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Melchisedec, king of Salem
MELCHISEDEC WAS “KING OF SALEM.”
1. Salem was certainly in Canaan--the land where Melchisedec and Abraham met.
(1) It is not a matter of course that Canaan was already wholly given up to idolatry and crime; and therefore Melchisedec may have been himself a Canaanite, and may also have found a body of worshippers of the true God among whom he could discharge his functions.
(2) Even if Canaan was more idolatrous than we have sufficient reason to believe that it now was, Melchisedec, who was, perhaps, of the Japhetian stock, may have been raised up by Heaven as “a light in a dark place,” and a harbinger and representative of the future ingathering of the Gentiles to Christ.
2. Two places of the name of Salem are mentioned in the Old Testament. The one is Salem in the land of Shechem (Genesis 33:18)--the same, perhaps, as John 3:23. The other is Jerusalem itself (Psalms 76:1-2).
(1) The situation of the great metropolis of Palestine was one likely to be early fixed upon for a town in the colonisation of the land.
(2) That point lay near to the route which Abraham may be supposed to have taken on his homeward way “from the slaughter of the kings.”
(3) If Jerusalem was the place of which Melchisedec was king, he was thus the more strikingly representative of Christ (Psalms 2:6).”
3. It is certainly in respect chiefly of the priesthood that Melchisedec is compared to Christ. But, considering the object and design of the present specification of particulars, it must be understood that the royalty of the former has a typical, or at least a figurative, application to the latter. With Salem, both in the literal and figurative application of the name, Christ as King has especially to do. It was through Jerusalem that, “in the days of His flesh,” He rode in lowly, but royal stateliness” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-11). To Israel and her great metropolis was Messiah promised as a Sovereign Prince, ere ever the Magi came to welcome the regal visitor; and as He was, in His birth, saluted as Israel’s King Matthew 2:1-6), so, over His cross on the heights of Salem, the unchangeable inscription bore that He was “King of the Jews” (John 19:19-22). And there is another Zion on which His throne is set--another Salem in which He reigns--the Zion, the Salem, of the Church. Amidst hostile arms and quaking dynasties, “let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.”
II. MELCHISEDEC WAS “PRIEST OF THE MOST HIGH GOD.”
1. The phrase “of the most high God” serves two ends.
(1) It contra-distinguishes Melchisedec and his priesthood from priests of “ the gods many and lords many” of Paganism, and from the functions, often gross and cruel, which these performed.
(2) It suggests the solemnity and importance of the sacerdotal work which Melchisedec performed, and the reverence and awe with which not only ministers, but private believers, should maintain intercourse with that glorious One into whose presence they are called to enter, and whose business they are called to do.
2. The priesthood of the King of Salem, in all probability, comprehended the two functions of sacrifice and intercession.
III. MELCHISEDEC “MET ABRAHAM RETURNING FROM THE SLAUGHTER OF THE KINGS AND BLESSED HIM.” To a spiritual warfare we have all been called; and while Christ is the Captain of the host, the better Abraham leading on His followers to battle and to victory, He, as the anointed Priest, the better Melchizedec, blesses His conquering, and even His struggling, troops. With His priestly hands extended, in generous benediction, over His first disciples, He left the world. In the same attitude, as it were, He stilt is standing, as Be looks down from His heavenly throne on the earthly charge which He loves so well. The good which on their behalf He seeks, it is His own prerogative and office to bestow. Nor can it be withheld. What is wanted for the fight--wisdom, strength, courage, hope--He d, lights, when His soldier looks to Him in faith and earnestness, to give. At length comes victory. Nor is that promise obsolete (Revelation 3:21).
IV. TO MELCHISEDEC ABRAHAM GAVE A TENTH PART OF ALL THE SPOILS. The contribution of gold and treasures to the cause of the kingdom of Messiah is one of the facts recorded respecting Him in Hebrew prophecy Psalms 72:10; Psalms 72:15). Since the day when the Magi cast their gold, and frankincense, and myrrh at His blessed feet, thousands and tens of thousands have laid a like tribute on His altar. Christ deserves, and Christianity needs, it all. That, independently of any money of ours, He could work successfully is, of course, in some sense true. But, in unswerving wisdom and condescending mercy, He chooses to work by means; and among the appointed means is money. By ministers and missionaries, who are dependent on money for support--by Bibles and other practical and precious books, which must be printed and circulated at the cost of money--by places of worship, which it requires money to erect--and by other ordinances and institutions, which it is for money to establish and maintain--Christ upholds His cause and extends His kingdom.
V. MELCHISEDEC WAS BY INTERPRETATION “KING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND KING OF PEACE.” This statement refers to the import of the names Melchisedec and Salem. Melchi means, king; Sedec, righteousness; and Salem, peace. It is probable that Melchisedec was a righteous and pacific king. At any rate, the name he bore, and that of the city where he dwelt, involved the ideas of righteousness and peace. And it is here distinctly intimated that, in this respect, he was fitted to represent the character and government of Christ. Christ in very deed is “King of righteousness.” His soul, how pure! His life, how undefiled! His laws, how just! His administration, how upright! The issues and outgoings of His sufferings and His glory, of His humiliation on the earth and His triumphs in the heavens, how suffused and fraught with righteousness! Nor is He less truly “King of peace.” His personal ministry was neither the earthquake nor the thunder, but the “still, small voice.” Peace He bequeathed to His disciples as a legacy of love (John 14:27). He “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). His gospel breathes of peace. They who believe it enter into peace. Theirs is peace with God; theirs, too, is peace with man; and a “ peace which passeth understanding” keeps their ,”hearts and minds by Christ Jesus” Under the sceptre of Messiah, the wars which so long have wrought desolations in the earth shall pass away
VI. MELCHISEDEC WAS “WITHOUT FATHER, WITHOUT MOTHER, WITHOUT DESCENT,” &c. By the series of particulars it is manifestly meant to intimate that the parents, the ancestry, the birth, and the death, of this royal priest are all unrecorded in the sacred narrative--that, in this respect, there is a remarkable difference between him and the priests of the house of Levi--and that, in so far as the record is concerned, he comes before us as the priest of unlimited existence, who had no predecessor and no successor in the sacred line. He was thus, it is still further intended to suggest, a meet representative of that “ great high-priest” who, as God, had no mother--as man, had no human father--as Divine, never began to be, and never died--as Mediator, carries on His priesthood still, interceding for believers in the heavens, even as, on earth, He made atonement for their sins, and wrought out redemption for their souls. (A. S.Patterson.)
