessed Jesus hath perfectly subdued Satan, sin, and death to us, that nothing shall eternally harm us John 16:33; 1 John 5:4 : Revelation 12:11). (C. Ness.)
We are told in a certain legend that one day Rabbi Judah and his brethren, the seven pillars of wisdom, sat in the Temple on a feast day, disputing about rest. One said that it was to have attained sufficient wealth, yet without sin. The second, that it was fame and praise of all men. The third, that it was the possession of power to rule the state. The fourth, that it consisted only in a happy home. The fifth, that it must be in the old age of one who is rich, powerful, famous, surrounded by children’s children. The sixth said that all that were vain, unless a man kept all the ritual law of Moses. And Rabbi Judah, the venerable, the tallest of the brothers, said, “Ye have all spoken wisely, but one thing more is necessary: he can only find rest who to all these things addeth this, that he keepeth the tradition of the elders.” There sat in the court a fair-haired boy, playing with his lilies in his lap, and hearing the talk, dropped them with astonishment from his hands and looked up--that boy of twelve, and said, “Nay, nay, fathers, he only loveth rest who loves his brother as himself, and God with his whole heart and soul! He is greater than wealth and fame and power, happier than a happy home, happy without it, better than honoured age, he is a law to himself, and above all tradition.” The doctors were astonished. They said, When Christ cometh, shall He tell us greater things? And they thanked God; for, they said, old men are not always wise; yet God be praised, that out of the mouth of this young suckling has His praise become perfect. (T. Parker.)
There is a rebelliousness against himself in man--a disgust with himself. “We are weary: give us rest,” said a tribe to one of their missionaries; and that tribe expresses the feeling of every human being.
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God
The rest for God’s people
THE PERSONS FOR WHOM THIS REST IS DESIGNED. “The people of God.”
1. By their eternal election of the Father (Romans 11:5).
2. By complete and final redemption (John 1:29).
3. By perfect righteousness imputed (Isaiah 45:24-25).
4. By the renewing of the Holy Ghost (Colossians 3:10).
II. THE MANIFESTED DIFFERENCE IN GOD’S PEOPLE FROM THE REPROBATE, AFTER THEY ARE CONVERTED TO GOD BY THE HOLY GHOST.
1. in a deep sense of divine things (1 Corinthians 2:10).
2. Of their miserable state as sinners (Luke 5:31).
3. Of creature-insufficiency (Isaiah 64:6).
4. Of Christ’s fulness (Philippians 3:8).
5. In a change of will and purpose (Song of Solomon 1:4).
6. A cordial covenanting with Christ (Jeremiah 50:5).
7. Persevering grace (Micah 7:8).
III. THE EXCELLENT NATURE OF THIS REST. ITS excellency is beyond the power of language to describe.
1. Purchased rest (Ephesians 1:14).
2. Gratuitous rest (Isaiah 55:1).
3. Peculiar rest (John 14:22).
4. Divine rest (Revelation 21:23).
5. Seasonable rest (Galatians 6:9).
6. Suitable rest (John 14:2).
7. Perfect rest (Revelation 21:4).
8. Eternal rest (1 Peter 5:10).
9. Of body and soul (1 Corinthians 15:57).
It is a rest from pain, sorrow, disappointment, persecution, sin, lust, and infirmity; a rest of peace, joy, love, knowledge, freedom, and a rest in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. (T. B. Baker.)
Earnests of ultimate rest
The earnests of this rest which are given to the saints in the present dispensation. There is a threefold earnest--an earnest of joy, an earnest of holiness, and an earnest of power. This threefold earnest corresponds with the character of the inheritance itself--it is an inheritance of joy, an inheritance of holiness, and an inheritance of power, of dominion. The earnest corresponds with the blessings to be enjoyed; the earnest corresponds with the salvation to be enjoyed. Now, what is the salvation to be enjoyed? Salvation menus the recovery of all we lost in Adam in a more glorious way than he had it. What did we lose in Adam? We lost the presence of God first; we lost the image of God secondly; and we lost the power of exercising dominion under God. These three things we lost in Adam; these three things we gain in Christ. We shall have the joy of God, going into His presence where there is fulness of joy. We shall have the likeness of God--we shall awake, and shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness; we shall be conformed to Him who is the image of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them after His own glorious body--we shall see Him as He is. We shall have dominion; for the saints shall reign with Christ; the bridegroom and the bride shall reign together. (N. Armstrong.)
The connection between the Sabbath of earth and the engagements of heaven
Heaven may be denominated a Sabbath, if the following reflections be seriously considered.
1. It may be so called for its repose. An eternal rest! Oh, happy thought, amidst the toils of the wilderness, amidst the fears with which we are now agitated, that we shall soon find rest; like the coming of eventide to the labourer, like the appearance of home to the traveller as he is advancing to repose amidst his household, so shall heaven be to the soul!
2. Heaven may well be called an eternal Sabbath for its sanctity. Holiness is its character, not holiness which arises merely from the absence of sin, but holiness which is inherent; that holiness whereby we are prepared in all we do, and all we enjoy, to possess more and more felicity, in proportion as we accomplish more and more the will of the great Creator so that we are absolutely a living sacrifice to God throughout ceaseless ages.
3. Heaven may be denominated an eternal Sabbath for its services.
4. Heaven may be called an eternal Sabbath for its society. Never would the Church of Christ realise a fulness of fellowship but for the engagements of the Sabbath.
5. Heaven may be called an eternal Sabbath for its delights.
6. Heaven may be called an eternal Sabbath because of the termination of all secular eras and events. Just as the Sabbath crowns and hallows the week, so heaven comes at the close of time to crown and hallow the whole.
7. Heaven may be called an eternal Sabbath for the perpetual commemoration of the history of all things. (R. S. McAll, LL. D.)
The rest of God’s people
I. IT IS A FUTURE REST. It is not on this side the grave. This--it is emphatically said--this is not your rest. Ye have not yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord your God giveth you. We must go over Jordan--we must cross the river of death before we can reach our home. But till then, while we continue in the world, it is vain and fruitless to expect rest. There may be seasons of refreshment: pauses, like the Sabbath’s pause, for recruiting our tired spirits; but these seasons and pauses are but for an instant. Work--work of one kind or other presses upon us, and we cannot, if we would, be long at rest.
II. HEAVEN, whatever other notions we may have about it, WILL BE, BEFORE ALL THINGS, A PLACE TO REST. (R. D. B. Rawnsley, M. A.)
The rest of the saints
Scripture allows us to know so much of the future state as to satisfy us that it is a state of continual exalted employment.
I. They rest FROM THE TOILS AND PURSUITS OF THE PRESENT LIFE. Toils and pursuits of various kinds, and in different degrees, necessarily occupy much of our attention. We are animated with a strong desire of preserving ourselves and those who depend upon us in life and comfort, hence much labour and exertion fall to the lot of the generality of mankind; it is also a part of the curse denounced against our apostate race: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Of the small proportion of men who do not procure their subsistence by bodily labour, exertion of another kind is required; they have to undergo the labours of the mind, study, and reflection, and extensive research in managing the religious and the civil concerns of their fellow-creatures. To those who exert themselves vigorously and conscientiously in the one or the other of these kinds of labour, it is no unpleasant view of heaven that it yields a relief from such toils and pursuits.
II. In heaven there is rest FROM THE TROUBLES OF LIFE. These are inseparable from our present condition, being the natural and penal consequences of sin. “Although affliction cometh net forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground, yet man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.” It arises from what we feel in ourselves, from disease, and pain, and weakness, and from “the fear of death”; it arises also from our connection with fellow-creatures: those with whom we are united by the most tender and endearing ties are subject, like ourselves, to a variety of distresses. How soothing in such situations the belief, the hope, and the prospect of that “rest which remaineth for the people of God”--a state where disease and pain are wholly unknown, or remembered as “ former things which have passed away;” “a land, the inhabitants whereof shall no more say, I am sick”; and where those whom death had separated shall meet to part no more!
III. “There remaineth a rest to the people of God” FROM SIN AND TEMPTATION. The former views which have been presented of this “rest” may engage the attention and please the imagination of all men, Whatever be their slate and character. It is natural to human beings to desire exemption from toil and from trouble. Too many, it is feared, wish for heaven chiefly or wholly on these accounts; they have little or no desire of heaven as a deliverance from sin and from temptations to sin; they are the justified and sanctified alone who delight chiefly in this view of a future state. Besides this painful contest with inward corruption, there is also a conflict to be maintained with Satan, the great spiritual adversary. The world also in which they live, both the men of the world and “the things that are in the world,” present many powerful temptations; snares beset them on every side; prosperity and adversity have each their several dangers to Christians. It is, therefore, to them the most pleasing view of heaven that it is a rest from sin and from all temptations to sin. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Have we not all seen a Sunday which was a Sunday indeed--a day of calm and of cheerfulness, a day of thankful repose, a day of quiet devotion, a day in which God was present as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort? Witness, you who have known such a day yourselves or seen it in another, what a look it wore I how bright it was with a light not of this world I how it seemed at once to refresh and to invigorate, to soothe without “relaxing” and to animate without exciting, every part of that complex being which man is! And then say to yourselves, Such, even such, only tenfold more perfect and more glorious, is the rest which remaineth in heaven for the people of God! “ No day of wearisome forms, of gloomy bondage and austere observance, of lifeless monotonous worship, or listless irksome vacancy, but one instinct with peace, with life, and with happiness. There remaineth a rest--a rest like the most delightful of Sabbaths, even because it is long waited for, and because, when it comes, it is a day better than a thousand.
I. A rest FROM what?
I. From our own works. Ye who have known what it was to have reached the end of a six days’ or a six months’ toil, and to awaken the next morning to the rest of an earthly Sabbath, where there was no duty before you for twelve hours but that of thanking and praising God, and enjoying to the full His gifts and His revelations--judge ye what that morning will be when you awake in heaven, never again to toil unto weariness!
2. But who has not felt that there is a weariness far greater than that of simple work, and, by consequence, a rest far more desirable than that from mere labour? In heaven there will be rest from all anxiety and care.
3. And shall I mention yet another weariness of life, one which besets in these days some of every condition and every rank of men? I speak of doubt--of religious doubt--doubt as to the reality of truth, or doubt as to its application to ourselves. Of all the joys of the first morning of heaven, to many souls in our generation, surely this will be the greatest--that doubt is no more; that Christ Himself is there, seen face to face, and the truth which was dim upon earth is there irradiated by His presence.
4. Lastly, the rest which remaineth is a rest from sin. “Grieved and wearied with the burden of our sins:” that is the account which we all give of ourselves when we kneel at Christ’s holy table. Wherever Christ is sought in humble faith, the pilgrim’s burden unties itself at the sight of the Cross, and falls off from him, to his great comfort. But old infirmities continue, and lead to new transgressions. Only in heaven will the power of sin be ended.
II. Rest IN what?
1. In thankfulness. Dangers escaped--infirmities healed--sins forgiven--sorrows cheered on earth or explained in heaven--an arresting,controlling, guiding, and supporting hand, now believed and then seen to have been over us all our life long--the forbearance of God--the map of our pilgrimage, inward and outward, at last spread out before us, and the light of heaven thrown upon its windings and its wanderings; in all this there will be matter for an eternity of thankfulness.
2. In occupation.
3. In contemplation. The contemplation of God Himself. The understanding, as never before, of His works, of His ways, of His perfections.
4. In Christ’s presence. This completes, this embraces all heaven. (Dean Vaughan.)
I. I shall try to EXHIBIT the rest of heaven; and in doing so I shall exhibit it, first by way of contrast, and then by way of comparison.
1. The rest of the righteous in glory is now to be contrasted with certain other things.
(1) We will contrast it with the best estate of the worldling and the sinner. The worldling, when his corn and his wine are increased, has a glad eve and a joyous heart: but even then he has the direful thought that he may soon leave his wealth. Not so the righteous man: he has obtained an inheritance which is “ undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
(2):Now let me put it in more pleasing contrast. I shall contrast the rest of the believer above with the miserable estate of the believer sometimes here below. Christians have their sorrows. Suns have their spots, skies have their clouds, and Christians have their sorrows too. But oh! how different will the state of the righteous be up there, from the state of the believer here! Sheathed is the sword, the banner is furled, the fight is over, the victory won; and they rest from their labours. Here, too, the Christian is always sailing onward, he is always in motion, he feels that he has not yet attained. Like Paul, he can say, “Forgetting the things that are behind, I press forward to that which is before.” But there his weary head shall be crowned with unfading light. There the ship that has been speeding onward shall furl its sails in the port of eternal bliss. Here, too, the believer is often the subject of doubt and fear. Hill Difficulty often affrights him; going down into the valley of humiliation is often troublesome work to him; but there, there are no hills to climb, no dragons to fight, no foes to conquer, no dangers to dread. Ready-to-halt, when he dies, will bury his crutches, and Feeble-mind will leave his feebleness behind him: Fearing will never fear again; poor Doubtingheart will learn confidently to believe. Oh, joy above all joys! Here, too, on earth, the Christian has to suffer; here he has the aching head and the pained body. Or if his body be sound, yet what suffering he has in his mind! Conflicts between depravity and gross temptations from the evil one, assaults of hell, perpetual attacks of divers kinds from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But there, no aching head, no weary heart; old age shall find itself endowed with perpetual youth; there the infirmities of the flesh shall be left behind, given to the worm and devoured by corruption. There, too, they shall be free from persecution. Here Sicilian Vespers, and St. Bartholomew, and Smithfield are well-known words; but there shall be none to taunt them with a cruel word, or touch them with a cruel hand. There emperors and kings are not known, and those who had power to torture them cease to be. They are in the society of saints; they shall be free from all the idle converse of the wicked, and from their cruel jeers set free for ever. Alas! in this mortal state the child of God is also subject to sin; even he faileth in his duty and wandereth from his God; even he doth not walk in all the law of his God blameless, though he desireth to do it. And last of all, here, the child of God has to wet the cold ashes of his relatives with tears; here he has to bid adieu to all that is lovely and fair of mortal race. But there never once shall be heard the toll of the funeral bell.
2. And now I shall try very briefly to exhibit this contrast in the way of comparison. The Christian hath some rest here, but nothing compared with the rest which is to come.
(1) There is the rest of the Church. The Church-member at the Lord’s table has a sweet enjoyment of rest in fellowship with the saints; but ah! up there the rest of Church fellowship far surpasses anything that is known here; for there are no divisions there, no angry words, no harsh thoughts of one another, no bickerings about doctrine, no fightings about practice.
(2) There is, again, a rest of faith which a Christian enjoys; a sweet rest. Many of us have known it. We have known what it is, when the billows of trouble have run high, to hide ourselves in the breast of Christ and feel secure. But the rest up there is better still, more unruffled, more sweet, more perfectly calm, more enduring, and more lasting than even the rest of faith.
(3) And, again, the Christian sometimes has the blessed rest of communion. There are happy moments when he puts his head on the Saviour’s breast--when, like John, he feels that he is close to the Saviour’s heart, andthere he sleeps.
II. I am to endeavour to EXTOL this rest, as I have tried to EXHIBIT it. Oh! for the lip of angel to talk now of the bliss of the sanctified and of the rest of God’s people I
1. It is a perfect rest. They are wholly at rest in heaven.
2. Again, it is a seasonable rest.
3. This rest ought to be extolled because it is eternal.
4. And then, lastly, this glorious rest is to be best of all commended for its certainty.
“There remaineth a rest to the people of God.” Doubting one, thou hast often said, “I fear I shall never enter heaven.” Fear not; all the people of God shall enter there; there is no fear about it. I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who exclaimed, “I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me; God’s finger is on the latch of my door and I am ready for Him to enter.” “But,” said one, “are you not afraid lest you should miss your inheritance?” “Nay,” said he, “nay; there is one crown in heaven that the angel Gabriel could not wear; it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven that Paul the apostle could not fill; it was made for me, and I shall have it. There is one dish at the banquet that I must eat, or else it will be untasted, for God has set it apart for me.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. WHAT MAN SUPREMELY NEEDS IS NOT REST FROM WORK BUT REST FROM CARE.
1. What is care? It is the experience of the man who is bent on being his own providence; who takes on himself the whole responsibility, not of the conduct of life only, but of the conditions and results which are absolutely beyond his power of regulation, and which God keeps calmly under His own hand.
2. This rest from care has been the great aim and desire of man through all his generations. The problem of man’s higher life has always been how to secure emancipation.
3. But the sad part of the matter is, that man does not and cannot rest in mere renunciations and denials. There is a question in the background which has its origin in every conscience. How, on this principle, can the world’s business be carried on? No! there is no rest for the human spirit in this burying the head in the sand when troubles throng around.
II. THE ONLY POSSIBLE REST FOR MAN IS THE REST THAT HE FINDS IN GOD.
1. The lowest, but by no means the least burdensome and distracting class of our cares concerns “the great bread-and-cheese question” and its surroundings.
2. A nobler form of care is that which has to do with persons, that which springs out of our affections, sympathies and loves.
3. The same faith lifts the burden from the heart of the Christian lover of mankind. In truth we are always calling for the twelve legions of angels to finish the work swiftly and usher in Messiah’s reign. And God answers, “Patience,” and points us to the redemptive purpose which stamped its impress on the first page of revelation and sets its seal on the last; and bids us wait His time. The man who trusts most perfectly, works most heartily. Christ, while He lifts the burdens, braces the energies, inspires the will, and parades all the faculties of man in their noblest form for service. The man who believes, understands perfectly that the most strenuous use of all the powers of his being is one of the high conditions by which God is seeking to work out blessing for him self, for his dear ones, and for the great world. (Jr. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
The true rest of heaven
Our notions of bodily rest rarely extend beyond mere cessation from muscular exertion. Our ideas also of mental rest are commonly limited to a similar period put to the labours of the mind. It is easy, and perhaps not always displeasing, to apply similar expectations to spiritual as well as bodily and mental relaxation, and to regard the promised Sabbath in heaven as a complete termination of every spiritual effort. Hope is a work; faith is a work; love we look upon as an emotion. The two former will not be called into action in the mansions of eternity. The latter, we are apt to conceive, will fill our breast with infused delight. There are indeed agreeable views of the saints’ everlasting rest; but are they also in accordance with the revelations of Scripture? You will find not: you will see that the people of God in an after-state will truly rest from their pilgrimage through this weary world; but from the worship of God His saints will rest no more; with kindred spirits they will day and night for ever cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, who wert, and art, and art to come.” Now, while heaven is the abode of love, that love will have utterance; while the object of our love and gratitude and joy is before the glorified, the tongue of love and gratitude and joy will never fail. No rest for happiness; no rest for worship, no more than we should desire new a rest from breathing. And we have glimpses here of the true character of happy rest. Were the father of a family to return to his home after a tedious and toilsome journey and long absence, and instantly, without saluting wife or children, to cast himself upon his bed and fall asleep, this would be rest certainly, but of what a low, animal character I And were another father under like Circumstances to embrace wife and children with fondest affections, and to assemble them around him to narrate the adventures he had met with, and ask of them a similar return, whether, think you, would be the preferable rest? I anticipate but one answer. But it may be said that extreme fatigue might overcome even the strongest regard, and that the most loving parent might be unable to enjoy the society of his household. Do you suppose that this, which is quite in accordance with earthly experience, could be so in heaven? Would God receive us into those blessed abodes, and leave us destitute of the faculty of enjoying them? You well know that that would be far from Him. No; they who are brought into that future world will be gifted with every capacity suitable to the most perfect use of it. And as this life is a training for the next--a probation wherein is practised the conduct and temper which shall endure for ever--does it not follow that you should now cultivate those habits and feelings which alone will find admittance there? (J. S. Knox, M. A.)
The rest of God’s people in heaven
1. We shall rest from the labours of our calling, wherewith we arc turmoiled. The husbandman shall follow the plough no longer, the weaver shall sit no longer in the cold in his loom, the clothier not ride up and down in the ram, frost and snow, about his wool and cloth; the preacher shall no longer be turning over books and taking pains in his study and pulpit; we shall ride no more to market to buy corn, to make provision for our houses; we shall no longer take thought for ourselves, our wives and children; we shall have all things provided to our hands, and eat of the hidden manna and of the tree of life in the paradise of God for ever.
2. We shall rest even from the works of religion, which are now chariots to carry us to heaven. We shall no longer be turning over the Bible in our houses, catechising and instructing of our families; no more go many a mile in the dirt and wind to the church, shall no more be praying with cries, sighs, and tears; thanksgiving shall remain in heaven. It shall be all our work to be praising of God, but petitions shall then cease; no need of the ship when we be in heaven.
3. We shall rest from the works of sin; here in many things we sin all. Noah is sometimes overtaken with wine, David falls into adultery and murder, Peter into the denial of Christ, Paul and Barnabas are at jars between themselves. “The good that we would do, that do we not, and the evil we would not, that do we.” Sin makes us to cry out like tired porters, “O miserable men that we are,” &e. Then we shall rest from all sin, and be like the angels in heaven for ever.
4. We shall rest from all the crosses and calamities of this life.
5. We shall rest from death. It is a work to die; it is a main enemy with whom we struggle. But then this last enemy shall be put under our feet, death shall be swallowed up into victory. O what an excellent rest is this I (W. Jones, D.D.)
The world not a fit place for rest
1. This world is not a fit place, nor this life a fit time to enjoy such a rest as is reserved in heaven.
2. Rest here would glue our hearts too much to this world, and make us say, “It is good to be here” (Matthew 17:4). It would slack our longing desire after Christ in heaven. Death would be more irksome, and heaven the less welcome.
3. There would be no proof or trial of our spiritual armour, and of the several graces of God bestowed on us.
4. God’s providence, prudence, power, mercy and other like properties could not be so well discerned if here we enjoyed that rest. (W. Gouge.)
“Rest elsewhere,” was the motto of Philip de Marnix, Lord Sainte-Aldegonde, one of the most efficient leaders in that great Netherlands revolt against despotism in the sixteenth century which supplied material for perhaps the most momentous chapter in the civil and religious history of the world. For a man such as he, living in such a time, no motto could well mean more. A friend of freedom and of truth, in that age, could never hope to find rest in this world. A good motto, also, is it for the Christian worker. When there is so much to be done, who would be inactive here? “Weary not in well doing.” There is rest elsewhere. Retire not from your labour. Work on! There will be rest hereafter.
Rest in eternity
Arnauld’s (of the Port Royal Society), remarkable reply to Nicolle, when they were hunted from place to place, can never be forgotten. Arnauld wished Nicolle to assist him in a new work, when the latter observed, “We are now old, is it not time to rest?” “Rest! “returned Arnauld; “have we not all eternity to rest in?”
The weariness of life
For the young, this is fresh, beautiful, sunlit life; to the old, it is often what Talleyrand found it, who in the journal of his eighty-third birthday wrote, “Life is a long fatigue.” Weary eyes droop, weary shoulders bend, weary hands tremble, weary feet drag heavily along, weary brows burn, weary hearts faint everywhere. The primary cause of the universal weariness is universal sin. The needle forced from its centre is in a state of tremulous motion; man wandered from his God is in a state of weariness. Though now on the way back, he will never be perfectly at rest until finally at home. (C. Stanford, D. D.)
The final Sabbath
The final Sabbath will not, therefore, be realised till time is swallowed up of eternity, and mortality of life. It will be the eternal conclusion of the week of time, as seven is the numeric symbol of perfection and rest. (F. Delitzsch.)
Rest in heaven
Once I dreamed of being transported to heaven; and being surprised to find myself so calm and tranquil in the midst of my happiness, I inquired the cause. The reply was, “When you were on earth, you resembled a bottle but partly filled with water, which was agitated by the least motion,--now you are like the same bottle filled to the brim, which cannot be disturbed. (E. Payson, D. D.)
Image of heaven
A sorrowing mother, bending over her dying child, was trying to soothe it by talking about heaven. She spoke of the glory there, of the brightness, of the shining countenances of the angels; but a little voice stopped her, saying, “I should not like to be there, mother, for the light hurts my eyes.” Then she changed her word-picture, and spoke of the songs above, of the harpers, of the voice of many waters, of the new song which they sang before the throne; but the child said, “Mother, I cannot bear any noise.” Grieved and disappointed at her failure, she took the little one in her arms with all the tenderness of a mother’s love. Then, as the little sufferer lay there, near to all it loved best in the world, conscious only of the nearness of love and care, the whisper came, “Mother, if heaven is like this, may Jesus take me there!” (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)
Heaven the place to rest in
The earth is our workhouse, but heaven is our storehouse. This is a place to run in, and that is a place to rest in. (T. Secker.)
The work over
Mr. Mead, an aged Christian, when asked how he did, answered, “I am going home as fast as I can, as every honest man ought to do when his day’s work is over; and I bless God I have a good home to go to.”
The people of God
The people of God
I. THE GREAT FACT WHICH IS HERE IMPLIED. That God has a people--a people who are peculiarly His own and devoted to His service.
1. Let us look into the past history of the Church. What illustrious examples of faith, and piety, and real devotedness to God do we discover!
2. In the present day there ate many such.
3. If we look at prophecy, we shall find that the number of God’s people are numerous indeed.
II. SOME TRIALS IN” THEIR CHARACTER.
1. The real servant of God, to whatever community or church he may belong, is deeply convinced of the value and importance of personal religion.
2. The true servant of God renounces self and all else as a ground of dependence in the sight of God, and depends entirely on the atonement, sacrifice, blood, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. He cultivates universal holiness of heart and life.
III. THE FUTURE DELIGHTFUL AND GLORIOUS PROSPECTS OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN. Lessons:
1. The awful state of those who do not come up to this character.
2. How great are the obligations of real Christians to serve God.
3. How amiable is the character of the real Christian! (D. Ruell, M. A.)
The people of God
All nations in the world are His people by creation, but these are His people by adoption.
1. Every people is gathered together by some means or other; a people is a collection of many men. So we that are the people of God, are gathered together with the trumpet of the Word.
2. A people gathered together must have laws to rule them by, otherwise they will soon be out of order, otherwise they will range beyond limits, even so God’s people have God’s laws set down in His Word.
3. Every people must have a king or ruler. Even so the ruler of God’s people is Jesus Christ.
4. A people must have some country to dwell in. So the country where this people dwell is the Church militant in this life, and triumphant in the life to come.
5. All people are distinguished by some outward habit and attire. So God’s people have the sacraments to distinguish them. Baptism is Christ’s mark, and the Holy Supper His seal.
6. People must live in obedience to the laws of their king. (W. Jones, D. D.)
He that is entered into His rest
Entrance into God’s rest
We lose much of the meaning of this passage by our superficial habit of transferring it to a future state.
The ground of the mistake is in the misinterpretation of the word “remaineth”; which is taken to point to the “rest,” after the sorrows of this life are all done with. Of course there is such a rest; but the truth taught here is that faith, and not death, is the gate to participation in Christ’s rest; that the rest remained over after Moses and Judaism, but came into possession under and by Christ.
I. THE DIVINE REST. It is the deep tranquillity of a nature self-sufficing in its infinite beauty, calm in its everlasting strength, placid in its deepest joy, still in its mightiest energy, loving without passion, willing without decision or change, acting without effort, quiet, and moving everything; making all things new, and itself everlasting; creating, and knowing no diminution by the act; annihilating, and knowing no loss though the universe were barren and unpeopled. God is, God is everywhere, God is everywhere the same, God is everywhere the same infinite, God is everywhere the same infinite love and the same infinite self-sufficiency; therefore His very Being is rest. And yet that image that rises before us, statuesque, still in its placid tranquillity, is not repellent nor cold, is no dead marble likeness of life. God is changeless and ever tranquil, and yet He loves--wills--acts. Mystery of mysteries, passing all understanding! Then there is the other thought which perhaps comes more markedly out in the passage before us--that of a rest which is God’s tranquil ceasing from His work, because God has perfected His work. Still further: this Divine tranquillity--inseparable from the Divine nature, the token of the sufficiency and completeness of the Divine work--is also a rest that is full of work. God rests, and in His rest, up to the present hour and for ever, God works. And, in like manner, Christ’s work of redemption, finished upon the Cross, is perpetually going on. Christ’s glorious repose is full of energy for His people. He intercedes above. He works on them. He works through them, He works for them.
II. THE REST OF GOD AND OF CHRIST IS THE PATTERN OF WHAT OUR EARTHLY LIFE MAY BECOME. We cannot possess that changeless tranquillity which knows no variations of purpose or of desire, but we can possess the stable repose of that fixed nature which knows one object, and one alone. We cannot possess that energy which, after all work, is fresh and unbroken; but we can possess that tranquillity which in all toil is not troubled, and after all work is ready for double service. We cannot possess that unwavering fire of a Divine nature which burns in love without flickering, which knows without learning, which wills without irresolution and without the act of decision; but we can come to love deeply, tranquilly, perpetually, we can come to know without questioning, without doubts, without darkness, in firm confidence of stable assurance, and so know with something like the knowledge of Him who knows things as they are; and we can come to will and resolve so strongly, so fixedly, so wisely, that there shall be no change of purpose, nor any vacillation of desire. In these ways, in shadow and copy, we can be like even the apparently incommunicable tranquillity which, like an atmosphere that knows no tempests, belongs to and encircles the throne of God. But, still further: Faith, which is the means of entering into rest, will--if only you cherish it--make your life no unworthy resemblance of His who, triumphant above,works for us, and, working for us, rests from all His toil. Trust Christi is the teaching here.
III. THIS DIVINE REST IS A PROPHECY OF WHAT OUR HEAVENLY LIFE SHALL SURELY BE. There is a basis of likeness between the Christian life on earth and the Christian life in heaven, so great as that the blessings which are predicated of the one belong to the other. Only here they are in blossom, sickly, often, putting out very feeble shoots and tendrils; and yonder transplanted into their right soil, and in their native air with heaven’s sun upon them, they burst into richer beauty, and bring forth fruits of immortal life. The heaven of all spiritual natures is not idleness, Man’s delight is activity. The loving heart’s delight is obedience. The saved heart’s delight is grateful service. The joys of heaven are not the joys of passive contemplation, of dreamy remembrance, of perfect repose; but they are described thus, “They rest not day nor night.” “His servants serve Him, and see His face.” Yes, heaven is perfect “rest.” God be thanked for all the depth of unspeakable sweetness which lies in that one little word, to the ears of all the weary and the heavy laden. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The Christian’s rest
I. THE PERSONS--“The people of God.”
1. He purchased them.
2. He has prepared them.
3. He has watched over and guarded them.
4. They have been enlightened.
II. THE PROMISE--“There remaineth a rest.”
1. Already in existence.
2. Not yet manifested.
III. THE EXPECTATION--“Rest.”
1. Chiefly negative. Denoting an absence of what is painful, laborious, disagreeable.
2. Not necessarily inaction. The brain-toiler rests in taking manual exercise. The muscle-worker rests in reading and writing. The teacher rests in games, such as cricket, &c. So the Christian shall not fear the toils of earth in the occupation of heaven.
3. Blessed. The absence of all evil will give opportunity for the exercise of all that is good. (Homilist.)
Rest in the rest of God
The one want of our nature is rest. We want it in each part of our nature. The body wants rest. Toil, toil of hand and foot and brain, demands alternations of rest, if it is not to kill. The mind wants rest. The thinking, understanding, reasoning, reflecting mind. And certainly the soul wants it. That wonderful, that immortal thing within each of us--which we can distinguish not only from the material body, but even from the thinking mind--that soul which comes straight to each man from his God, and (strange to add) must return straight out of this life to the God who gave it--the soul has its toils and its journeyings and its wearinesses--distinguishable easily from a mere earthly solicitude on the one side, andfrom a mere intellectual unrest on the other. The soul is worn and weary for want of some rest of its own in a strong, delightful, imperishable heart of Love! In their different ways all are seeking rest. Oh, it is a sorrowful thought, when you are thrown into the midst of a multitude, gathered for business, for amusement, even for worship, how few, how very few, of all these have yet found their rest! One is heaping up riches, ignorant who shall gather, knowing only this, that he can carry nothing away with him when he dieth! But he wants rest, and partly he puts out of sight the sordidness and the shortlivedness of this particular rest; and partly, with his eyes open, he says, Twenty years, or twenty hours, or even so base a rest, are better than none! And so he goes after this. Another, far higher and nobler in his aspiration, cannot live without affection. That, he sees, is rest, could he but have it--could he but know indeed what it is! And then, eluded and baffled, at last desperate, in this pursuit of his rest, he falls into evil courses, and would fain fill himself with such husks of love as swine scarcely eat! Rest in the rest of God. “My rest,” God says in the 95th Psalm, and speaks of man entering it. This rest, the context tells us, is partly present, partly future.
1. There is a present rest in the rest of God. That can only be found in an entire, absolute trust in the atonement, made once for all upon the cross of Jesus. Once apprehend that, and then there will enter your soul a peace and a rest indeed passing all understanding. You will work afterwards as never before, because you will work from, not for acceptance, because in working you will be resting. You will count all your work as needing, yet having, forgiveness.
2. From this soul’s rest there is but one step into the saint’s rest--into that calm, that reposeful existence which lies beyond death for such as shall be counted worthy. Not entirely separate, as some would represent, from the life that is now, and from the stage of present action; for if we rest not now, in God’s sense of resting, from sin, from self, from vanity, from feverish haste, from human praise, in the sense of our littleness and of God’s might, of our sinfulness and of Christ’s atonement, we shall never rest then where God is all in all: not entirely separate from earth--for, after all, heaven is but the Spirit’s presence, is bur the consciousness of God as our God, is but the love of Christ filling and constraining; and where these are below, there is heaven begun--not entirely separate, yet severed from the life that now is, even for the chief of saints, by two definite differences--by the removal of this body of earth now enchaining the soul, and by the experience of that nearer, more direct communion, of which it is written that there they shall see God. (Dean Vaughan.)
Ceasing from self
The writer makes a distinction between soul and spirit in Hebrews 4:12. Your soul is you, the part that thinks, wills, reasons, loves, forms plans, purposes, the age, the I life. Beyond that, deeper, deeper down, is the spirit, the part that holds fellowship with God. God consciousness. Good people, converted people, regenerated people, live too much from the soul centre, self-consciousness, and in proportion to our doing this we lose God’s rest. As “I” comes in, rest goes out and restlessness enters. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Let us labour therefore to enter
Believers labouring for their reward
In these words there is, first, an exhortation; second, a motive pressing it.