The parallel between Christ and Melchisedec
I. THE TITLE OF MELCHISEDEC, AS KING. “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem.” It were idle to discuss here the various conjectures which have been started as to who this Melchisedec was--considered as he is by some to have been Enoch, by others to have been Shem, by others to have been an angel, by others to have been the Holy Spirit, by others to have been the Eternal Son of God Himself; it seems only needful to remark, that the nature of the apostle’s argument throughout the chapter positively requires that Melchisedec should have been a man, and a man, too, living, and performing the functions here attributed to him, in the time of the patriarch Abraham. Melchisedec becomes a remarkable person, were it only from the singular conjunction of the two offices of king and priest--a conjunction which of itself would suggest his being a type of Christ. Thus he is a type of Christ even with regard to his kingship, and that both in his acts and in the titles by which he is distinguished. Even the first act recorded of him m Genesis we can hardly think was without some spiritual significance. You will observe, he is there represented as coming out to “the father of the faithful,” bringing him a present of bread and wine, in order that his followers might be refreshed after the toils of conquest, and be sent on their way with lightened and rejoicing hearts. What is this but a picture of the way in which Christ, the true Melchisedec, rewards and refreshes all the followers of faithful Abraham? Are they wearied with the toils of their spiritual warfare? He is wont to say to them, “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will” refresh you. Are they tired out with the world’s disappointing vanities, having “spent their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth not”? His language is, “He every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; yea, come ye, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” Nay, are they desirous of realising nearness of spiritual communion--of being brought more closely into the presence of their God and Saviour? Are they desiring to “ see the King in His beauty,” and to receive from Him tokens of reconciliation and peace and love? He comes forth like Melchisedec bringing “ bread and wine,” offering to believing hearts the blessed sacrament of His passion, that in the memorials of His body broken, and the blood of redemption shed, believers, like the faithful followers of Abraham, may go down to their homes in peace! Still more typical of the Redeemer’s royalty are the titles here given to Melchisedec. You will observe it is said of him--“first being by interpretation, king of righteousness, and after that also king of Salem, which is, king of peace.” These are the titles of the typical Melchisedec, and as applied to him may probably mean no more than that such names were given to him by the common consent of his subjects--as one who was distinguished for the righteousness which characterised his regal administration, for the integrity and uprightness of his judicial decisions, for the amicable relations which he maintained with all neighbouring states, and for the tranquillity which marked his government at home. But who sees not at once the application of these titles to Christ in the exercise of His spiritual royalty? He is a “King of righteousness.” If He cannot satisfy every demand of a violated law, if He cannot meet all the conditions of unsullied holiness, if He cannot cancel every claim which Heaven may have against our souls, nay, if He cannot present my soul as unblameable--as pure from stain or blemish as His own--the ground of my confidence is gone. A mere king of compassions, a king of love and pity, will not suit me, He must be a “King of righteousness.” “and after that also king of Salem, which is king of peace.” This, again, is a beautiful type of Messiah’s kingship. “Therefore being justified by faith”--(there is the righteousness)--“we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. THE PRIESTHOOD. “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God:” Now, that to which I would specially direct your attention here is, that Melchisedec is the first instance we have in the sacred record of a person specially set apart for the office of the priesthood. You will observe that he is not one of a line succeeding to the sacerdotal office in a certain family order; he is not one who has received that sacred appointment by the investiture of others, according to any prescribed order of ecclesiastical polity, but he is one who, long before the Levitical priesthood had been established, stands alone in a strange country, challenging homage from the greatest saint of antiquity as an ordained priest of the most high God. Now, we see at once in this certain resembling features to Christ, the true Melchisedec. He is not descended of any line of human priesthood; there was no laying on of hands to designate Him to the sacred office; yet there rested on Him tokens of a Divine consecration. The opened heavens testified to the power of the Lord’s anointing; “the Spirit of the Lord” was upon Him, and when He had “made His soul an offering for sin,” when He had “borne the sin of many,” when He had “poured out His spirit unto death,” believing souls were drawn to His cross, and exercising faith in the great oblation hailed Him--“Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec.” And then observe, that special office of the typical high priest here mentioned by the apostle, namely, that of benediction, “who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him.” Have we not here a close resemblance to Christ? Benediction, we know, seems never to have been off the lips of the holy Saviour. With streams of blessing did He open His first sermon on the mount; with hands of blessing He drew the little children to His embrace; with the uplifted voice of blessing He went up to the right hand of Power; blessed are the sleeping dead who die in His faith and fear; and when at last He shall separate the great congregation of risen dead, He shall first call to His redeemed ones, saying, “Come, ye blessed children of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Yes, blessing was the first act of our High Priest, after He had “returned to the Majesty on high”: “Unto you first God having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you”; and never will He lay down that His special prerogative of mercy, until He hath blessed us “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” But observe, another act of the typical Melchisedec noticed by the apostle is his receiving a portion of the spoils. “To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all.” There can exist no question but that this act of the patriarch was a separation of a portion of his newly acquired wealth to the service of God. It was an offering to God through Melchizedec His appointed priest. Abraham had been prosperous; he had been honoured and eminently successful in the mission he had undertaken; how could he do otherwise than dedicate the firstfruits of his success to God? “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?” The passage plainly throws some light on the perpetual obligation of almsgiving, independently of all dispensations whatever; and seems to prescribe to us the minimum of our substance which we ought to set apart for God’s service. If you have been prosperous in the work of your hands, if you are returning like Abraham with the spoils of conquered difficulties, if your spiritual Melchisedec has met you with tokens of acceptance, give unto Him a tenth part of all. Let one strength, one help, one hope, one outstretched arm be recognised in all your successes:--showing that on earth you will lay all your prosperity, even as in heaven you will lay all your crowns, at the feet of Him who was ordained a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
III. THE MYSTERY OF MELCHISEDEC’S ORIGIN. He is declared to be, in the third verse, “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.” Melchisedec is a person of whose death or birth no record had been preserved, both of which would have been if he had ever bad any accredited place in the Jewish polity. But this man has no record, has no genealogy: he starts up on the page of sacred history, exercising the mysterious functions of the priesthood, shrouding in a veil of impenetrable obscurity all the antecedents of his history, as well as all that relates To his “end of days.” All this was especially meant to perfect the typical character of this Melchisedec. It was, in fact, to show to us that Christ Himself was not to succeed to His office in the order of any human priesthood--that He should not claim office in virtue of any transmitted rights, but that He should receive consecration direct from the hands or God: “a Priest” of the Most High God, “after the order of Melchisedec.” And then see how we are to apply to Christ the last remarkable words applied to Melchisedec--to Christ, the true, the spiritual Melchisedec. He is said to be “without father”; is not this true of our Lord’s human nature? He is said to be “without mother”: is not this true of our Lord’s Divine nature? He is said to be “without beginning of life, or end of days”: must not this be true of Him whom prophecy describes as “the Ancient of days,” as the Father of eternity, as One who throws out the challenge to every finite intelligence, “Who shaft declare His generation?” nay, as One whom God Himself had solemnly designated and set apart. “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
IV. THE INTRANSMISSIBLE CHARACTER OF MELCHISECEC’S PRIESTHOOD. This is declared in the third verse: “He is made like”--namely, that He “abideth a Priest continually.” Then turning to the twenty-fourth verse of this chapter you read--“But this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood”--a passage which, on looking at the margin, you will find thus rendered, “a priesthood which passeth not from one to another.” Now, to understand this, you must remember the stress of the apostle’s argument. It was a new theology to the Jews to suppose that Messiah was to be “a Priest” at all; they thought of Him, they expected Him, only as the “Lord” Christ, as the King of righteousness and peace. But suppose Christ were to be a Priest, then the Jew would say, “He must be a Priest according to the order of Aaron.” Then says the apostle, “Christ can have no claim in this behalf; for He sprang from the tribe of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” What, then, is the conclusion? Why, that the real type of Christ’s priesthood is to be found, not in men having infirmity under the law, but in that remarkable personage expressly raised up of God in a particular age of the Church, in order that he might be a perfect, or, at least proximately perfect, type of Christ, as one who neither received his priesthood from any, nor yet transmitted his priesthood to any; and therefore, in so far as there was no delegation of the sacred functions, he might be said to “abide a priest continually.” Herein he becomes a glorious and eminent type of Christ--the type of Him, who as He received His priesthood from none, so will He delegate it to none, not to human priesthoods, not to saints and angels, not to the ten thousand mediators of a corrupt and apostate church, but rather will continue, in all the might, in all the prevalency, in all the sovereign sufficiency of an unchangeable priesthood, “ever living to make intercession for us.” (D. Moore, M. A.)
The Jews were very fond of beautiful mysteries, which awakened the sense of wonder and the desire for deeper knowledge; and, as the Psalms and Proverbs show, they love to have truth in pairs or in halves. Their minds moved, as a railway engine moves, on parallel lines and with corresponding wheels; their piety soared as the lark soars on equal wings. As in this subject of Melchisedec, they often gained their idea of the whole truth, just as in geography you gain your idea of the whole earth by uniting the two half-spheres that are separated” on ,he map. The mystery of Melchisedec is thus explained by four pairs of truths.
I. HE WAS A MAN AND MORE THAN A MAN. Many things about him are “hard to be uttered” or explained (Hebrews 5:11). Here, I think, is the key that opens the difficulty:--there are two Melchisedecs: the on, lived in Salem, and the other lives in this page. King Henry VIII., the queen-killer; was, as most people believe, a had man; but Froude makes him a good man. There are thus two Henrys: the one lived at Windsor, the other lives in Froude’s history. What Froude did for Henry by hero-worship, Moses did for Melchisedec by omission; but with this difference, that Moses keeps to exact truth. As we have Froude’s Henry and the real Henry, so we have, as we may say, the Melchisedec of Abraham and the Melchisedec of Moses. Melchisedec was “made like unto the Son of God” Hebrews 7:3). He was not like Him, but was made like Him. I have watched an apprentice wood-carver. Before him was a tree, like any other tree. Beside him stood a life-size statue of Christ. Glancing now and again at the statue, and guided by his teacher, he hewed out a piece here and there, and soon the tree became a statue. He made it more by making it less, for he thus put a grand idea into it. As that carver elevated the tree into an image of Christ, so Moses, guided by God, fashioned or rounded off the Melchisedec of his story into an image of Christ. It was not an after-thought, but a fore-thought to liken Christ to Melchisedec; for Christ is the original and Melchisedec the copy, expressly “made” beforehand for New Testament teaching. What a man of mystery that Melchisedec of Moses is! He seems to have dropped down from heaven. He seems to be his own ancestor and his own heir; one sprung from himself, a cause uncaused; one ever living among the dead and dying. He stands quite apart, has not his fellow in the Bible, and is like himself only. Fix your eye upon this portrait drawn by the Divine hand, grasp it as it lies there, and the subject is delightfully simple. “This Melchisedec” on whom you and I gaze, not that whom Abraham gazed upon; this literary Melchisedec, not that literal one; “ this Melchisedec” is an image of Him who was “without father” as to His human nature, and “without mother” as to His Divine; as God “having neither beginning of days nor end of life”; who in His office was “without descent” and without succession, and so “abideth a Priest continually.” Melchisedec was a man and seems more: Jesus is a man, and is more.
II. CHRIST IS LIKE MELCHISEDEC, A PRIEST AND A KING. Pity belongs to Him as Priest, and power belongs to Him as King. His priestly pity and kingly power temper and sustain each other, and as two uniting streams roll along in one full flood of communicated joy. He saves with all the power of a king; He rules with all the gentleness of a priest. His kingly power enables Him to do His priestly work right royally, with royal graciousness and munificence. He saves with sovereignty, with a sovereign’s generosity. The rebel Themistocles appealed for pardon to the Persian king Xerxes. The king pardoned him in his sovereignty; not as one who had to study petty economics, whose grace was a miser’s hoard; for he gave Themistocles the country of Magnesia for bread (about £12,000 a year); Myus for condiments, and Lampsacus for wine. That is how a sovereign pardons, and illustrates one part of what we mean by the sovereignty of God. Our great High Priest has a royal right and a royal power to save, as He makes one thing of Priesthood and Kinghood. The golden sceptre of grace is ever in His hand; and whosoever will may touch it and live, shielded by the whole power of His kingdom. What can sin, death, and hell do against those who have Him as their ally?
III. MELCHISEDEC IS A TYPE OF CHRIST BECAUSE HE UNITES RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE. His name means “king of righteousness,” and he was king of Salem, or peace. He was, no doubt, a righteous man and king, doing all he could to right the world’s wrongs. But much more than that is meant here. For he was a priest, and no priest was he unless he represented God to man and man to God, and so provided righteousness for the unrighteous. They for whom he acted should have had righteousness, but had it not; and it was the part of their priest to gain for them the “abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness.” To us, at least, priestly righteousness means all that. The righteousness our High Priest has to do with is held out as a free gift to the most unrighteous among us; and it is thine for the taking. Melchisedec was also king of Salem. A dense mass of meaning lies for us in this title also. Salem, like the salaam given to-day in the East, means peace. A King of Peace! Earth’s kings are war-makers; ours is a Peacemaker. Earth’s great cities have often been Aceldamas, streaming fields of blood; our mother city is peace. And what a union of contraries is here! Let the bare idea of God’s righteousness enter the heart of a man in sin, and lo! his peace is gone, and he is the prey of remorse. But Christ brings us a peace founded upon eternal righteousness.
IV. MELCHISEDEC IS A TYPE OF CHRIST. BECAUSE HE UNITES JEW AND GENTILE. Aaron, the priest, was only for the Jews; but Melchisedec, who was out of Aaron’s line and above it, was a Gentile, and he was a priest for Abraham the Jew, and for the Gentiles dwelling in Salem. He was a world-wide priest, opening his arms to all the races of humankind, and his city was meant to be the mother-city of all the earth, emblem of the heavenly Jerusalem into which people of all nations shall be gathered. Thus Christ is a Priest, not after the ruder of Aaron, who was for Jews only, but He is “a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec”; and any sinner under heaven may receive the blessings He brings. (James Wells, M. A.)
King of righteousness
Righteousness first, then peace
I. A HIEROGLYPHIC OF CHRIST’S RECONCILING WORK.
First, King of Righteousness, afterwards King of Peace. There is no peace with God possible, except on the basis of righteousness. It is a true gospel, howsoever harsh it sounds, which proclaims “Thou art not a God that hast pleasure in iniquity, neither shall the wicked dwell in Thy sight.” This is the dictate of conscience; this is the dictate of what people call “natural religion.” This, the necessity of righteousness for friendship with God, is the message of the old covenant; and this, the absolute need of purity of life and heart for all true enjoyment of the Divine favour, is Christ’s message as truly. Nay, further, the first thing which the gospel--which Christ, who is the gospel--does when He comes into a man’s heart is to emphasise two facts, the absolute need for righteousness in order to friendship with God, and the want of it in the heart to which He has come. And so the conflict is intensified, the sense of discord is kindled, the alienation between man and God is made conscious on the first entrance of Christ into the spirit. The oil comes after the arrow, the bandage after the wound.
II. A SUMMARY OF CHRIST’S OPERATIONS IN THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. There is no inward harmony, no peace of heart and quietness of nature except on condition of being good and righteous men. The real root of all our agitations is our sinfulness; and wherever there creeps over a heart the love of evil, there comes, like some subtle sea-born mist stealing up over the country and blotting out all its features, a poisonous obscuration which shrouds all the spirit in its doleful folds. Disturbance comes not so much from outward causes as from an inward alienation towards that which is pure and good. Peace within comes from righteousness within, and no man is righteous unless he has Christ’s righteousness for the very spring and strength of his life.
III. THE PROGRAMME OF CHRIST’S OPERATIONS IN THE WORLD. The herald angels sang “on earth peace.” Nineteen centuries have passed, and Christianity is still a disturbing element who, ever it comes, and the promise seems to linger, and the great words that declared “Unto us a Child” should “be born,”… and His name shall be … “the Prince of Peace,” seem as far away from fulfilment as ever they were. Yes, because He is first of all King of Righteousness, and must destroy the evil that is in the world before He can manifest Himself as King of Peace. If we are the followers of the Prince of Peace, who is, first of all, King of Righteousness, we are called to be His faithful servants and soldiers. For all the social evils that swarm round about us to-day, intemperance, impurity, commercial dishonesty, follies of fashionable and of social life and the like, for all teachings that dim and darken the face of His great counsel and purpose of mercy, we are to cherish an undying hatred and war against them an unceasing warfare.
IV. A PROPHECY OF THE END. The true Salem, the city of peace, is not here. One more conflict every soldier of the Cross, ere he treads its payment, has to wage with the lust enemy who is to be destroyed by Jesus Christ, but only at the end. For us and for the world the assurance stands firm--the King who Himself is Righteousness is the King whose city is peace. And that city will come. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
First king of righteousness, and after that king of peace
I. ADMIRE THIS KING.
1. Melchisedec is such a king as God is. He is according to Divine model. At the fall God first set up a Judgment-sent, and right speedily a Mercy-seat. Righteousness must ever had the van, All along in the history of God’s dealings with men, He kept to this unvarying rule.