In the exhortation we may consider
1. The dependence of it upon what goes before, intimated in the particle “therefore;“ showing that it is an inference from some preceding doctrine. In the latter part of the third chapter, he shows that unbelief kept the disobedient Israelites out of God’s rest; both out of Canaan, and heaven typified thereby (chap. 4.).
(1) He lets them see that they had an offer of that eternal rest as well as the Israelites in the wilderness had; because both had the gospel, only the Israelites in the wilderness did not believe it.
(2) The great thing which we are to have in our eye, that rest, namely, of which David speaks (Psalms 95:11); that rest which remains (Hebrews 4:9).
(3) What we are to aim at in reference to that rest; “to enter into it,” that is, to be partakes of it.
(4) The means to be used, in order to our entering, is labouring. Heaven will not fall down into our mouths while lying on the bed of sloth.
(5) Observe the order of the labour and the rest. In the way of God’s appointment, and of godly choice, the labour is first, then comes the rest. It is quite contrary with the wicked. They begin with a day of rest, and end with eternal toil; the godly begin with a night of toil, and end, or rather continue in eternal rest. Oh, that we may follow God’s order!
(6) Observe the end and design of this labour: it is rest. Men work in their young days, and lay up that they may rest in old age. So does the Christian. The wicked also labour that they may rest; but there is a vast difference both betwixt their labour and rest. Their labour is in sin, and their rest is there; but sought in vain, “for in the fulness of their sufficiency they are in straits.” But the godly have their labour in grace, their rest in glory, and between these there is an infallible connection; who, then, would refuse that labour which ends in that rest.
(7) The persons exhorted to labour; us, which includes the apostle and all the Hebrews, whom he exhorts to-day to hear God’s voice, so that this exhortation belongs to all the visible Church, godly and ungodly. Some have entered the avenue leading to glory, some have not; both are called to labour to enter.
2. The motive pressing the exhortation. It is taken from the danger of not labouring. Consider here
(1) That of which people are in danger, and which will come upon them, if they labour not to enter, falling; that is, falling short of heaven, and missing salvation.
(2) The great cause of ruin, that is, unbelief or unpersuasibleness. Unbelief is the great cause of the ruin of the hearers of the gospel, and that which cuts the sinews of true diligence, so as people under the power of it cannot labour.
(3) A confirmation of the certainty of their ruin: “after the same example of unbelief.”
(4) The universality of the danger: any man.
I. IN WHAT THE CHRISTIAN’S LABOUR CONSISTS.
1. The mind must be intent on the business of salvation. This imports
(1) An impression of the weight of that matter upon the spirit. No wise man will labour for a trifle.
(2) An habitual minding of that business. Religion is the believer’s trade--hence his conversation is in heaven.
(3) The heart’s being set upon salvation (2 Corinthians 5:9). The scattered affections of the soul arc gathered together from off the variety of objects which the world affords us, and are fixed here (Psalms 27:4).
2. In this labour there is painfulness and diligence. The man labours for salvation, as working for his life itself, for indeed he sees his all is at stake. No opposition will make him give over. There is such a faintness in all the endeavours of many for heaven, that with the fearful who have no heart, they are excluded (Revelation 21:8).
3. In this labour there is haste. Our work must be done speedily, for the time proposed for our labouring is but “to-day.” There is an unbelieving haste, that will not wait God’s time; but this true haste is not to let his time slip.
4. There is this labour carefulness and holy anxiety about salvation, in the managing of the work (Philippians 2:12). Nosy this implies
(1) The turning of the soul from anxious cares about the world, to a holy solicitude about the salvation of the soul.
(2) A fear of falling short of heaven.
(3) An earnest desire to be set and kept on the way to heaven.
(4) A fear of mismanagement in his work. The labourer for heaven should work, and doth best work with a trembling hand. It was the fundamental maxim of the heathen moralists, Have confidence in yourself. But I may say the Christian maxim is, Have no confidence in yourself. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.
II. FOR WHAT WE ARE TO LABOUR. To enter into the heavenly rest. This is that which we are to have in our eye, and to which our endeavours are to be directed. We are not called to work for nought; but as heaven is attainable, we are to labour that we may enter into it.
1. Show some Scriptural notions of heaven, to which this of entering doth agree.
(1) Heaven is held out under the notion of a garden or paradise.
(2) A house.
(3) The temple typified by that at Jerusalem.
(4) A city glorious for magnificence and beauty (Revelation 21:1-27.).
(5) A country; even a better country than the best here below (Hebrews 11:16).
(6) A kingdom (Matthew 25:34); a kingdom that cannot be moved Hebrews 11:28).
2. Show what it is to enter into the heavenly rest.
(1) There is an entering into heaven by the covenant. The covenant of grace is the outer court of heaven. Of this everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, David says, “this is all my salvation and all my desire.” Surely, then, heaven was in it.
(2) There is an entering by faith.
(a) In so far as faith lays hold upon Christ, and unites us to Him John 6:54).
(b) In so far as faith lays hold on the promise in which heaven is wrapped up.
(3) There is an entering by hope (Romans 8:24). Faith goes out as a conqueror, and hope divides the spoil.
(4) There is an entering by obedience. “I know,” said Jesus, “that His commandment is life everlasting.” There is a personal way to heaven, that is, Christ. “I am,” saith He, “the Way.” Also a real way to heaven, that is, the commands of God, called everlasting life, because they certainly land the soul in heaven, and there is an infallible connection betwixt true obedience and glory.
(5) There is an entering into heaven by actual possession, which in respect of our souls is at death, and in respect of our bodies will be at the resurrection, which is the full and final entry, to which all the rest are subservient. This entrance is that solemn entering into the king’s palace Psalms 45:15), which shall also be most joyful.
3. Mention some steps in the way by which we must labour to enter.
(1) We must labour to get grace; this is the first step. “Let us have grace,” says Paul, “whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.”
(2) We must labour to exercise grace in the gracious performance of duties.
(3) Growing in grace.
(4) Assurance of grace and glory.
(5) Perseverance in grace to the end.
4. Consider this labouring to enter, as it has a respect to our preparation for that eternal rest in heaven. The man that is to go abroad is a busy man, putting all things in order for his voyage; and he that is making for his night’s rest in bed, is not idle; and he that is to enter into the possession of eternal rest, has much work on his hand preparatory thereto. And thus to labour to enter into the heavenly rest implies
(1) The solid faith of eternal life, even of this truth, that “there remaineth a rest for the people of God.”
(2) A sincere desire to be partaker of that rest, after this troublesome life is over.
(3) Resolute endeavours to enter there, by God’s own way, which has already been described.
(4) Frequent thoughts of that eternal rest.
III. HOW WE SHOULD LABOUR
1. We should labour willingly and cheerfully.
3. With all your might.
6. With fear and trembling.
8. Refusing no piece of work God puts into your hands.
IV. THAT WE MUST LABOUR IN ORDER TO OUR ENTERING INTO THAT REST.
1. Consider the several notions under which the Christian’s life and the way to heaven is held forth, all of them implying true pains and labours. It is a working, “Labour not for the meat that perisheth” (Greek, “work”), John 6:27). Here he that works not shall not eat. Yea, it is a working out of our own salvation; a bringing the work to perfection, otherwise what is done will be lost (2 John 1:8). It is compared to the work of the husbandman, which you know is not easy, ploughing, sowing, reaping Hosea 10:12), especially considering that they are both the labourers, and the ground that is laboured. The Christian is a spiritual soldier, he must 2 Timothy 4:7); yea, and overcome (Revelation 3:21). Heaven has a strait gate by which to enter in, and therefore cannot be entered with ease. Men must press into it (Luke 16:16); and take it by storm; yea, put forth their utmost strength as they that agonising. The apostle says (2 Corinthians 5:9), “we labour”; the word signifies to labour most earnestly, as an ambitious man for honour; and what will not such do, to gain their point?
2. Consider how the way to heaven was typified under the Old Testament. Canaan was a type of heaven, and to what labour were the Israelites put before they could reach that land, though it was promised to them. Another eminent type of it, was the ascent into the temple, which was seated upon a hill, even Mount Moriah (1 Kings 10:5). Many a weary step had some of them ere they got to Jerusalem (Psalms 84:6-7); and when they came there, they had to ascend unto the hill of God (Psalms 24:3), the mount of the Lord’s house, a type of heaven.
3. Consider how the Scripture supposeth this labour (Romans 7:24; Galatians 6:5).
4. Consider how the Scripture represents the sluggard and his temper to us, as most hateful to God, and as one that is lost by his sloth (Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 20:4; Proverbs 21:25). The sluggard is the unprofitable servant (Matthew 26:34).
5. Whom God intends for heaven, in then] He puts an active principle of grace. It is as natural for grace to bring forth good works, as for a good fruit tree to bring forth good fruit.
6. To enter heaven without labour is a contradiction; and so impossible. Heaven is a reward, and necessarily pre-supposeth working. Moreover, it is a rest which is a relative term, and has necessarily labour pre-supposed to it.
V. WHY WE MUST LABOUR IN THIS SPIRITUAL WORK, in order to our entering heaven. Negatively; not because by works we must merit heaven, for the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our working is the way to the kingdom; not the cause of our reigning; Christ’s working was that. But we must labour, because
1. It is the command of our great Lord and Master, whose command we are not to dispute, but to obey.
2. The glory of God requires it.
3. Because there is an infallible connection betwixt labouring and the rest. Labouring is the only way we can attain it. There is no reaching the treasure of glory without digging for it.
4. Because otherwise we pour contempt on the heavenly rest. It was the sin of the Israelites (Psalms 106:24-25).
5. Because it is difficult work you have to do, and therefore we should set ourselves to labouring, for it is heart work.
1. Consider that in other things you do not refuse to labour. You are not such as live idle and at ease. Now God is putting a piece of work in your hands; will you labour for others, but not for Him?
2. Your profession and your vows call upon you to labour to enter.
3. Your time is short; ere long all of us shall be in an unalterable state.
4. Your time is uncertain, as well as short.
5. The devil is busy to keep you out of that rest.
6. You have weighty calls to this work and labour. Lessons:
1. You have the call of the Word and ordinances. Wherefore has the Lord sent you His gospel, but for this end.
2. You have the call of providence.
3. The call of conscience.
4. If you labour not, you will never see heaven.
Now to make this labour easy to you, I would recommend--
1. To keep the encouragements to the work in your eye; particularly such as these, the example of those that have gone before you, and have got safe to the journey’s end. These have made it appear the work is possible, and the reward certain.
2. Live by faith.
3. Labour to get and keep up love to Christ.
4. Look upon that labouring as your interest as well as your duty.
5. Be constant in that labour. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Labour to enter into eternal rest
How calm and beautiful to the servant of God is the close of a Sabbath day! It has, if he has used it aright, helped to allay all his cares and soothe all his woes; to brighten earth by the reflection of heaven. How endearing and animating, then, the blessed link, that knits the passing Sabbath of earth with the interminable Sabbath of heaven!--that makes the best and brightest day in the seven, to be to the child of God at once the pledge and the antepast of the everlasting “rest that remaineth for the people of God!”
I. “Let us labour to enter into that rest”; FOR LABOUR IS NEEDFUL, IF WE WOULD ENTER. Most true it is, that eternal life is from first to last “ the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Death we win--it is the wages of our service; life we receive--it is the free boon of boundless grace. Purchased, but by the blood of God; given to us “without money and without price.” But it is not less true, that though it be the gift of God, it is given to us in order to, and in connection with, toil, struggle, self-denial, self-subjugation, a warfare unremitting, a perpetual maintenance of “ the good fight of faith, against the flesh, the world, and the devil.” We see, in the history of God’s saints in every age, that to enter the glorious “rest “ was a task of stupendous difficulty--was a pursuit for unremitting earnestness and energy--and called for and cost them all their devoted powers. Says not the Scripture everywhere the same? “ Strive,” said the Saviour--agonise--“to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”
II. We must “labour to enter into that rest,” because IF WE FAIL OF THAT REST, WE FAIL OF ALL REST FOR EVER.
III. “Let us labour to enter into that rest”; for IT IS WORTH OUR UTMOST LABOUR. It was beautifully said by a heathen wise man, that the noblest thing on earth is a noble object nobly pursued. That man, in his sentiment, was “not far from the kingdom of God.” Oh! had he possessed the lamp that lights us, to reveal to him the glories prepared for them that love God, he would have seen at once, that the only noble object for immortal, responsible, rational man--the only noble object to be nobly pursued, in faith, in love, in self-denial, in holiness, in obedience, in patience, in indomitable resolution--is the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
IV. “Let us labour, therefore, to enter into that rest”; for EVEN HERE HOW MUCH OF THIS REST MAY BE OURS, WHILE WE TOIL AND TRAVEL AND CONFLICT BELOW! The apostle beautifully says in the preceding context, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” There are first-fruits brought from heaven to the wilderness, as there were first-fruits brought from Canaan to the desert.
V. “Let us, therefore, labour to enter into that rest”; for our LABOUR IS “ NOT IN VAIN IN THE LORD.” In this race none fails through inveterate ignorance, if that ignorance be not of choice and of obstinacy; none comes short through want of talent or opportunity or advantage, if he makes the most of such as God gives him; none fails because of extremity of poverty or misery or desolation of earthly circumstances; none comes short because there was not mercy in God, there was not efficacy in the blood of Christ, there was not freeness and fulness in the Spirit of grace, there was not room in heaven, there was not amplitude in the gospel of peace. Every man that fails and comes short, “cannot enter in because of unbelief”; because he “ would not come to Christ that he might have life,” or, coming to Christ, he would not have life in the way of ,’working out his own salvation with fear and trembling, because it was God that worked in him to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (H. Stowell, M. A.)
The need of labour before rest
We may properly regard this as an intimation that care and trouble are absolutely necessary on our part, in order to the procurement and enjoyment of those things “which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” We should never fail to consider this life as a state of trial. In order to the attainment of human perfection, we perceive much labour to be necessary; there is no science, there is scarcely any art or employment in our several vocations in which we can arrive at eminence without industry and toil: exceptions there doubtless are, but this is the rule. We may further observe, that the greatest delight which we experience upon earth is frequently obtained by previous exertion or privation. As it is with the body, and with the attainment of natural blessings, so we have much greater reason to expect that it should be with the soul, with the attainment of those pure and spiritual blessings to which the natural man is averse. We could not expect them to be enjoyed without a previous discipline, without an anxious seeking, without a determined conflict. Not that such discipline and duty, on our part, are to be regarded as effectual in themselves; still less as entitling us to the benefits of the gospel on the ground of desert: we can have no such title but through the merits and for the sake of our blessed Redeemer. Whatever the labour might be--however severe, however unassisted and unrelieved--every wise man, every man who exercised a common judgment and prudence, would thankfully submit to it for a few years as the appointed means of a happy eternity; just upon the same principle as he would gladly submit to the trouble or toil of a day for the sake of procuring riches and comfort and honour during the remainder of his existence upon earth. But the work of the Christian, in the preparation of his soul for rest, is not a labour unassisted and unrelieved; not a gloomy period of service without the light of the sun. There is a heaven-born spirit, an all-sufficient grace, a holy energy and animation imparted, affording much more than a recompense even at present, and making the believer thankful that he has struggled and endured. Nevertheless, the mainstay of the children of God in their infirmities, the refreshment of their spirit in the vale below, is the promise of a heavenly rest at the end of their short pilgrimage, towards which they have the comfort of making a daily advancement: the promise of a final and blissful consummation. An aged Christian, now near this end, commonly says, at every striking of the clock upon his ear, thank God I am an hour nearer to my home and my rest. Such thankfulness may every one of us be able heartily to express! (J. Slade, M. A.)
Labour and study necessary for reaching heaven
We must not think to go to heaven without study, bare wishing will not serve the turn. It is not enough to say with Balaam, “Oh, that my soul might die the death of the righteous, and my last end be like his” (Numbers 23:10). It is not sufficient to all, oh, that I were in heaven, but we must study to go to heaven. Now in all studying these things must concur.
1. There must be the party that studieth, and that is every Christian--high and low, rich and poor, of what estate or condition soever. The king and the subject, the ministers and their people, the master and the servant, the father and the child, the husband and the wife, the merchant and the clothier, the gentleman and the yeoman, the divines, lawyers, physicians, husbandmen, &c., all must study to enter into this rest.
2. There must be a closet, or a place to study in, that is, the chamber of our own hearts.
3. There must be a book to study on. Every, student must have his books. There can be no workman without his tools, nor a scholar without a library. Now the Lord will not trouble us with many books. As Christ said, one thing is necessary. So one book is necessary, the book of books the Holy Scriptures. Let us study that thoroughly, and learn the way to heaven.
4. There must be a light to study by. No man can study in the dark; either he faust have daylight or candlelight. The light whereby we study is the light of God’s Spirit, who must enlighten our eyes that we may see the wonders of God’s laws and direct us to this heavenly rest.
5. There must be diligence m study. Every student must be diligent. Learning is not gotten without pains. We must not study by fits, a start and away, but we must lie at it, if by any means we may come to this rest.
6. There must be a time to study in. Now this time is the term of our life.
7. And it is worth our study. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Heaven a plaice of rest
Heaven is a place, or state, of rest. What kind of rest? The rest of inactivity, of absence of occupation, of listlessness, dreams, and luxurious vacuity? Certainly not. This is evidently not the kind of happiness that dignifies, improves, satisfies, or suits man, even here; far less therefore can it haronise with his exalted nature hereafter, which would only be cramped, imprisoned and dishonoured by such uncongenial inactivity.
I. A REST FROM DISTRACTING DOUBT. Here there is much sophism which is hardly to be distinguished from truth; in heaven all is truth. Here there is a great battle between truth and error; in heaven the victory is decided, and peace is eternal. Here we know in part, and therefore we can prophesy but in part; there we shall know even as we are known. There we shall rest; rest from the tides and fluctuations of uncertainty, and find a calm shot, and a secure haven. Nothing there can excite in us the least suspicion of the care, the justice, or the goodness of oar Maker, for these will be the visible support of our immortal life.
II. A REST FROM ANXIOUS CARES. In heaven these instruments of our earthly discipline will be laid aside. There will be no thorns in the pillow of that rest.
III. A PLACE, OR STATE, OF REST FROM PAIN,
IV. A REST FROM CONTENTION AND STRIFE. Discord, divisions, and fightings shall cease, and the confused noise of the warrior shall no more be heard there. Such things must not come where the Prince of Peace sits on the right hand of His Father. All rivalry and hate will be extinguished. “There no friend goes out, nor enemy comes in.”
V. A PLACE, OR STATE OF REST FROM SIN. (F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)
Labouring for rest
That is a singular paradox and bringing together of opposing ideas, is it not? Let us labour to enter into rest. The paradox is not so strong in the Greek as here; but it still is there. For the word translated “ labour” carries with it the two ideas of earnestness and of diligence. And this is the condition on which alone we can secure the entrance, either into the full heaven above, or into the incipient heaven here. But note, we distinctly understand what sort of toil it is that is required to secure it, that settles the nature of the diligence. The main effort of every Christian life, in view of the possibilities of repose that are open to it here and now, and yonder in their perfection, ought to be directed to this one point of deepening and strengthening their faith and its consequent obedience. You can cultivate your faith, it is within your own power. You can make it strong or weak, operative through your life, or only partially, by fits and starts. And what is required is that Christian people should make a business of their godliness, and give themselves to it as carefully, and as consciously, and as constantly’, as they give themselves to their daily pursuits. The men that are diligent in the Christian life, that exercise that commonplace, prosaic, pedestrian, homely virtue of earnest effort, are sure to succeed; and there is no other way to succeed. And how are we to cultivate our faith? By contemplating the great object which kindles it. By averting our eyes from the distracting competitors for our interest and attention, in so far as these might enfeeble our confidence. Do you do that? Diligence; that is the secret--a diligence which focusses our powers, and binds our vagrant wills into one strong, solid mass, and delivers us from languor and indolence, and stirs us up to seek the increase of faith, as welt as of hope and charity. Then, too, obedience is to be cultivated. How do you cultivate obedience? By obeying--by contemplating the great motives that should sway and melt, and sweetly subdue the will, which are all shrined in that one Easing, “Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price,” and by rigidly confining our desires and wishes within the limits of God’s appointment, and religiously referring all things to His supreme will. If thus we dot we shall enter into rest. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Diligence comprises both the impulse of the bowstring that despatches the arrow, and the feather that keeps it true to its aim. Diligio, the Latin word from which diligence is derived, means I choose, select, or love. To be diligent, therefore, is to resemble an eager hunter, who selects the fattest of the herd, and, leaving the rest, pursues and captures that one. Napoleon the First won his victories chiefly by rapid concentration of his forces on one point of the enemy’s line. A burning-glass is powerful because it focalises a mass of sunbeams on one point. So in all departments of activity, to have one thing to do, and then to do it, is the secret of success.
The need for diligence
God does not give thee the flower and the fruit of salvation, but the seed, the sunshine, and the rain. He does not give houses, nor yet beams and squared stones, but trees, and rocks, and limestone, and says: Now build thyself a house. Regard not God’s work within thee as an anchor to hold thy bark firmly to the shore, but as a sail which shall carry it to its post. (J. P. Lunge.)
Its root meaning is to love, and hence it signifies attachment to work. The habits of literary men illustrate this. Lord Macaulay loved order, accuracy, and precision. He corrected his MS. remorselessly. So with his proof-sheets. “He could not rest till the lines were level to a hair’s breadth, and the punctuation correct to a comma; until every paragraph concluded with a telling sentence, and every sentence flowed like running water.” (Thwing’s Preacher’s Cabinet.)
Christianity requires doing as well as believing
The other day I met a friend noted for a fretful and anxious disposition; and seeing that his face was cheerful and his step elastic, I said, “Well, old friend, you look as if things were going pleasantly.” He replied, “Oh yes; my relatives have bought an annuity for me in the Assurance office, and until I die I shall have £200 a year to live on. You see, my future is provided for, and I have no need to worry myself about it as I used to do!” Like that man, some people imagine that when they believe in Jesus, there is a something done which makes them safe for ever, without any further trouble to themselves. A man who buys a railway ticket, gets into the train, and feels he has nothing more to do except sit there comfortably until the train arrives at the journey’s end. But the Christian life is much more difficult. It is true that through Jesus Christ is preached unto men the forgiveness of all their sins; but it is an error to preach that Christians have nothing to do except believe, Jesus demands a faith in Him which shall constrain us to do. (W. Birch.)
Labour till the last
Calvin, even in his dying illness, would not refrain from his labours; but when his friends endeavoured to persuade him to moderate his exertions, he replied, “What! shall my Lord come and find me idle?”
Labour necessary for our salvation
Never think that God is going to make a Christian out of you without effort of your own. When the lion crouches down before you, and his eyes glare upon you, and he is about to spring, you need not expect Providence to fire your gun for you; you must do it yourself or die. ‘Tis kill or be killed with you then. God has already done His part in the work of your salvation. If you don’t choose to do your part, you will perish. (H. W. Beecher.)
Fall after the same example of unbelief
The use of examples of punishment
1. There is danger and an evil to be feared.
2. The evil is falling.
3. All and every one is in this danger Lest any fall.”
4. Lest any should slight the danger, he instanceth in the Israelites, who fell by unbelief.
To fall may be a sin or a punishment. If a sin, it is apostasy. If a punishment, it is exclusion out of God’s rest, with all the miseries that accompany it. So it seems here to be taken. By this, as by many other places, we easily understand how we must conceive of examples, and what use we must make of them. If they be examples of punishments, we must account them as executions of God’s laws, and especially of His comminations. The use that we must make of them is, to avoid those sins for which they were inflicted, and to be the more careful in this particular because by them we may easily know that God’s laws are not only words and His threats only wind. It is not with God as it is often with men, who will threaten more than they will or can do. Thence the saying, “Threatened men live long.” But here it is otherwise. God’s word is His deed, and His punishments, threatened against apostates are unavoidable. They are not made unadvisedly, and out of rash passion, but according to the eternal rules of wisdom and justice. And let every one know that that God that spareth neither men, nor angels, nor His own chosen and beloved people, will not spare us. Therefore, as we desire to escape this fearful punishment, let us labour to enter into that rest which God hath promised. (G. Lawson.)
Disobedience and unbelief
Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is submission, voluntary, within a man’s own power. If it be not exercised the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual ones, lies in the moral aversion of his will and in the pride of independence which says, “Who is the Lord over us?” Why should we have to depend upon Jesus Christ? And as faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, and unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. The two interlock each other, foul mother and fouler child; and with dreadful reciprocity of influence the less a man trusts the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys the less he trusts. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Unbelief incompatible with salvation
People say that it is arbitrary to connect salvation with faith, and talk to us about the “injustice “ of men being saved and damned because of their creeds. We are not saved for our faith, nor condemned for our unbelief, but we are saved in our faith, and condemned in our unbelief. Suppose a man did not believe that prussic acid was a poison, and took a spoonful of it and died. You might say that his opinion killed him, but that would only be a shorthand way of saying that his opinion led him to take the thing that did kill him. Suppose a man believes that a medicine will cure him, and takes it, and gets well. Is it the drug or his opinion that cures him? If a certain mental state tends to produce certain emotions, you cannot have the emotions if you will not have the state. Suppose you do not rely on the promised friendship and help of some one, you cannot have the joy of confidence or the gifts that you do not believe in and do not care for. And so faith is no arbitrary appointment, but the necessary condition, the only condition possible, in the nature of things, by which a man can enter into the rest of God. If we will not let Christ heal our wounds, they must keep on bleeding; if we will not let Him soothe our conscience, it must keep on pricking; if we will not have Him to bring us nigh, we must continue far off; if we will not open the door of our hearts to let him in, He must stop without. Faith is the condition of entrance; unbelief bars the door of heaven against us, because it bars the door of our hearts against Him who is in heaven. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The Word of God is quick and powerful
The Word a sword
It may be most accurate to interpret this passage as relating both to the Word of God incarnate, and the Word of God inspired.
Christ and His Word must go together. What is true of the Christ is here predicated both of Him and of His Word.
I. First let me speak CONCERNING THE QUALITIES OF THE WORD OF GOD. It is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
1. The Word of God is said to be “quick.” It is a living Book. Take up any other book except the Bible, and there may be a measure of power in it, but there is not that indescribable vitality in it which breathes, and speaks, and pleads, and conquers in the case of this sacred volume. It is a living and incorruptible seed. It moves, it stirs itself, it lives, it communes with living men as a living Word. That human system which was once vigorous may grow old, and lose all vitality; but the Word of God is always fresh, and new, and full of force. Here, in the Old and New Testaments, we have at once the oldest and the newest of books.
2. The Word is said to be “powerful,” or “active.” The Word of God is powerful for all sacred ends. How powerful it is to convince men of sin! How powerful it is for conversion!
3. Next, the apostle tells us that this Word is cutting, A sword with two edges has no blunt side: it cuts both this way and that. The revelation of God given us in Holy Scripture is edge all over. It is alive in every part, and in every part keen to cut the conscience, and wound the heart. Depend upon it, there is not a superfluous verse in the Bible, nor a chapter which is useless. Doctors say of certain drugs that they are inert--they have no effect upon the system one way or the other. Now, there is not an inert passage in the Scriptures; every line has its virtues.
4. It is piercing. While, it has an edge like a sword, it has also a point like a rapier. The difficulty with some men’s hearts is to get at them. In fact, there is no spiritually penetrating the heart of any natural man except by this piercing instrument, the Word of God. Into the very marrow of the man the sacred truth will pass, and find him out in a way in which he cannot even find himself out.
5. The Word of God is discriminating. It divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult.
6. Once more, the Word of God is marvellously revealing to the inner self. It pierces between the joints and marrow, and marrow is a thing not to be got at very readily. The Word of God gets at the very marrow of our manhood; it lays bare the secret thoughts of the soul.
II. SOME LESSONS.
1. Let us greatly reverence the Word of Cod.
2. Let us, whenever we feel ourselves dead, and especially in prayer, get close to the Word, for the Word of God is alive.
3. Whenever we feel weak in our duties, let us go to the Word of God, and the Christ in the Word, for power; and this will be the best of power.
4. If you need as a minister, or a worker, anything that will cut your hearers to the heart, go to this Book for it.
5. If we want to discriminate at any time between the soul and the spirit, and the joints and marrow, let us go to the Word of God for discrimination.
6. And lastly, since this Book is meant to be a discerner or critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart, let the Book criticise us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The power of the Word of God
I. ITS JUDGING POWER.
1. It is living and energetic.
2. It cuts both ways.
(1) With the one edge it corrects and converts.
(2) With the other it condemns and destroys adversaries.
II. ITS DIVIDING POWER.
1. It divides the soul from the spirit, i.e., the lower animal nature from the higher, spiritual and eternal.
2. It divides so closely as to lay bare everything in man’s composite nature.
III. ITS DISCERNING POWER.
1. It shows the moral nature of what is interior and hidden in mental operations.
2. It shows the moral nature of what is revolving in desire, and forming itself into volition and action.
1. The Word of God enters the conscience to convert or to smite.
2. It searches out what has hitherto lain buried in the heart, and uncovers the false and transient from what is true and eternal.
3. It opens a man to himself, so that he may know himself in his moral actions and accountability.
4. Since its powers are so peculiar, let us not resist the Word of God.
5. No one can for ever despise it with impunity. (L. O. Thompson.)
The self-evidencing power of the Bible
We may affirm of the Bible, that he who reads it with attention, will find his own portrait given with so much accuracy, his heart so dissected and laid bare for his inspection, that there will be nothing left for him but to confess that the Author of the Bible knew him better than he knew himself; knew him better than he would have been known by any being who could not read the thoughts and search the spirit. Is there any one of you who has read so little of the Bible, or read it with so little attention, that he has never found his own case described--described with so surprising an accuracy, that he felt as though he himself must have sat for the portrait? When Scripture insists on the radical corruption of the heart, on its native enmity to God, and on all its deceitfulness, is there any one of us who will fail to allow that the affirmations are every way just, supposing his own heart to be that of which the affirmations are made? And when over and above its more general statements the Bible descends, as it often does, into particulars; when it speaks of the proneness of man to prefer a transient good to an enduring; the objects in sight, however inconsiderable, to those of faith, however magnificent; when it mentions the subterfuges of those whose conscience has been disquieted; when it shows the vain hopes, the false theories, the lying visions with which men suffer themselves to be cheated, or, rather, with which, they cheat themselves, who is there amongst us who will venture to deny that the representation tallies most nicely either with what he is, or with what he was--with what he is, if he have never repented and sought forgiveness of sin; with what be was if his nature has been renewed by the operations of God’s Spirit? If there be anything like honesty in the mind of the student of Scripture, he must, we are persuaded, be continually startled in his pursuit, in finding his ,own thoughts and motives and designs set in order before him. And if this be true, then, as is very evident, there belongs to the Bible the character which is assigned to it in the words of our text. And though it may seem somewhat extraordinary that notwithstanding the confessed diversity in human character, we should thus make a simple description serve as the moral portrait of countless individuals, you will remember, that practically, all men are alike; the differences are only superficial, so that Solomon could affirm that--“as in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.” The face in the water is not a more accurate copy of the face of the beholder, than is the heart of one man a copy of any other man’s. And, therefore, with all the differences which there may be amongst men, differences in dispositions and tempers, partly from nature and partly from education, we still take the Scriptural characteristic as actually belonging to every one; and holding up this characteristic, we affirm that we hold up the perfect image or likeness of each man or each woman, without a solitary exception; and we boldly make our appeal to every hearer of the Word, and demand of him whether the preacher do not morally affect such an exhibition of him to himself, that that Word may most justly be described as--“a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”? But, now, there remains a most important question--how comes it to pass that if the Word of God possess this dissecting power, so that it lays man bare and exposes to his own eye all the secrecies of his soul--how comes it to pass that so little effect is actually produced? This is only because the hearers are utterly inattentive; because they give no heed whatever to the statements of the preacher; but go through the business of the sanctuary as a matter of form, in which they have no interest. It is no marvel if to such as these the Word of God should not be as a “sword.” They may be said to clothe themselves in that thick armour, the armour of indifference, and though dissection may be going on all around, they ward off from themselves the knife of the anatomist. But there is another class of hearers on whom considerable impression is often made by the preaching of the gospel, who, while they remain in church, and are actually hearkening to the solemn truths of religion, feel an interest in what is said, feel its power, and wish to use it for their guidance; and in whom there seems the best moral promise presented of such an attempt at amendment of life, as would issue in genuine conversion. Are there not some who would be ready to own that sermons have occasionally had on them a mighty and almost overcoming effect; so that they have felt constrained to give full assent to the truths uttered in their hearing, though these truths have convicted them of heinous offences, and proved them placed in terrible danger. If the man thus exhibited to himself, startled with the moral deformity which he has been forced to behold, would strive at once to act on the disclosure, and set about procuring a renovation of his nature, he would be immeasurably advantaged by the spectacle of his own sinfulness--soul and spirit will have been divided by conviction of sin, only to the becoming united in the blessed hope of forgiveness through Christ. But if he contents himself with having heard, and do not immediately and intently strive to act on its requirements, what is to be looked for, but that he will speedily lose all those feelings which have been excited within him, as the process went forward of dissecting the inner man? And then there will be no conversion, though there have been conviction, and that, too, through his own listlessness, his own indifference, and not through any want of truth in this emphatic declaration--“The Word of God is quick and powerful,” &c. Now, let us recur again to that very important and interesting matter, the self-evidencing power of the Bible. We send a missionary to a barbarous tribe; he settles down amongst the savages; but he can employ no miracle; he can work no wonders to fix the attention, and win the confidence of his wild auditory. You would think there was no chance of his making any way with these barbarians. He seems to have nothing at his disposal by which the pretensions of Christianity may be substantiated. If he could heal the sick; if he could hush the elements; if he could raise the dead; then, indeed, the wild denizens of the distant land might be expected to give ear to him as a messenger from heaven; but just standing as a defenceless stranger on their shores, what probability is there of success when he proceeds to denounce their ancestral superstitions, summoning them away from idols that they had invested with all the sacredness of Divine, and declaring as the alone Saviour of mankind, a Being who died centuries back as a malefactor? But experience is all against you when you would conclude that Christianity cannot make way without miracle. The simple preaching of the sinfulness of man, and of the sacrifice of Christ, has proved a mighty engine in the hands of the missionary; and though he have done nothing but faithfully deliver his message, making no attempt at supporting its authority by an appeal to external evidence, yet have converts flocked in from the mass of idolators, and a moral regeneration has gone out over the long degraded territory. And what account do we give of this phenomenon? Shall we say that Christianity has been admitted without proof? The matter of fact is, that the gospel of Christ carries with it its own credentials. Wherever it is preached, there is a conscience to act upon; amid all the derangements of humanity, a sense of right and wrong is never wholly extinguished, but even where that nature is most sunken, the principle is in action which applauds the cause of virtue and utters a protest against vice; and which, stirring up forebodings when the mind looks onward to death, witnesses powerfully to our living under a retributive government. Conscience is everywhere man’s attribute; therefore Christianity has everywhere an evidence. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The Word of God
The Word of God may here mean the gospel revelation in all its fulness, especially as contrasted with that under the law; the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ.