2. tie was such a king as Christ is. Christ preached no peace apart from purity. He never made little of vice or error; He was the deadly foe of all evil. He said, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.”
3. Note, next that He is such a King as right-hearted minds desire. My heart rejoices in a sin-killing King, and then a peace-bestowing King, sweeping out the buyers and the sellers from the temple, and then manifesting Himself there in all His majesty to His waiting people. 4 Melchisedec is such a king as Jesus must be to every one of you who have not yet known Him, if you are ever to receive Him as your Saviour. Righteousness must hold the sceptre, or peace will not attend the court.
5. This is the kind of king that God would have every one of us to be.
II. ENJOY THIS KING.
1. Our Lord is first King of Righteousness.
(1) He who religiously obeys Mahomet may yet be doing grievous moral wrong; but it is never so with the disciples of Jesus: obedience to Jesus is holiness.
(2) Notice, next, that if we trust this King of righteousness we are righteous in His merit.
2. And then, next He is after that King of peace. I want you to enjoy the King of Salem, the King of peace. Do you know that at this moment, if you are believer, you have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Melchisedec, king of righteousness
The word “Melchisedec” leads our minds at once to theft remarkable passage in the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah, where it is declared of Christ that this is His name, whereby He shall be called, “Jehovah Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness.” For Zedek and Tsidkenu being the same in their root, the only difference between the passages is that in the prophet He is the Lord of Righteousness, while here He is its King. Whether we look therefore into the pictures of Genesis, or the shadows of prophecy, or the originals of the gospel, righteousness and royalty meet together to make the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us endeavour to catch the meaning of that word “ righteousness.” Before God righteousness means justification. “There is none righteous, no not one “this is literally true. No child of man has ever paid all his debt to God. No child of m n has ever fulfilled all his relationships. Therefore no child of man is just. But that was a truer word than he who spake it thought of, when the centurion said, “Truly this was a righteous man.” Christ was perfectly righteous; because what He undertook to do He did. He undertook to pay, and He fully paid, the whole human debt to God. He never swerved from His engagement. He kept, He beautified, every iota of the law. And what relative duty did He ever leave undone? But His righteousness being so exceeding, and being the righteousness of an infinite being, it was far above all that He needed as man for Himself, and left a treasury of righteousness available for every poor sinner. Very happy it is for us that of that righteousness--both the imparted and the inherent, both His and ours--which He so requires, He is also the king. For He can give, and He will give, it royally. A Melchisedec indeed He stands--Righteousness the habitation of His throne--His sceptre a sceptre of righteousness--Righteousness the girdle of His loins--Righteousness His breastplate--Righteousness the signet of His crown--and all for the sake of that one highest prerogative of His power--that one climax of His righteousness, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
King of peace
Christ a Prince of peace
Two things there be which especially declare Him to be a King of peace.
1. That peace which He made betwixt the Creator and creatures.
2. That which He made among creatures themselves. God at first made all in perfect peace. There was a sweet harmony and consent. No discord, no dissension. Creatures by sin brought all out of frame. But Christ being made King, made up all these breaches.
1. He satisfied God’s justice, pacified His wrath, and reconciled man to Romans 3:25; Romans 5:8-10).
2. Christ took men and made them members of His mystical body: and having so united them to Himself, made angels to be at peace with them Colossians 1:20).
3. He communicateth His Spirit unto men, whereby all the powers of their souls and parts of their body are renewed and brought into a sweet harmony.
4. He brake down the partition wall betwixt Jew and Gentile Ephesians 2:14), and made all one in Himself (Galatians 3:28), and so alters their disposition as they may lovingly live together (Isaiah 11:6, etc.). (W. Gouge.)
The King of peace
There are many things which the world can give you--it can give you amusement; it can give you excitement; it can give youpleasure--but it can never give you peace of mind--no, not for an hour. Peace--all Salem--is Christ’s exclusively--by legacy from His cross, by deed of gift from His throne. Need I say how incomparably peace is better than pleasure? If you want peace, you must look for it in Christ,--not in the evidences of your own soul--not in certain religious acts or feelings--not in ordinances--not in man--not in doctrine,--but in Christ--a personal, felt, loved, present, real, living Christ,--in His nature, in His attributes, in His work, in His glory, in His return--all peace lives there--it is Salem. The more peace you take, the better subject you are of that kingdom, which is called Salem. Every fear is a rebellion against its King. Nothing honours Christ like the peace of His people--peace is Salem’s loyalty. The wars of nations make a discord in the works of God. Therefore never measure war, or talk of war, as the light world does; for it is, and it must be, a grief in Salem. But pray more earnestly to the Prince of Peace that prayer, “Give peace in our time, O Lord!” There will be no war and “no evil occurrent” presently when Christ comes; but this earth will be one holy Salem its circuit commensurate with creation, “its walls salvation, and its gates praise.” For that day the Chinch looks out; but, happy thought! Christ looks out for it more than the Church, and not one of us is as anxious for his Lord to appear, as that Lord is now longing to come. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Consider how great this man was
Melchisedec a type of greatness
I. TRUE GREATNESS IS NOT HEREDITARY, BUT PERSONAL.
II. TRUE GREATNESS IS NOT EXTERNAL, BUT IN THE SOUL.
III. TRUE GREATNESS IS NOT THE CREATURE OF CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT ON THE CONTRARY CONTROLS THEM.
IV. TRUE GREATNESS EXISTS AND FLOURISHES ONLY IN CLOSE RELATIONSHIP TO GOD.
V. TRUE GREATNESS IS SEEN IN THE POSSESSION AND UNION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE.
VI. TRUE GREATNESS MANIFESTS ITSELF IN MINISTRATION TO THE WELFARE OF OTHERS.
VII. TRUE GREATNESS WILL RECEIVE ITS DUE REVERENCE, AND INCITE TO A KINDRED CHARACTER.
VII. TRUE GREATNESS REACHES ITS HIGHEST REALISATION IN JESUS CHRIST. (B. Dale, M. A.)
King and priest
I. THE HONOURS HE RECEIVED. One of the highest marks of greatness is to be had in honour by the good. We should not attach so much importance to a eulogy, as to the character of those by whom it is uttered.
II. THE DUTIES HE DISCHARGED
1. Those of a king. Living in peace; striving to bless his subjects, and honour his God.
2. Those of a patriarch.
3. Those of a priest. This is true greatness, when the spiritual is not neglected for the secular, nor the secular for the spiritual.
III. THE TENTS OF CHARACTER HE DISPLAYED.
1. Stability. Did not allow the idolatry around to influence either his heart or life.
2. Peacefulness and wisdom. Did not embroil himself in quarrels, or resent fancied grievances.
3. Tolerance. Did not go to war himself, but respected the valour of Abraham, believing he engaged in the conflict by command of God.
4. Cordiality. No gloomy ascetic, or lofty monarch.
IV. THE FAME HE SECURED. He was great, because good; illustrious, because beloved of God.
V. THE REWARD HE ENJOYS. Conclusion:
1. It is possible for us to be great after the manner of Melchisedec. Are not Christians made like unto the Son of God?
2. If we would be thus great, we must seek to be invested with the righteousness of Christ. (R. A. Griffin.)
The greatness of the Man Christ Jesus
I. LET ME EXHORT YOU TO CONSIDER HOW GREAT THIS MAN, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, IS.
1. This subject claims your consideration. It is His right that you should consider His greatness.
2. Certainly the subject needs consideration; for we shall never gain an idea of how great He is unless we do consider, and consider much. Here is a great deep, and it cannot be fathomed by the thoughtless.
3. I go a little further, and say that not only does my subject claim your consideration and need your consideration, but it solemnly comma rids it. The text is not a mere piece of advice; the apostle charges you to think of Melchisedec, but much more would he have you remember Melchisedec’s Antitype. Oh, do not need to be pressed to this Divine study: love it, never cease from it.
4. Follow out this meditation, I pray you because there is an exceeding great reward for any man who will “consider how great this man was.” I find for myself that the only possibility of my living is living in Christ and unto Christ.
II. LET ME ASSIST YOU TO CONSIDER HOW GREAT THIS MAN WAS.
1. Lest the very use of the expression, “this man,” should leave any body for a moment in doubt as to our faith in His Godhead, I bid you consider how great this man was in His relationship to God. For though He was man, He was not merely man.
2. You are not in doubt upon this vital matter; let me, therefore, ask you to consider “how great this man was” as to His relationship to men. Christ Jesus is the second man, the Lord from heaven.
3. Come a little closer, and reach forward to that which will delight your hearts far more; consider the relationship of Christ to His own people. Long before the heavens and the earth were made, God with prescient eye beheld the person of His Son as God in human nature, and He saw all His elect lying in Him. The Church is His body. “Consider how great this man was.” He is so great that all the saints are blessed in Him.
III. THE PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT of the whole subject. Consider how great this man was, and as you consider, believe in His infinite power to bless men. He is full of b e, sing as the sun is fall of light, that He may shine upon His needy creatures. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
There are various relations in which human greatness is a fit object of consideration.
1. It is to be considered in relation to the providence of God. All real greatness--intellectual, moral, and circumstantial--is intimately associated with the sovereignty of Heaven. In certain recorded instances, the connection of God with the attainment of such greatness is very distinctly indicated. It is so in the instances of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, and many other Scripture-characters. In these, the direct interference of the Divine Being is at certain points, definitely marked; and the thoughtful reader of the narrative is thus prepared to acknowledge His hand throughout the whole tissue of the events that led the individual on to greatness. But the Scriptural doctrine of God’s universal providence involves the fact that, even in more ordinary cases, His superintending care and administrative wisdom are employed (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). Now, it is reasonable, and fitted to be practically useful, to trace the Divine sovereignty and the Divine wisdom in the production of personal and national greatness, and, when such greatness flashes on the eye, to see and feel that the hand of Jehovah has been there.
2. Human greatness is to be considered in relation to the ravages of death and time. “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of 1 Peter 1:24). Riches take to themselves wings and fly away” Proverbs 23:5). Power waxes weak as infancy. Even Fume’s green garland is wont to wither on the brow (Ecclesiastes 8:8). How important, by the consideration of earthly greatness as, like other earthly objects, frail and fleeting, to be disabused of vain ambition, and to learn the lesson (Isaiah 2:22).
3. Human greatness is to be considered in relation to the example and encouragement which, in certain cases, it is fitted to afford. Some men have been greatly good. Their moral aims have been lofty, their moral enterprises vast, and their moral attainments bright. And independently of their importance as models, the consideration of them is fitted to inspire the soul with a moral enthusiasm both honourable and useful.
4. Human greatness is to be considered in relation to the typical character which certain great ones of the world possessed. If God has assigned such a character to some of the principle personages of the Bible, and given us the means of tracing it, surely it would be unreasonable and sinful to neglect to do so. By the consideration of those elements of greatness wherein patriarchs, princes, priests, and prophets represented Christ, distinct and vivid views may be obtained of Christ Himself. Thus, too, may be clearly apprehended the intimate relation subsisting among the various moral economies of God, and the antivipative and Messianic character of God’s providence from the very birth of time. (A. S. Patterson.)
The greatness of character
Wherein lay his greatness? He was not in the priestly line. Neither do we read that he was appointed of God. Yet no man taketh this honor unto himself. God had made him king and priest by conferring upon him the gift of innate spiritual greatness. He was one of nature’s kings, born to rule, not because he was his father’s son, but because he had a great soul. He became a priest in virtue of what he was as man. His authority as king sprang from character. Such men appear on earth now and again. But they are never accounted for. All we can say of them is that they have neither father nor mother nor genealogy. They resemble those who are born of the spirit, of whom we know neither whence they come nor whither they go. It is only from the greatest One among these kings and priests of men that the veil is lifted. In Him we see the Son of God. Such priests remain priests for ever. They live on by the vitality of their priesthood. They have no beginning of days or end of life. They have never been set apart with outward ritual to an official distinction, marked by days and years. Their acts are not ceremonial, and wait not on the calendar. They bless men, and the blessing abides. They pray, and the prayer dies not. If their prayer lives for ever, can we suppose that they themselves pass away? The king-priest is heir of immortality, whoever else may perish. He at least has the power of an endless life. If he dies in the flesh, he lives on in the spirit. An eternal heaven must be found or made for such men with God. (T C. Edwards, D. D.)
A change also of the law
Change in the law
It is modified in these circumstances:
In regard of justification (Acts 13:39). The law was first given to justify the observers thereof; but now in regard of man’s corruption that is impossible (Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:11). God therefore now hath appointed another means for that end, which is Christ and faith in Him Acts 13:39; Romans 3:28).
2. In regard of the rigour thereof. The law accepteth no duty but that which is every way perfect. This much is implied (Romans 10:5). This, there, fore, is the doom of the law (Galatians 3:10). Yet there is a righteousness (though not framed according to this exact rule) which is accepted of God. This is the righteousness of faith, whereby laying hold on Christ’s righteousness to be justified (Acts 24:16).
3. In regard of an accidental power which the law, through man’s corruption, hath to increase sin, and to make it out of measure sinful Romans 7:13). For the very forbidding of a sin by the law maketh the corrupt heart of man more eagerly pursue it: as a stubborn child will do a thing the more, because it is forbidden. There is a secret antipathy in our corrupt nature to God’s pure law. But by the Spirit of Christ that antipathy is taken away, and another disposition wrought in true believers: namely, a true desire and faithful endeavour to avoid what the law forbiddeth; and to do that which it requireth. In this respect, saith the apostle, “I delight in the law of God concerning the inward man” (Romans 7:22).
4. In regard of the curse of the law. Yet the law peremptorily denounceth a curse against every transgressor and transgression (De Galatians 3:10). The law admits no sure y, nor accepts any repentance. Thus, “all men having sinned, come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23). Yet this curse doth not light on all (Galatians 2:13). In this respect, “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1). Though the moral law be altered in the forementioned respects, yet still it remains to be of use for instruction and direction.
1. For instruction, it demonstrateth these points following:
(1) What God Himself is (Exodus 20:2).
(2) Want His holy will is (Psalms 40:8).
(3) What our duty is to God and man (Matthew 22:37-39).
(4) What sin is (1 John 3:4; Romans 3:20).
(5) What are the kinds of sin (James 2:11; Romans 7:7).
(6) What the pravity of our nature is (Romans 7:14).
(7) What the sinfulness of our lives is (Romans 7:19).
(8) God’s approbation of obedience (Exodus 20:6; Exodus 20:12).
(9) God’s detestation of transgressors (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 20:7).
(10) The fearful doom of sinners (Galatians 3:10).
(11) Man’s disability to keep the law (Romans 8:3).
(12) The necessity of another means of salvation (Romans 3:20-21).
2. For direction. The law is of use to these points following:
(1) To convince men of sin.
(2) To humble them for the same.
(3) To work an hatred of sin.
(4) To restrain them from it.
(5) To work self-denial.
(6) To drive men to Christ.
(7) To put them on to endeavour after as near a conformity to the law as they can.
(8) To make them fearful of pulling upon their souls a more fearful doom than the curse of the law: which is by despising the gospel.
(9) To make impenitents the more inexcusable.
(10) To make believers more thankful for Christ’s active and passive obedience; whereby as a surety He hath done for them what they could not, and endured that curse which they deserved, to free them from the same. (W. Gouge.)