1. “The Word of God is quick.” This is an ancient expression that signifies living: it occurs in our Creed and in our Advent Collect, “the quick and the dead.” This use of the word is frequent in Scripture (see John 5:21; Romans 8:11). Stephen, in Acts 7:1-60., describes the ancient Scriptures as “the lively (or living) oracles,” those testimonies from God, by which at that time the means of life were communicated. We now inquire, what is the meaning of the Word of God giving life. And clearly it relates to an operation upon the soul of man, to some new state of being generated and produced. A new store of knowledge is brought to the understanding; a flood of light is poured in which arrays every object in a new colour; an influence works upon the affections by which they are refined and changed, made to delight in new purposes and pursuits, to flow in a new channel, and raised from earth to heaven. The Word and its accompanying grace, with its doctrines, and promise, and ordinances, with the manifold ministrations of the Spirit, brings the mind altogether into a new condition. And by the hearing of the Word, and the deep study of the Word, and by the willing and faithful acceptance of all that it reveals, this life of God in the soul is maintained; renewed as it languishes from its corrupt communication with earth, and daily carried on to further advancement and strength. The Word is “quick and powerful”: energetic, active. It has the power because it has life. The life is such as to exert a perpetual energy within us: we might say, powerfully alive. It will move upon the mass of corruption; it will convince of sin; it will change the love of sin into the love of holiness; and will, if applied and carried out by the Church’s wisdom, bring the wayward and ungodly affections into a stale of self-denying discipline, into humble submission to the Divine will.
2. The text moreover declares that the Word “is sharper than any two-edged sword.” This figure seems to be borrowed from the prophets Isaiah 49:2; Hosea 6:5). St. Paul in Ephesians 6:1-24. speaks of “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” The Word of God has always been found, from the beginning, capable of penetrating deeply into the heart of a sinner; of producing a sudden and terrible alarm in the conscience, of striking conviction into the trembling frame, and lowering the rebel to the ,lust. To the humble, pious, faithful disciple also the Word of God is a sharp instructor, a penetrating sword; often bringing truths to remembrance, which in mortal weakness had been forgotten; often giving a new colour and force to truths already in the mind. And how quick, and mighty, and prevailing are the truths of the gospel for the furtherance of grace, and the increase of heavenly comfort in the soul; depths of wisdom newly discovered; rays of consolation beaming forth; lights of unearthly brightness successively rising to the eye of faith. (J. Slade, M. A.)
The sword of the Lord
I. THE QUALITIES OF THE WORD.
II. THE LESSONS WHICH WE SHOULD LEARN THEREFROM.
1. That we do greatly reverence the Word, as truly spoken of God.
2. That we come to it for quickening for our own souls.
3. That we come to it for power when fighting the battles of truth.
4. That we come to it for cutting force to kill our own sins and to help us in destroying the evils of the day.
5. That we come to it, for piercing force when men’s consciences and hearts are hard to reach.
6. That we use it to the most obstinate, to arouse their consciences and convict them of sin.
7. That we discriminate by its means between truth and falsehood.
8. That we let it criticise us, and our opinions, and projects, and acts, and all about us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The power of the Divine Word
I. THE MIGHTY EFFECTS OF THE DIVINE WORD AS THEY ARE HERE DESCRIBED.
1. The characteristics of the Divine Word, as “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,” are illustrated by its effects upon the intellect of man. The carnal mind rebels against, and, by subtle sophistries, attempts to deny its truth; but it has a powerful influence upon the understanding, spiritualising that understanding, and enabling it to discern spiritual things. It carries with it undoubtable credence, and forces the reluctant will and judgment. Its doctrines, how heavenly! its precepts, how holy!
2. The effect of this Word upon the conscience, in convincing of sin and producing godly sorrow, is an illustration of the description in this passage. It is common to view sin, even when it is acknowledged and condemned by the transgressor, in the light simply of its effects on society, or the injury it inflicts on a man’s own reputation, property, or health; but when the Divine Word penetrates the soul with a convertine power, it is no longer regarded with reference only to its personal or temporal consequences, but as an atrocious violation of the law and an insult to the glory of God. “Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” Then again, with regard to the conscience, the Word of God is quick and powerful, for it annihilates the spirit of self-defence, extenuation, and apology, together with those self-righteous principles which exist in the unregenerate man.
3. The characteristics of this Divine Word are manifested in the effects of it upon the heart, in producing sanctification. This, too, is a severe progress, involving much struggle and self-denial. Hence the Word of God is not only a two edged sword in respect to conviction, but in respect to its operations in perfecting religion and preparing us for eternal glory.
4. The operation of truth is sometimes remarkably “ quick “ as well as “powerful.” A remarkable instance of its quick and mighty operation is recorded in the conversion of Paul.
5. The potent influence of the Word is often for a long period concealed from the outward world in the depths of the soul. It is thus a “discerner of the thoughts.”
II. THE CONCLUSIONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THESE STATEMENTS.
1. The representation of the text ought to enhance our estimation of the Divine Word. It is doing what all the philosophy in the world could never do. How ought we then to estimate it?
2. We should be induced to employ the most zealous efforts for the circulation of the Divine Word by means of printed copies, and the support of Christian ministrations, both at home and abroad.
3. The characteristics of the Divine Word as given in the text, which we have endeavoured to illustrate, should induce the individual inquiry, What am I doing to obstruct or to sustain its influence in my own soul? You must by the very necessity of the ease, having heard the Word, either receive or reject it. (F. A. Cox, D. D.)
The Word of God likened to a sword
The same illustration is used by St. Paul, by Philo, and in the Book of Wisdom, but with a different application in each case. St. Paul likens the Word of God to the sword of the warrior, used as a weapon of the faith (Ephesians 6:17); the Book of Wisdom compares the almighty Word of God to a sharp sword, but uses a different word for “sword,” evidently designating the sword of the destroying am, of, which executed God’s mandate on the first-born of Egypt (Wis 18:16). Philo dwells on the searching and penetrative power of the Word as that which severs all things. In this passage the ideas of the two last authors are combined by way of warning to the disobedient; the Word of God is compared to the sword of the executioner, piercing with its double edge the very heart of the victim. Like the sword, it searches out evil and destroys it; but it is sharper than the sword, because it penetrates into the region of spiritual life, whereas the sword can only divide joints and marrow, and its power is limited to the animal life. The images are borrowed from a court of justice, where the guilty is brought before his judge, convicted, and executed: (F. Rendall, M. A.)
Quick and powerful
The latter word explains the former; for those things that are living are said to be active in opposition to such things which are dead, which have lost their power; and to be lively and very active are many times the same; and this signifies the efficacy and active power of this law. This active vigour and efficacy is illustrated by a similitude. For the law is compared to a two-edged sword, which, being used by a powerful and skilful hand, doth manifest how sharp and cutting it is; for it pierceth quickly into the inward parts, and divideth between soul and spirit, and the bones and marrow, which are most nearly united, and more hidden and secret in living bodies. So that in the similitude we have two acts of a sword, or any such cutting instrument. The first is, dividing things most nearly united. The second, discovering things most secret. There cannot be any more perfect division or discovery in any dissection or anatomy than is here expressed. (G. Lawson.)
The living Word of God
“The Word of God is living,” because He who speaks the Word is the living God. It acts with mighty energy, like the silent laws of nature, which destroy or save alive, according as men obey or disobey them. It cuts like a sword whetted on each side of the blade, piercing through to the place where the natural life of the soul divides from, or passes into, the supernatural life of the spirit. For it is revelation that has made known to man his possession of the spiritual faculty. The word “ spirit” is used by heathen writers. But in their books it means only the air we breathe. The very conception of the spiritual is enshrined in the bosom of God’s Word. Further, the Word of God pierces to the joints that connect the natural and the supernatural. It does not ignore the former. On the contrary, it addresses itself to man’s reason and conscience, in order to erect the supernatural upon nature. Where reason stops short, the Word of God appeals to the supernatural faculty of faith; and when conscience grows blunt, the Word makes conscience, like itself, sharper than any two-edged sword. Once more, the Word of God pierces to the marrow. It reveals to man the innermost meaning of his own nature and of the supernatural planted within him. The truest morality and the highest spirituality are both the direct product of God’s revelation. But all this is true in its practical application to every man individually. The power of the Word of God to create distinct dispensations and yet maintain their fundamental unity, to distinguish between masses of men and yet cause all the separate threads of human history to converge and at last meet, is the same power which judges the inmost thoughts and inmost purposes of the heart. These it surveys with critical judgment. If its eye is keen, its range of vision is also wide. No created thing but is seen and manifest. The surface is bared, and the depth within is opened up before it. As the upturned neck of the sacrificial beast lay bare to the eye of God, so are we exposed to the eye of Him to whom we have to give our account. (T. C. Edwards, D. D.)
God’s Word to us, and our word to God
We are here at the end of a long argument. Close attention is required to follow the steps of it. But the general idea is simple. There is a rest of God which is the goal of the long race of the human creation. It has been so from the beginning. It was realised by the old patriarchs as their true city and country, while they lived the tent-life here. It was typified in the promise of Canaan--typified, but certainly not fulfilled--more certainly not exhausted. Long ages after the entrance of Israel into Canaan, a psalmist speaks (by clear implication) of God’s rest as still open, still liable to be forfeited, therefore still capable of being attained. Nothing certainly has occurred since the psalmist’s day which could be supposed to have cancelled promise by performance. The rest of God is still in reserve for His true people. Let us give diligence to enter into it. Let us not forfeit it, as one whole generation forfeited Canaan, by unbelief. Thus we reach the double text, which tells of the impossibility of eluding God’s judgment by any differences of circumstance, or by any counterfeits of character. “The Word of God,” His utterance in judging, His discernment of character, His estimate of conduct, is no dead or dormant thing; it is living and active; it is sharper than any two-edged sword; it divides and discriminates where man sees only the inseparable; “ soul and spirit,” the immaterial part of us in one aspect and the same immaterial part of us in another aspect, it can cleave in twain; thoughts and feelings, exercises of intellect and exercises of affection, it is apt and quick to distinguish between and to pronounce upon. No created being can wear mask or veil in that Presence; all things are bare and naked, all things are exposed and opened; the head that would bend and bow itself, in conscious guilt and shame, before the fierce light of the Presence, is lifted (such perhaps is the figure) and thrown back in full exposure before the eye of the Examiner and the Judge, “unto whom,” so the sentence ends, “our word is”; “ with whom”--according to the beautiful paraphrase which no later version will wish or dare to improve away--“with whom we have to do.”
I. “THE WORD OF GOD.” There are many such words. There is a Word of God in Nature. Order diversified, which is a true description of Nature, tells of a power which is no brute force; in other words, of a mind at work in its exercise. There is a Word of God in Providence. Consequence modified, which is a true description of Providence, tells of a power working which is no mechanical agency; in other words, of a mind purposing, and realising that purpose in ceaseless processes of adaptation. There is not sound only, but voice in both these--a voice implying a personality, and a voice presupposing an auditor. The Epistle from which the texts come carries us beyond this vaguer and more general Divine utterance to another of which the very “differentia” is the personality. God, it says, having of old time spoken in the prophets--utterers of His truth in sundry modes and manifold particulars--spoke to us at the end of “these days”--at the dividing line, as it were, of present and future, of time and eternity--in One, of whom the title--the unique, incommunicable title--is “Son.” “The Word of God,” if not a person, is yet a personalcommunication, as much in the voice that utters as in the ear that hears. This Word was a voice before it was a Book. The living Life wrote itself upon other lives; they in their turn wrote it upon others, ere yet a page of Gospel Scripture was written--on purpose that the distinction between ,’ letter” and “spirit” might be kept ever fresh and vital, on purpose that the characteristic of the new revelation might never fade or be lost sight of, how that it is God speaking in His Son, God speaking, and God bidding man to make reply. But where would the Word have been by this time, left to itself--left, I mean, to echo and tradition? It pleased God by His holy inspiration to move and to guide the pen of living men; and it pleased Him by His Providence wonderfully to watch over the thing written; and it pleased Him in days when there was neither scholarship to revise nor machinery to multiply the writing, to put such love into hearts for those perishable fugitive scrolls of rude, almost hieroglyphic, manuscript, that they were treasured up in cells and churches as the most precious of heirlooms; and it pleased Him at last to stimulate into a marvellous inventiveness His own gift--grace we might well call it--of human reason, so that the completed volume of the once scattered “Biblia” was multiplied by the new miracle of the printing press into the myriad “Bibles,” which are now sown broadcast over the surface of the inhabited globe. “There are,” St. Paul says, “so many kinds of voices in the world”--say a hundred, say a thousand--“and no one of them is without signification.” Even the Divine voices are many. There is a word of God in nature, and there is a word of God in providence; there is a word of God in science, and there is a word of God in history; there is a word of God in the Church, and there is a word of God in the Bible. And yet all these are external, as such, to the very “spirit of the man that is in him.” The Word of God, which is the real speech and utterance of all these voices, comes at last to the man himself in conscience. I speak not now of that more limited sense of conscience in which it is the guiding and warning voice within, saying, “This is the way of duty, walk thou in it.” The word of God in conscience is more, much more, than this. It is that of which our Lord said, in reference to the volume of His own evidences, “Yea, and why even of yourselves,” without waiting for sign or portent, “judge ye not what is right?” You can discern the face of the earth and of the sky; you can infer from certain indications the approach of shower or heat. Bow is it that ye cannot infer Deity from the Divine--the Emmanuel presence from the Emmanuel character? The appeal was to conscience, not so much in its sensitiveness to right and wrong, as in its appreciativeness of the false and the true, of God speaking this and God not speaking that. Thus it is that the Word of God, as it at last reaches the spirit and soul of the man, is the net result of a thousand separate sayings, no one of which by itself is the absolute arbiter of the being. It cannot become this till it has made itself audible to the conscience. Till then it is suggestive, it is contributory, it is evidential, it is not the verdict, nor the judgment, nor the sentence, nor the “Word.’” There is no encouragement to the dallying, to the procrastinating, to the fastidiousness and the waywardness, which is characteristic of the generation. On the contrary, it is a trumpet call to decision. It says, there is a word of God somewhere. The Word of God is a personal word--it speaks to the personal being, as God made and as God sees him. We seem yet to lack one thing. The Word speaks in con-science--speaks to the consciousness--but who speaks it? The “Word” itself, tobe audible as such, must have become the Spirit’s voice; then it takes of the things of God and speaks them into the conscience, which is the consciousness of the man.
II. THESE IS ALSO A WORD OF OURS TO GOD. “Unto Him our word is.” The particular point in the view of the holy writer was that of accountability. God speaks in judgment, and we speak to give account. The first readers were on the eve of a terrible crisis. They had to choose between Christianity and Judaism, between religion and patriotism, almost therefore between duty and duty. It was reasonable to speak to them of the Word which is a two-edged sword in discriminating, and of the word which pleads guilty or not guilty at the bar of judgment. We also are passing through a great crisis. You will think that I speak of some political or national crisis. But I do not. I speak of a crisis greater even than these--greater (shall I dare the paradox?) because less great--greater because individual. The crisis of which I speak is that life-long trial, in which each one of us is standing before God’s judgment-seat, and upon the decision of which depends for each one a future not to be measured by years, and not to be told in terms of human speech. The text says of this crisis, of this trial, that it is the interchange, so to speak, of two “words”--the dialogue, I had almost said, of two speakers--the word of God judging, and the word of the man making answer and giving account. “With whom we have to do.” Our word of account is to God. Oh, if we could take the thought home, what an effect would it have upon the life! What an independence, what a dignity would it give to it! How would it put an end to that running to and fro to give in our account, which makes so many lives so servile and so contemptible? What pains do we take to please, to give satisfaction, to win applause, to be admired if it may be so, at all events to avoid censure one of another. What haste do we make to explain, to excuse, to apologise for, to daub with obtrusive whitewash, our little dubious acts, our little unfortunate speeches. What a forgetfulness do we see everywhere, and first of all in ourselves, of the great principle of the “ Godward Word,” of the “with whom we have to do” of this text. What a weight, what an influence, what a sanctity, what an inspiration, would be given to our common words, to our every-day remarks and comments upon men and things, if we carried about us that indefinable something, which says, in tones more persuasive in proportion as they are less obtrusive, “This man knows” and feels that he has to do with God! “ And all this sets in strong light the duty of doing it. It shows us what is meant by self-examination, what is meant by confession. “With Him,” directly and personally, “we have to do.” Just to carry to God Himself, in the nightly confessional where we meet the one Judge, just the very thing itself which we did wrong, which we said wrong, just in so many words, that very day which is now being gathered to its parent days--|hat is the Christian evensong. So judging ourselves, we shall not be judged. The “Word” of account was the first thought of the text. But it is not the only one. It is not perhaps the most beautiful or the most attractive. The spirit of the man has other words besides this to utter in the ear with which it has to do. The speech of God is to me, and my speech is to Him. Might we but enter into this conception, what an elevation, what a grandeur would it give to the life! The speech of God is to thee--His discourse, His self-disclosure, His mind uttering itself, His Spirit breathing itself in converse. And my speech is to Him--my discourse, my self-disclosure, my uttered mind, my soul expressing itself in audible thought. What is this but to give to the life itself a new Christian name, at the font of a spiritual baptism, and to send it forth afresh into all the relationships and all the occupations of the being, having this for its title--Conversation with God? “As a man talketh with his friend,” was God’s own account of His communication with the hero-saint of Israel--then it was the privilege of the one or two, now it is the very birthright and citizenship of the promiscuous world of the redeemed. There is yet one condition more--we will end with it. The speech of the man to his God must presuppose and proceed upon the speech of God to the man. The two “words” of which the texts tell are not independent words. The conversation is not between two equals, either of whom must contribute his share to the instruction and enjoyment of the meeting. The incommensureableness, in nature and dignity, of the two speakers, while it forbids not freedom in the inferior, forbids presumption; nay, precludes it as a tone and a feeling which would jar upon, and jangle out of tune, the very melody and harmony of the converse. God speaks, and man makes reply. It is not that on equal terms and with equal rights God and the man meet together to think out and to talk out the thing that was, and that is, and that shall be. “The world by its wisdom knew not God.” “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” The Word of God came, and the word of man made reply on the strength of it. This consecrates for him the new and living way, by which, not in hesitation, not as a peradventure, but in calm faith and trust--not forgetting the realities of sin and the Fall, but seeing them at once recognised and overborne by a mightier revelation of love--the “ word “ of the man meets the “Word” of his God, on the strength of that “Word made flesh,” which is the reconciler and the harmoniser of the two. (Dean Vaughan.)
The mighty power of the Word
Goliath’s sword not like to this. David said of that, none to it; but none to this. Lord give it to us. This sword can hew in pieces the most stony heart in the world; to see what blindness in the understanding, what frowardness in the affections. It will lay the heart open, and betray the secret filthiness, and all the sluttish corners of sin that be in it. When the preacher is speaking, the Word doth so pierce the hearts of the hearers, as that many in the church imagine that the preacher is acquainted with their sins. You shall find it to be a lively and mighty Word, one way or other, either to save you or to condemn you. It is lively and mighty in the godly, to kill sin within them, to raise them up unto newness of life. Was it not mighty in David, making him cry, “Peccavi”? in Josiah, making his heart to melt? in Manasseh, when, of the most horrible idolator that was ever heard of, it made him a zealous worshipper Of the true God? in Zaccheus, when it made him to forsake his oppression and to restore fourfold? in Mary Magdalen, when it cast out seven devils out of her? in those three thousand souls, when, pricked in their hearts, they went to the apostles? in the city of Samaria, when it made them to abjure Simon Magus and to listen to St. Philip? Was it not mighty by twelve men, over all the world, when it subdued by their ministry all nations to Christ? There may be a dark and misty morning; the sun comes, scatters the mist, clears the air, and makes it a bright day. So the whole world was shadowed with the mist of blindness, and the fog of sin. The Word comes forth like the sun, and introduces the knowledge of Christ and of His gospel into all the world. O mighty Word! Let us all acknowledge the power of this wonderful Word. Who is able to stand before this might, Word? It is lively and mighty too, even in the very reprobate. Sometimes they may be senseless, and have no feeling of the cutting of the Word, as those in Jeremiah; nay, they may even scoff at the Word preached, as the Pharisees Luke 16:14); their consciences may be seared up, and feel not the sword when it cutteth; as they that be in a lethargy, they may inwardly fret and fume, be in a pelting chafe with the preacher for reproving sins, as Ahab with Micaiah, and Jezebel with Elias, yet but like mad dogs, that sit biting of the chain wherewith they are tied, but not break the chain. So they may snap at the preacher and the Word, but they themselves have the hurt; yet for all that, at one time or other, God will make them to feel the power of His Word and the strength of this mighty arm of His. (W. Jones, D. D.)
The Divine Word
We are familiar with the Word of God. Like Israel, we possess this treasure in our country, in our families. But, thankful as we ought to be for this great privilege, do we know also the majesty and the power of the Word of God? Do we know that, in possessing, reading, and knowing the Scripture, we are under a mighty, solemn, and decisive influence, and that this Word judges us now, and will judge us at the last day? The expressions which are used here of the Word of God are all applicable to Christ Himself; for He is living, He is the power of God, He came for judgment into the world, He is the Searcher of hearts, His eyes are like a flame of fire. But the reference is to the spoken and written Word. The Scripture, as the written Word, is according to Christ and of Christ; and by it Christ is heard, received, and formed in the soul. Of this written Word, of which Christ is centre and end, as well as author and method, which is inspired by the Holy Ghost and sent by God, the gospel message is the kernel. And hence it is this gospel which especially is called the Word.
1. The Word is living (Revelation 1:18, Greek; John 5:21; John 5:24; John 5:26; John 6:63; John 6:68). God is called the Living One; and Christ the Lord calls Himself the Living One. He is the life, He has life in Himself, and He came to quicken and to give us life abundantly. And the Word which proceedeth out of the mouth and heart of God, the Word of which Christ is the substance, and which is given and watched over by the Spirit, is also living; for God’s words are spirit and life. The Word is the seed, which appears insignificant, but which if received in good ground shows its vitality. Hence it is by this Word that souls are born again unto eternal life.
2. The living Word is powerful or energetic. It is compared to the seed which possesses vitality and power. We can see the power or energy of the Word when it fills those that hear and receive it with strong emotions, filling them with fear and terror, with grief and contrition; we can see its power in the sudden and striking changes it produces, when the thoughtless and worldly, the selfish and depraved, are arrested and quickened by its mighty power. But while the earthquake and the fire declare the approach of the Lord, it is in the still small voice that the Lord at last appears to take up His permanent abode. There are the hidden flowers of humility, of forgiving love, of patience and meekness; there are the unseen and unknown daily conflicts and victories; there is the crucifixion of the old man, and the constant renewal of the resurrection-life; and these are especially the triumphs of the power of the Word.
3. The Word cannot be living and energetic without being also a sword, dividing and separating, with piercing and often painful sharpness, that which in our natural state lies together mixed and confused. It comes not to flatter and to soothe; it comes not to encourage us with half-true, half-false encomiums; it does not call the flesh Spirit, but condemns it as flesh and enmity against God. It leads you into the lower Christian life (John 3:30); it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, the hidden self-complacency, the hidden ambition and self-will; it enters into the very joints and marrow, the energies and sentiments, the motives and springs of our actions, the true character of our rejoicing and mourning, our elevations and depressions; and then you say with the apostle: I have no confidence in the flesh, in my old nature, in me, body, soul, and spirit, as I am of Adam. I dare not trust the sweetest frame. I cannot call my “holy things” holy, for they are full of sin. The Word of God enters into my inmost soul and heart-life, and as a judge both unveils and condemns; what hitherto was hidden, is uncovered; what was disguised, unveiled; what was falsely called good and spiritual, appears now in the bright light of God’s countenance; the thoughts and intents of the hearts are discerned. Thus am I brought into God’s presence, as when I first was convinced of my sin and my guilt; but I feel more abased, and with a deeper knowledge and sorrow I exclaim: I am vile, and abhor myself in dust and ashes. On, where is Christ? I wish to be found in Him. I wish Him to live in me. What is there in me pleasing to God? Oh that Christ would sing, pray, love, live in me! When the Word thus dwells in us, we give glory to God, and we are spiritually-minded. We live not on mere notions and impressions; we begin to apply our knowledge to our actual state and to our daily walk: we are delivered from hypocrisy, which is since the Fall the great disease of mankind. (A. Saphir.)
It finds me
It was Coleridge, if we remember aright, who, in giving one of the grand internal evidences of the inspiration of the Blade, as derived from his own experience, use t the idiomatic and significant expression, “It flints me.”
Effects of the Bible
A dealer in low publications taunted me about the Bible. I begged her to take a copy and read it. She said, “I shall sell it.” “That is your affair,” I replied. I lost sight of her for three weeks. When I returned to her kiosk all her immoral publications had disappeared. “Oh!” she cried, on seeing me, “I am delivered; this book has saved me from dishonour. No, no, I will not sell it. I and my husband now read it together, and with the children.” This morning this dear old woman told me that in two neighbouring families the Holy Bible is read, “And,” says she, “it has absolutely had the same effect with them as with us.” (Pasteur Hirsch.)
The Word self-revealing
The Word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart. (M. Henry.)
Conviction by the Word
The Bechuanas are excellent patients. There is no wincing. In any operation even the women sit unmoved. I have been quite astonished, again and again, at their calmness. In clotting out a tumour, an inch in diameter, they sit and talk as if they felt nothing. “A man like me never cries,” they say; “ they are children that cry.” And it is a fact that the men never cry. But when the Spirit of God works on their minds they cry most piteously. Sometimes in church they endeavoured to screen themselves from the eyes of the preacher by hiding under the forms, or covering their heads with their karosses, as a remedy against their convictions. And when they find that won’t do they rush out of the church and run with all their might, crying as if the hand of death were behind them. (D. Livingstone.)
The Word of God
The Word of God is too sacred a thing, and preaching too solemn a work to be toyed and played with, as is the usage of some who make a sermon but matter of wit and fine oratory. If we mean to do good we must come unto men’s hearts, not in word only, but with power. Satan moves not for a thousand squibs and wit-cracks of rhetoric. Draw, therefore, this sword out of your scabbard and strike with its raked edge; this you will find the only way to pierce your people’s consciences and fetch blood of their sins. (William Gurnall.)
The eyes of Him with whom we have to do
God over all
I. We have to do with God fundamently and pre-eminently as our CREATOR Whence came we? How are we? What are we? Who made us? “He made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” Now, if God made us, and not we ourselves, if the faculties of our mind, if the energies of our heart, if the wondrous proportions of our body, are all from Him, then can we ever be separate from God? can we ever cease to have that relationship to Him that the creature has to the Creator, the relationship that a child has to a parent? A parent has a claim upon a child as long as it lives. We have to do, then, with a God of love as our Creator.
II. We have to do with God as our PRESERVER. Strange that men live on year after year and go up and down, sleeping and waking, toiling and resting, mourning and rejoicing, and yet they can forget how it is that they live and continue in life; how it is that reason still holds its seat; how it is that the heart still throbs; how it is that the harp strings are kept in tune; how it is they are not continually tormented with anguish, distemper, and distress: can any man account for this? If we did not make ourselves, if we did not string the harp, we cannot keep it attuned; if we did not form the mechanism we cannot keep it from decay and dissolution. There is no independent life but in the one Fountain of all life, and all other life is a life of dependence--a dependence of the creature on the Creator, of the thing made upon the Maker, of the thing living on Him that gave it life. We have to do with Him as our Creator; we must have to do with Him in sickness and health, in peril and in safety, in life and in death, in madness and in reason, in the lunatic asylum or the house of prayer; we must have to do with Him as our Creator. “Sir,” said a poor maniac, that had escaped from bedlam, and was passing along the streets of London, to a gentleman he met at the angle of one of the streets, “did you ever thank God for reason?” The man stared, and said, “I cannot say that I ever did.” “Then do so now, for I have lost mine I “ said the poor man. And well I remember, when attending the deathbed of one who died of that most fearful disease, hydrophobia, as, in the agony of the spasms of disease, she grasped my hind until it ached, I repeated to her many of those beautiful prayers of ours, in one of which you have, or ought to have been joining, the thanksgiving, “We bless Time for our creation, preservation”; and she said, with a shriek, “Oh preservation, preservation, how we forget it; look at me, and let none who know it ever forget it again!” Yes, preservation.
III. We have to do with Him as our bounteous BENEFACTOR, our gracious Attender, and the Fatherly Provider of all we have. Whether a man is racked with pain all his life, or disordered, as some are, from their mother’s womb; whether he is blessed with health and a cheerful mind, or if he has anything that relieves him in this vale of tears, any flower that blooms in the desert, any star that brightens the dark sky of our fallen lot; is it not all from God? It is a terrible thought that men have to do with God in all that they have, and abuse, and prostrate to their own destruction; it is all from God, and they cannot say in one thing they have that it is not from Him. How this should make us reconciled, however He may deprive us; how we should be grateful for anything we have, for anything short of hell is the gift of his grace, to us who are deserving of hell; and, therefore, we ought to say, oh! how often, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
IV. We have to do with God as our RULER AND GOVERNOR. Does any man suppose that, because we talk of laws, there is no lawgiver? What is law without the power of enforcing it? What is government without a governor? Without the Divine and mighty Ruler of all, what would take place? Universal anarchy, chaos, and desolation.
V. Ah! we have to do with Him as our LAWGIVER. He has given a law; and all things--the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars--have laws; summer and winter, autumn and spring, have all their laws and appointed times--the clouds have their laws, and the light above--everything has its laws; and do you Suppose the moral world hath no law, that the great God hath left the mind and spirit without anything to control or guide it? I tell you no. In man, at the first, there was a perfect law en-graven on the tablet of his heart, and it is there still; and though shattered the tablet, and blotted is the writing, man knows far more than he fancies; he knows more what he ought to do, and what he ought not to do, than he will admit; he has a conscience within him, and this is from God. And then we Christians--professing Christians--we have the law of God written again, republished by the Divine Registrar; the law so plain and so simple that any man that has a heart can understand it, and so beautiful, and bountiful, and benevolent, and perfect, that no man with any right moral sense can find fault with it or deny it. It is diversified according to circumstances, but the whole is based upon this principle--love to God and love to man.
VI. We have yet further to do with this great God as our JUDGE. A man may refuse to have to do with God in obedience and submission to His will; he may set it at nought and forget it; be may lose all sense of it, by imbruting his moral being and becoming seared as with a hot iron, hut he cannot refuse to have to do with his Judge. And judgment is not all in a future world--it begins here; the conscience of a man passes a kind of judgment upon him as long as he reads it until he blots it out, or drowns it in mirth, in unbelief, in crime, in debauchery, in drunkenness, and so seals it. Not only so, judgment has begun in this world in present punishment, often in present comfort and joy and peace.
VII. We have all of us to do with God as SAVIOUR--“a just God and a Saviour.” I believe in the beautiful summary of our Creed, and in the scriptural voice of our Chinch, “first, I learn to believe in God the Father, who made me and all the world; secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind; thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.” I believe, therefore, that God laid on His own Son “ the iniquity of us all.” He did not become simply the Son of man, but the Son of men--the Son of mankind. He did not take the nature of one race, or of one people, or of one colour, or of one clime; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham: He took upon Him our nature and became the Son of man, so that none can claim Him exclusively, and say, “He did not die for you”; nor can any one say, “He died for me alone.” He is the Saviour of all men, and especially of them that belong “ to the household of faith.” If any of you perish, you perish, not as heathen, bat as professed and baptized Christians; and how this will turn into a source of remorse and “ the worm that never dies,” if you perish with the name of Christian, with the Cross of Christ, upon your brow! See to it, “for to whom much is given, of him shall be much required.”
VIII. We have to do with God, or, at least, we may have to do with Him--we have if we are wise, we have if we are saved--as OUR RECONCILED FATHER, “the Lord our Righteousness,” in whom we are chosen, in whom we are sealed, in whom we are at peace with God. Oh I to have to do with God in peace, and reconciliation, and adoption; to have to do with God, not because we must, but because we would be “made willing in the day of His power,” to have His love constraining us so that we yield ourselves to Him as “those that are alive from the dead, and our poor members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” We have to do with Him, “groaning within ourselves, and waiting for the adoption: to wit, the redemption of our bodies”; and we are able to testify that it is through His grace that He has made us His children.
IX. Then how sweet to have to do with Him as our SANCTIFIER--Our portion for ever; our Sanctifier, restoring us from the ruins of our fallen race, and raising us again to be a temple meet for His own habitation; beautifying us with grace that shines in the Adam here, and that will shine more brightly in the Second Adam. We have to do with Him in anticipation, that we may be like Him for ever. (H. Stowell, M. A.)
Our relation to God
I. WITH GOD WE PRE-EMINENTLY “ HAVE TO NO.” We stand in a very intimate connection with Him. To the Being who, in Himself, is infinitely great and glorious, we bear a very close and momentous relation. He is our Creator, Proprietor, Governor, Benefactor, and Judge, and therefore has claims upon us manifold and mighty. In the services of religion, the common business of life, the mysteries of death, the solemnities of judgment, and the issues of eternity, we “ have to do with” him. We must have to do with Him, whether we will or not. And oh, surely, we should transact with Him as a Saviour since we shall have to transact with Him as a Judge.
II. THERE IS “ NO CREATURE THAT IS NOT MANIFEST IN HIS SIGHT”; yea, “all things are naked and open to His eyes.” Angels and men--saints and sinners--are alike the objects of His scrutiny. To Him the actions of all hands and the secrets of all souls are intimately known. The phrase “all things” indicates the universal range which the eye of Jehovah takes. The words “manifest,” “naked,” “opened,” express the intensity and clearness of the vision which He exerts throughout the vast and varied sphere. With what reverence should we think of Him whose eyes are ever fixed on us, and with whom, far more than with father, husband, brother, bosom-friend, “we have to do!” With what vigilance should we guard our hearts! and with what circumspection should we regulate our lives! (A. S. Patterson.)