Divine institutions abrogated
I. NOTWITHSTANDING THE GREAT PROVOCATIONS OF THEM BY WHOM IT WAS EXERCISED AND DISCHARGED, YET GOD TOOK IT NOT AWAY, UNTIL IT HAD ACCOMPLISHED THE END WHEREUNTO IT WAS DESIGNED.
1. Neither the wickedness of the people nor of the priests themselves could provoke the Lord to revoke His institution until the appointed end of it was come.
2. God took it not away till He brought in that which was more excellent, and advantageous unto the Church, namely, the Priesthood of Christ. And if this be not received through their unbelief, they alone are the cause of their being losers by this alteration.
3. In abundant patience and condescension, with respect unto that interest which it had in the consciences of men from His institution, God did not utterly lay it aside in a day, after which it should be absolutely unlawful to comply with it. But God took it away by degrees.
II. THE EFFICACY OF ALL ORDINANCES OR INSTITUTIONS OF WORSHIP DEPENDS ON THE WILL OF GOD ALONE. Whilst it was His will that the priesthood should abide in the family of Levi, it was useful and effectual unto all the ends whereunto it was designed. But when He would make an alteration therein, it was in vain for any to look for either benefit or advantage by it. And although we are not now to expect any change in the institutions of Divine worship, yet all our expectations from them are to be resolved into the will of God.
III. DIVINE INSTITUTIONS CEASE NOT WITHOUT AN EXPRESS DIVINE ABROGATION. Where they are once granted by the authority of God, they can never cease without an express act of the same authority taking of them away.
IV. GOD WILL NEVER ABROGATE OR TAKE AWAY ANY INSTITUTION OR ORDINANCE OF WORSHIP UNTO THE LOSS OR DISADVANTAGE OF THE CHURCH. He would not remove or abolish the priesthood of Levi, until that which was incomparably more excellent was introduced and established.
V. GOD IN HIS WISDOM SO ORDERED ALL THINGS, THAT THE TAKING AWAY OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE LAW, GAVE IT ITS GREATEST GLORY. For it ceased not before it had fully accomplished the end whereunto it was designed, which is the perfection of any ordinance: even the mediation of Christ Himself shall cease when all the ends of it are fulfilled. And this end of the priesthood was most glorious; namely, the bringing in that of Christ, and therein of the eternal salvation of the Church.
VI. IT IS A FRUIT OF THE MANIFOLD WISDOM OF GOD, THAT IT WAS A GREAT MERCY TO GIVE THE LAW, AND THE GREATER TO TAKE IT AWAY. VII. If under the law the whole worship of God did so depend on the priesthood, and that failing or being taken away, the whole worship of itself was to cease, as being no more acceptable before God; HOW MUCH MORE IS ALL WORSHIP UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT REJECTED BY HIM, IF
THERE BE NOT A DUE REGARD THEREIN UNTO THE LORD CHRIST, as the only High Priest of the Church, and to the efficacy of His discharge of that office.
VIII. It is the highest vanity to pretend use or continuance in the Church, FROM POSSESSION OR PRESCRIPTION, OR PRETENDED BENEFIT, BEAUTY, ORDER, OR ADVANTAGE, WHEN ONCE THE MIND OF GOD IS DECLARED AGAINST IT. The pleas of this kind for the old priesthood and law excelled all that can be insisted on with respect unto any other things for which any pretend a veneration in Divine worship; yet were they of no validity or efficacy. (John Owen, D. D.)
Our Lord sprang out of Juda
A new priesthood
Jesus sprang from the royal tribe of Judah, not from the sacerdotal tribe of Levi. The apostle intentionally uses a term that glances at Zechariah’s prediction (Hebrews 7:14) concerning Him who shall arise as the dawn, and be a Priest upon His throne. We shall therefore entitle Him “Lord,” and say that “ our Lord “ has risen out of Judah. He is Lord and King by right of birth. But this circumstance, that He belongs to the tribe of Judah, hints, to say the least, at a transference of the priesthood. For Moses said nothing of this tribe in reference to priests, however great it became in its kings. The kingship of our Lord is foreshadowed in Melchizedec.
2. It is still more evident that the Aaronic priesthood bar been set aside if we recall another feature in the allegory of Melchisedec. For Jesus is like Melchisedec as Priest, not as King only. The priesthood of Melchisedec sprang from the man’s inherent greatness. How much more is it true of Jesus Christ that His greatness is personal! He became what He is, not by force of law, which could create only an external, carnal commandment, but by innate power, in virtue of which He will live on and His life will be indestructible. The commandment that constituted Aaron priest has not indeed been violently abrogated; hut it was thrust aside in consequence of its own inner feebleness and uselessness. It has been lost, like the light of a star, in the spreading “dawn” of day. The sun of that eternal day is the infinitely great personality of Jesus Christ, born a crownless King; crowned at His death, but with thorns. Yet what mighty power He bar wielded! The Galilaean has conquered. Since He has passed through the heavens from the eyes of men, thousands in every age have been ready to die for Him.
Untouched by the downfall of kingdoms, and the revolutions of thought, such a King will sit upon His moral throne from age to age, yesterday and to-day the same, and for ever.
3. The entire system or covenant based on the Anionic priesthood has passed away and given place to a better covenant, better in proportion to the firmer foundation on which the priesthood of Jesus rests. Beyond question, the promises of God were steadfast. But men could not realise the glorious hope of their fulfilment, and that for two reasons. First, difficult conditions were imposed on failible men. The worshipper might transgress in many points of ritual. His mediator, the priest, might err where error would be fatal to the result. Worshipper and priest, if they were thoughtful and pious men, would be haunted with the dread of having done wrong they knew not how or where, and be filled with dark forebodings. Confidence, especially full assurance, was not to be thought of. Second, Christ found it necessary to urge His disciples to believe in God. The misery of distrusting God Himself exists. Men think that He is such as they are; and, as they do not believe in themselves, their faith in God is a reed shaken by the wind. These wants were not adequately met by the old covenant. The conditions imposed perplexed men, and the revelation of God’s moral character and Fatherhood was not sufficiently clear to remove distrust. The apostle directs attention to the strange absence of any swearing of an oath on the part of God when He instituted the Aaronic priesthood, or on the part of the priest at his consecration. Yet the kingship was confirmed by oath to David. In the new covenant, on the other hand, all such fears may be dismissed. For the only condition imposed is faith. In order to make faith easy and inspire men with courage, God appoints a surety for Himself. He offers His Son as Hostage, and thus guarantees the fulfilment of His promise. (T. C. Edwards, D. D.)
Incentive to Christians to promote the spiritual welfare of the Jews
Our Lord sprang not from the tribe of Levi, but from the tribe of Judah. That tribe, originally one of the twelve, was in an early period of the history of Israel the most distinguished by its numbers, its power, its talents, and the many favours and honours conferred upon it by God. Upon the unhappy and criminal apostasy of the ten tribes in the reign of Rehoboam, the tribe of Judah remained faithful to the royal house of David, and it was preserved and became a great nation after the whole of the others were swept away and lost for ever. In the fulness of time God sent forth His Son--the Lord of glory becoming incarnate--of the tribe of Judah; and among the honourable names which He condescends to wear, He is called, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah”--the Lion for His majesty and power, but never forgetful of His parentage and descent. Does not this contain a fact, then, which appeals to the judgments and to the hearts of serious Christians in relation to the claims which the descendants of Judah, and consequently the kinsmen after the flesh of our Lord prefer on Christian piety and exertion? I would endeavour to place before you two plain considerations, with the view of increasing this sentiment in your minds.
I. It receives an increase FROM THE NATURAL FEELING WHICH WE ALL HAVE BY ASSOCIATION. FROM ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WITH A BELOVED NAME. AND BELOVED PERSONS. Who, for example, can go to Runnymede, who can go through the aisles of the Abbey at Westminister, without having the most lively feelings awakened in his heart, from associations connected with our national history? Now, in reading that our Lord sprang out of Judah have we any affection, any gratitude of soul at the thought of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us? The fact that our Saviour, our life, our hope, our righteousness, sprang out of Judah--oh how it should endear to us the helpless race of Judah! We see in them the countrymen of our blessed Redeemer, we see in them His relations according to the flesh, and ought not this to work in our minds some strong sentiment of concern, and pity, and desire that they may be brought out of the gulf of darkness and ruin in which they are paced?
II. This feeling of human nature receives an increase of power and tenderness WHEN THERE IS A MELANCHOLY DEGENERACY IN ANY TO WHOM SUCH AN ASSOCIATION ENDEARS US. Have none of us known the pain of such a feeling? When we see the child of an honoured friend sunk in circumstances, broken in character, cast down from the station of respectability and dignity in society in which their honoured parents moved--such facts as these are exceedingly painful; and in proportion as theeminent merits, the usefulness, or the Christian godliness of the progenitors may be inscribed in our affection, in that proportion should we bitterly lament when their prosperity have their honours laid low in the dust. This is a feeling which applies in the present case, “Our Lord sprang out of Judah,” but what has since happened to Judah? The Prince of life deigned to take our nature, to be born of the tribe of Judah, but that tribe and the other branches of the nation of Israel who were connected with it are now in a state of dispersion. See the tribe from which our Lord sprung trampled down under foot, the sport of cruelty and oppression. It is no excuse for Christians that the descendants of the tribe of Judah have rejected the glory of their tribe; this in the sight of God is infinitely criminal, but this will not be remedied by adding insult and cruelty to their condition. And when, triumphant over death and hell, Christ rose and sent forth His servants to go into all the world, and preach in His name repentance and remission of sins to mankind universally, He said, “Begin at Jerusalem.” Are we then the servants of the Lord Jesus? Then we must be animated with His temper an,! spirit. The unbelief and opposition of the Jewish nation, taken in general, against the Lord Jesus, so far from being a reason why we should be insensible to their spiritual condition, and leave them to perish in unbelief, affords the highest of all reasons why we should do all that we can to remove the evil from their eyes. (Dr. J. P. Smith.)
After the power of an endless life
The power of Christ’s endless life
This endless life is not the eternity He had with the Father before worlds began; it is His endless life as Mediator. The words mean an indissoluble or indestructible life, safe against the assault of all enemies, and secure from all decay, or possibility of diminution. It may be said, But is not this, after all, the same, for none but the eternal Son of God could become the endless Mediator? Yet, granting this, it leads us to a different point of view for contemplating the work of Christ. Do we not feel that in His incarnation, as God manifest in the flesh, we can have thoughts about God which we could never have gained from the study of the Divine nature in its absolute essence? And so, in considering the endless life of Christ, we may rise to conceptions and feelings about the world to come, and our share in it, which we could not receive from any attempt to grasp the idea of Christ’s original and eternal nature.
I. The first thought is the power which this endless life has of COMMUNICATING ITSELF. The very idea of such a life brings with it an inspiration of hope. That we should be able to think of a life like our own, but free from all the impurity which attaches to us going forward, age after age, without a break and without a check, rising and widening, a joy to itself and a source of joy to others: is it not something to make us hopeful about the soul of man? There is no creature around us that has such a power, and may we not then cherish the expectation of something corresponding to it in reality? But if moreover, we can come to the reasonable conclusion that such a life really exists; that One of the race has risen above the power of death; that He gave such evidence of it to those who were about Him as made them willing to endure any extremity, even to death, for this conviction; if He has been giving proofs of it since, by new spiritual life in the men, and new moral life in the nations, that have come into contact with Him, must there not be power in the faith of such an endless life? But the power of Christ’s endless life does more than communicate the hope of it to others, it gives the possession. When the original well of life had been talented and poisoned by sin, He came to open up a new and pure fountain. He secures for us a pardon consistent with righteousness, without which it could have brought no real life. He begins a new life in the soul, which has hard and manifold struggles with the fierce reluctance of the old nature. He encourages, strengthens, renews it, and at last makes it victorious. All this He does not merely by presenting knowledge, but by an act of creation through the Holy Spirit. He gives, not the perception or hope, but the possession of it. “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Now we may begin to see what power there is in the endless life of Christ. It belongs to Him, not to reserve it for Himself, but to be-tow it on all who will take it from His hand who do not shut their eyes and steel their hearts against the gracious influences that are visiting the world through His death on earth and His life in heaven. But in order to this He must have a continued life. Ha,! it been merely an example, a system of doctrine. He might have diet and left it to itself, but for a power He must live, and live onward. Men are being born who need Him, and they will be born while this world exists, men who have sins, sorrows, temptations, death; nothing can help them--none but Christ Himself, and so He must have the power of an endless life. And even when all are gathered in from earth, when time in its present form is closed, and another kind of time, an eternal time, begins, He will be needed. He will be the Mediator between the unseen God and man for ever, through whom they see God, and know Him, and have fellowship with Him.
II. This thought, which we have been trying to express, contains the germ of all we can say, but we may attempt to unfold it in some of its applications. Let us think then of the power Christ has in His endless life of CONVEYING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. Death is the one great barrier between man and growth. What secrets might the man of science wring from the bosom of nature, if he had countless years in which to put his questions, and mark the answers! What wisdom might philosophers gain if they could watch for ages the course of thought and the currents of emotion! But what wrecks lie scattered around us of plans scarcely begun, and what noble thoughts have passed away without an utterance! We do not say that there are no compensations for these short earthly lives, and no sufficient reason for this sad check to our fallen nature in the pursuit of knowledge. Sometimes, when we are disappointed and weary, we get reconciled to the pause, and are glad to think of rest. But when the soul is strong and wisdom sweet, the conception of endless progress in knowledge answers to something very profound in human nature. We recoil from death, not merely as the animal recoils, but because it cuts us off from answers to the greatest questions the spirit can raise. How fitting it would be that beside the tree of knowledge there should be the tree of life! And this want is met when we think of One in our nature with the power of an endless tile, who can be our Leader in all the paths of nature and providence and grace, by which souls can advance in the wisdom of God. All the experience which He gained in His own earthly life is carried up into the higher life, and with it all the experience of all the ages since, in His contact, through the Holy Spirit, with doubt and struggle and grief in the lives of men. Thus Christ is full of endless, fresh life in His Word, so that we find it deeper and higher, and need to grow at, to it. And when we pass in thought from this side of death to those who have entered into the immediate presence of Christ, we can see that the endless life of Christ has its relations to them. What we have in the word of God, they have in the living Christ.
III. We may think, next, of the SENSE OF UNITY IN CHRIST’S PLAN, which we may derive from the “power of His endless life.” There are two things secured for the unity of Christians by Christ’s unending life.
1. The first is a oneness of heart and sympathy. He became the centre of common affection, not a dead abstraction, but as a living person who draws them all to Himself, and infuses into them common feelings, not at one time or in one place, but through all time and in all places; and so the apostle, speaking of the unity of the Spirit, puts first the one Lord, and then the one God and Father. They are scattered through many generations and many lands, but the thought of an abiding, living Christ makes them brethren of the same family, puts into their heart the same life-blood, and prepares them for dwelling at last in the same house.
2. The other unity secured by this endless life of Christ is that of action. The Christian Church grows up under the hands of innumerable labourers. They come and go, and” are not suffered to continue by reason of death”; they have their own views and temperaments, and portions of the building bear the marks of it. There are chasms in the walls, raising and removing of scaffolding in dust and noise, to the perplexing of our brief lives. In the midst of all this there are minds eager for unity, and ready to take whatever seems to promise it. It is not to be found in any ecclesiastical despirtism, nor even in the outward gathering of faithful men under one discipline, good though this may be in its place. It is to be sought in the one heart of which we have spoken, going toward Christ, and then in ,he overruling plan which He carries out through all their work.