Watched by God
Can we indulge in sin since the eye of God is ever resting upon us? It was enough to cause the ancient Roman to be circumspect, if the words” Cato sees you “were whispered in his ear. It is said that when the Doges of Venice had degenerated into imperious and oppressive rulers, if only four of the inquisitors whom the State secretly employed were present at any of the great processions or festivals for which that city was famous, it was sufficient to overawe the mighty throng of people present. How much more guarded and serious should our deportment be, seeing that we are ever watched by Him whose eyes are like a flame of fire! (C. Hewitt.)
God knows all
“Mother,” asked a child, “since nothing is ever lost, where do all thoughts go?” “To God,” answered the mother, gravely, ‘who remembers them for ever.” “For ever!” said the child; he leaned his head, and drawing closer to his mother, murmured, “I am frightened!” (Gold Dust.)
God with us
Horace Bushnell woke up in the night and said, “Oh, God is a wonderful Being!” And when his daughter replied, “Yes; is He with you?” the old man replied, “Yes, in a certain sense He is with me; and I have no doubt He is with me in a sense I do not imagine.” (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)
A few years ago a gentleman in Ireland had a farm there, about a mile and a half from his house. It was situated on the side of a hill, and from his attic window he could get a view of every portion of the land. He would often go to this window with a powerful telescope, and about five minutes every day he would spend in this way, examining what his work people were doing, and whether the work of the farm was being carried on properly or not. The men happened to know this, and it often quickened them in their various duties to know that the master’s eye from the little attic window might possibly at that very moment be resting upon them. Our Master’s eye is always resting upon us. He sees and knows all we think or do or say, End yet bow many people act as though God were both blind and deaf. (Preacher’s Promptuary of Anecdote.)
God is present
The celebrated Linnaeus always testified, in his conversations, writings, and actions, the greatest sense of God’s omniscience; yea, he was so strongly impressed with the idea that he wrote over the door of his library, Innocui vivite, Numen adest--“Live innocently, God is present.” (K. Arvine.)
God a Person
Do not preach about Providence; preach about God. There is no objection to the word “providence” when used in connection with God. But when a man says, “I am very thankful to Providence,” “Providence has been very good to me,” I always feel disposed to say, “You coward! why don’t you say God? You know you mean God all the time.” (J. C. Miller, D. D.)
The cry of the human heart for a personal God
A leader of thought in Germany, famous as a poet, famous as a man of letters--who had through his long literary career fought against the idea of a personal God--when poor in purse, paralytic in body, and in his last week of life wrotethus to one of his old class-mates, and under its style of banter I detect a pathetic minor of earnest feeling. “A religious reaction has set in upon me for some time. God knows whether the morphine or the poultices have anything to do with it. It is so. I believe in a personal God. To tills we come when we are sick to death and broken down. Do not make a crime of it. If the German people accept the personal King of Prussia in their need, why should not I accept a personal God? My friend, here is a great truth. When health is used up, money used up, and sound human senses used up, Christianity begins.” (C. Stanford, D. D.)
An all-seeing God
If you believe that God is about your bed, and about your path, and spieth out all your ways, then take care not to do the least thing, nor to speak the least word, nor to indulge the least thought, which you have reason to think would offend Him. Suppose that a messenger of God, an angel, were now standing at your right hand and fixing his eyes upon you, would you not take care to abstain from every word or action that you knew would offend him? Yea, suppose one of your mortal fellow servants, suppose only a holy man stood by you, would you not be extremely anxious how you conducted yourself both in word and action? How much more cautious ought you to be when you know, not a holy man, not an angel of God, but God Himself, the Holy One, is inspecting your heart, your tongue, your hand, every moment, and that He Himself will surely call you to account for all yea think, speak, or act! (J. Wesley.)
God sees all
A man who was in the habit of going into a neighbour’s corn-field to steal the ears, one day took his son with him, a boy of eight years of age. The father told him to hold the bag while he looked if any one was near to see him. After standing on the fence, and peeping through all the corn rows, he returned and took the bag from the child, and began his guilty work. “Father,” said the boy, “you forgot to look somewhere else.” the man dropped the bag in a fright, and said, “Which way, child? “ supposing he had seen some one. “You forgot to look up to the sky to see if God was noticing you “ The father felt this reproof of the child so much, that he left the corn, returned home, and never again ventured to steal, remembering the truth his child had taught him, that the eye of God always beholds us.
God seeing all things
When we perceive that a vast number of objects enter in at our eye by a very small passage, and yet are so little jumbled in that crowd that they open themselves regularly, though there is no great space for that either, and that they give us a distinct apprehension of many objects that lie before us, some even at a vast distance from us, both of their nature, colour, and size, and by a secret geometry, from the angles that they make in our eye, we judge of the distance of all objects, both from us and from one another--if to this we add the vast number of figures that we receive and retain long, and with great order, in our brains, which we easily fetch up either in our thoughts or in our discourses, we shall find it less difficult to apprehend how an Infinite Mind should have the universal view of all things ever present before it. (W. Burnet.)
A great High Priest
Our great High Priest
PRACTICAL FEATURES OF OUR LORD’S PRIESTHOOD.
1. It is an argument for steadfastness in the Christian life.
(1) The fact that Christ is our Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
(2) That heaven is the sphere of the exercise of His priesthood.
2. It is an encouragement to the faith of the believer.
(1) Because of the sympathy of our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:15).
(2) Because of His personal experience of temptations.
(3) Because of His sinlessness.
(4) Believing prayer under such circumstances cannot be denied,
II. OUR LORD’S PRIESTHOOD CONFORMED TO THE GENERAL LAWS OF PRIESTHOOD.
1. The priest must be taken from among men (Hebrews 5:1).
2. The priest was ordained to offer sacrifices to God.
3. The priest was ordained to be ready to sympathise with the unfortunate and wretched (Hebrews 5:2).
4. The priest was not self-appointed (Hebrews 5:4).
5. But the change in the order of priesthood in our Lord’s case is most suggestive and significant. It implies
(1) Perfection (Hebrews 7:11-19). (2) Perpetuity (Hebrews 7:20-25).
(3) That Christ alone could meet such requirements (Hebrews 7:26). Lessons:
1. The priesthood of Christ implies Divine qualities.
2. The sphere of the priesthood of Christ ensures the finished work as Redeemer.
3. The priesthood of Christ guarantees all-sufficient sympathy, assistance, and ultimate salvation. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and man
I. THE NECESSITY THERE IS FOR A MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.
1. This is clear, if we consider the circumstances in which our first parents placed themselves.
2. It is implied in the Divine institution of sacrifices and of the order of priesthood.
3. It is expressly taught in Holy Scripture.
4. It is confirmed by the almost universal practice of heathen nations.
II. THE SUFFICIENCY OF JESUS CHRIST TO SUSTAIN THIS IMPORTANT CHARACTER.
1. His greatness.
2. His goodness.
III. THE PARTICULAR MANNER IN WHICH WE, AS INDIVIDUALS, ARE TO DERIVE THE BENEFITS DESIGNED TO BE CONVEYED BY THE MEDIATION OF OUR LORD. “Let us come to the throne”--in other words, let us come to God--to Him who sits upon the throne. This implies, of course, a previous conviction of our being separated from God, and of the necessity of our return. (J. Crowther.)
Encouragement to hold fast
1. He giveth them a direction for entering into their rest; to hold fast their profession; that is, in faith and love to avow the doctrine of Christ.
(1) Then he that would enter into rest must be steadfast in maintaining and avowing the true religion of Christ.
(2) He who quitteth the profession of the truth of Christ taketh courses to cut off himself from God’s rest. For if we deny Christ He will deny us.
2. He commandeth to hold fast our profession. Then
(1) God will not be pleased with backsliding, or coldness, or indifference in matters of religion, because this is not to hold it fast; but to take a loose hold, which is the ready way to defection.
(2) There is danger lest our adversaries pull the truth from us.
(3) The more danger we foresee, the more strongly must we hold the truth.
3. The encouragement which He giveth to hold fast is, We have Christ a great High Priest, &c. Then
(1) As we have need of threatening, to drive us to enter into God’s rest, so have we need of encouragements to draw us thereunto.
(2) All our encouragement is from the help which we shall have in Christ, and that is sufficient.
(3) Christ is always for us in His office, albeit we do not always feel Him sensibly in us.
4. He calleth Christ a great High Priest, to put difference betwixt the typical high priest and Him in whom the truth of the priesthood is found. Then what the typical high priest did in show for the people, that the great High Priest doth in substance for us; that is, reconcileth us to God perfectly, blesseth us with all blessings solidly, and intercedeth for us perpetually.
5. He affirmeth of Christ, that He is passed into heaven; to wit, in regard of tits manhood, to take possession thereof in our name. Then
(1) Christ’s corporal presence is in heaven only, and not on earth, from whence He is passed.
(2) Christ’s corporal presence in heaven, and absence from us in that respect, hindereth not our right unto Him, and spiritual having or possessing of Him.
(3) Yea, it is our encouragement to seek entry into heaven, that He is there before us.
6. He calleth Him Jesus the Son of God; to lead us through His humanity unto His Godhead. Then no rest on the Mediator till we go to the rock of His Godhead, where is strength and satisfaction to faith. (D. Dickson, M. A.)
Our High Priest
We know how one man sometimes controls great masses of men. We know how the soldiers of Napoleon, not only in the day of battle, but to the end of their lives, carried in them a worshipping conception of that great hero of battles. We know that everywhere it is the habit of men to cling to some great nature and attempt to pattern their life after his life and to live by his power. Such is the genius of the New Testament. It holds up before the mind of the Jews the pattern which is most heroic to them--the high priest. It holds up Jesus Christ as the Exemplar, the Leader, the Deliverer, the God imminent to their imagination, and attempts to draw men not only through all those endeavours which they make to grow, but through all those experiences which befall them as residents of this lower sphere, without diminishing their faith, their hope, their joy, their courage, or their strength. This is the way in which Christ is presented to men. It is quite possible for an army to be enthusiastic for their king; but then, he is a different sort of being from themselves; and they mutter, “He is a king, and has a good time. He does not know what it is to be wet, and half starved, and wearied with marching through the mud. He has no idea of what we poor privates have to endure.” But if the general of an army has been a private soldier, and has gone through weary, dragging marches, and has been hungry and sick, and if he remembers it all, and if when his men go into camp he makes his round, and sits down by the side of one and another, the soldiers say, “Though our general is regarded as the best general in Europe, yet he is not above thinking of us and feeling for us poor fellows in the ranks; he has been situated just as we are, and ha has sympathy for us” what an inconceivable power that sympathy shown to those soldiers gives to that general! Now, the Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself with the whole universe in such a way that we are sure that He knows us, and every possible experience that we can go through. Then He is lifted up, and is declared to be at the head of power in the universe. And both of these things--the humiliation by which He gets hold of our confidence and the elevation by which we are filled with enthusiasm for Him--makes Him one who is our inspiration and our encouragement. Now this conception of the Lord Jesus Christ is unfolded in many different ways, as if there were not enough syllables in the world to describe it! Now there is a doable connection between men and their Leader, Jesus Christ. In the first place, He is united to us by that which we need and lack. That which brings a physician to the side of the afflicted man’s bed in his disease, his wounds, his putrefying sores. And we are in some respects in the same way related to Christ. He looks upon our sins as things to be healed. He looks upon us, in our unfortunate condition, as objects to be sorrowed over, and to be saved. We have, then, a ground for concluding that it is possible for us to live upon a higher plane than that which we find ourselves upon. All men cannot rise to the attainments of some. And, generally speaking, there is, I think, an element of discouragement among men in attempting to form a high religious life in themselves. “It is of no use,” they say. “The temptations and the besetments are too many.” But one is hopeful and courageous who has a conception of being folded in and guided by the watchful care and love of Jesus, who is at the source and centre of power, and who works, not on the principle of justice and equity, but on the principle of love, doing not that which we deserve to have done, but that which will rescue us, relieve us, build us up, instituting new measures instead of those which prevail in courts of justice. If a man wants to be a Christian; if he wants to be Godlike in his character and conduct; if he wants to practice benevolence and self-denial; if he wants to cultivate humility and gentleness; then he has encouragement in the life and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been through the experiences of this life, and who knows what trials men are beset with here, who knows what inward strivings we have, and who, notwithstanding his knowledge of there things, loves us, and is willing to watch over us from day to day in order to build us up in spiritual things. With that inspiration, I think a man may well enter with courage and confidence upon the Christian life--a courage and a confidence which he could not feel if there were not this thought of his God, his Saviour, his Leader, who has given a concrete, practical example which he can follow, and following which he can attain to the Christian character upon a higher plane. Then, consider the experiences which men are obliged to go through in this life on account of the inequalities of condition. Men do not walk abreast. They are scattered up and down through the earth with every conceivable variation of circumstance and opportunity. Some men are rich, and some men are poor. Some men are educated, and some men wake up in mid-life to see what education would have been to them, but to find that it is too late for them to acquire it. If a man looks about and compares himself with those who are around him, if he compares his condition, his felicities or infelicities, with theirs, he may easily become discouraged and fall into complainings. Hear what the Matter says when He speaks on that subject: “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” Is there one single privation known to human life that your Leader has not experienced? Is there one single circumstance of position, of hindrance, which you have been subject to that your Lord has not felt in its full weight? The disciple ought not to complain of treatment which he sees his own Master bear with equanimity and meekness. What if every ill-fortune be yours? What if you are emptied of everything? What if you are overthrown? What if your health is broken down in mid-life? What if your affections are blighted? What if your name is traduced? So then, in the midst of the great deficiencies of life, its alterations, its trials, you have the leadership of this personal Christ, who is your Friend, your Guide, who is your Inspiration to patience, and who is your Joy and Triumph in the midst of sorrow and defeat. You cannot tell, by the way a cup looks when it goes into the furnace, what it will look like when it comes out. When, in the pottery, the colours are laid on, they do not appear as they will after they have gone through the burning process. Many a cup whose rim shines with gold after it comes out, goes in black at a negro’s face, such is the nature of the gold when it is prepared for the furnace. Even when it comes out it is bill little changed in appearance; and yet the colour is the same that it was when it went in. It is burnt in now, however, while then it was simply laid on. But there is another process that it goes through. By and by it is burnished; and the moment attrition is brought to bear on it, that moment the black begins to fall off, and the gold begins to come out in its perfect colour. Many a man says, “I have endured and suffered year after year, and I am willing to be painted, and to go into the furnace, if I can come out anything comely and beautiful; but I am as black and homely as ever.” Yes; but time is going to reveal what you have become. You do not know what you are. You do not know how much of what appears on the surface is cineration or charcoal which will fall away in death. You do not know what effects are being wrought by the strifes that are going on in the inner chamber of your soul. But God knows; and you should have faith that all will be well at last. He is dealing with you, and He says to you, “You do not know what I am doing, but you shall know hereafter.” No man is just what he seems to be. Everybody is being changed. God is preparing us for a higher state of existence. By the things which we suffer or endure, by yokes and burdens, by wounds and sickness, by failures, by all manner of overwhelmings in this life, He is working out in us that stature which shall yet appear in glory. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christ a great High Priest
I. THE PRIESTLY DIGNITY OF JESUS. “Seeing, then, that we have a great High Priest.”
1. Christ is a Priest. The term signifies one who ministers in holy things. The priests under the law were distinguished as follows
(1) They were appointed of God.
(2) Separated to their office and work at a peculiar time.
(3) Consecrated with the washing of water and anointing oil.
(4) Had peculiar apparel and ornaments; the robe, the mitre, and the breast-plate.
(5) They taught the people.
(6) Offered sacrifices.
(7) And burned incense before the Lord. It will easily be seen bow strikingly all these exhibited the character and work of Jesus.
2. Christ is a High Priest. Now the high priest was distinguished from the other priests
(1) As he was appealed to on all important occasions, and decided all controversies.
(2) He offered the great annual sacrifice.
(3) He only entered into the holiest of all once a year.
(4) He offered the annual intercessory prayer, and came forth and blessed the people in the name of the Lord.
3. Christ is the Great High Priest. Now Jesus is infinitely greater than the high priests of old.
(1) In the dignity of His person. He is the Son of God, Heir of all things, Lord of all.
(2) In the purity of His nature. “Holy, harmless, and separate from sinners.” “Without spot.”
(3) In the value and efficacy of His sacrifice. An equivalent for the world’s guilt. Only once offered, and for all sins.
(4) In the unchangeable perpetuity of His office. “A priest for ever.” “An unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). He had no direct predecessor, and He shall have no successor. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”
II. HIS HIGH EXALTATION. “Who is passed into the heavens.”
1. The place into which He is exalted. “The heavens.” Represented of old by the holiest of all. Described by Jesus as His Father’s house.
2. The manner of His exaltation. “He passed into the heavens.”
(1) According to His own predictions.
(2) While in the act of blessing His disciples.
(3) Visibly, and with great splendour.
3. The great end of His exaltation.
(1) To enjoy the rewards of His sufferings and toils (Philippians 2:6; Philippians 2:8-9).
(2) To appear before God as the intercessor of His Church.
(3) To carry on His mediatorial designs. Hence, He is to subdue His foes, prolong His days, see His seed, and witness the travail of His soul until He is satisfied.
(4) To abide as the Mediator between God and men to the end of the Christian state. Now God only treats with us by and through Jesus. And He is the only way of access to the Father (John 14:6; Hebrews 9:28).
III. THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE THIS SUBJECT SHOULD HAVE UPON US. “Let us hold fast our profession.”
1. The profession referred to. It is a profession of faith and hope in Christ, and of love and obedience to Him.
2. This profession must be maintained. Held fast, not abandoned. We shall be tempted, tried, persecuted. Our profession may cost us our property, liberty, lives. This profession must be held fast by the exercise of vigorous faith, constant love, and cheerful obedience.
(1) For Christ’s sake. Whose we are, and whom we serve.
(2) For the profession’s sake; that Christ’s cause may not be injured, and His people cast down.
(3) Especially for our own sake. It is only thus we can retain Divine acceptance, peace, joy, and the sure prospect of eternal life.
1. Christ’s example is the model of our steadfastness.
2. Christ’s exaltation should be the exciting attraction to steadfastness.
3. Christ’s intercession will always provide the grace necessary to “our holding fast our profession.” (J. Burns, D. D.)
Christ the Reconciler
This book presents an ideal of Christ as a reconciler. Of what? It has been said that man was reconciled to God. That is correct. Men are reconciled to the law of God, but that is vagneness itself. Christ is a reconciler by revealing to us what is the real interior nature of perfectness, and what bearing it has upon imperfectness. The experience of noble souls is that discord prevails, and that with the struggle there can be no peace. There may be peace by lowering the ideal of our range of attainment, or by indifference and discouragement, but not by vital stress and strife can men have peace, when they are obliged every day to see that they come short, not of the law in its entirety and purity, but in their own conceptions in regard to single lines of conduct. Men all around are resolving to do the right and are eternally coming short of it, and then they say: “How under the sun am I going to face God! I cannot face my neighbour.” The reason is, that your neighbour is not God. There is a view of God that while it intensifies the motives for righteousness, encourages men who are unrighteous, and brings about a reconcilaiation between these constantly antagonising experiences in the human bosom. It is to such that this experience of Christ is presented. Jesus Christ is the spotless High Priest who offered Himself once for all mankind. He came forth and lived among men, and He knows what their tears and struggles are, what their temptations and difficulties. Every faculty that is found in a human being was found in Christ, and yet He was without sin. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Do not come to a man who is conscious of his own infirmities, for he would not help you; but come to that Being who is conscious of absolute purity, and from whom you will get higher sympathy and a quicker succour. The moral perfectness of Christ develops sympathy for the sinful. It needed something like this in that age when the better men were the worst men, men whose righteousness was finished off by an enamel of selfishness, the men whose temperance made them hate drunkards, the men whose honesty made them hate men of slippery fingers, the men whose dried up passions made them scorn the harlot, the men who had money enough and abominated the tax-gatherers. Christ does not set Himself up on a throne apart, and say, “I am pure,” but says that because He is perfect He has an infinite sympathy with and compassion for the sinful and fallen. The supreme truth that we need to know is that God is determined to bring the human race on and up out of animalism and the lowest forms of barbarism to the highest degree of intellectual and spiritual development. That is the eternal purpose of God, and in that great work He will deal with the human family with such tenderness and gentleness that He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, nor blow out the wick which He has just kindled, and He will not stop until He brings forth judgment unto victory. I think sometimes that the greatest attribute of God is patience, and one of the greatest illustrations of patience of the same kind in men is that of the music Leacher, who takes a boy to teach him the violin, and hears him and bears with him through days, and through weeks, and through months and through years, and then has to take another and go right on the same way again. Or the artist who sees his pupil smudging a canvas, and tries to teach him the whole theory of colour, and tries to develop his ideality. Any parent, teacher, musician, artist, or any one else is obliged to go upon the theory God acts on--namely, that the higher you are the more you owe, and can give, to those who are lower; and if you are going to be instrumental in bringing them up, you have got to carry their burthens and their sorrows and to wait for them, and be patient with them. It is the law of creation, and if it is the law of creation in all its minor and ruder developments among mankind, its supreme strength and scope for beauty is in the nature of Himself. Look at the sun, the symbol of God. It carries in itself all trees and all bushes, and all vines, and all orchards, and all gardens. It sows the seed and brings the summer; and the outpouring of the vital light and heat of the sun makes it the father of all husbandmen and all pomologists. And yet God’s nature is greater than that. He is the life of life; He is the heart of hearts; He is the soul of souls; and the grandeur of His endowments is the life of mankind. Cast away all the old mediaeval notions of reconciliation, the mechanical scheme of atonement and plan of salvation, and all those lower forms. They stand between you and the bright light of the God revealed in Jesus Christ, a God who has patience with sin because He is sinless, who has patience with infirmity because He has no infirmities, who has patience with weakness and ignorance because He is supremely wise and supremely strong. Our hope is in God, and our life ought to be godly. Though we be faint or feeble, He will revive our courage and will give us His strength, and it will not be in vain that we endeavour to serve the Lord. (H. W.Beecher.)
Our great High Priest
The first important word is the epithet “great” prefixed to the title High Priest. It is introduced to make the priestly office of Christ assume due importance in the minds of the Hebrews. As an author writing a treatise on an important theme writes the title of the theme in letters fitted to attract notice, so this writer places at the head of the ensuing portion this title, “Jesus the Son of God the Great High Priest,” insinuating thereby that He of whom he speaks is the greatest of all priests, the only real priest, the very ideal of priesthood realised. The expression “passed through the heavens” is also very suggestive. It hints at the right construction to be put upon Christ’s departure from the earth. There is an obvious allusion to the entering of the high priest of Israel within the veil on the great day of atonement; and the idea suggested is, that the ascension of Christ was the passing of the great High Priest through the veil into the celestial sanctuary, as our representative and in our interest. The name given to the great High Priest, “Jesus the Son of God,” contributes to the argument. Jesus is the historical person, the tempted Man; and this part of the name lays the foundation for what is to be said in the following sentence concerning His power to sympathise. The title, “Son of God,” on the other hand, justifies what has been already said of the High Priest of our confession. If our High Priest be the Son of God, He may well be called the Great, and moreover there can be no doubt whither He has gone. Whither but to His native abode, His Father’s house? Having thus by brief, pregnant phrase hinted the thoughts he means to prove, our author proceeds to address to his readers an exhortation, which is repeated at the close of the long discussion on the priesthood of Christ to which these sentences are the prelude (Hebrews 10:19-23). In doing so he gives prominence to that feature of Christ’s priestly character of which alone he has as yet spoken explicitly: His power to sympathise, acquired and guaranteed by His experience of temptation (Hebrews 2:17-18). It is noteworthy that the doctrine of Christ’s sympathy is here stated in a defensive, apologetic manner, “We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched,” as if there were some one maintaining the contrary. This defensive attitude, may be conceived of as assumed over against two possible objections to the reality of Christ’s sympathy, one drawn from His dignity as the Son of God, the other from His sinlessness. Both objections are dealt with in the only way open to one who addresses weak faith--viz., not by elaborate or philosophical argument, but by strong assertion. As the Psalmist said to the desponding, “Wait, I say, on the: Lord,” and as Jesus said to disciples doubting the utility of prayer, “I say unto you, Ask, and ye shall receive,” so our author says to dispirited Christians, “We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with sympathy”--this part of his assertion disposing of doubt engendered by Christ’s dignity--“but one who has been tempted in all respects as we are, apart from sin”--this part of the assertion meeting doubt based on Christ’s sinlessness. To this strong assertion of Christ’s power to sympathise is fitly appended the final exhortation. Specially noteworthy are the words, “Let us approach confidently.” They have more than practical import: they are of theoretic significance; they strike the doctrinal keynote of the Epistle: Christianity the religion of free access. There is a latent contrast between Christianity and Leviticalism. The contrast is none the less real that the expression “ to draw near” was applied to acts of worship under the Levitical system. Every act of worship in any religion whatever may be called an approach to Deity. Nevertheless religions may be wide apart as the poles in respect to the measure in which they draw near to God. In one religion the approach may be ceremonial only, while the spirit stands afar off in fear. In another, the approach may be spiritual, with mind and heart, in intelligence, trust, and love, and with the confidence which these inspire. Such an approach alone is real, and deserves to be called a drawing near to God. Such an approach was first made possible by Christ, and on this account it is that the religion which bears His name is the perfect, final, perennial religion. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
Hold fast our profession
Holding fast the Christian profession
I. THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN PROFESSION.
1. A cordial assent to the whole of Scripture truth, and especially the testimony which God has given of His Son Christ Jesus.
2. A profession of practical conformity to the whole of God’s revealed will.
3. The hope of eternal life and glory in heaven.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN HOLDING FAST OUR PROFESSION?
1. That we actually have this profession.
2. A just sense of its high value.
3. That we may be tempted to forsake it.
4. That we are called to the regular, uniform, constant exercise of it.
5. Perseverance to the end.
III. THE MOTIVES TO THIS DUTY.
1. The person and character of Him who is its object.
2. Christ’s office and relation to us.
3. The security afforded against our own weakness, and the malice of spiritual foes. (H. Hunter.)
Holding fast our profession
I. WHAT IS OUR PROFESSION?
1. Attachment to the person of Christ.
2. Dependence on the work of Christ.
3. Devotedness to the service of Christ.
II. HOW IS THIS TO BE DONE?
1. By avowing in God’s ordinances your attachment to the person, reliance on the work, and devotedness to the service of Christ.
2. By a consistent life. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
Exhortation to steadfastness
I. THE EXHORTATION TO STEADFASTNESS IN OUR CHRISTIAN PROFESSION. By “our profession “we are sometimes to understand that which we profess, or the subject of our profession. In Hebrews 3:1, the term evidently means the holy religion which we profess. But the term applies to the act also. This is its import in that other passage, “let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” There are in what is called “the Christian world” two kinds of professors.
1. All nominal Christians. All who say that they are disciples of Christ; all who wish it to be understood that they have embraced the faith. Such persons may with propriety be exhorted to hold their profession fast: it is worthy of being held fast. And yet, if we do venture to remind such persons of the obligation arising from the very name they bear; if we point out any inconsistency in their conduct, the accusation is repelled with indignation, and they tell us they make no profession of religion. Now this
(1) Is singularly impudent and wicked. What would you think if the expression were applied to social life, to the duties which belong to a parent, a husband, a child, a subject, an honest man?
(2) It is in most cases not true. They themselves, at other times, deny it; and they would be highly affronted if they thought any one supposed that they deny the Lord who bought them. They do call themselves Christians, and hence they ought to be careful to live and act as such. But there are in the world
2. Those who profess to be Christians indeed. Now the profession of real Christians is distinguished from that which is nominal by these three marks.
(1) It is Scriptural. He founds his belief on having discovered that it is the infallible Word of God; and he receives nothing but what in his conscience he believes to have this sanction, “Thus saith the Lord.”
(2) It is experimental. I mean to say that every Christian has, in his own experience, an evidence of the truth of the gospel. He has put its truths to the test: he has tried them in his own case, and found them to be sanctifying and saving.
(3) It is practical. That is, the truth professed is not belied, but is borne out and appealed to by their conduct. Put these things together, and you will see how a real profession is distinguished from that which is merely nominal, It is scriptural, experimental, and practical: it is manifested by cheerfully doing, and patiently suffering the will of God. Such a profession as this we are commanded to “hold fast.”
3. This command implies that we are in danger of renouncing our profession. And this danger arises from various causes. Satan, the great foe of God and the gospel, “goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he mar devour.” Infidels and their associates having apostalised from the faith are aiming to seduce others to their guilt. The world too is a foe: by its smiles it would often allure, by its frowns it would often deter from steadfastness. Last, but not least, are the foes of our own household; a heart that is deceitful, and which is not fully renewed, will betray us into the hands of our outward enemies, so that we shall lose our peace at the last.
4. “Let us hold fast our profession,” says the apostle. Be valiant for the truth.
(1) Hold fast the simplicity of evangelical doctrine. Stand fast in one spirit, “earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
(2) Hold it fast in an evangelical experience of its blessings.
(3) Hold it fast by the practice of all that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.
(4) Hold fast by a public profession of the gospel, the truths in which you thus believe--the privileges you thus profess to enjoy--the duties you profess to exemplify. Thus give to every man “a reason of the hope that is in you.”
II. THE MOTIVE TO THIS DERIVED FROM HE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST. “We have a great High Priest,” greater than any under the law. Many grounds of superiority to any who went before Him might be adduced.
1. Because of the place in which He ministers. He is at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He who is our Friend, the best Friend we ever had, who has given us such tokens of His love and kindness, is in that place where best of all He can serve our cause! Our High Priest can never be at a loss for a place in which to minister; He can never be at a loss for want of access to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God. He ever liveth to make intercession where He can make it with the greatest certainty of success.
2. Because of the more substantial benefits derived from the exercise of His office. Aaron was God’s high priest, but he was not a Saviour; his successors were God’s high priests, but they were not Jesus; they could not save from sin. But Jesus our great High Priest can redeem from all iniquity; and “ He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.” Greater
3. Because of the superior dignity of His original nature and character, “The Son of God.” As the Son of God He was sinless. There was no guilty spot upon His soul, though He was made a sacrifice for sin. He, therefore, is all our own; He was cut off for us, to finish our transgression, to make reconciliation for our iniquity. As the Son of God He is also necessarily immortal. Death could never have had any claim on Him after He took our nature into conjunction with the Divine, but by His own consent; He willingly laid it down, as an act of infinite benevolence to that world, whose cause He sustained. As the Son of God He can die no more, but liveth for ever. And oh, what a mercy in such a dying world as this, where so many are taken away from us, to be able to lift up our eyes to heaven, and be able to commit our concerns to this immortal and never-dying Redeemer! But wherein consists the force of all this as a motive to steadfastness in the Christian profession? Why
(1) For this reason we ought to hold fast the profession of Christianity. It is the priesthood of Christ that confers the crowning excellence on Christianity.
(2) But perhaps you say you have no intention to relinquish it; your only fear is that you shall not be able to hold it fast. You feel such powerful temptations, you are surrounded by so many adversaries, that you fear that in some dark and cloudy day you shall become their prey. And so you would if you were left to yourselves, if you depended on your own power. But you are not left to yourselves, the Gospel tells you that you have a great High Priest. You can hold fast your profession: the priesthood of Christ renders this practicable. (J. Bunting, M. A.)
Let us hold fast our profession
Our High Priest is a mighty one, able to punish us if we shrink from our profession, and of power to protect us from all our enemies if we stick to Him; therefore let us hold last our profession. The doctrine professed by us; let no enemies drive us from our profession, neither Satan, nor any of his instruments. The Pharisees held fast the traditions of their elders and would not be removed from them Mark 7:3). The Turks are wonderfully addicted to Mahomet, he is a great prophet among them, they will not let him go. And shall not we hold the profession of the Lord Jesus? They hold errors fast, and shall not we the truth? The subject of their profession, counterfeit things, mere inventions of men, lies and fables. The subject of our profession is Jesus Christ the Son of God. Therefore us hold it fast; let neither the syrenical songs of heretics and schismatics in the time of peace, nor the blustering wind of persecution in the time of war pull us from our confession. Let us be faithful to the death as the martyrs were; let house and land, wives and children, liberty and country--yea, our lives--go before our profession. But this is a hard matter; we have no strength of ourselves to hold it against so many strong and mighty enemies. Therefore let us all fear ourselves and fly to God for strength, that it would please Rim so to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit, that we may hold fast the profession of Christ and His gospel to the end: “Hold that which thou hast, lest another take thy crown.” We will hold our money fast though it be to good uses, we will not part with that; but as for religion, a number are at this pass, the, care not what becomes of it; let that go whither it will, so we may sleep in a whole skin and keep that which we have; let come what religion there will, we can be of any religion. Such turncoats and timeservers shall never set a foot in the kingdom of heaven. If we hold not our profession last we shall miss of the crown of eternal life. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Touched with the feeling of our infirmities
The sympathetic Saviour
CHRIST’S POWER OF SYMPATHY ASSERTED. Differences of position and circumstances among men materially affect their power to sympathise with one another. It is a difficult matter, for instance, for those born in palaces and nurtured in affluence to enter into the difficulties and understand the hardships endured by those to whom life is a perpetual struggle for the barest necessaries; or for those who are hale and strong to sympathize with those whose very existence, by reason of their bodily infirmities, is a burden to them. It was not unnatural, then, that persons who, judged by human analogies, should suppose that He who was the Son of God and had passed into the heavens would be indisposed to sympathise with wretched, sin-benighted men on earth. The text assures us of the contrary. Christ exchanged earth for heaven, the weakness and infirmities of an earthly existence for the everlasting vigour of a heavenly state, degradation for exaltation, the Cross and the thorns for a throne and a crown; but He never exchanged His power of warm, glowing sympathy for men for coldness and indifference. Sympathy was the heritage which earth gave Him to enrich His heavenly state.
II. THE CONDITIONS GUARANTEEING THIS POWER.
1. His exposure to temptation. Just as the light becomes tinged with the hues of the glass it passes through, so the unfathomable love of the Son of God becomes sympathetic towards men as it passes to them through the human heart, steeped in sorrow and agonised with suffering, of the Son of Man Egypt has its two great watercourses, its river and its sweet-water canal. The canal conveys the sweet waters of the river where the river itself cannot take them. The human heart of Jesus is the canal which conducts the sweet waters of the Divine love in streams of sympathy to the parched souls of men.
2. The other condition of His power of sympathy was His freedom from sin, notwithstanding His exposure to its temptations. Flame will not pass through wire gauze of a certain texture. This is the principle of the safety-lamp. This useful and ingenious contrivance is unaffected by any amount of explosive gases external to it. Under ordinary circumstances, the flame of the lamp would set any atmosphere, strongly charged with explosive gases, into a devouring blaze, but, protected by the wire gauze, the lamp-flame merely glows within a little more brilliantly. Such was Christ as He lived among men. The moral atmosphere in which He lived, surcharged as it was with explosive temptations and provocations to sin, did not penetrate the amiability of His sinless nature and cause it to shoot forth into consuming resentment. It merely caused it to burn with a livelier glow of holy anger against hypocrisy and false pretence. Just as the rays of the sun pass over the foulest paths and among heaps of filth untainted, so He passed along the ways and paths of human life untouched by the foulness that surrounded him on all sides. It is a belief with the people of the district that the River Doe passes through the whole length of Bala Lake without mingling with its waters. Its current, they affirm, can be clearly traced, marked off by its clearer, brighter waters. So Christ’s life, passing through the lake, so to speak, of earthly existence, is clearly defined. I, is one bright, holy, spotless stream from its beginning to its end--a life without sin. Now, this freedom from sin is no hindrance to His power of sympathy; in fact, it is an additional qualification to Him in this respect. Temptation yielded to makes the heart callous and cruel, and dries up the fountains of feeling. Temptation resisted and overcome mellows the feelings, and quickens their sensitiveness towards the tried and tempted.
III. CHRIST’S POWER OF SYMPATHY USED AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEEK THE BLESSINGS PROVIDED FOR US.
1. The blessings we are urged to seek. Mercy represents the new life; grace, all that may be needed to sustain and nourish it until its consummation in everlasting glory. And here we may note the bearing of this promise of “grace to help in time of need” upon the case of a certain class of persons whom we believe to be Christians, true disciples of the Redeemer, but who stand aloof from the fellowship of His people, and shrink from a public avowal of their discipleship. Their reluctance in this direction, they tell us, arises from the sense of their infirmities, and their dread of bringing dishonour on Christ’s Church. But such a plea is essentially unbelief. It arises from a failure to apprehend God’s power to keep from falling those whom He has graciously converted. They forget that He promises to His children “grace to help in time of need.” It is as reasonable to suppose that God will preserve the new life He has quickened in the heart of His people, as that the mother will do all in her power to strengthen the infant that owes its life to her.
2. The place whence these blessings are dispensed. Christ occupies the throne--the place of power and authority. That He is a King as well as a Priest is one of the great truths of this Epistle. And His kingly office becomes the instrument of His priestly sympathies and functions.
3. The spirit of confidence in which, in view of the assurance furnished to us of Christ’s power of sympathy, these blessings should be sought. The word rendered “boldly” here may, with equal propriety, be rendered “joyfully.” The very fact that such blessings as mercy and grace, blessings so inexpressibly precious to sinful men awakened to a sense of their guilt, are procurable, should fill the seeker with the joy of gratitude. To seek them in this spirit is to carry out the prophetic injunction, “Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” The allusion, no doubt, is to the desert traveller, after days of wanderings in the arid waste, coming parched with thirst upon a well. We can well imagine with what grateful joy he would draw therefrom the refreshing element to quench his consuming thirst. With some such joy, yea, with much deeper and intenser joy, should the Christian man come to the throne of grace to draw the grace which is to quench his soul-consuming thirst, and sustain the Divine life quickened by the Divine mercy in his soul. (A. J. Parry.)
Christ touched with the feeling of our infirmities
The compassion of the Son of God was a subject of joyful contemplation to the holy men of old, who saw His day afar off, and were glad. With delight they celebrated the comfort which He should bring to the mourners in Zion; the care which He should take of the lambs of His flock; His sympathy with the afflicted; His condescension to the weak; and the concern with which lie should bring them through their difficulties to safety and peace, and everlasting gladness. Hence it is, also, that in their sacred hymns and songs of triumph they delight to present Him under all those images which are fitted to convey ideas of the gentlest and most engaging order. The design for which the Son of God appeared on earth, and which He voluntarily undertook to accomplish, was a design of the highest compassion. And as the design on which He came was that of unutterable love, so the tenderest compassion distinguished the fulfilment of every part of His great undertaking. He went about doing good, and His Divine power was ever exercised in works of mercy. And with these manifestations of Divine power, how mild and gentle is His demeanour to the humble and the weak! How tender and condescending His addresses to the poor and the contrite! Observe also His sympathy with His disciples in the season of affliction, and the anxiety with which He seeks to give them comfort. But to seek and to save that which was lost Christ came into the world, and all His discourses are full of earnest desire for the welfare of men--of pity for sinners, and of consolation for the miserable. His compassion was manifested even to those who rejected Him. But a view of compassion yet remains to be noticed, which in vain our ideas attempt to reach, or language to describe. He pays the price of human guilt, and gives His life a ransom for many. Having thus directed our attention to the compassion of that great High Priest, who is passed into the heaven--Jesus, the Son of God, let us apply these views to our condition, and consider the encouragement which they are fitted to afford when we approach to the throne of grace. The gracious office which Christ sustains, and the compassion of His character, are fitted to give to us encouragement in all our services, and through the whole of life. But there are special seasons which the apostle describes as “the time of need,” in which we are particularly called, in the exercise of hope and trust, to come to the throne of grace.
I. AMONG THESE WE ARE NATURALLY DIRECTED IN THE FIRST PLACE TO THAT OF A SINNER UNDER DEEP CONVICTIONS OF GUILT. How suited is the gospel of Christ to bring back to God and give peace to the troubled soul! And how admirably does the view of such a High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, harmonise with every part of the gracious plan for our recovery and salvation! In Him we see every quality which is calculated to insure the confidence, and to dissipate the fears of the humble and the contrite, and through Him, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, they seek the offered mercy, and find the promised rest.
II. AND ARE NOT THE SAME VIEWS CALCULATED TO ENCOURAGE US TO APPROACH THE THRONE OF GRACE, UNDER A SENSE OF OUR WEAKNESS, AND OF OUR DANGERS FROM WORLD LYING IN WICKEDNESS? In a state so surrounded with dangers, and especially in those seasons when we are made to feel how weak we are, or when wearied with the struggles and difficulties which we encounter on the path of duty, we are tempted to retire from the contest, and to leave the post; assigned us, hopeless of success--how fitted to inspire us with courage and perseverance is the view of that provision which the Father of mercies hath made for our support and direction, in the mediation of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. He is the same Divine Master who has passed before us through the scene of suffering and temptation, and has shown Himself to be so unspeakably our Friend. He knows the difficulties with which we have to struggle, and by proofs the most affecting He has taught us to place confidence in His care.
III. AND AS THE COMPASSION OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST GIVES COURAGE AND SUPPORT AMIDST THE DANGERS AND TRIALS OF LIFE, SO IT GIVES US COMFORT AND PEACE AT THE APPROACH OF DEATH. The Son of God changes the darkness into light. The glory of that state He hath prepared for us, sheds far its light, and illumines every prospect, and the voice of the Saviour is heard conducting and welcoming us to the mansions of His Father. How suited to the fallen state of man is the dispensation of the gospel! (S. MacGill, D. D.)
The sympathy of Christ
1. In attempting to describe the human sympathy of this Divine Being, I will first refer to His wonderful keenness of feeling. Intensely sensitive to nature, and drinking in illustration of highest truth from her homeliest appearances, He felt most keenly anything that could touch the feelings of the fellow-men. Unlike many people who, because they do not feel their own trials very keenly, nor crave for much sympathy amidst them, cannot understand the sufferings and cravings of more sensitive natures, Jesus was so touched by His own troubles, and had such a longing for the Divine and human sympathy in the midst of them, that He is marvellously quick to understand, and ready to sympathise with the most insignificant sorrows of the most sensitive souls.
2. But the sympathy of Jesus is as wide as it is ready. He whose exquisitely sensitive soul was thrilled by the beauty of a lily, and moved by the fall of a wounded sparrow, is keenly touched by whatever can touch a human heart, whether high or low, good or bad, a friend or an enemy. No man can be beyond the reach of His all-comprehending sympathy, because no man can be beyond the embrace of His all-comprehending love.
3. And His sympathy is as deep and tender as it is ready and comprehensive. And the reason of this is two-fold. He has been tempted in all points like as we are; and yet He is without sin. He can sympathise with the poor because He has been poor; with the weary and heavy laden, because He has been tired and worn; with the lonely, misrepresented, and persecuted, because He has been in their position. And because He was also tried, tried in mind as well as heart, by fear, by sad surprise, by mental perplexity, with the hard conflict with evil, and great spiritual depression, He is able to feel to the uttermost for those keenest sorrows of our earthly lot. And then this tried One was without sin. That was what enabled Him to drink in sympathy, and nothing but sympathy from all His sorrows. That is why He received all the sweetness from His sorrows and none of the bitterness, so that He is able out of the pure and exhaustless treasures of His sympathy to sweeten all our bitter cups.
4. For let us also remember that His sympathy is as practical as it is ready, deep, and comprehensive. Smpathising with the fond feeling which led the mothers to bring their children to Him, He at once took the little ones up in His arms, and blessed them; feeling for the hungry multitude He delayed not to spread a table for them in the wilderness. His compassionate soul melted with tenderness when He saw the widow weeping beside the bier; but at that very moment He stopped the bier and restored her only son to his mother’s arms. How deep the sympathy which caused Him to burst into tears among the weeping ones He loved, before the grave of Lazarus; but how prompt the power to “help which caused the dead man to come forth. It is the knowledge that now as then He is ready and able to help us as He is to feel for us, that emboldens us to come with all assurance to the throne of grace, and confide to Him our every trouble. And if His sympathy is to be to us anything more than a beautiful dream, we must there come into personal contact with Him amidst our own sorrows, and sound the depths of His sympathy by proving the fulness of His help. (P. J. Rollo.)
Touched with the feeling of our infirmities
There is no warmer Bible phrase than this. We might have never so many mishaps, the Government at Washington would not hear of them; and there are multitudes in Britain whose troubles Victoria never knows; but there is a throne against which strike our most insignificant perplexities. What touches us touches Christ. What robs us robs Christ. He is the great nerve-centre to which thrill all sensations which touch us who are His members.
I. He is touched with our PHYSICAL infirmities.
II. He is touched with the infirmities of our PRAYERS. He will pick out the one earnest petition from the rubbish, and answer it.
III. He is touched with the infirmity of our TEMPER.
IV. He sympathises with our POOR EFFORTS AT DOING GOOD. (Christian at Work.)
The tenderness of Jesus
I. HE HAS ASSUMED A VERY TENDER OFFICE. A king may render great aid to the unhappy; but, on the other hand, he is a terror to evil-doers: a high priest is in the highest sense “ordained for men,” and he is the friend and succourer of the most wretched.
1. It was intended, first, that by the high priest God should commune with men. That needs a person of great tenderness. A mind that is capable of listening to God, and understanding, in a measure, what He teaches, had need be very tender, so as to interpret the lofty sense into the lowly language of humanity.
2. But a high priest took the other side also: he was to communicate with God from men. Here, also, he needed the tenderest spirit to rule his faculties and to move his affections. But if I understand the high priest’s office aright, he had many things to do which come under this general description, but which might not suggest themselves, if you did not have the items set before you.
3. The high priest was one who had to deal with sin and judgment for the people. We have a High Priest into whose ear we may pour all the confessions of our penitence without fear. It is a wonderful easement to the mind to tell Jesus all. No doubt the high priest was resorted to, that he might console the sorrowful. Go to Jesus, if a sharp grief is gnawing at your heart.
4. The high priest would hear, also, the desires and wish, s of the people. When men in Israel had some great longing, some overwhelming desire, they not only prayed in private, but they would make a journey up to the temple to ask the high priest to present their petitions before the Lord. You may have some very peculiar, delicate desire as to spiritual things that only God and your own soul may know; but fear not to mention it to your tender High Priest, who will know your meaning, and deal graciously with you.
5. It was the high priest’s business to instruct and to reprove the people. To instruct is delightful; but to reprove is difficult. Only a tender spirit can wisely utter rebuke. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us our faults in tones of love. His rebukes never break the heart.
II. HE HAS A TENDER FEELING. It is not merely true that He is apprised of our infirmities, since the Lord has said, “I know their sorows”; but He “is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” The sense of feeling is more intense, vivid, and acute than the sense of sight. It is one thing to see pain, but another thing to be touched with the feeling of it. Treasure up this view of your Lord’s sympathy, for it may be a great support in the hour of agony, and a grand restorative in the day of weakness. Note again, “The feeling of our infirmities.” Whose infirmities? Does not “our” mean yours and mine? Note well that word “infirmities”--“touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He sympathises with those of you who are no heroes, but can only plead, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As the mother feels with the weakness of her babe, so does Jesus feel with the poorest, saddest, and weakest of His chosen. How comes this about?
1. Let us think of it a while! Our Lord has a tender nature. His innate tenderness brought Him from the throne to the manger, from the manger to the Cross.
2. Our Lord is not only tender of nature, but quick of understanding as to the infirmities of men.
III. HE HAD A TENDER TRAINING.
1. He was tried as we are--in body, mind, spirit.
2. But the text says, “tempted,” and that bears a darker meaning than “tried.” Our Lord could never have fallen the victim of temptation, but through life He was the object of it.
IV. HE HAS A TENDER PERFECTNESS. Do not imagine that if the Lord Jesus had sinned He would have been any more tender toward you; for sin is always of a hardening nature. If the Christ of God could have sinned, He would have lost the perfection of His sympathetic nature. It needs perfectness of heart to lay self all aside, and to be touched with a feeling of the infirmities of others. Hearken again: do you not think that sympathy in sin would be a poisonous sweet? A child, for instance, has done wrong, and he has been wisely chastened by his father; I have known cases in which a foolish mother has sympathised with the child. This may seem affectionate, but it is wickedly injurious to the child. Such conduct would lead the child to love the evil which it is needful he should hate. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The sympathy of Christ
The word “tempted” here includes, of course, all trials of soul and body, such as sorrow, pain, anguish, as well as what we commonly call temptation; but it is to this last that we will now confine ourselves. We can readily understand how our Lord’s perfect humanity should sympathise with ours, because both are of one nature; but how He who is sinless should sympathise with us sinners--this is the difficulty. How, it may be asked, can He sympathise in repentance, deserved shame, and guilt of conscience? It may be said, that this difficulty carries its own answer; for His sympathy with penitents is perfect, because He is sinless; its perfection is the consequence of His perfect holiness. And for these reasons:
1. First, because we find, even among men, that sympathy is more or less perfect, as the holiness of the person is more or less so. The living compassion, with which the holiest men have ever dealt with the sinful, is a proof that in proportion as sin loses its power over them, their sympathy with those that are afflicted by its oppressive yoke becomes more perfect.
2. And from this our thoughts ascend to Him who is all-perfect; who being from everlasting very God, was for our sakes made very Man, that He might unite us wholly to Himself. Above and beyond all sympathy is that of our High Priest. None hate sin but those who are holy, and that in the measure of their holiness; and therefore in the Person of our blessed Lord there must exist the two great conditions of perfect sympathy: first, He has suffered all the sorrows which are consequent upon sin and distinct from it; next, He has, because of His perfect holiness, a perfect hatred of evil. And these properties of His human nature unite themselves to the pity, omniscience, and love, which are the perfections of His Divine. Now we may see in what it is that our Lord, by the experience of humiliation in our flesh, has learned to sympathise with us: Not in any motion of evil in the affections or thoughts of the heart; not in any inclination of the will: not, if we dare so much as utter it, in any taint or soil upon the soul. Upon all such as are destroying themselves in wilful commerce with evil, He looks down with a Divine pity; but they have withdrawn themselves from the range of His sympathy. This can only be with those who are in sorrow under sin; that is, with penitents. It is in the suffering of those that would be cleansed and made holy that He partakes.
I. WE MAY PLEAD WITH HIM ON HIS OWN EXPERIENCE OF THE WEAKNESS OF OUR HUMANITY. None knows it better than He, not only as our Maker, who” knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are but dust,” but as Man, who made full trial of our nature “in the days of His flesh.” He knows its fearful susceptibility of temptation--how, in its most perfect state, as in His own person, it may be solicited by the allurements of the evil one. And if in Him it could be tempted to sin, how much more in us! When we confess our sins before Him, we may lay open all. Things we hardly dare to speak to any man, to any imperfect being, we do not shrink from confessing before Him--things which men would not believe, inward struggles, distinctions in intention, extenuating causes, errors of belief--all the manifold working of the inward life which goes before a fall. With all His awful holiness, there is something that draws us to Him. Though His eyes be “as a flame of fire,” and the act of laying ourselves open to Him is terrible, yet He is “meek and lowly of heart,” knowing all our case, “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”
II. WE MAY APPEAL TO HIS EXPERIENCE OF THE SORROW AND SHAME WHICH COME BY SIN UPON MANKIND. He suffered both as keenly and as fully as it was possible for one that was without sin (see Psalms 22:1-2; Psalms 22:6-8; Psalms 22:14-15; Isaiah 53:3-4; Psalms 69:1-3; Psalms 69:7; Psalms 69:10-12; Psalms 69:20-21; Psalms 88:1-2; Psalms 88:5-9; Psalms 88:14-16; Lamentations 1:12-13). All that sin could inflict on the guiltless He endured; and to that experience of shame and sorrow we guilty may appeal. Though we suffer indeed justly, yet can He feel with us though He did nothing amiss. Though in the bitterness of soul which flows from consciousness of guilt He has no part, yet when we take revenge upon ourselves in humiliation, and offer ourselves to suffer all He wills for our abasement, He pities us while He permits the chastisement to break us down at His feet. “When our heart is smitten down within us, and withered like grass, so that we forget to eat our bread,” it is a thought full of consolation, “that we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Therefore let us ask for consolation from no other. Let us not go, I will not say to the world, and its fair words, smooth persuasions, shallow comforts, for to these no man whose repentance has any depth or reality in it can bear to go; they are miserable, falsifying stimulants, which beat and bewilder the heart, and leave it open to terrible recoils of sorrow; but let us not go to hooks or to employment; no, nor even to the consolation and tender love of friend, brother, wife, husband, spiritual guide; no, nor to the most perfect saint and nearest to Himself; but to Him for whose sake all these must be forsaken, in whom are all the fresh springs of solace which distil in scanty drops through the tenderest and fondest hearts. Let us go at once to Him. There is nothing can separate us from His sympathy but our own wilful sins. Let us fear and hate these, as for all other reasons, so above all for this, that they cut off the streams of His pure and pitiful consolation, and leave our souls to wither up in their own drought and darkness. So long as we are fully in His sympathy, let our sorrows, shame, trials, temptations, be what they may, we are safe. He is purifying us by them; teaching us to die to the world and to ourselves, that He only may live in us, and that our life may be “hid with Christ in God.” And again, that we may so shelter ourselves in Him, let us make to Him a confession, detailed, particular, and unsparing, of all our sins. And lastly, let us so live as not to forfeit His sympathy. It is ours only so long as we strive and pray to be made like Him. If we turn again to evil, or to the world, we sever ourselves from Him. (Archdeacon Manning.)
The sympathy of Christ
Our subject is the priestly sympathies of Christ. But we make three preliminary observations. The perfection of Christ’s humanity implies that He was possessed of a human soul as well as a human body. Accordingly in the life of Christ we find two distinct classes of feeling. When He hungered in the wilderness--when He thirsted on the Cross--when He was weary by the well at Sychar--He experienced sensations which belong to the bodily department of human nature. But when out of twelve He selected one to be His bosom friend; when He looked round upon the crowd in anger; when the tears streamed down His cheeks at Bethany; and when He recoiled from the thought of approaching dissolution; these--grief, friendship, fear--were not the sensations of the body, much less were they the attributes of Godhead. They were the affections of an acutely sensitive human soul, alive to all the tenderness, and hope and anguish with which human life is filled, qualifying Him to be tempted in all points like as we are. The second thought which presents itself is that the Redeemer not only was but is Man. He was tempted in all points like us. He is a high priest which can be touched. The present manhood of Christ conveys this deeply important truth, that the Divine heart is human in its sympathies. The third observation upon these verses is, that there is a connection between what Jesus was and what Jesus is. He can be touched now because He was tempted then. His past experience has left certain effects durable in His nature as it is now. It has endued Him with certain qualifications and certain susceptibilities, which He would not have had but for that experience. Just as the results remained upon His body, the prints of the nails in His palms, and the spear-gash in His side, so do the results remain upon His soul, enduing Him with a certain susceptibility, for “He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities”; with certain qualifications, for “ He is able to show mercy, and to impart grace to help in time of need.” To turn now to the subject itself. It has two branches.
1. The Redeemer’s preparation for His priesthood.
2. The Redeemer’s priestly qualifications.
I. HIS PREPARATION. The preparation consisted in being tempted. But here a difficulty arises. Temptation, as applied to a Being perfectly free from tendencies to evil, is not easy to understand. See what the difficulty is. Temptation has two senses, it means test or probation; it means also trial, involving the idea of pain or danger. A weight hung from a bar of iron only tests its strength; the same, depending from a human arm, is a trial, involving iv may be the risk of pain or fracture. Now trial placed before a sinless being is intelligible enough in the sense of probation; it is a test of excellence; but it is not easy to see how it can be temptation in the sense of pain, if there be no inclination to do wrong. However, Scripture plainly asserts this as the character of Christ’s temptation. Not merely test, but trial. First you have passages declaring the immaculate nature of His mind; as here, “without sin.” Again, He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” But then we find another class of passages, such as this: “He suffered, being tempted.” There was not merely test in the temptation, but there was also painfulness in the victory. How could this be without any tendency to evil? To answer this, let us analyse sin. In every act of sin there are two distinct steps. There is the rising of a desire which is natural, and, being natural, is not wrong--there is the indulgence of that desire in forbidden circumstances, and that is sin. Sin is not a real thing. It is rather the absence of a something, the will to do right. It is not a disease or taint, an actual substance projected into the constitution. It is the absence of the spirit which orders and harmonises the whole; so that what we mean when we say the natural man must sin inevitably, is this, that he has strong natural appetites, and that he has no bias from above to counteract those appetites; exactly as if a ship were deserted by her crew, and left on the bosom of the Atlantic with every sail set and the wind blowing. No one forces her t., destruction--yet on the rocks she will surely go, just because there is no pilot at the helm. Such is the state of ordinary men. Temptation leads to fall. The gusts of instincts, which rightly guided, would have carried safely into port, dash them on the rocks. No one forces them to sin; but the spirit-pilot has left the helm. Sin, therefore, is not in the appetites, but in the absence of a controlling will. Now contrast this state with the state of Christ. There were in Him all the natural appetites of mind and body. Relaxation and friendship were dear to Him--so were sunlight and life. Hunger, pain, death, He could feel all and shrunk from them. Conceive then a case in which the gratification of any one of these inclinations was inconsistent with His Father’s will. At one moment it was unlawful to eat, though hungry; and without one tendency to disobey, did fasting cease to he severe? It was demanded that He should endure anguish; and, willingly as He subdued Himself, did pain cease to be pain? Could the spirit of obedience reverse every feeling in human nature? It seems to have been in this way that the temptation of Christ caused suffering. He suffered from the force of desire. Though there was no hesitation whether to obey or not, no strife in the will, in the act of mastery there was pain. There was self-denial--there was obedience at the expense of torture natural feeling.
II. The second point we take is THE REDEEMER’S PRIESTHOOD. Priesthood is that office by which He is the medium of union between man and God. The capacity for this has been indelibly engraven on His nature by His experience here. All this capacity is based on His sympathy--He can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Till we have reflected on it, we are scarcely aware how much the sum of human happiness in the world is indebted t,, this one feeling--sympathy. The child’s smile and laugh are mighty powers in this world. When bereavement has left you desolate, what substantial benefit is there which makes condolence acceptable? It cannot replace the loved ones you have lost. It can bestow upon you nothing permanent. But a warm hand has touched yours, and its thrill told you that there was a living respouse there to your emotion. One look--one human sigh has done more for you than the costliest present could convey. And it is for want of remarking this, that the effect of public charity falls often so far short of the expectations of those who give. Love is not bought by money, but by love. There has been all the machinery of a public distribution; but there has been no exhibition of individual, personal interest. Again, when the electric touch of sympathetic feeling has gone among a mass of men, it communicates itself, and is reflected back from every individual in the crowd, with a force exactly proportioned, to their numbers. It is on record that the hard heart of an oriental conqueror was unmanned by the sight of a dense mass of living millions engaged in one enterprise. He accounted for it by saying, that it suggested to him that within a single century not one of those millions would be alive. But the hardhearted bosom of the tyrant mistook its own emotions; his tears came from no such far-fetched inference of reflection; they rose spontaneously, as they will rise in a dense crowd, you cannot tell why. It is the thrilling thought of numbers engaged in the same object. It is the idea of our own feelings reciprocated back to us, and reflected from many hearts. And again, it seems partly to avail itself of this tendency within us, that such stress is laid on the injunction of united prayer. Solitary prayer is feeble in comparison with that which rises before the throne echoed by the hearts of hundreds, and strengthened by the feeling that other aspirations are mingling with our own. And whether it be the chanted litany, or the more simple read service, or the anthem producing one emotion at the same moment in many bosoms, the value and the power of public prayer seem chiefly to depend on this mysterious affection of our nature--sympathy. And now, having endeavoured to illustrate this power of sympathy, it is for us to remember that of this in its fullness He is susceptible. Observe how He is touched by our infirmities--with a separate, special, discriminating love. There is not a single throb, in a single human bosom, that does not thrill at once with more than electric speed up to the mighty heart of God. You have not shed a tear or sighed a sigh, that did not come back to you exalted and purified by having passed through the Eternal bosom.
1. We may boldly expect mercy from Him who has learned to sympathise. He learned sympathy by being tempted; but it is by being tempted, yet without sin, that He is specially able to show mercy.
2. The other priestly power is the grace of showing “help in time of need.” We must not make too much of sympathy, as mere feeling. We do in things spiritual as we do with the hothouse plants. The feeble exotic, beautiful to look at, but useless, has costly sums spent on it. The hardy oak, a nation’s strength, is permitted to grow, scarcely observed, in the fence and copses. We prize feeling and praise its possessor. But feeling is only a sickly exotic in itself--a passive quality, having in it nothing moral, no temptation and no victory. A man is no more a good man for having feeling, than he is for having delicate ear for music, or a far-seeing optic nerve. The Son of Man had feeling--He could be “ touched.” The tear would start from His eyes at the sight of human sorrow. But that sympathy was no exotic in His soul, beautiful to look at, too delicate for use. Feeling with Him led to this, “He went about doing good.” Sympathy with Him was this, “Grace to help in time of need.” And this is the blessing of the thought of Divine sympathy. By the sympathy of man, after all, the wound is not healed; it is only stanched for a time. It can make the tear flow less bitterly, it cannot dry it up. So far as permanent good goes, who has not felt the deep truth which Job taught his friends--“Miserable comforters are ye all “? The sympathy of the Divine Human! He knows what strength is needed. He gives grace to help. From this subject I draw, in concluding, two inferences.
1. He who would sympathise must be content to be tried and tempted. There is a hard and boisterous rudeness in our hearts by nature, which requires to be softened down. Therefore, if you aspire to be a son of consolation--if you would partake of the priestly gift of sympathy--if you would pour something beyond common-place consolation into a tempted heart--if you would pass through the intercourse of daily life, with the delicate tact which never inflicts pain--if to that most a cure of human ailments, mental doubt, you are ever to give effectual succour, you must be content to pay the price of the costly education. Like Him, you must suffer--being tempted. But remember, it is being tempted in all points, yet without sin, that makes sympathy real, manly, perfect, instead of a mere sentimental tenderness. Sin will teach you to feel for trials. It will not enable you to judge them; to be merciful to them--nor to help them in time of need with any certainty.
2. It is this same human sympathy which qualifies Christ for judgment. It is written that the Father hath committed all judgment to Him, because He is the Son of Man. The sympathy of Christ extends to the frailties of human nature; not to its hardened guilt: He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” There is nothing in His bosom which can harmonise with malice--He cannot feel for envy--He has no fellow-feeling for cruelty, oppression, hypocrisy, bitter censorious judgments. Remember, He could look round about Him with anger. The sympathy of Christ is a comforting subject. It is besides a tremendous subject; for on sympathy the awards of heaven and hell are built. “Except a man be born again”--not he shall not, but--“he cannot enter into heaven.” There is nothing in him which has affinity to anything in the Judge’s bosom. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The sympathy of Christ
I. IN ITS NATURE. The words “touched,” &c., mean “to have compassion,” “to condole with.” It is something more than pity. Sympathy cannot properly belong to God, the perfection of His nature raises Him above it. But it is different with Christ. Being man He had all the real affection of human nature.
II. IN ITS OBJECTS. These are all His people on earth, and it is manifested more particularly in their infirmities and afflictions.
III. IN ITS REALITY. The sympathy of Christ is no ideal thing. It is no mere intellectual or ideal supposition. It is one which has been put to a most serious and solemn test. He took away with Him all the meekness, holiness, compassion, and love, which He had when on earth. It is further manifest from the relationship which exists between Him and His people. Again, it is manifest from the offices which He retains in heaven. Can an High Priest whose love was stronger than death be unmindful of those whom He has redeemed? It urges
1. Affection towards our Redeemer. Shall we sympathise with one another in the common calamities of life, and not be affected by the sufferings of Jesus for us?
2. It incites encouragement to repentance. Repentance is going to Christ. Surely His sympathetic nature and gracious disposition should be sufficient inducement to draw us to His arms.
3. It should make us willing patiently to live for God and employ ourselves in His service. If we suffer, or if we toil, He knows our condition, and is acquainted with our needs.
4. It ought to cause Christians to sympathise one with another. We need sympathy ourselves; we cannot justly withhold it from others.
5. How can any man go on day after day sinning against love and compassion so great? (The Preacher’s Analyst.)
Christ’s sympathy with the infirm
There is much to wonder at here. We wonder that He should care for us at all, but still more that that care should be for those of our experiences apparently least likely to move Him. Men are interested in our successes, in those points where we are strong and brave, for the most part they care little for our weakness. The dull child, who for all his trying makes no progress, has not a tithe of the kindly thought lavsihed on another. In society the timid and nervous are overlooked and fall into the background; the strong, the self-reliant, the well-to-do haw friends, but the weak are passed by. Now it is just these, it is just those points where we are low--our infirmities--that our Lord thinks about, and feels for, and longs to help. And in this He who is farther off than any comes closer than any. Human friends can understand sickness, and suffering, and loss, and care, but how little they understand mere infirmity! They think we could be cheerful if we would, or that infirmity at the worst is not hard to bear, and they do not attach much weight to it, and know not its sore need of thoughtfulness, or of how much it deprives us. But, says the text, Christ does. He comes nearer to us than man, He is the friend “ closer than a brother,” “He knoweth our frame.” Nor does that exhaust the wonder of His sympathy, for many of our infirmities are more or less due to sin. Yet He does not scorn us, or say it serves us right; but is sorry for us, and would help us, and make us what we should have been.
I. First, then, consider THE FACT OF THIS SYMPATHY OF THE LORD JESUS.
1. It is assured by His personal human experience.
2. And this sympathy is assured by His perfect knowledge and love.
3. But is there not, I had almost said, a still stronger assurance of our Lord’s sympathy in His union with His people? For that union is not merely one of love, nor of similarity of taste; it is that of a common life.
II. CONSIDER THIS SYMPATHY IN ITS CONNECTION WITH HIS HIGH-PRIESTLY WORK, He is the medium by which we can approach God with our sin and need, and by which God can approach us with His blessings. Now it is easy to see how priceless is the assurance that this Mediator “is touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” that He feels for us and is drawn to us by most tender sympathy.
1. As High Priest He has direct intercourse with us. The glory of God places Him at an infinite distance, but He has appointed Christ as His representative to us, and ours to Him. If a king appoints one to represent him to a prisoner who is not worthy to approach him, or to a poor man who is afraid, it is part of that representative’s work to come into close intercourse with them; whoever else is barred from that prisoner’s cell, or free to keep away from that poor man’s house, that representative is not. So the Lord Jesus, in accepting His high-priesthood, undertook thus to come close to us, and He fulfils what He undertakes.
2. As High Priest He prays for the supply of our need. What they want is ever profoundly sure to His people since His prayer for them is influenced by His sympathy, and “ Him the father heareth always.”
3. As High Priest He brings us to the Father. We read of “those who come unto God by Him”; He said “no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Does that only mean that His sacrifice is the ground on which God receives us and refer to those who go to Him trusting that for acceptance, and not also that His is the help by which we tread the new and living way He is I Yes, Jesus brings us to God both by the merits of His sacrifice and by the aid of His Spirit.
III. Then consider, THIS SYMPATHY WITH INFIRMITY THE PATTERN” FOR HIS PEOPLE. Christ-likeness includes sympathy.
1. Thus our Lord’s sympathy rebukes our hardness.
2. His sympathy shows one of the great needs of the world. It is part of His saving work as His atonement is; it is to save that He sympathises. What saving power was in His kindness on earth! And that is what the world wants still for its regeneration. (C. New.)
The sympathy of Christ
It has been well said, “Though the lower animals have feeling, they have no fellow-feeling, it only belongs to man to weep with them that weep, and, by sympathy, to divide another’s sorrows and double another’s joys.” I have read that the wounded stag sheds tears as its life blood flows fast upon the purple heather, but never that its pangs and agonies drew tears from its fellows in the herd. That finer touch of nature belongs to man alone. Sympathy is the echo that a heart gives to another’s cry of anguish. But a few weeks since I was in the land of mountains, crags, and rocks, and there, at different well-selected spots, I heard the blast of the Swiss horn. Grand were the echoes as they rolled among the mountain gorges, giving every snowy peak a voice, and every pine-clad hill a tongue. Marvellous was it to have the sound that first came from our very feet flung back upon our ears from distant ranges, that looked the very embodiment of silence. But more musical by far, because more heavenly, is the response given by a heart touched with the feeling of another’s grief, and that grief, the grief of one who has no legal claim upon its sympathy. But be it remembered, the best of human sympathy is but human sympathy at best. To see it in all its exquisite perfections of tenderness, we have to turn from man to his Maker--from the saint to his Saviour--from earth to heaven.
I. THE SYMPATHY OF JESUS FLOWS THROUGH KNOWLEDGE. Tea thousand springs of earthly sympathy are sealed through ignorance. Child of God, the sympathy of your Saviour is never lacking through want of knowledge. There is no wall of separation, however thin, that hides from His eyes the sorrow and the misery within. Jesus knows the every care of every saint. Poor troubled one, thou mayest venture nigh. Thou canst not tell Him that He knew not long before. Are you trying to carry your cares in your own bosom? Like the Spartan youth who stole a fox and hid it in his coat; are you letting it eat its way into your very vitals rather than it should be discovered? For pity’s sake forbear. Go cast yourselves upon the sympathy of Him who not only reads the sorrow of the face, but the deeper anguish of the heart.
II. THE SYMPATHY OF JESUS IS PROMPTED BY HIS NATURE. With Jesus to know is to be touched. If His knowledge cuts the channel, His nature at the same moment fills it with the stream of compassionate love. Would you know what Jesus is? Then you have but to find out what Jesus was.
III. THE SYMPATHY OF JESUS IS DEEPENED BY EXPERIENCE. This is very beautifully taught in the closing sentence of the verse, “But was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” There can after all be but little true sympathy, however loving the heart, where there has been no similar experience. It is the widow who knows best how to speak words of comfort to the one from whose side an affectionate husband has been torn. It is the man who has himself passed through the agonies of a financial difficulty that knows best how to cheer the one who, after every desperate effort to retrieve his fortune, yet finds himself going to the wall step by step. It is in the school of experience that the language of sympathy is best taught. Christ’s knowledge of our trials is not a theoretical but an experimental one. He knows what the weight of a burden is by having carried it. (A. G. Brown.)
The sympathy of the Saviour
The doctrine of my text is, Able to save is also able to feel.
I. Take the wonderful consolation of the text. Look at the expressive word “TOUCHED”; but is it not a weak, poor, or cold word? No I touched! That is, His sympathy does not overwhelm His power. Too great sympathy is death to power; the Saviour knows, helps, heals. Touched! He is not possessed by our infirmities. He always possessed them. As He said, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again.” Walk with me through an infirmary; let us step from bed to bed--we are able to see, not to save--alas, what spectacles are here! Can you walk from bed to bed? can you feel for all that and this? Then, would your hand be strong enough to minister the skill of the surgeon and the tenderness of the nurse? It is difficult to walk through this, and to be touched with tenderness, and not lose the skilfulness. Hence it is said of our Lord, “He was touched”; that is, He holds our infirmities; on the contrary they hold us--our infirmities do not overwhelm His power. “Touched by the feeling of our infirmities,” He was untouched by the power of our infirmities. It was the last lesson necessary “to make Him a merciful and faithful High Priest”; it only proved His human ability to feel, and gives us confidence in His infinite ability to save.
II. EXTEND THIS ILLUSTRATION INTO DOCTRINE. And now from this shall we, after thus dwelling on the sympathy of the Saviour, proceed to see how it illustrates the principle of Divine Providence. The suffering of the world is the great mystery of the world; but what is the suffering of the world, compared with the greater mystery of the suffering of Christ? Can pure being know pain? Can God condition Himself in infirmity? Can eternity be touched by time? Well, Christ says, I cannot save you from suffering, but I can suffer for you; nay, I can attest Myself to your hearts as perpetually suffering with you.
III. LET US NARROW THE TEXT TO THE APPLICATION. I repeat, the doctrine of the text is, Able to save is able to feel. We find even among men that sympathy is more or less perfect as the holiness of the person is more or less so. There is no real sympathy among men of sensual, worldly, unspiritual life, unless we are to call the mere operations of natural instinct sympathy; it is not natural pity, it is consciousness, it differs little from our fellow-perception of heat and cold. Sin kills sympathy; as a man becomes infected with the power of evil, he ceases to sympathise with others, all his feelings centre in himself. Sin is self-centring; sinners put all worst constructions on each other’s words and acts--they have no consideration, no forbearance. Sanctity and charity are one; gentleness, compassion, tenderness, ripens--personal holiness grows more and more mature, and sympathy becomes more perfect as repentance becomes more perfect. May I venture a word on thoughts beyond our probation? They only have true sympathy who are dead to themselves, they must most truly sympathise who are most free from the taints of evil. Now, does not this give light to the nature of His sympathy who was God of very God, was made Man that He might unite us wholly to Himself? Above and beyond all sympathy is that of our High Priest. (E. Paxton Hood.)
Christ touched with a feeling of our infirmities
For the explaining of this let me show
1. What it is to be our High Priest.
2. What those infirmities are, with the feeling of which He is touched.
3. What it is to be touched with the feeling of them.
1. For the first, His office, as High Priest, may be best known by the acts of it. The acts of His office are principally two.
(1) Sacrificing for us to make reconciliation (Hebrews 2:17).
(2) By interceding.
2. What those infirmities are, with the feeling of which He is touched. Infirmities here are whatever our frail condition makes us subject to suffer by.
3. What is it to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities?
(1) He knows all our infirmities. None of them escape His notice.
(2) He knows them experimentally. Has Himself been exercised with them.
(3) He is affected with our infirmities, He feels them, He is touched with the feeling of them.
He has a sense thereof which touches His soul, and makes some impression on it; as one who not only has suffered what others feel, but suffers with them in what they feel. As when one member is under some grievance, not only the other members suffer with it, but the soul is affected with grief arising out of love, attended with desire to give or get relief, and anger and indignation against that which brought the grievance, or continues it, and hinders relier. In like manner is Christ affected with the infirmities of His people.
(a) He pities, has compassion on them.
(b) And this pity and compassion is not without the motions and acts of love. Indeed, this is the rise of it. It is out of such a love as made Him willing to humble Himself so low as to take our weaknesses and infirmities upon Him.
(c) This is attended with desire, accompanied with an inclination to succour, relieve such, whose condition is to be pitied; to do that which is best for them in such a condition. That which wants this is no pity indeed. It is that which is most advantageous and desirable in this affection; it is all that we must understand by compassion, when the Scripture ascribes it to the Lord; and when we conceive it to be in Christ as God, in the Divine nature, it is not in Him a troublesome or passionate grief. That is an imperfection not to be ascribed to Him; nor would it be any advantage to us if He were liable to it. But it is a willingness in Him to help and succour those whose state calls for pity or commiseration.
(d) This is accompanied with zeal and anger, or indignation, against those who occasion the grievance, or would make it worse and heavier.
(4) He is affected with our infirmities as a man. As He has a human nature, so He has human affections.
(5) He is affected with our infirmities as one concerned in us very much and nearly. As a friend (John 15:14-15); as a brother (Hebrews 12:11-12); as a father, with the grievances of His children (Hebrews 2:13); as a husband, with the wants or sufferings of the wife of His own 2 Corinthians 11:2); as one united to us, as counting Himself one with us (Ephesians 1:22-23).
(6) He is affected with them really and to purpose. He has a more effectual sense of them than any other, men or angels, yea, or we ourselves have; for He has such a sense thereof as will assuredly bring relier, which neither we ourselves, nor men or angels for us, can do in many cases.
(7) It is all extensive sympathy, it reaches all our infirmities. He has compassion on us in all our weaknesses, all that we suffer by, in all that has anything of misery or activeness in it. This is plain by the latter end of this verse: He “ was in all points tempted,” &c. Oh but, it may be said, this exception does exclude the greatest part of our infirmities from this sympathy, and us from the comfort and advantage of it, in those points too which stand in most need of it: for those infirmities which proceed from sin, or are mixed with it, and sin itself especially, are our greatest misery, make our present state most lamentable, and so stand in most need of pity and relief. If Christ be not touched with the feeling of these (which are worst of all), so as to have compassion on us, and be ready to succour us, we are to seek in our greatest pressures and grievances, where we have most necessity of relief and pity; as e.g.,
(a) In those infirmities which are from sin, the effects of sin, which are many and great, is He not touched with the feeling, &c.? I answer, Yes, He is touched, &c. These are not excluded by the expression. He Himself laboured under these; for such infirmities as are from sin may be sinless, though they be the effects of sin, yet they may be innocent in themselves, and without sin; and all that are without sin He Himself was exercised with. He was tempted in all points, exercised with all infirmities, even those which are the effects of sin, as we are; only they were in Him without sin, as they are not in us. For He took the nature of fallen man, as it was bruised and rendered infirm by the fall; He took our nature as weakened by sin, though not as defiled by it; there was no sin in His human nature, but there were those weaknesses and infirmities which were the sad issues of sin. These He laboured under, and so knows how to pity and sympathise effectually with those that are yet under them.
(b) But in sinful infirmities, what relief is there hereby for them? Christ was not touched with any that were sinful, and how can He be touched with the feeling of them? e.g., the people of Christ have much ignorance and darkness, and many spiritual wants; they are sinfully defective, both in knowledge and holiness; and these are in themselves, and to those that are duly sensible of them, greater miseries than poverty, or sickness, or other outward afflictions and sufferings. I answer, Christ had something of these, though nothing of the sinfulness of them; so much of these, as that He can sympathise with His people under them. He wanted much knowledge of many things; He wanted some spiritual gifts, yea, and some exercise of grace, in some parts of His life, while He was upon earth. He came not to perfection in these, but by degrees, and till then was under some defect and imperfection, though not any that was sinful. For He wanted none that He ought to have had, or that His present state was capable of; yet, wants, defects, and inward weaknesses, without sin, He was really under Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52). Hereby it seems plain, that He had not at first that measure of knowledge, and of the Holy Ghost, as afterwards. He knew not so much, nor had that exercise of grace m His infancy or childhood, as at perfect age. His faculties were not capable of full perfection herein till they came to full maturity. So that He knows by experience what it is to be under defects and wants, and so knows how to pity those who labour under them. In this the comparison holds betwixt Him and the Levitical high priest (Hebrews 5:2).
(c) Oh, but He was never touched with sin (Heb 1:16), and this is our greatest misery, the sting of all grievances, that which makes all other to be heavy and grievous. If He be not touched with the feeling of our sin, we are at a loss where we have most need. I answer, There are four things considerable about sin, the offence, temptation to it, guilt of it, punishment for it. Now there are none of these but Christ was touched with them, but the first only. So that He had a greater sense of sin than any of His people ever had. We may hear Him cry out under the weight of it Lamentations 1:12). The whole penalty and curse was upon Him, part of which made His soul heavy unto death. So that, though He was without sin, yet He was touched, or rather oppressed with such a sense of sin, as is enough abundantly to move Him to all compassionateness to any of His people under the burden. It is an extensive sympathy; such as reaches not only infirmities that have no respect to sin, but those that are from sin, as its effects, and those that are sinful formally, yea, sin itself; He is touched with the feeling of all.
(8) It is a proportionable sympathy; a compassion which is exactly answerable to the nature and quality of every infirmity; fully commensurable to it, whatever it be. As it is not more than it needs, so it is not less than it requires, how much compassion and relief so ever it calls for.
(9) A constant and perpetual sympathy. It continues without any intermission so long as He is High Priest, or so long as our infirmities continue; so long as we are under any weakness, inward or outward; so long as we are in any danger or peril; so long as we are exposed to any trouble or suffering. This is one thing wherein the faithful discharge of His priestly office consists. And He is a priest for ever (Psalms 110:4), repeated often in this Epistle (Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:21).
I. For instruction. This truth leads the people of Christ to many duties, and strongly obliges to the performance of them.
1. To admire Christ; to employ your minds in high, adoring, admiring thoughts of Christ, in His person, natures, offices, and the execution of them; but especially, wonderful in this, that He would be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
2. To love Christ. There is no greater attractive of love to an ingenious temper than love. Now in that Christ is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, you have a most evident demonstration that He loves you. For hereby it is very clear what His love to you is.
(1) A great love, and most extensive; that can reach all conditions and circumstances which you are or may be in, even such as the love of others will not touch, will not come near: a love that will show itself in all cases, even where it could be least expected; a love that will surmount and overflow all discouragements.
(2) A free love. This is an evidence He can love freely; He can love those who are all made up of defects and imperfections.
(3) A lasting, a constant love, such as all the waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown. It cannot be nonplussed, it abides the sorest trials.
(4) A peerless love. It cannot be matched. There is no such thing to be found in heaven or earth, but in Christ only. Now, as He is High Priest, He is both God and man; and so His love to us is both the love of God and also the love of man in one person. No instance of such a love can be given in the whole world.
(5) It is a cordial love, not in show or appearance only, not in outward acts and expressions, but such as springs from His heart and affects that. He is touched, i.e., His heart is touched with the concerns of His people.
(6) An all-sufficient love.
For comfort to the people of Christ. Here is ground of great consolation in every condition; in the worst, the most grievous circumstances that you can be compassed with in this world. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
Our sympathising and sinless High Priest
I. WE HAVE AN HIGH PRIEST. It is in no figurative sense that Christ is called a High Priest.
II. WE HAVE A SYMPATHISING HIGH PRIEST.
1. His nature secures us of His sympathy. And this sympathy is of that intimate and tender kind of which He may be supposed capable who was in all respects like His brethren--that is, in all things requisite to constitute a perfect human nature. If, indeed, we make a distinction between sinless and sinful infirmities, we must also make a distinction between the kinds of feeling with which our High Priest can be touched. He is capable of feeling for both, but not certainly in the same manner. Those infirmities which we call sinless, and which are rather the painful consequences of sin than in themselves sinful, He felt Himself, as being inseparable now from human nature; and, consequently, He feels a sympathy of love for these unmingled with any emotions of disapprobation. But those infirmities, again, which are sinful, He could not Himself be conscious of; nay, they must have been, however palliated by circumstances, the subjects of His disapprobation. And yet as an High Priest or Mediator would not be required but on account of sin; and as it is in the work of receiving the confessions, preferring the supplications, and offering the gifts of sinners, through the merits of His atoning sacrifice, that He is expressly engaged, He must also feel the sympathy of compassion for those who are erring and out of the way, however much it be mingled with displeasure and pain.
2. But, lest any distressing doubts should still remain in your minds that, although a partaker of our nature, He may yet never have had our experience, without which He might still be regarded as not capable of being touched with a feeling of our infirmities, the apostle to this negative adds a positive assertion--He “was in all respects tempted as we are.” His experience, as well as His constitution, fits Him for our compassionate High Priest, and assures us of His sympathy. Human life is a state of suffering, and a period of temptation. All ranks and conditions of men have their peculiar trials; but to the human family many afflictions are common; and both the peculiar and the general sorrows of our race the Saviour knew by experience. Thus, with good intentions, He was subjected to trials by
God. But He was also solicited to sin, for the worst of purposes, both by unprincipled men and malignant fiends.
III. WE HAVE A SINLESS HIGH PRIEST. It is a curious speculation in the science of mind, and it has been made a dangerous one in that of divinity, how far solicitation to sin could assail the mind of the Holy One without His becoming sinful; and how an infallible, impeccable being, could possibly be subjected to real temptations. It is perhaps safe to establish no dogmas upon such subjects, and safer altogether to avoid their agitation. It is sufficient for religious ends, at least, to know, that the angels who kept not their first estate, Adam and Eve who lost paradise, and Christ Jesus who regained it, were all tempted by the solicitations of sin while yet in innocence. It is still more delightful to know that this untainted Saviour, having come out of the fiery furnace of temptation victorious, is able, in consequence of His subjection to trials, more feelingly and effectually to succour those who are tempted. (James Jarvie.)
Priestly sympathy for fellow-sufferers
I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST JESUS--WHAT IS IT?
1. The similarity of His circumstances. “In all points tempted like as we are.” As we, Jesus Christ was tried in the body, tried by toil, exhaustion, hunger, thirst, pain, and death. As we, Jesus Christ was tried in His estate or condition, tried by poverty, persecution, contempt, misrepresentation, desertion, tried by friendlessness, and tried by solitude. As we, Jesus Christ was tried in mind, by fear, perplexity, and sorrow. And as we. Jesus Christ was tried by the presentation of seducements to evil. Now in all this we see a similarity of condition.
2. But now, mark, the dissimilarity of character. “He was tried in all points as we, but without sin.” He never transgressed any law. He left nothing undone that he ought to have done. No defilement of sin ever entered His spirit. We would here remark that “ without sin,” Jesus Christ would be more sensitive towards all kinds of suffering. It is true that He never could experience remorse. But all such feelings as sadness and fear would be stronger in Him than in us, because He was without sin. Sin hardens the soul. Holiness keeps every pore of the spirit open. “Without sin,” Christ Jesus would, in a world of sin, suffer that which no sinner in such a world could endure. “Without sin,” Jesus Christ would see forms of moral temptation more quickly and completely.
II. THE SPHERE IN WHICH THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST IS HERE SAID TO BE DISPLAYED. He appears in the presence of God for us as our great High Priest, and in the presence of God for us, appearing as our great High Priest, He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” As He represents us with all our infirmities, He is” touched with the feeling of those infirmities.” He offers, as our great High Priest, in the sense of application, the sacrifice for sin. So far as the provision of the atonement was concerned, that was finished when He gave up the ghost. He does not, in that sense, offer Himself often, but so far as the application of His sacrifice is concerned, this is perpetual. And thus offering, in the sense of the application, His own sacrifice for sin, as He does this, He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Then, as our Priest, He cleanses us and purifies us. This is one of the functions of the priesthood, to sprinkle clean water upon us that we may be clean; and as He purifies us, He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” It is also part of His work, in the name of Jehovah to bless us, to say to us, as the priest of old, “Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee.” And as He pronounces upon us this Divine benediction “He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” It is also His to make intercession for us. And as He mentions our name, and records our circumstances, He is “ touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” as we exhibit them. Some of our infirmities may be down in the dark depths of our spiritual nature, but when we present ourselves, we present even these infirmities to His eye, and as we exhibit them He is “touched” by them. As we become conscious of them He is “touched” with His fellow-feeling--hence He does not deal with them with rough, but gentle hand. He is “ touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” as in various ways He recognises them; “ touched “ because of His goodness, because as God He is love, and “ touched” because of His past experience. But what shall we do with this fact? “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Some are inclined to stay away from the throne of grace because of their sorrows. This sacred writer forbids our keeping at a distance from the throne of grace, because of these infirmities and troubles, and in the name of God he bids us come just as we are. The greater your sorrows, the greater need is there for your coming. The more fierce your temptations, the greater necessity is there for your coming. And, I may say, the more you need to have done for you, the more welcome you will be. (S. Martin, D. D.)
They tell us that, in some trackless lands, when one friend passes through the pathless forests, he breaks a twig ever and anon as he goes, that those who come after may see the traces of his having been there, and may know that they are not out of the road. Oh, when we are journeying through the murky night and the dark woods of affliction and sorrow, it is something to find here and there a spray broken or a leafy stem bent down with the tread of Christ’s foot and the brush of His hand as He passed, and to remember that the path He trod He has hallowed, and that there are lingering fragrances and hidden strengths in the remembrance, “in all points tempted as we are,” bearing grief for us, bearing grief with us, bearing grief like us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Touched with the feeling
Don’t you sometimes find it very hard to make even your doctor understand what the pain is like? Words don’t seem to convey it. And after you have explained the trying and wearying sensation as best you can, you are convinced those who have not felt it do not understated it. Now, think of Jesus not merely entering into the fact, but into the feeling of what you are going through. “Touched with the feeling”--how deep that goes! (F R. Havergal.)
Faithfulness born of sympathy
Mr. Howells tells of a cab-driver in Florence, in whose cab at nightfall he sent home a child to the hotel from a distance. Being persistent in securing the driver’s number, the cabman began to divine his reason, and so he replied to Mr. Howells, “Oh! rest easy, I, too, am a father!” (H. O. Mackey.)
Our gracious Queen, during her long and chequered reign, has been permitted to send many a letter of condolence to crowned heads in foreign lands, when they have been called, in the providence of God, to exchange their crowns and coronets for tokens of mourning. Amongst them all there never was one that carried with it and in it such a deep, sweet grace of tenderness as that which she wrote with her own hand some time since to the widow of the late President of the great republic of America. And why did it bring such a depth of comfort? Because its I,ages were stained with the tears of a kindred widowhood. (Bp. of Algoma.)
Sympathy with the tempted
Having been tempted--or pierced through, Luther was a piercing preacher, and met with every man’s temptation; and being once demanded how he could do so? “Mine own manifold temptations,” said he, “and experiences are the cause thereof”; for from his tender years he was much beaten and exercised with spiritual conflicts. (J. Trapp.)
Christ’s abiding sympathy
Trajan, the Emperor, being blamed by his friends for being too gentle towards all, answered that being an Emperor he would now be such toward private men, as he once, when he was a private man wished that the Emperor should be towards him. Christ hath lost nothing of His wonted pity by His exaltation in heaven. (J. Trapp.)
Christ’s temptation like ours
Christ was “tempted like as we are.” Are we tempted through the senses? So was He. Are we tempted by opportunities of carnal honour and carnal power? So was He. Are we tempted through our human affections? So was He. Are we tempted to deflection from the path of obedience by the infirmities of the good, or the crafty questioning of the worldly wise? So was He. Every testing process to which we are subjected He went through. Satan omitted no conceivable mode, and withheld no possible intensity of trial from the holy soul of Immanuel. All the magic prospects and all the soothing illusions that externalism could give, all its joyful or mournful influences, all its power of tenderness or terror, he employed to enchant or to assail the Son of Man. So He was tempted in all points as we are, as to the instruments of temptation, though He had not all our susceptibilities to their touch. In all points in which He could innocently, He did actually resemble us. He was ever tempted as we s re; though ever victorious, as we are not. (C. Stanford,D. D.)
Christ tempted in all the faculties of humanity
A geographer may be a competent representative of the land through which he travels, without having stood on every single foot of ground which he describes. Robinson did not need to tread every square inch of the streets of Jerusalem in order to understand the topography of that city, and represent it accurately to us. It was not necessary that Christ should pass through every shade and every inflection of human experience in order to understand them. For all experience issues from certain definite foundations of faculty; and it is enough if every faculty which works in us was proved, pained, tempted, and tried in Him, and tried up to this measure, that no man should thereafter live who should have any temptation or trial that should make against any given faculty such a pressure as was made against our Saviour. Pride--is it tempted among men? All that I require is, that Christ should have felt a temptation of pride that should more than equal it; that should swell immeasurably above and overmatch any trial that befals His followers below--in other words, enough put to proof in that particular faculty of the human soul, to understand what that faculty can suffer; how it can be tempted; what course is needed to sustain one under such temptation. It is not needful, therefore, that Christ should sustain the relationship of husband, for He never was in wedlock; or of father. It only requires that He should sustain such a relation to universal human nature or life that there should be no faculty, no passion, no sentiment that is tempted in us, that should not also be tempted in Him; and that there should be no such pressure brought to bear upon us that our temptation should ever be greater than His knowledge of temptation through His own suffering. (H. W.Beecher.)
The tempted High-Priest
I. WE HAVE TO STUDY THE APOSTLE’S ASSERTION.
1. “He was tempted.” “God is not tempted of evil”; but the Saviour was. It is obvious that temptation can be a possibility only to a created spirit. On this account the Hebrews felt the idea of a tempted Saviour to be one most discordant to their tastes, repulsive to their pride. But Paul in this letter, which was written for the very purpose of confirming their faith, makes no attempt to soften or qualify that truth which so much tried it; he advances considerations which prove that what seemed to be the shame of the gospel was its glory, and that what seemed to be its weakness was one of the secrets of its power. He reiterates the statement that Christ was in reality tempted.
2. Yes, not only was He tempted, but the apostle adds, He was tempted in all points like as we are. He was tempted by all the powers, all the arts, all the devices, and all the instruments which are brought to bear upon us. In all points in which He could innocently, He did actually resemble us: He was ever tempted as we are, though ever victorious as we are not.
3. When the sacred writer has said of Jesus, “He was in all points tempted as we are,” he adds the remarkable qualification “yet without sin.” That is, the tempter found Him without sin, and left Him without sin. Imagine a father, in some dreary days of poverty, having the chance of taking, undetected, gold belonging to another man. He is without the sin of dishonesty, but the thought of his starving child, and the possibility by this one secret act of saving it from death will surely be a real trial; and, though he shakes off the thought like fire, does he not feel the temptation? Imagine some saint sentenced to perish at the stake for Christ. The authorities say, “Recant and live, or confess and die!” He is without the sin of spiritual disloyalty, but as he looks through the prison-bars on the green of the spring, and the blue glory of the sky, as in contrast to all this comes the thought, that if he should be constant to his Saviour he must shiver in the shaded cell through months of weariness and only be brought forth at last into the glare of day to die; although he may say, “O Jesus, though all men should deny Thee, yet will not!!”--do not all these things combine to make that offer of dear life a temptation hard to overcome? It is therefore conceivable that although Christ was without sin, He was not without the susceptibility of being tempted. He appropriated our nature with all its weakness.
II. Let us now with profound reverence endeavour to ascertain THE ENDS OF THE SAVIOUR’S TEMPTATIONS.
1. He was tempted that He might be perfected. The Divine nature could not be perfected; that, indeed, was perfect already, for that which is not always perfect is not always God. But human nature is born week and undeveloped; it has to grow in mind and in body; one of its essential laws is its capability of improvement. Thus it was that even Jesus had to he educated. He did not start into full stature in the flash of a moment. True, the Saviour was always perfect even as to His human nature, but perfection is a relative thing; the perfection of a child is something lower than the perfection of a man--as negative excellence differs from positive excellence, and as the perfect bud is inferior to “ the bright consummate flower.”
2. He was tempted that He might destroy the dominion of the tempter.
3. He was tempted that His peculiar and characteristic experience of temptation might lead His followers also to expect the same.
4. He was tempted that He might teach us by His example how to meet and sustain temptation. He was “led” not by the action of His own choice, but “by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil”; and in all subsequent instances you may trace the rule of the same principle. If you dwell in the jungle you are likely to take the jungle fever. If you “daily with the crested worm,” you are likely to be smitten with his deadly fang; and so, if you pitch your tent in Vanity Fair, you are likely to catch the vain spirit of the scene. “To grapple with temptation is a venture; to fly from it is a victory.”
5. He was tempted, to afford His tempted people the assurance of His sympathy. Even under ordinary circumstances we yearn for sympathy. Without it the heart will contract and droop, and shut like a flower in an unkindly atmosphere, but will open again amidst the sound of frankness and the scenes of love. When we are in trouble, this want is in proportion still more pressing; and for the sorrowful heart to feel alone is a grief greater than nature can sustain. A glance of sympathy seems to help it more than the gift of untold riches. Let it be remembered that it is suffering, and not necessarily similarity in other respects, that gives the power of sympathy. And did not Jesus “suffer, being tempted”? His infinitely holy nature, brought in contact with sin by temptation, must have passed through depths of shame and sorrow that we, the sinful, can never sound.
6. He was tempted that we might be encouraged to boldness in prayer for help. The dispensation of help is lounged in the hands of Jesus. We may infer, therefore, with what wisdom, delicacy, and promptitude it will be brought to us when we seek it. (U. Stanford, D. D.)
The temptation of our Lord
In reflecting on our Lord’s temptations, and on the sympathy which He now feels for those who are tempted, it is very necessary to remember the difference between temptation and sin, or the propensity to sin. Many persons cannot comprehend how any one can be tempted to sin who has no sinful propensity. It seems to these persons that an object presented to such an one with a view to temptation can, in fact, be no temptation at all; and that it can exert as little influence on his mind as it can upon a rock or a tree. Hence, as Christ was tempted in all points like as we are; as He is our example in resisting temptations; and as He sympathises with us in all our temptations, they think that He must have had a sinful tendency in His human nature. In order that we may not confound temptation with sin, or with a sinful tendency, let us consider what sin is an! what temptation is. We cannot have a better definition of sin than that which the Apostle John gives us, “Sin is the transgression of the 1 John 3:4). Man is the subject of numerous desires and affections which are essential to human nature. All man’s natural desires--I mean his desires as man, not as fallen man--were intended to be gratified and were implanted for that very purpose. But they were intended to be gratified only in a certain way; only in that way which God should appoint, and which should be conducive to His glory and to the welfare and happiness of all His holy creatures. And this way He traced out in His law, and delineated upon the hearts and consciences of His creatures. Sin, then, as the apostle tells us, is the transgression of the law. It is the wish or attempt to gratify these natural desires, indifferent in themselves, in a way which God has forbidden. Next, what is temptation? Temptation is trial. Temptation is that which serves to show us what we are, and what is in us. It brings t., light the strength or weakness of our faith, our love to God, and our regard to His law. There are two ways in which a man may be tempted, or tried, or examined. First--When search is made into his heart and conduct by simple inquiry. In this way we are commanded to tempt or examine ourselves. Secondly--A man is tempted when he is exposed to the influence of some object of natural desire, or fear, or aversion, whose tendency, if it were not regulated by the fear of God, would be to draw or drive him out of the path of duty. God, we are told, did tempt Abraham thus, when He commanded him to offer up Isaac. This is the mode of trial which we usually understand by the word temptation. In this mode it is the prerogative of God alone to tempt us, or to lead us into temptation. It is of temptation in this latter sense only that [ at present speak. In order that there should be temptation it is necessary that there should be a certain natural adaptation or affinity in the mind to the object of temptation; but if higher principles so rule and govern the soul that they entirely neutralise that affinity, so that not the slightest inclination or desire for sinful gratification is excited, then there is neither sin nor propensity to sin. So far is there from being any propensity to sin, that the very temptation proves that there is the strongest propensity towards holiness. It puts to the test and proves the existence and strength of the positively holy principles which regulate all the motions of the mind and of the heart. Two substances, suppose, are chemically combined by a mutual affinity or attraction. The strength of this affinity is tested by introducing another substance which has an affinity to one and not to the other of the substances in combination. If one of these substances has a stronger affinity for the test than it has for the substance with which it is combined, it will disengage itself and unite with the test. But if its affinity for the substance with which it is combined be stronger it will remain as before. And if the most powerful tests are applied without producing any change, this proves that the affinity of the two substances in combination is too strong to be overcome by any other which is known to exist. Thus, in a perfectly holy being, the principle of love to God and His law is an affinity too powerful to be overcome by the most powerful of all desires, or the most painful of all sufferings. No temptation can excite even a single momentary inclination to disobey God and to sacrifice the principles of eternal righteousness and truth. Our Lord was perfect Man, and possessed all those affections which naturally belong to a perfect man. Had He not possessed them He could not have been the subject of temptation. But not only so, He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs. He was made subject to all the trials, sorrows, and sufferings which belong to man in his fallen state, save and except those which are inseparably connected with the ignorance, the alienation from God, and the habits of sin, which adhere to every other child of Adam. He always perfectly knew His Father’s character and will, and was always, even from the womb, perfectly inclined to obedience, and filled with a perfect abhorrence of sin. He, therefore, could have no ignorance to mislead Him; no alienation of heart from God to overcome; no force of evil habit to subdue. In Him the love of God reigned supreme, and was in constant and uninterrupted exercise. No tendency to sin ever existed in His holy mind. He experienced none of that warfare between the flesh and the spirit which exists in us, because in Him the love of God was perfect, and the Spirit dwelt in Him without measure. Yet His temptations infinitely exceeded ours, both in power, variety, and number; and therefore He is able to sympathise with us in all our temptations far more perfectly, and to enter far more fully into all the difficulties and trials of each individual among us, than it is possible for any other human being to do. He does not, indeed, sympathise with us from experience in the warfare between the flesh and the spirit, for that were to sympathise with us in our sin, in our want of love to God, and in the weakness of our faith. And God forbid that we should ever desire any one to sympathise with us in sin. Yet though He does not sympathise with us in this warfare, yet He has compassion on us, and is ever ready to look with a pitying eye on our weakness. (J. Rate, M. A.)
Christ the strength of the tempted
The first thought is suggested by the position of the words. They come just after the most solemn warnings and threatenings to be found in the Bible. If they listened only to the warnings from the disastrous history of their forefathers, who perished in the wilderness as the penalty of their backsliding from God, they would be driven to despair lest they should fall after the same example of unbelief; but he points them to the Saviour, who is stronger than all their enemies, and to the love and grace that can redeem them from all their sins. The Bible revelation of God is a combination throughout of these contrasted elements of the Divine nature. Righteousness and mercy, justice and love, are the revelations of God’s character in Christ. Our characters as Christians must lay hold of, and grow upon these foundations. Our faith in its fulness is like the tree whose roots grapple the rocks, and twine themselves around the foundations of the hills far below the surface in the hidden recesses; but the branches wave in the breezes, and clothe themselves in the beauty of foliage, and echo with the glad song of birds, and climb up ever towards the light and the sky. So our faith must have roots in the conviction of sin and the justice of God, but it most climb up to the light of God’s forgiveness and love in Christ. It must be strong and tender--a combination of awe and childlike trust. Now let us try to understand the meaning of the text itself. Jesus Christ is touched with a feeling of all our infirmities, because He was tempted as we are. He was without sin, and therefore He was not tempted by evil designs. He was not tempted by the hereditary proclivities. But temptations may come from perfectly sinless desires. The motive to violate a law may come from the noblest affections of the human soul. During the late war, thousands of men deserted from the army on both sides, from cowardice, and from ignoble treachery to the cause in which they were enlisted. There was one soldier who entered the army at twenty-three, leaving a young wife at home. His record as a soldier had no stain upon it. He had borne the colours of his regiment in a hundred battles. In the last terrible days of suffering in the winter around Petersburg, he stood to his post without flinching for a moment. A letter comes to him from his home. A poor neighbour writes to him that his wife is dying and his children are starving. He applies for a furlough, but it cannot be granted. Again a pitiful appeal comes from the same hand. He goes to his home, buries his dead wife, cares for his children, comes back to the army, and is arrested for desertion in the face of the enemy. Before the court-martial that tries him, he has nothing to say why the sentence should not be passed upon him. He knew it was death and he was ready to take it; but he asks them, as a favour to him, to read a letter, that they might know he was not a coward. The judge advocate begins to read the letter aloud, but his voice trembles and breaks. It is handed from one to the other and read in silence; and not a man in court could keep back the tears of sympathy for a brave comrade. The sentence is passed with a recommendation for pardon, and the pardon is given by the commanding general. He was tempted to violate his duty as a soldier by fidelity to his wife, and children. We can be tempted by the noblest impulses of which the human heart is capable. A good man suffers more in the presence of temptation than the bad man. The good man resists; and the resistance involves a struggle which strains every nerve, and puts every principle to the test. A distinguished writer illustrates this psychological principle. There are two men in business: one is conscientious and honourable; the other, a trickster ready for any sharp practice. Both are under the pressure of financial difficulties. An opportunity is offered to each to make a fortune by fraud. The conscientious man has seen disaster coming, His wife was reared in affluence; she has parted with her luxuries, and is doing the work of servants. He says to himself, “I might take the care and the burden from her, and save the children from poverty by this single stroke. But no, so help me God, I will see them starve before I sell my honour and conscience.” The trickster, on the other hand, welcomes the opportunity. He argues, “Others do it, why may not I?” With him there is no moral struggle. His weakened conscience offers no barrier against which the temptation frets and rages. He and the tempter are of one mind. The wicked fall into temptation, the good resist it. But the resistance involves suffering as the price of the victory. We are told that Christ suffered, being tempted. The difference between our temptation and that of the Saviour is this: the will of His flesh was pure and innocent; the will of our flesh is impure and sinful; and these render us more liable to fall, but they do not increase the pain of the conflict, but rather diminish it. Christ suffered, being tempted, and His suffering was greater in proportion to His moral antagonism to evil. This principle takes His temptation out of the region of unreality and appearance, and unites Him to us in a living bond of human brotherhood. Human sympathy is too dull to comprehend the deeper struggles of a sensitive conscience with hidden temptation. But He who was tempted in all points as we are knows it all, and can give you grace for your hour of need. You may confess all these sins to Him. He triumphed over them, and you have yielded to them. Yet He has measured the strength of each of these temptations; and that experience has qualified Him to redeem you from their power, and to save you by His grace. (Bp. A. M. Randolph.)
Yet without sin
Of Christ being without sin
Christ was pure, without sin, upon these grounds:
1. That His human nature might be fit to be united to the Divine nature.
2. That He might be a sufficient Saviour of others. “For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, undefiled, separate from sinners” (chap. 7:26).
3. That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. That we might be saved, and yet the law not frustrated (Romans 8:3; Romans 10:4).
5. That Satan might have nothing to object against Him.
6. That death, grave, and devil might lose their power by seizing on Him that was without sin.
(1) The aforesaid purity of Christ, to be without sin, puts a difference betwixt Christ and other priests, who “offered for themselves and for the errors of the people” (chap. 9:7).
(2) It hence appeareth that no other man could have been a sufficient priest; for “there is none righteous; no, not one.” “All have sinned” Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23).
(3) This affordeth much comfort to us against our manifold sins; for when we appear before God He beholds us in our Surety. God’s eye is especially cast upon Him who is without sin.
(4) This may be a good incitement unto us to cleanse ourselves from all sin as far as possibly we can, that we may be like unto Him (1 John 3:3). (W. Gouge.)
Sin no aid to sympathy
It might be supposed that to sinful men a high priest who had known sin would be fuller of sympathy. But the apostle is not writing to men as sinners, to men who have fallen, but to men in danger of falling. And to the condition of such men Christ’s history appeals with power. He knew all temptation, and can sympathise with those tempted; He overcame it, and this gives Him skill and power in opening up a way of escape. And even of sin a sinner is an ill judge; he will either regard it with undue abhorrence, or with mawkish sentiment, or with a callousness that comes of thinking it a matter of course among men. A clear, uncoloured view of it, and of those liable to it, can only be found in the mind tempted but unfallen. (A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
Come boldly unto the throne of grace
Boldness at the throne
I. HERE IS OUR GREAT RESORT DESCRIBED: “The throne of grace.” Indrawing near to God in prayer we come
1. To God as a King, with reverence, confidence, and submission.
2. To one who gives as a King; therefore we ask largely and expectantly.
3. To one who sits upon a throne “ of grace “ on purpose to dispense grace.
4. To one who in hearing prayer is enthroned and glorified.
5. To one who even in hearing prayer acts as a sovereign, but whose sovereignty is all of grace.
II. HERE IS A LOVING EXHORTATION: “Let us come.” It is the voice of one who goes with us. It is an invitation
1. From Paul, a man like ourselves, but an experienced believer who had much tried the power of prayer.
2. From the whole Church speaking in him.
3. From the Holy Spirit.
III. HERE IS A QUALIFYING ADVERB: “Boldly.”
1. Constantly, at all times.
2. Unreservedly, with all sorts of petitions.
3. Freely, with simple words.
4. Hopefully, with full confidence of being heard.
5. Fervently, with importunity of pleading.
IV. HERE IS A REASON GIVEN FOR BOLDNESS. “Therefore.”
1. “That we may obtain mercy, and find grace”; not that we may utter good words, but may actually obtain blessings.
(1) We may come when we need great mercy because of our sin.
(2) We may come when we have little grace.
(3) We may come when we are in need of more grace.
2. There are many other reasons for coming at once, and boldly.
(1) Our character may urge us. We are invited to come for “ mercy,” and therefore undeserving sinners may come.
(2) The character of God encourages us to be bold.
(3) Our relation to Him as children gives us great freedom.
(4) The Holy Spirit’s guidance draws us near the throne.
(5) The promises invite us by their greatness, freeness, sureness, &c.
(6) Christ is already given to us, and therefore God will deny us nothing.
(7) Our former successes at the throne give us solid confidence.
3. The great reason of all for bold approach is in Jesus.
(1) He once was slain, and the mercy-seat is sprinkled with His blood.
(2) He is risen, and has justified us by His righteousness.
(3) He has ascended and taken possession of all covenant blessings on our behalf. Let us ask for that which is our own.
(4) He is sympathetic, tender, and careful for us; we must be heard.
1. Let us come to the throne, when we are sinful, to find mercy.
2. Let us come to the throne, when we are weak, to find help.
3. Let us conic to the throne, when we are tempted, to find grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
On coming boldly to the throne of grace
I. LET US SEE WHAT IT DECLARES THE LORD TO BE IN HIMSELF. His throne of grace signifies
1. That He is a God of glory, of a glorious majesty. Here was the most glorious and majestic appearance of God amongst His people of old. Upon the mercy-seat He appeared in glory. The ark, whereof this very mercy-seat was a part, the most rich and splendid part, is called His glory Psalms 78:61). Here He vouchsafed His special presence, as upon His throne.
2. That He is a God of dominion and sovereignty, that He rules and reigns and is supreme governor (Psalms 99:1-2). He reigns; that appears by His throne. He sits between the cherubims. As so represented, the mercy-seat was His throne. Upon this account greatness, supremacy is ascribed to Him (verse 2), and from hence Hezekiah declares His sovereignty over all kingdoms (2 Kings 19:15).
3. That He is a God of power and might, of almighty power. When He is spoken of as upon His throne, the mercy-seat, He is called the Lord of hosts, one who has all the power in the world (1 Samuel 4:4, 2 Samuel 6:2); and the ark, whereof the mercy-seat was a principal part, is called the strength of God (Psalms 78:61; Psalms 132:8), because, as it was a testimony of His presence, so a symbol of His strength and power, ready to be engaged for His people.
4. That He is a God of holiness (Psalms 99:5). To worship at His footstool is to worship towards the mercy-seat (verse 1), between the cherubim. There He resided as a God of holiness. And upon that account every part of the temple, yea, the hill where it was seated, was counted holy (verse 9). But above all, that part where the mercy-seat was, that was the most holy place, or as it is in Hebrew, the holiness of holinesses Exo 27:23). The mercy-seat was the throne of His holiness Psalms 47:8); and giving oracles from thence, it is called the oracle of holiness (Psalms 28:2).
5. That He is a God of wisdom, who sees and knows all things, to whom nothing is hid, or obscure, or difficult. From the mercy-seat He gave oracles; He made discoveries to His people of such things which otherwise they could not come to the knowledge of.
6. In fine, the mention of the throne of grace minds us of the wisdom of God, that we should draw near Him as one who knows our state, yea, our hearts, and understands all the ways and means how to help us and do us good.
II. WHAT THE THRONE OF GRACE DECLARES THE LORD TO BE UNTO US.
1. A God in Christ. The throne of grace is “the throne of God and of the Revelation 22:3). The throne of God alone is not to be approached by us; but the throne of God and the Lamb is the seat of mercy, the throne of grace. He not only gives law to His people, but makes provision for them, that their souls may have plenty (verse 1 with Ezekiel 47:1-23.), and he protects His subjects too. As the wings of the cherubims (parts of the mercy-seat) overshadowed and covered the holy things, so does He cover and overshadow His holy ones.
2. A God reconciled. It signifies that His justice is satisfied, His wrath appeased; not now incensed against His people, but well pleased and propitious. The name of the mercy-seat declares this. It is ἱλαστήριον, a propitiatory.
3. A God of forgiveness. As graciously pardoning the sins of His people. When He is represented to us upon the mercy-seat, He is set forth as a God that has found out a way to hide our sins out of His sight.
4. A God in covenant (Numbers 10:33; Hebrews 9:4).
5. A God that will have communion with His people; one who will admit dust and ashes to have fellowship with Him. He offers there to meet them, to commune with them, to discover and communicate Himself to them. He admits His servants to communion with Him when He vouch ales to meet them. And the mercy-seat was the place of meeting which the Lord appointed for Moses (Exodus 30:36). He will meet with him as we meet with a friend whom we desire and delight to converse with. He would meet His servants there to discover Himself to them. The LXX render it, “I will be known to thee from thence,” He did make known Himself as a man to his friend. There He did commune with them (Exodus 25:22).
6. A God that bears prayer, and will answer the petitions and supplications of His people. The Lord gave answers from the mercy-seat; and this may be the reason why their posture of old in worshipping and praying was towards the mercy-seat (Psalms 28:2). That was the place where the mercy-seat was. Called the oracle, because the Lord from the mercy-seat gave answers; and so it is rendered by some “ the answering place” (so Psalms 5:7).
7. A God that is present with His people. More particularly this denotes
(1) An intimate presence. He is in the midst of His people. So He was while He was on the mercy-seat, so He will be while that remains, which this did but typify; while the throne of grace, while the mediation of Christ continues, who is King and Priest for ever.
(2) A special, a gracious presence. He was not present here only as He is in the rest of the world, but in a more special way, as upon a mercy-seat, from which others were far removed, so as they could have no access to the propitiatory, no advantages by it.
(3) A glorious presence. As the mercy-seat upon which the Lord appears is a throne of grace, so is it a throne of glory (Jeremiah 17:12; Jeremiah 14:21).
(4) An all-sufficient presence--sufficient to secure them from all things dreadful and to supply them with all things desirable. This is the security of His people (Psalms 46:5).
(5) A continuing presence. He is said to dwell on the mercy-seat. In reference thereto is His promise (1 Kings 6:13). The throne of grace denotes no less (Revelation 7:15). Here He is, and here He abides. We need never suffer through His absence. Have recourse to Him on the throne of grace, and we need never be at a loss.
8. A God that will show Himself merciful and gracious to His people, that will deal mercifully and graciously with them. Now, when He thus represents Himself, they may find grace and mercy. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
The Christian at the throne of grace
I. THE CHRISTIAN’S WANTS.
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S PRIVILEGE. We may obtain all we require.
1. We may approach the throne of grace.
2. Boldly, not with a feeling of terror, but as unto a loving God, a reconciled Father.
III. THE CHRISTIAN’S ENCOURAGEMENTS. We need an advocate. Christ is the sinner’s Advocate. We need an experienced advocate--Jesus was a tempted and experienced Saviour. We need a compassionate advocate--Jesus was an experienced, and therefore a compassionate Advocate. (H. M.Villiers, M. A.)
I. It will be well--nay, it is all-important--that we understand THE MEANING of the apostle when he bids us “ come boldly to the throne of grace.” We are not, then, to approach the throne of grace doubting; we are not to draw near as if we thought that we should not be received there gladly; we are not to come as though we expected to be sent away without being heard, for then the weakness of our faith in Christ is at once made manifest. In short, to draw near with the persuasion that God will not hear our prayer is to insult rather than to respect and honour Him. We must guard likewise against a rash, presumptuous approach, because, as sinners guilty and polluted, it is impossible that we can have anything wherewith to appear before the Lord. Such boldness as this can never become those who come to obtain mercy and grace. The boldness which we are authourised to use is that which arises from a knowledge of our own vileness and the sufficiency there is in Christ to His people’s wants. Here is our confidence, here is our hope; in Christ and in Him crucified we find both power and willingness to help.
The throne of grace
II. THE REASONS why we are to come to the throne of grace are two, namely, that we may obtain mercy, and grace to help in time of need. And oh! what need have we to pray for mercy! Let us for one moment call to mind the many and grievous sins which we have committed against a pure and holy God. Let us remember also that we must very shortly give an account to God for every word we have spoken, every thought we have conceived, every deed we have done. Let us think for one moment of these things, and surely we shall not delay to cry for mercy; surely we shall earnestly and at once cry out with the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” We are to come also for “grace to help in time of need.” Although salvation is not of debt but of grace, although it is the free gift of God through Christ Jesus, nevertheless we must be made meet to receive it. Holiness, be it remembered, will not entitle us to heaven; it will only make us like those who are accounted worthy of it. Every moment, therefore, of our lives must be under the guidance of Divine grace.
III. And now let me remind you of a few SEASONS WHEN WE GREATLY STAND IN NEED OF GOD’S ASSISTANCE.
1. The time of prosperity is a “time of need.” When the world smiles upon us we are in a situation of great difficulty and danger. We are then apt to put our confidence more in the creature and less in the Creator.
2. The time of adversity is a “time of need.” When the hand of God presses heavy upon us, how ready are we to question His loving-kindness! how disposed are we to give way to despair and to indulge in immoderate grief! to doubt those gracious words, “All things shall work together for good to them that love God”!
3. The time of death is a “time of need.” It is an awful thing to contend with the prince of this world for the last time. It is an awful thing to know that we are about to enter upon eternity and to appear in the presence of the living God. (John Wright, M. A.)
The throne of grace
We are here directed to a throne with its character: it is said to be a throne of grace. We are here led to contemplate our Redeemer in His most exalted character; we are here called to view Him as a Priest upon a throne. Priests are seldom advanced to a throne, or have the opportunity of exercising influence around them without evil to themselves and mischief to society. We have here, however, a Priest on a throne--from whom we have everything to hope and nothing to fear.
1. Some thrones, you know, are hereditary; and so is this, for He that occupieth it is the Son, the only-begotten Son of God, the Firstborn of every creature, the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person--the Heir of all things, and consequently the Heir of this throne.
2. Some thrones, you know, have been secured by conquest; and so has this. He came up from the conflict, His garments dyed in His own blood and the blood of His enemies; and through the ranks of fiends and death He pushed His triumphant course to the possession of that kingdom, and gained the glorious victory.
3. Some thrones are elective; so is this also. “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” “Him hath God exalted at His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour.”
But it is termed “the throne of grace”--not a throne of grace, as we often hear talked about, as though there were a great many of that character: no such thing; there is only one.
1. “The throne of grace”--to distinguish it from that throne of the Redeemer on which He sits as the Ruler of the universe, the Governor of earth and heaven and hell.
2. It is distinguished, again, from that throne of equity on which He sits as the Moral Governor of the world; in which capacity He exercises a judicial influence which extends to all minds and to all consciences.
3. Then, again, it is distinguished from the throne of judgment, on which He will sit by and by. This is “the throne of grace.” Here we are called to view the Redeemer as sitting on the mercy-seat, between the cherubim, as He did when He gave audience to the high priest and issued His commands. Hero He opens an audience-chamber to His people; here He receives the applications made in prayer by the needy, humble, desiring children of God.
Here He listens to their diversified cases and necessities, and imparts suitable, sustaining, and abundant assistance.
1. It is the “throne of grace,” because grace, unmerited love and goodness, designed and erected it. We had neither claim nor right to any such privilege. It is grace continues it; and it is very difficult to say whether grace abounds most in erecting this throne, or in continuing it to the children of men.
2. It is the “throne of grace,” because grace is here given. Here He gives grace to instruct the ignorant, to direct the doubting, to enliven the mild spirit, to sustain the feeble heart, to strengthen its weaknesses, to comfort its distresses, to supply its needs. Here He gives grace to save to the uttermost; for every good and perfect gift which comes from the Father of light is here dispensed.
3. Now, to this “throne of grace” we have all errands. In the first place, we have errands because we need mercy. We need the mercy of God to forgive our every offence and to remit the punishment to which we are exposed.
4. We not only need mercy, but we need an assurance that God has given us mercy. We know and feel that we are guilty; why may we not know and feel that we are pardoned? A consciousness of guilt brings alarm, and while this is the case there can be no comfort, no peace, till such time as the guilt is removed and taken away. And what a mercy is this! What a heaven of bliss to be pardoned and to know it! But we are unprofitable, short-coming creatures. We need mercy to bear with us like the barren fig-tree. Our precious time, for instance, has not always been profitably improved; our talents have not always been usefully employed; our duties to God, in gratitude, in faith, in affection--our duties to men, in kindness, charity, and love--have not been strictly discharged. We need God’s mercy to pardon all this; we need the mercy of God to bear with us and forgive us all our transgressions. We are necessitous pensioners on the Divine bounty, and need supplies of grace. We are every moment dependent upon God, and we can only live through that dependence; we can live only so long as His bounty is exercised. We are dependent upon Him for life, which is perpetually exposed to danger; we are dependent upon Him for help, which is only to be obtained from His hand. We are dependent upon Him for temporal supplies--day by day for our daily bread. We are dependent upon Him for delivering our souls from the power of sin, the world, the flesh, a d the devil. In short, we need the mercy of God in every period of life, in the article of death, and even at the day of judgment: we shall need to “look for the mercy of God unto eternal life.” We have errands at this throne that we may obtain mercy.
5. But we not only need mercy to pardon our sins, to bear with our unprofitableness, and to supply our need, but we need grace to renew us. We need renewing grace--grace to enlighten our minds, grace to renew our hearts, grace to regenerate our heart’s nature, grace to conform our will to the will of God--grace that we may approve, desire, and relish spiritual enjoyment, and thus be prepared for all the service of God.
6. We need also grace to keep us in this renewed state. The life of God imparted to human nature placed in circumstances like these would be like dropping a spark of fire upon an ocean of ice. How it should be kept alive, how it should burst into a flame, how it should illuminate with its light the darkness and melt the hardness of the world, can only be by receiving grace. And though God has promised to impart this life, and is delighted to impart it, yet He will not give it without being inquired of: we must go for grace to the throne of grace.
7. But we need grace inasmuch as we have duties to perform. Our duties are numerous; they pertain to God, to man, and to ourselves. The text adverts to a special season, which the apostle calls “time of need”: “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Speaking generally, every time is a “time of need”; for when is it that no enemy, like a cunning, wily beast of prey, is not watching for a moment of unguardedness to seize and to devour? Yet there are certain ascertained seasons which may more emphatically be called a “time of need.” We are dying in a state of uncertainty; we know not at all what is before us. I am aware that it may be said that if we have grace to live to God now, suffering grace will be given for suffering times; and if we have grace to live to God now, when God changes the work from doing to suffering, from living to dying, He will change the grace too. Yes, He will; but only in answer to prayer: He will be “inquired of.”
What is the use that we may make of this subject?
1. The apostle says, “Come boldly to the throne of grace”--not irreverently. We should never forget the justice, holiness, dignity, and mystery of Him whom we address: we should have grace to “serve Him with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”
2. When it is said, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace,” the apostle does not mean you are to come presumptuously as if you would command God.
3. When the apostle says, “Come boldly to the throne of grace,” we understand that we are to come readily. We are to have a knowledge of our state, to feel our wants, to entertain desires after holiness. We are not to pore over our unworthiness; we are not to parley with the enemy; we are not to wait till we are better; we are not to expect a more convenient season.
4. When it is said, “Come boldly to the throne of grace,” we understand that we are to come near. It is not enough to catch God’s eye at a distance, but to get His heart, and the very fulness of His heart. “Come boldly to the throne of grace,” and expect to find Him near to save.
5. “Come boldly to the throne of grace”; come cheerfully. And in order to do this we should contemplate God in all the encouraging aspects of His character. When we come to the throne we should look on Him in all the friendly, brotherly, Scriptural relations in which He has discovered Himself to us.
6. “Come boldly to the throne of grace”--come with liberty; not straitened in your own souls, not contracted in your desires, not limited in your aspirations.
7. “Come boldly to the throne of grace”--come confidently, with the confidence that you shall receive.
8. “Come boldly to the throne of grace”--come frequently. The path leading to this throne should be trampled, well used, such a beaten path as to be as bare as the street.
9. We should come importunately--like Jacob when he grasped the angel and said, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me”; like the Canaanitish woman when she said, “Is it meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to the dogs?” like the widow who, by her continued coming to the unjust judge, wearied him; like the person who applied to his neighbour at night for the loan of bread to entertain his friend, and would take no denial.
10. The apostle suggests encouragement. We are encouraged to come because we have a High Priest who is great in all the attributes of mercy and love, who hath finished His work to His Father’s satisfaction, and hath entered within the veil. “Seeing that we have such a High Priest.” When you come to the throne, He takes you by the hand, and introduces you to God; He takes your prayers, and perfumes them with the incense of His merit, and urges your feeble requests. (W. Atherton.)
I. THERE IS, THERE WILL BE, A SEASON, MANY A SEASON, IN THE COURSE OF OUR PROFESSION AND WALKING BEFORE GOD, WHEREIN WE DO OR SHALL STAND IN NEED OF ESPECIAL AID AND ASSISTANCE. This is included in the last words, “help in time of need”--help that is suitable and seasonable for and unto such a condition wherein we are found earnestly to cry out for it.
1. A time of affliction is such a season. God is an help (Psalms 46:1) in all sorts of straits and afflictions.
2. A time of persecution is such a season; yea, it may be the principal season here intended (see chap. 10.). And this is the greatest trial that in general God exerciseth His Church withal. In such a season some seed quite decayeth, some stars fall from heaven, some prove fearful and unbelieving, to their eternal ruin; and few there are but that where persecution is urgent, it hath some impression upon them to their disadvantage. Carnal fears, with carnal wisdom and counsels, are apt to be at work in such a season; and all the fruit that comes from those evil roots is bitter.
3. A time of temptation is such a season. St. Paul found it so when he had the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him.
4. A time of spiritual desertion is such a season. When God in any way withdraws Himself from us, we shall stand in need of special assistance.
5. A time wherein we are called unto the performance of any great and signal duty is such a season also. So was it with Abraham when he was called first to leave his country and afterwards to sacrifice his son. Such was the call of Joshua to enter into Canaan, proposed to our example Hebrews 13:5), and of the apostles to preach the gospel when they were sent out as sheep among wolves.
6. Times of changes and the difficulties wherewith they are attended introduce such a season. “Changes and war,” saith Job, “are against me” Job 10:17). There is in all changes a war against us, wherein we may be foiled if we are not the more watchful and have not the better assistance.
7. The time of death is such a season. To let go all hold of present things and present hopes, to give up a departing soul, entering into the invisible world, and an unchangeable eternity therein, into the hands of a sovereign Lord, is a thing which requires a strength above our own for the right and comfortable performance of.
II. THAT THERE IS WITH GOD IN CHRIST, GOD ON HIS THRONE OF GRACE, A SPRING OF SUITABLE AND SEASONABLE HELP FOR ALL TIMES AND OCCASIONS OF DIFFICULTY. He is the God of all grace, and a fountain of living waters is with Him for the refreshment of every weary and thirsty soul.
III. ALL HELP, SUCCOUR, OR SPIRITUAL ASSISTANCE IN OUR STRAITS AND DIFFICULTIES PROCEEDS. FROM MERE MERCY AND GRACE, OR THE GOODNESS, KINDNESS, AND BENIGNITY OF GOD IN CHRIST.
IV. WHEN WE HAVE THROUGH CHRIST OBTAINED MERCY AND GRACE FOR OUR PERSONS, WE NEED NOT FEAR BUT THAT WE SHALL HAVE SUITABLE AND SEASONABLE HELP FOR OUR DUTIES. If we find mercy and obtain grace, we shall have help.
V. THE WAY TO OBTAIN HELP FROM GOD IS BY A DUE GOSPEL-APPLICATION OF OUR SOULS FOR IT TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
VI. GREAT DISCOURAGEMENTS OFTEN INTERPOSE THEMSELVES IN OUR MINDS, AND AGAINST OUR FAITH, WHEN WE STAND IN NEED OF ESPECIAL HELP FROM GOD AND WOULD MAKE OUR APPLICATION UNTO HIM FOR RELIEF. It is included in the exhortation to come with boldness; that is, to cast off and conquer all those discouragements, and to use confidence of acceptance and liberty of speech before Him.
VII. FAITH’S CONSIDERATION OF THE INTERPOSITION OF CHRIST IN OUR BEHALF, AS OUR HIGH PRIEST, IS THE ONLY WAY TO REMOVE DISCOURAGEMENTS AND TO GIVE US BOLDNESS IN OUR ACCESS TO GOD. Let us come, therefore, with boldness; that is, on the account of the care, love, and faithfulness of Christ as our High Priest, before discoursed on.
VIII. IN ALL OUR APPROACHES UNTO GOD WE ARE TO CONSIDER HIM AS ON A THRONE. Though it be a throne of grace, yet it is still a throne, the consideration whereof should influence our minds with reverence and godly fear in all things wherein we have to do with Him. (John Owen, D. D.)
The sinner at the throne of grace
I. THE THRONE OF GRACE.
1. It is set up for those who have been ruined by sin.
2. None will come to it but those who feel sin to be a burden.
3. It is also a kind of holy retirement, where the true followers of Jesus may meet their Lord.
II. WHAT GIVES THE SINNER HIS BOLDNESS WHEN HE COMES WITH HIS PETITIONS TO THIS THRONE?
1. His entire reliance on Christ.
2. His experimental knowledge of the eternal priesthood of Christ.
3. His own experience.
III. THE FITTEST SEASON FOR DRAWING NEAR TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
1. A time of national lukewarmness is a tithe of need.
2. The time when the Lord is arming Himself with judgment is a time of need.
3. A time of prosperity is a time of need.
4. A time of spiritual warfare is a time of need. (F. G. Crossman.)
The throne of grace
I. THE SEAT OF POWER.
1. A throne--the symbol of dominion--where God manifests His Isaiah 6:1; Revelation 19:4; Matthew 6:13).
2. Power may be taken in two senses-authority and ability. Christ possesses both (Hebrews 8:1).
3. He has authority to pardon, to bestow the gift of sonship, to exercise supreme control (Matthew 9:6; John 1:12; John 17:2).
4. The secret of our power over evil lies in our being under Christ’s control (Luke 7:8; Ecclesiastes 8:4).
II. THE PLACE OF WORSHIP.
1. The distinction between the Cross and the throne.
2. The place of atonement and the place of worship (Exodus 25:22).
3. The provisions for worship in Christ. Access (Eph
2:18, 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-20). Pardon and acceptance Hebrews 10:23).
III. THE SOURCE OF SUPPLY.
1. TO meet our unworthiness. “Mercy.”
2. To meet our insufficiency. “Grace.” “My grace”--“for thee” 2 Corinthians 12:9).
3. A river proceeding out of the throne (Revelation 22:1).
4. The exhortation: “Let us come boldly.” “Let us draw near”--“with a true heart”--“in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). (E. H. Hopkins.)
Boldness at the throne of grace
I. WHAT THIS BOLDNESS IS. It is not audacity, rudeness or trifling freedom. Prayer and insolence ill accord together. This boldness arises from nothing in ourselves, but purely from the goodness of the Being we address: and it consists principally in a persuasion that we are freely authorised to come, and may confidently hope to succeed.
II. THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH WE ARE TO COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE. To “obtain mercy” and to “find grace.” The blessings are wisely connected together by the apostle, because there are too many people who try to separate them. They would be saved from hell, but not from sin. They wished to be pardoned, but not renewed. They would have mercy, but not grace. But be not deceived. Whom God forgives He sanctifies and prepares for His service. And both these blessings are equally important and necessary to our salvation. Let us therefore pray for both.
1. Pray for mercy. And pray like those who know they greatly need it. You are very guilty.
2. Pray for “grace to help in time of need.” But is not every time a time of need with us? It is. And there is not a moment in our existence in which we can live as we ought, independently of Divine grace. We need this grace, to mortify our corruptions; to sanctify our affections; to resist temptations: to overcome the world. But there are some seasons in which we peculiarly require the aid of Divine grace.
Now if we are to pray “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” does it not follow, as a fair inference, that a prayerless person is destitute both of the mercy and grace of God?
1. Have you come to this throne? You ate fond of hearing sermons--but while you so often hear from God, does God ever hear from you?
2. Do you design to come? or have you resolved to “restrain prayer before Him”? Do you imagine you can acquire these blessings in any other way than by prayer? Or do you imagine these blessings are not worthy of your pursuit? If you could gain a fortune by prayer--would you not pray? Or health--would you not pray? But what are these to mercy and grace? Or do you imagine they are not to be gained? There is no ground for such despair: He “waiteth to be gracious; and is exalted to have mercy.” (W. Jay.)
The throne of grace
I. Our text speaks of a THRONE,--“The Throne of Grace.” God is to be viewed in prayer as our Father; that is the aspect which is dearest to us; but still we are not to regard Him as though He were such as we are; for our Saviour has qualified the expression “ Our Father,” with the words “who art in heaven.” In order to remind us that our Father is still infinitely greater than ourselves, He has bidden us say, “Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come”; so that our Father is still to be regarded as a King, and in prayer we come, not only to our Father’s feet, but we come also to the throne of the Great Monarch of the universe. If prayer should always be regarded by us as an entrance into the courts of the royalty of heaven; if we are to behave ourselves as courtiers should in the presence of an illustrious majesty, then we are not at a loss to know the right spirit in which to pray.
1. If in prayer we come to a throne, it is clear that our spirit should, in the first place, be one of lowly reverence. It is expected that the subject in approaching to the king should pay him homage and honour.
2. A throne, and, therefore, to be approached with devout joyfulness. If I find myself favoured by Divine grace to stand amongst those favoured ones who frequent His courts, shall I not feel glad?
3. It is a throne, and therefore, whenever it is approached, it should be with complete submission. We do not pray to God to instruct Him as to what He ought to do, neither for a moment must we presume to dictate the line of the Divine procedure.
4. If it be a throne, it ought to be approached with enlarged expectations.
5. The right spirit in which to approach the throne of grace is that of unstaggering confidence. Who shall doubt the King? Who dares impugn the Imperial word?
6. If prayer be a coming before the throne of God, it ought always to be conducted with the deepest sincerity, and in the spirit which makes everything real. If you are disloyal enough to despise the King, at least, for your own sake, do not mock Him to His face, and when He is upon His throne. If anywhere you dare repeat holy words without heart, let it not be in Jehovah’s palace.
II. Lest the glow and brilliance of the word “throne “ should be too much for mortal vision, our text now presents us with the soft, gentle radiance of that delightful word “GRACE.” We are called to the throne of grace, not to the throne of law. It is a throne set up on purpose for the dispensation of grace; a throne from which every utterance is an utterance of grace; the sceptre that is stretched out from it is the silver sceptre of grace: the decrees proclaimed from it are purposes of grace; the gifts that are scattered adown its golden steps are gifts of grace; and He that sits upon the throne is grace itself.
1. If in prayer I come before a throne of grace, then the faults of my prayer will be overlooked.
2. Inasmuch as it is a throne of grace, the faults of the petitioner himself shall not prevent the success of his prayer.
3. If it be a throne of grace, then the desires of the pleader will be interpreted. If I cannot find words in which to utter my desires, God in His grace will read my desires without the words.
4. If it be a throne of grace, then all the wants of those who come to it will be supplied.
5. And so all the petitioner’s miseries shall be compassionated.
III. But now regarding the text as a whole, it conveys to us the idea of GRACE ENTHRONED. It is a throne, and who sits on it? It is grace personified that is here installed in dignity. And, truly, to-day grace is on a throne. In the gospel of Jesus Christ grace is the most predominant attribute of God. How comes it to be so exalted?
1. “We reply, well, grace has a throne by conquest.
2. Grace, moreover, sits on the throne because it has established itself there by right. There is no injustice in the grace of God.
3. Grace is enthroned because Christ has finished His work and gone into the heavens. It is enthroned in power.
IV. Lastly, our text, if rightly read, has in it SOVEREIGNTY RESPLENDENT IN GLORY--THE GLORY OF GRACE. The mercy seat is a throne; though grace is there, it is still a throne. Grace does not displace sovereignty. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The throne of grace
I. THE BLESSINGS SPOKEN OF.
1. Mercy, pardoning mercy, reconciling mercy, saving mercy. The brightest saint needs it, as well as the greatest sinner. We need it every hour of our life, and in every action of our life.
2. Grace: supporting, helping grace, “grace to help in time of need.” It is grace only that can subdue our corruptions, resist temptation, warm our hearts, and bring strength, comfort, and hope to our troubled souls.
II. WHERE THIS MERCY AND THIS HELPING GRACE ARE TO BE OBTAINED.
1. The apostle tells us to seek them at a throne: he sends us therefore to a God of majesty. A throne implies also that He is a God of infinite, almighty power, in the universe over which He reigns.
2. Yet it is a throne of grace. He who sits upon it has removed out of the way all impediments that He can now be gracious to a world of sinners in a way consistent with His honour, and show Himself a God of mercy without tarnishing the glory of His other perfections.
III. How ARE WE TO SEEK OF HIM MERCY AND GRACE? “Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace.”
1. It is plain that if God is seated on a throne as a God of majesty and power, this boldness must be altogether different from fearless presumption or irreverent freedom.
2. The boldness of which the apostle speaks is opposed to self-will, and must consequently include in it submission to the will of God.
3. This boldness is opposed to restraint in prayer, and implies an humble and holy freedom in our addresses to God. If we are habitually living in His faith and fear, we may come to His throne, not as strangers and foreigners, but as those who are of His household.
4. This boldness is opposed to distrust and unbelief, and includes a persuasion that God has grace to bestow and is willing to bestow it, and that we are authorised to ask for and expect it. It is the boldness of faith which the apostle recommends; a confidence, not in our own merits but in sovereign mercy: a faith in the Lord Jesus, and such a faith in Him as triumphs over fears and suspicions, and rises to the confidence of hope. This confidence is quite consistent with that humility which becomes us as sinners; indeed it is closely connected with it. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The throne of grace
I. WHERE WE ARE TO COME. “Unto the throne of grace.” Not the throne of terror, but the throne of grace; not enshrouded in the gloomy darkness of repulsion, but radiant with the sunshine of invitation: not sending forth lightnings and thunders to alarm, bat extending the olive-branch of peace; and from that throne of grace are heard the sweet tones of mercy, beseeching sinners to be reconciled unto God. Do you ask where you are to come? We tell you that wherever is found a penitent and contrite heart, broken on account of its sins, the throne of grace is there; wherever is found a praying soul, the throne of grace is there. In your closets; when you offer your daily sacrifice of prayer and praise beneath the domestic roof at the family altar; when you come to the house of God as sincere worshippers, in the hallowed services of the Church, in the sacraments of Christ’s holy institution, the throne of grace is here! And to this throne of grace you are ever welcome. But observe, we must come each one for ourselves.
II. How WE ARE TO COME. “Boldly.” Fear not, thou trembling soul; give despondency to the winds. Is your heart sincere? Then come with confidence to the throne of grace.
III. WHY WE ARE TO COME. “That we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Your only sure refuge is the throne of grace. Here you may find at all times the seasonable help you need, a balm for every wound, counsel for every difficulty, comfort for every sorrow. But the word used by the apostle has even a deeper signification than this. It means help rendered in answer to a call for assistance. If we would have God’s help, we must ask Him for it with importunate earnestness, as those who feel their destitute need. (W. J. Brock, B. A.)
The throne of grace
I. THE MAGNIFICENT OBJECT TO WHICH OUR ATTENTION IS DIRECTED.
II. THE MANNER OF APPROACH SPECIFIED.
1. With liberty of access.
2. With freedom of speech. Need not be overawed by the greatness of the Being we address. We may freely and fully state our case, and make known our need.
3. With assurance of success. Need not fear a repulse.
4. With frequency of application. Original mercy-seat could only be approached annually.
5. We must come just as we are. No ceremony is required. Now we may thus come boldly, because
(1) This is the way expressly laid down.
(2) Because all ancient saints came in this way.
(3) God’s great goodness and graciousness should induce us thus to come.
(4) The intercession of Christ for us, and the Spirit within us, should encourage us thus to draw near.
III. THE GREAT ENDS TO BE KEPT IN VIEW IN COMING TO THE THRONE OF GRACE,
1. That we may obtain mercy.
(1) Mercy to pardon our guilt.
(2) Sparing mercy.
(3) Daily mercy.
2. To find grace to help in time of need. Grace includes all the blessings of the Divine favour. All we need for body, soul, time, and eternity. Grace to “help” us.
(1) To pray and serve God.
(2) To labour in His cause.
(3) To suffer for His sake.
(4) And to triumph over our foes.
1. Learn to what we come in prayer.
2. How we should come.
3. What we should seek--mercy, &c. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The throne of grace (a sermon to children)
Suppose you were with me in one of the palaces at the west end of the town--St. James’s Palace, or Buckingham Palace. We ascend in Buckingham Palace a noble staircase, as white as snow, made of white marble. Then we are admitted by servants in royal livery to a large gallery; and you say, “What a beautiful place! I never saw the like of this before. Oh! what lovely pictures! Oh! what wonderful chairs and tables, sparkling with gold!” Then I take you into another apartment, and I say, “What is that in the upper part of this great grand room, this large gallery? Do you see it?” “Oh! yes,” you say; “that appears to me to be a seat.” Yes, it is a seat; but it is a throne. That is where the Queen sits sometimes. That is Britain’s throne--the most wonderful throne on the face of the earth. But I have to tell you of a throne to-day, the like of which was never seen by mortal eyes. Angels never saw it. What is the name of it? “ The throne of grace.”
I. THE THRONE.
1. What is the throne of grace? The mercy of God in Christ Jesus.
2. Why is it called the throne of grace?
(1) Grace contrived the throne (Psalms 89:2).
(2) Grace shines upon the throne (Exodus 34:6-7).
(3) Grace is given from the throne. Pardon. Purity. Healing.
3. The excellencies of this throne.
(1) It is a costly throne.
(2) It is a lovely throne.
(3) It is a throne of great height (Psalms 103:9).
(4) It is a throne near at hand.
(5) It is a free throne.
II. THE KING WHO IS SEATED ON THIS THRONE.
1. King of grace.
2. King of kings.
3. King of glory.
III. OUR DUTY AND PRIVILEGE TO COME TO THE THRONE. (A. Fletcher, D. D.)
Come boldly to the throne of grace
Gather up what you see of tenderness and great-heartedness and generousness of men, and imagine them to be grouped into the character of a perfect being, and put it in the sphere of almightiness, and give it the sweep of eternity, and call it God, or the Son of God, as you please; and then you have a conception ,.f the Lord Jesus Christ, standing over the poor in this world, and saying to them, in a voice that never dies till the last human soul is redeemed, “Come to Me, and obtain help in time of need.” Well, what kind of help? No matter what kind. At what time of need? At any time of need. If it is bodily ailment, may one go to God with it? Certainly; because He supplies the wants of the body. If you have domestic trouble, or trouble in your secular affairs, or dispositional trouble in its lower forms, go to Him with it. If you may go to Him for higher things, you may for the lower. A man says, “Here are thousand dollar bills; take as many as you please.” “But,” say I, “there are hundreds, and fifties, and tens, and fives, and ones; may I take them instead of the thousands?” If he says I may have the thousands, he will not refuse to give me the ones. If he gives me the larger, he will not refuse to give me the smaller. Now, God has given His own Son to us; He hath given Himself to us; He has made overtures of pets, real friendship to us; He has said, “I am your Father, and ye are My sons”; He has granted us the blessing of direct communion with Himself; and since He has given us higher and larger things, is there anything that we need, all the way down to the very sandals with which we tread the earth, that He will not give us? In praying to God we begin by saying, “Give us this day our daily bread”; but, ah, there are different sorts of bread. There is one kind of bread for the body, and God will give that; but there is also another kind of bread for the mind--for taste, and benevolence, and conscience, and veneration, and love--and He will give that. God Himself is the bread of life by which the many mouths of the soul are supplied. He gives us in rich abundance all the things that we need. (H. W. Beecher.)
Boldness in prayer
A holy boldness, a chastened familiarity, is the true spirit of right prayer. It was said of Luther that, when he prayed, it was with as much reverence as if he were praying to an infinite God, and with as much familiarity as if he were speaking to his nearest friend. (G. S. Bowes.)
Unrestraint in prayer
This word “boldly” signifies liberty without restraint. You may be free, for you are welcome. You may use freedom of speech. The word is so used (Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13). You have liberty to speak your minds freely; to speak all your heart, your ails, and wants, and fears, and grievances. As others may not fetter you in speaking to God by prescribing what words you should use; so you need not restrain yourselves, but freely speak all that your condition requires. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
Fearlessness in prayer
A petitioner once approached Augustus with so much fear and trembling that the emperor cried, “What, man! do you think you are giving a sop to an elephant?” He did not care to be thought a hard and cruel ruler. When men pray with a slavish bondage upon them, with cold, set phrases, and a crouching solemnity, the free Spirit of the Lord may well rebuke them. Art thou coming to a tyrant? Holy boldness, or at least a childlike hope, is most becoming in a Christian.
Access to God in prayer
The Aediles among the Romans had their doors always standing open, that all who had petitions might have free access to them. The door of heaven is always open for the prayers of God’s people. (T. Watson.)
All may come
“Seeing that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens; let us therefore come boldly to the throne.” So that the “ us” of our text is just as broad as the “ we” in the fourteenth verse. Do we ask how broad that is? We shall soon see. The reference here evidently is to the great day of atonement, when the high priest entered into the holy place with the blood of atonement. When that great event took place, whom did the priest represent? The priests, or the elders, or the God-fearing part of the Israelites? Certainly not; but every Jew. There wasn’t one of the vast multitude but could say, He is gone in as my representative, and I am accepted in him. Now the apostle says Christ is a great High Priest, of whom the other was but the type. Whom, then, did He represent? The answer of the Book is, all mankind. If you want to measure the “us” whom Christ represents, you can easily do it f His favourite name was not, “I the Jew,” but “I the Son of Man.” (C. Garrett.)
The infinite Friend before the throne
During the cotton famine I went to many a man in need, and said, “Why don’t you go to the committee and get what you require?” and the reply was, “I can’t, I have never asked for help in my life. It has been my joy to give and not to get. If I were to try to speak for myself I should be choked; I can’t do it, I’ll starve first.” And I have said, “I don’t want you to speak; I only want you to come, I will do all the talking.” And at the appointed time he has come and I have said, “This is the person of whom I spoke”; and they at once relieved his wants, and sent him home rejoicing. And so, poor sinner, it shall be with thee. Thou art saying, “I am such a guilty wretch. My sins have been so many, and so aggravated that I dare not speak to God”; and I point to One who “ ever liveth to make intercession” for thee, and who is waiting this moment to plead for thee. (C. Garrett.)
It is not to the throne of judgment, but the throne of grace. When the cotton famine visited Lancashire, and the generosity of the people of this land was shown as it never had been shown before, and the railways were burdened with the generous gifts of all classes, we didn’t leave these treasures in the streets for any passer-by to take. Large warehouses were procured, and committees appointed to see that they were given to the proper persons. Now, suppose I had gone into the street at Preston, and met a poor operative looking thin, and poorly clad, and had asked him if he was out of work, and he had replied, “Yes, sir; and have been for two years.” I say, “Then I suppose your resources are exhausted, and you can hardly find food for your family? “ He answers, “No; I have neither clothes nor food for myself or them, and I don’t know what to do.” I say, “Why don’t you go to the depot and get what you want? There is abundance there.” He says, “Ah! but, sir, I haven’t a farthing left.” I answer, “I know it; and if you had, there are a hundred shops in Preston that would be glad to see you; but this is a place opened for those who have no money, and there is nobody in the world more welcome to the treasures there than yourself.” And so with thee, poor sinner. This place is opened on purpose for thee. (C. Garrett.)
The transcendent worth of pardon
Go to-night to poor E who lies under sentence of death. Enter his cell, and tell him you have brought him good news. How eagerly he turns to you and asks, “What?” You reply, “Baron Rothschild is dead, and has left you heir to all his vast wealth.” Oh, with what disappointment he turns away! You tell him that in addition to this you are come to give him the highest of earth’s honours. He heeds you not. He says, “What is all this to me, when I have to die on Thursday? “ You say, “Man, do you turn away from boundless wealth, from broad acres, from glittering gems and jewels? What do you want?” And with eager, bloodshot eyes, he turns to you, and hisses from his clenched teeth, “Pardon! Give me that and I’ll bless you: without that, all the rest is but mockery.” (C. Garrett.)
Appeal for mercy
A woman arraigned before Alexander the Great, and condemned, said, “I appeal from thee, O king!” Alexander said, “Thou art a mad woman! Dost thou not know that every appeal is from a lower judge to a higher? But who is above me?” She answered, “I know thee to be above thy laws, and that thou mayest give pardon; and therefore I appeal from justice to mercy, and for my faults crave pardon.” So must sinners do. (Cawdray.)
Encouragement to come boldly
When our prince brought his fair bride to England, they arrived at Portsmouth too late in the evening to land. Her heart was throbbing with many bewildering emotions. What would be the reception she should have? Would her husband’s people welcome a stranger? and a host of other questions. As she couldn’t sleep, she went out on the deck of the vessel she was in; and turning her eyes towards the shore, saw at every masthead in letters of light, “Welcome! Welcome to Alexandra! Welcome to our princess! “ And who can wonder that, as she looked her fears fled away, and her eyes filled with tears of joy. There was no room for a single doubt as to the character of her reception. And so with thee, poor sinner. Bowed down under a sense of thy enormous guilt, thou art afraid to lift thy eyes towards heaven, or to think of God. But I bring thee glad tidings of great joy. There is mercy for thee. God invites thee to His throne. Lilt thy eyes, and where thou didst expect to see the blackness of darkness, thou shalt see a thousand stars of promise cheering thee on. Look! There is one, “Come.” There is another, “Whosoever.” There is another, “Nowise.” See how they come out, like stars at eventide, brighter and yet brighter, and every one has a message of mercy for thee. (C. Garrett.)
The throne of grace
When God enacts laws, He is on a throne of legislation: when He administers these laws, He is on a throne of government: when He tries His creatures by these laws, He is on a throne of judgment: but when He receives petitions, and dispenses favours, He is on a throne of grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The distinction between mercy and grace
The distinction between the two words “mercy” and “grace,” in the place before us, seems to consist in this--that the former describes the emotion of kindness and compassion with which the application for assistance is met, while the latter describes the actual communications of celestial influence with which, in answer to prayer, He replenishes the soul for the time of need-a distinction with which the original terms are very consistent, and which seems farther countenanced by the different verbs with which they are conjoined in the expressions, “find mercy,” and “ obtain grace.” In the hour of your necessity, therefore, you are here assured that, on making due application, you shall be received with paternal pity and regard, nor merely with compassion and regard--a compassion that may soothe but cannot help--a regard that is the source more of sentimental refreshment than ofpractical and availing strength, but also with the promptest and most benignant readiness to open to you all the treasures of His grace--to pour out upon you all the sevenfold graces of His Almighty Spirit’--to “lift up the hands which hang down, and to confirm the feeble knees”--that “as your day is, so your strength” may be, and that, when called to glorify Him, and vindicate your Christian profession, whether by the resistance of temptation, or the conquest of difficulty, or the endurance of affliction, or the defeat of “the last enemy,” His grace may be sufficient for you, His strength may be perfected in your weakness, and over all temptations, difficulties, afflictions, deaths, ye may be made “more than conquerors through Him that loved” you. (J. B. Patterson, M. A.)
First mercy, then grace
Obtaining mercy comes first; then finding grace to help in time of need. You cannot reverse God’s order. You will not find grace to help in time of need till you have sought and found mercy to save. You have no right to reckon on God’s help and protection and guidance, and all the other splendid privileges which He promises to “the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ,” until you have this first blessing, the mercy of God in Christ Jesus; for it is “in” Jesus Christ that all the promises of God are Yea and Amen. (F. R. Havergal.)
Help in time of need
Help in time of need
The other day, during the fierce storm which raged on the west coast of England, I saw a schooner driven on the sands near Waterloo. In a short time, a steaming came to her assistance; but the heavily-laden ship was fast in the sand-bank, and it was found impossible to drag her into deeper water. They waited a few hours until the tide came in, and, then, when the deeper water about the schooner had lifted a portion of her hull from the bank, the steam-tug again came near, and the ship was towed into the safe water of the channel to Liverpool. Like the schooner, which had drifted on the sand-bank, many of us have drifted in the storms of life on the sands of trouble, where we have lain helpless. At such times, friends may have drawn near to try to bring us back to our old power peace and hope; but we were too firmly held by our trouble for any human being to help us. It was only when the tide of God’s love came flowing into our heart that there was any chance of cheering away our despair. Until we felt His love shed abroad in our heart, it was impossible for anybody to lift us from the miry clay of our despair. We were like the heavily-laden ship on the sand-bank; we had to wait for the flowing of God’s love; and when that came, we were lifted from the grip which held us. When, like the overflowing tide, the Lord moves in and about us, giving our heavily-laden heart the support and comfort of His love, the grasp of the hand and the cheering words of a friend are then powerful to help us. If, therefore, this be your time of need, I pray that the Holy Spirit may first fill your heart with His presence. The text clearly reveals that our God is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Like a leaf in autumn, blown hither and thither at the mercy of the wind, so there are times when a storm of sorrow separates us from the branch on which we flourish, and we become the sport of fear and unbelief. The text shows that the weary soul, which is like that helpless leaf, may find help at the throne of grace. As a shuttle-cock, in the midst of a crowd of children, is continually knocked into the air, never resting a moment except when it turns to fall, so there are many who are continually buffeted by adversity. The failure of their hope gives them a blow, sickness another, bereavement strikes hard, and the vicissitudes of an up-hill life worry them when they would rest. Is your soul one that suffers like that toy? If so, the text shows that God is touched with your griefs, and that He wishes to give you grace to help in your time of need. I happened to be walking along a country lane, near Dunham, and stopped to rest on the bank of the hedge, when a bird, with a scream of fear, flew from above my head. Feeling sure that its nest must be in the hedge behind me, I hoped the poor bird would soon return, and sat still watching for it. In a few minutes the bird flew towards a tree opposite to me, when my dog made a bound after it. I called him back, and held him securely by his neck. I suppose the bird saw that I was friendly, for in another minute it came nearer, and perched on the hedge in front of me. In a short time, it flew towards me, but at the same instant turned back to the hedge. Though it yearned to return to its little ones in the nest, yet, no doubt, its heart beat with fear; because it might not be certain that I was a friend; and then, though I held the dog, his sharp eyes kept up a keen look on that sweet bird, and it may have thought, “If I go nearer, the dog may pounce on me!” While I watched, I wished heartily for power to speak to the bird, to tell it that I would not allow the dog to stir an inch to injure it. The dog might look, but it should not harm. Perhaps the bird saw what I meant, for growing more bold, it flew over my head into the hedge behind me; and while I held the dog with a firmer grasp, it made the water come into my eyes, to think how our heavenly Father held trouble from hurting the souls of His people. Like the bird, we are often afraid, and with good reason too; but everything that can hurt us is held in the firm grasp of our God. I remember standing on the pier-head at Douglas, Isle of Man, when I saw an old friend of mine, who appeared very miserable. As the sun shone brightly, and there was sufficient wind to make the waves leap up and dash against the pier, sending golden spray in our faces, I thought everybody ought to be glad; and clapping my friend on the back exclaimed, “What is to do? Why, you look as if you were going to drown yourself!” He replied, “You would not be so cheerful if you had my troubles. See; you observe that cork, there, which is being pitched about by the waves! Well, I am like that cork.” To his surprise, I laughed and exclaimed, “Well; I am very glad to hear that you are like that cork!” He turned on me a look of reproach, as if I were mocking him. I said again, “It is true; I am very glad you are like that cork!” Then, with an injured air he turned, saying, “Why are you glad?” I replied, “Just because the cork does not sink! It is true that the waves knock it about; but, see, it does not sink!” Then, he grasped my hand saying, “Thank God, though I am in a terrible mess, yet, like that cork, I have not been allowed to sink!” Do not get down-hearted; and though the future may appear black, do not let despair enter your soul. A doctor once said to me, “I am so nervous as to be much afraid when my coachman is driving me through the streets, and often shut my eyes or try to read the newspaper, to hide what is in front from my view.” The doctor added, “I know it is foolish; for my man is a most careful driver, and I ought to feel safe; but it is my weak nerves! “Perhaps your spiritual nerves are unstrung, and you are afraid of a something happening, which will hurt you. If so, you need help from the throne of grace in this your time of need. Come boldly; for God is touched with your fear and anxiety, and He can help you. The text tells us that Christ is our High Priest. The high priest of the Jews was an official personage, who prayed for them on the annual day of atonement, and appeared on their behalf before God. He did this officially, and may not have felt extreme sorrow on account of the sins of the people, as if those sins had been his own. He did it as an official act. But when Jesus Christ, the High Priest of humanity, made atonement for our sins, He felt the sorrow of the agony of death. You may engage counsel to take up the case of a friend of yours who is to be tried for his life; and he may do it officially without throwing his heart into the case; but if the barrister look upon the prisoner and see him with a face of agony; if he notice tears of sorrow and shame trickle down his cheeks; if he see his body trembling in the agitation of terror, the advocate shall be touched with sympathy with the prisoner, and will plead as if his own life depended on his efforts. Likewise, Jesus was so touched with the feeling in Himself of the sins, sorrows, and afflictions of mankind, that when He represented them on the Cross of Calvary, His heart broke! Can you keep at a distance from such a God? The other night I sheltered from the rain for a few minutes in a doorway. A little bare-footed girl came up, and seating herself on the doorstep began to cry. I thought she had been sent there to raise my compassion, but found afterwards that this was not the case. Soon a hulking boy came up, saying, “Polly, what’s up?” The little girl replied, “I can’t sell my papers--I haven’t sold one!” The boy bent down upon her; I could barely see his face, but, from the gentleness of his words, fancied his look must have expressed much sympathy. He said--“Here; give me thy papers; I’ll sell ‘era for thee!” Then he drew them from the girl, and the lad went up and down offering them for sale. I suppose I could not have been there more than three or four minutes before he came running with five pence for the papers, saying, “Here, one of ‘em gave me a threepenny bit, and thou shalt have it!” Poor little lass! She was faint-hearted because of the rain; and as she had not the courage to go up to people to offer them papers, she sat there with her little heart breaking, until the noble lad came forward to help her. He was touched with the feeling of her helplessness, and did what he could to cheer her. Likewise, Jesus is touched with your disappointment, and does all that He can to help you. He comes to you saying, “Be of good cheer; I am with you; don’t be downhearted! I will give you patience to bear it, and courage to overcome it.” About six or seven years ago an Indian prince was riding in a carriage in the streets of London, when he saw a ragged Indian standing at the kerbstone with a brush in his hand: he was a crossing-sweeper. The prince immediately ordered the carriage to stop, and then beckoned to the man. Finding that he was of his own country, the prince opened the door of the carriage saying, “My countryman, come up.” The ragged Indian thought he must be in a dream and stood back; but the prince said, “Come, come up to me, my countryman”; and the poor fellow then sat beside the prince, and was taken into his service. The prince was “touched “ when he saw his poor countryman standing in his rags, and helped him. Jesus is the Prince of troubled souls, and every man is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. He is touched with your friendlessness and sorrow. When you were on a steamboat, and a child fell overboard, did you not wring your hands in an agony? What did you say? Why, you exclaimed, “Oh, that I could swim, that I might leap in and rescue the drowning child!” And when a brave sailor leaped into the sea and saved the child, did you not weep and shout for joy.? Perhaps, now, you may be drowning in the depths of sin, you may be suffering m the floods of sorrow, or may be overwhelmed by an ocean of trouble; but Jesus is touched. Like a man who cannot swim, I may feel for, though I cannot help you; but Jesus not only feels for you, but He is like the brave sailor who leaps into the depths to save you. (W. Birch.)
The reality and the symbol
I think it may be demonstrated from human experience that the human race can never ascend toward civilisation, and that it can still less ascend toward the higher ranges of civilisation, which include moral and spiritual development, without the real or fancied help of a superior intelligence in the invisible world. What we need is a priest, and a high priest, that is sensibly, intimately affected and concerned with our--what? virtues? dignities? attainments? No, with our “ infirmities.” Our virtues, dignities, and attainments, such as they are, get along very well; but our infirmities and transgressions need succour. We need a God whose attributes and dispositions lead Him to be helpful just at the time of our need--not a God that simply acts according to His own will abstractly, as He is represented to do, thinking of things according to His pleasure as it is said in the old formulas. To be a good teacher, one must come down to the level of the scholar, and know his difficulties. He must adapt his training to the hardness of the task and the limitations of the faculties of the scholar. And what we need is the conception of a God who is personal in the same sense in which our father and our mother were personal to us--namely, in adapting themselves to our want, that by and by we might be raised up to them, conforming to the universal law of education. There are great difficulties in this conception, and there are some hindrances to it. It is intrinsically a thing of not a little perplexity for men to form a definite idea of invisible spiritual existence. We do it by transferring, through the influence of the imagination and the reason, the familiar facts of our mental experience to the Being whom we call God. There are two great difficulties in this matter. One is, that we have been trained so largely to use our senses that when we undertake to move in the hi-her realm of life we find it hard to fashion ideas that are not sensuous--that are impalpable and immeasurable. The other is, that goodness and fineness in us are so small, that magnanimity in us is so difficult to be distinguished from minanimity, that we are so little sensitive to the various excellences of moral character, that life requires knives with such a hard and cutting edge, and that our training is such that we are not apt to have the material out of which to create our God, unless we return to the mother, the father, the brother and the sister in our own households. It is mainly to expound these difficulties that I have selected this subject. I shall find it difficult to make a statement of the matter which shall not lead to misconception, but I shall not on that account any the less endeavour to state it. First, there has been an unfortunate substitute for a personal God of theologic ideas which just as effectually takes away personality from Him in the conceptions of men as pantheistic doctrines. The use of symbols has been such, they have been so unwisely or ignorantly employed, that they have led people into substantial idolatry. In books and sermons and exhortations innumerable men are urged to “come to the Cross”; to “hold on to the Cross”; “ to forget not the Cross,” to “weep at the foot of the Cross.” What idolatry! Is there no Jesus Christ that is a living God? Do we now, after two thousand years, need to have Him interpreted by a symbol of two thousand years ago? Is not the thing signified a hundred times more desirable than any symbol of it? In ancient times, right under the eaves of the crucifixion, it had a function that cannot be overestimated; but it has performed that function; and by the use of the Cross men interpret to the world the thing that it was set to interpret: and I say that to attempt to represent the Lord Jesus Christ any longer by that symbol is unwise in the preacher, and bewildering and misleading to the hearer. Instead of bringing us to a personal God, a present Help in time of need, it hinders our access to I-lira, and we find ourselves wandering on Calvary when we have a living Saviour in the New Jerusalem. Another thing that hinders the access of men to a living, personal God is the presentation that is continually made of the atonement of Christ. I do not undertake to rail at the doctrine of the atonement, nor to say that it is an unnecessary doctrine; but I resist vehemently the substitution of a “plan of salvation,” as it is sometimes called, or the term “atonement,” for the phrase, “the Lord Jesus Christ”--for, really, in preaching, men are urged to accept Christ’s atonement, instead of accepting Christ. They are asked to be saved through the atonement, instead of being asked to be saved by the loving power and loving influence of Christ. What the sick man wants to know is, not bow the pill which he takes was compounded, but whether, taking it, the chills and fever will stop. If they do, he does not care what is in it; and if they do not, he rices not care what is in it. What mankind want is salvation; and it is brought to them through the presentation of Jesus Christ, who attempts to save them, not by buoying them up by a system of physical laws and mechanical observances, or by abstract conceptions of right and duty, but by bringing them on to a new ground of personal liberty. The Lord stands to you and to me as a living Saviour. He is your personal Saviour and my personal Saviour; He is your Redeemer and my Redeemer; He is your Brother and my Brother. I do not come to Him any longer through the atonement; that is His look-out. I do not come to Him by the way of the Cross; that is history’s business. I come directly to Him. I come to Him because every throb of my nature tells me that I need elevation and spiritualisation, and because I have faith that these are to be found in Him. I come to Him because I am impelled to by the whole volume of my wants. I come to Him because I am drawn toward Him by all the ardour of my confidence and love. There is one more point which is even more exceptionable. I refer to the use of blood. There was a time when that symbol was needed. In the Old Testament dispensation blood was significant of moral qualities. But what possible use, in modern association, has blood? Here and there a man sheds his blood for his country, in which ease blood represents his willingness to sacrifice himself for his country. It may be necessary under certain circumstances to take blood as an emblem of self-denial, heroism and suffering as they exist in God, in order to give a conception of them to low-minded people; but when it has been employed for a certain time, and these conceptions have been involved and enfolded to a given point, they become stronger than the symbol: and the symbol, instead of benefiting them, stands in their way, and constantly tends to draw them back from the spiritual truth to the carnal representation of it. If these criticisims are valid, the question naturally comes back, How would you proceed? What would you do? In the first place, I will say that I do not believe you could collect an audience so ignorant and degraded as to be incompetent to understand the revelation of God in Christ Jesus as a personal Saviour the thing itself is simpler than any figure by which you can represent it. And the great want of the Church to-day, it seems to m-, is such a presentation of Christ to men as that every man and every woman shall feel that they have a living Friend in heaven who thinks of them, who knows them by name, and who understands their birth, their parentage, their education, their liabilities, the various influences which operate upon them, but which they are not responsible for, their culture, their surroundings, everything that belongs to them; that they have a Brother who has gone there to take all power into His hands and exercise it in their behalf. What every person needs is the sense of a living Jesus Christ, to whom in trial or in want he can turn and be conscious that He hears, and is present to help. In time of need, when your expectations are disappointed, when your plans are broken up, when your life seems a wreck, and when despair has taken possession of you, and you know not which way to turn for succour--then you need to have a faith that there is One in heaven who knows you, who loves you, and who will stand by yon, and will stand by you to the end, whatever may befall you. Such a Saviour you have in Christ Jesus; and nothing shall separate you from His love. And he who has such a Saviour as that need not ask philosophers anything. He will have written in his own soul the philosophy of his own experience; and buoyed up by the joy and gladness which are ministered to him, he will have the wherewith to draw other men upward, saying, “This has Christ been to me, and this will Christ be to you if you will accept Him.” I beseech of you now--and above all in times of depression and trouble--see to it that you have a hold upon the living Christ: not upon a doctrine, not upon a symbol, but upon a Person, throbbing, vital, near, and overflowing with generous love. (H. W.Beecher.)
Times of need
If God is a merciful High Priest to all, in all circumstances, and according to the law of humanity, the, He must needs have sympathy and tender regard for man, not in those sufferings alone which are brought upon them without their own fault, but in that vast flow of daily follies, and sins, and prejudices, and stumblings, and slidings, that go to make up human life. Divine sympathy for mere misfortune we have, and it is a great mercy; and if there were no other sympathy than that, it would still be a great mercy; but it would go only a little way towards alleviating human suffering. The want of the heart does not lie chiefly in the things that are brought upon us without any agency of our own. Hence, sympathy, to be efficacious, and to meet the wants of human life, must take man in his sinful nature, and in his actual experience. That which Christ came to do was to seek and to save the lost; not those simply that were lost by others’ fault, but those that were lost by their own fault. God in Christ is a Father with plenary paternal attributes and feelings. Consider what a parent--a being infinitely lower, less sensitive, and less capable of moral greatness--will do for a child. How much he will bear I how much he will forget I how much he will forgive! And shall God be thought to be less than a man? Shall He who is greater than man in the direction of goodness, of patience, of glorious lovingkindness, be capable of less forbearance towards His children than an earthly father manifests towards his? God’s tender thought, and His compassionate sympathy, are a refuge into which every man may run--and then most when most lie needs some refuge and some strength. Let us select a few occasions that shall bring us to God. In general, it may be said that all emergencies in which the heart can find no rest and comfort in the use of the ordinary instruments of consolation are among those occasions. There are times of great physical suffering, in which men are justified in appropriating this promise and this exhortation, and going directly for help to God. There is a cold physical philosophy, a stoical indifference, or stoical strength, upon which one may lean in suffering; but this is not to be compared with that glowing faith which one may have, that God, although for wise purposes of His own He does not remove pain, yet looks upon us, and understands our wants, feels with us and for us, and works in us submission, and patience, and fortitude. Physical suffering, long continued, ordinarily tends to degradation; but where it is accepted in the right spirit, it builds men up in qualities that are godly--and through suffering many men have become heroic. Times of great perplexity, in which there are doubts and uncertainties that prey like wolves upon the fears of men; which bring pressure, and care, and soul-suffering--these are times of need that justify you in going to God for sympathy. You have His thought and His regard; and why should you not take the comfort of it? You would carry your fears to a friend’s bosom; why will you not carry them to the bosom of the best of friends? Times of religious depression are peculiarly times of need, in which men are justified in going to God, where they arise from a doubt of any one’s own piety, or from what is even more painful--scepticism of the whole nature and web of the truth itself, which, as it were, unsettles and sets adrift the whole religious nature. There are two kinds of sceptics. Some are sceptical from the force of malign passions, which lead them to seek to destroy, that they may have a larger license, and be wicked with impunity. Others are sceptical from the force of moral feelings. They have their thought-doubts and their heart-doubts; and it is the best part of their nature, oftentimes, that strives within them, seeking to solve many of these insoluble questions; seeking to appease many aspirations and hungers of the soul; seeking to put partial truths into their full light. Hunger and thirst they do for faith. They long for it with an unutterable longing. And where, not because they seek to, and not because they wish to, men dishonour God and separate themselves from right conduct; where they do this, notwithstanding they endeavour to conform their life to the ethical principles of the gospel, do you say that they ought to be shut up to themselves, and ought not to go to any friend for sympathy and medicament? And, above all, should they not go to God? And may they not suppose that, in such times of need as theirs, God will sympathise with them? There are times of need, too, when men are led to suffering from the development in them of philanthropic tendencies. There be many persons who look out upon human life with most melancholy feelings. The condition of society at large; the state of mankind that is everywhere apparent; the laws that are at work among men; the problems of the destiny of the race--these things, to a thoughtful and generous nature, are productive, frequently, of exceeding great pain. An indifferent, unsympathising, selfish nature will look upon them without the least trouble; but there are many who are made sad by pondering upon such insoluble mysteries. And those times of sadness that they experience are times of need in which they are justified in laying their anxieties and solicitudes at the feet of Christ, and finding rest in Him. Against all these views, the atheistic tendencies of the heart will often rise up. Men know the truth; but often in these times of exigency they have a consciousness of their own unworthiness, and they dare not leave their fate to Jehovah or to Jesus; and their remorse and sense of guilt keep them from acting. There are very many persons who will not go to God just when they need Him, but who undertake first to do a work of righteousness, and so to make a preparation. When they shall have overcome their temptation or sin, or when they shall have brought some degree of peace and complacency into their heart, then they mean to go to God for a ratification, as it were, of the work that is accomplished in them. But this is not wise. It is when most you feel the dart that Satan casts; it is when most you feel the poison that rankles in the soul; it is when most you feel the pang which the heart suffers--it is then that you most need God. Do not wait till you feel willing. Do not wait till you are conscious that all fear is gone. Take your fear, your guilt, your remorse, and go with these, because you are in need. There is no other argument like this, “Lord, save, or I perish.” There is another difficulty which leads men not to use these views when presented; and that is the unresponsiveness of God. Well, you have a High Priest that was tempted in all points as you are, and yet without sin. Your own Christ, who calls you to Him, suffered in just precisely the way in which you complain of suffering. And the time when you experience an inability to go to God is itself one of the times of need that should bring you to Him. You have a God that has had the same experience in His earthly and limited condition. He, too, was brought into these emergencies that try you, and He pities you, and sorrows with you, on account of them. There is no time of need in which you cannot find a preparation in the heart of Christ for you. You will ask, perhaps, “How, then, under such circumstances, will God give us help in such times of need?” I do not know. It is not written. But this I know: that He has the control of all natural forces, of all physical laws, of all social and moral influences. I know that He is the Governor of the universe, and that all things shall work together in due time for the good of those that love and trust Him. And because I do not know of the secrets by which He succours men, shall I, therefore, not trust in Him? (H. W.Beecher.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29