IV. Think, moreover, how the power of Christ’s endless life may fill us with the SPIRIT OF PATIENCE. Many of the evil schemes of the world come from the impatience that belongs to short lives. Even good men take ill-advised ways, because they are anxious for speedy results. They wish for something they can see, “Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants.” But he who has the power of an endless life will not only choose no ways that are unrighteous, he will not be hurried into any that are premature. A subject that causes doubt with many is the slow progress of justice and mercy in the world. See how sanguinary wars, iniquitous acts of oppression, great national vices and follies, run the weary round. There is progress; yes, there is progress; Christianity is slowly forming a moral opinion which compels men to have some pretext of right for war, and it is sending its messengers of healing to help friend and foe alike. But how tardy in its approach is the reign of righteousness and peace! The endless life of Christ is a source of comfort to us. He could very soon check the symptoms, but the disease would remain. The great problem is to put down sin not merely because it is opposed to the will of God, but because it is also opposed to the happiness of His universe; it is not simply a contention of power, but of goodness, and this needs time. The endless life of Christ gives Him patience in working for it, bringing His moral and spiritual motives to bear, and using His power at last for those whom no motives could persuade.
V. The last remark we make is that the power of Christ’s endless life opens THE PROSPECT OF ABIDING JOY. There is a philosophy of the present day called Pessimism, which holds that life is so entirely wretched, and the universe so tainted with misery, that the only resource possible is utter extinction. It proposes in various ways the question, Is life worth living? and after weighing its short pleasures against its long suffering, it concludes that non-existence for men, and, if it could be, for the universe, is the desirable goal. If those who put such questions would only be led to widen their inquiry, they might find that there are other balances than theirs in which the pains and pleasures of life are to be weighed. When we come to the emotions of the soul, the measure is not by quantity but by quality. There are moments of joy which outbalance years of toil and pain. The first glimpse of the New World to Columbus, the tremulous delight which seized Newton when he was in sight of the new law of gravitation, and which made him unable to finish the last figures of the calculation--these led them to forget as nothing sleepless nights and long anxieties and depressing fears. And there are greater things than these. The joy of selfsacrifice for the cause of truth and righteousness has been to some men more to be chosen than crowns and palaces, and has made flames unfelt as if He who walked in the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar were with them in the fire. This is the joy of souls, and Jesus Christ is the Lord of that kingdom where its home is fixed. (J. Ker, D. D.)
The power of an endless life
This word “after” is a word of correspondence, and implies two subjects brought into comparison. That Christ has the power of an endless life in His own person is certainty true; but to say that He is made a priest after this power, subjective in Himself, is awkward even to a degree that violates the natural grammar of speech. The word translated power in the text, is the original of our word dynamic, denoting a certain impetus, momentum, or causative force, which is cumulative, growing stronger and more impelling as it goes. And this is the nature of life or vital force universally--it is a force cumulative as long as it continues. It enters into matter as a building, organising, lifting power, and knows not how to stop till death stops it. We use the word “grow “ to describe its action, and it does not even know bow to subsist without growth. In which growth it lays hold continually of new material, expands in volume, and fills a larger sphere of body with its power. And yet we have, in the power thus developed, nothing more than a mere hint or initial sign of what is to be the real stature of his personality in the process of his everlasting development. We exist here only in the small, that God may have us in a state of flexibility, and bend or fashion us, at the best advantage, to the model of His own great life and character. What Christ, in His eternal priesthood, has done; or the fitness and practical necessity of it, as related to the stupendous exigency of our redemption. The great impediment which the gospel of Christ encounters in our world, that which most fatally hinders its reception or embrace, is that it is too great a work. It transcends our belief--it wears a look of extravagance, We are beings to insignificant and low to engage any such interest on the part of God, or justify any such expenditure. The preparations made, and the parts acted, are not in the proportions of reason, and the very terms of the great salvation have to our dull ears, a declamatory sound. How can we really think that the eternal God has set these more than epic machineries at work for such a creature as man? Christ therefore comes not as a problem given to our reason, but as a salvation offered to our faith. His passion reaches a deeper point in us than we can definitely think, and His Eternal Spirit is a healing priesthood for us, in the lowest and profoundest roots of our great immortality, those which we have never seen ourselves. (H Bushnell, D. D.)
Heaven--an endless life
Such is the nature of that life which Christ came to secure for the children of men. It is life, and life in its noblest sense--glorious, divine, eternal--in comparison with which all we haveknown of existence in this world is but a dream. The power of such a life! Life endless, unchangeable, save only from accumulating glory; perpetual in its freshness and boundless in its infinitude for ever and ever! It is this glory which is held out for our attainment. We who are here even in the death of trespasses and sins, are invited to seek it. It was to secure for us such a life, and to redeem us from the cause of death, that Christ came. He was made, not after the law of a carnal commandment--that is say, one that had merely to do with the body and with time. He was constituted, not for any temporary purpose, but in accordance with the plan of an eternal salvation. “The power of an endless life”--what is it?
1. It is a perfect life. They who enter upon it are without fault before the throne of God. There is no sin, no defilement, no spot, nor wrinkle, nor fear of evil.
2. This endless life is a social life. All the communicative and compaionable tendencies of our nature and powers of our being will be exercised in an enjoyment intensified by being shared with the beatific experience of others. The sight of others in glory will be infinite icy, a study of salvation, a rapture of delight. There will be the good and the holy of all gee and all worlds to love and rejoice with. There will be communion with Christ, sweeter than on the way to Emmaus, more frank and more loving than it hath entered the heart of man to imagine. There will be revealed to all the principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God in the salvation of man. There will be mutual study, nothing solitary, nothing exclusive, no need of guardian forms of courtesies, nor any distant or reserved civilities--no sense either of superiority or inferiority--all pride, jealousy,distrust, and envy, can find no entrance there. Divine love is the atmosphere of heaven; its blessed inhabitants dwell in love, for they dwell in God, and God is love; and in sweet forgetfulness of self, the happiness of others is as dear and delightful to each as their own.
3. It is a progressive life. The power of an endless life! The idea is truly magnificent. The idea of a life of an antediluvian--a life of a thousand years--is grand and imposing. What an accumulation of impulse and of power from generation to generation! But a thousand years are as one day in the arithmetic of an endless life. Our plans on earth are contracted, fragmentary, broken, and incomplete; but in the infinitude of eternal existence there will be nothing to prevent the execution of schemes encompassing all ages and all worlds. The understanding will be divinely illumined, the memory retentive and capacious.
(1) There will be progression in holiness--we mean in the power of holy habit. Perfect in the righteousness of Christ, there can be no improvement in the legal qualification for heaven; but as star differeth from star in glory, so in the reflection of that glory, which will be brighter and brighter as the soul knows more and more of the holiness and character of God.
(2) There will be progression in knowledge. For this there will be boundless room throughout eternity. What heart can conceive, what mind can measure, even in imagination, the infinite riches of the Creator’s wisdom and love! And thus the power of an endless life will progress in delight, in joy, in happiness unutterable, inconceivable. For ever increasing with the increase of the knowledge of God in Christ, ages on ages shall witness an undiminished freshness and novelty in the glory still to be revealed, a capacity of bliss for ever enlarging, and a volume of pleasure for ever accumulating. The joy arising from a sense of the love of God can have no limit--nay, must be, in the nature of things, positively and eternally progressive. The experience of a dying servant of God, recorded not long since, was in these words: “This is heaven begun. I have done with darkness for ever. Satan is vanquished. Nothing now remains but salvation with glory--eternal glory.” This was of God. It is His smile, His presence, His love, that cheers the pilgrim through the valley. (G. B.Cheerer.)
The indestructibility of Christ
In what way had the Jewish priests been appointed? “According to the law of a carnal commandment,” or ordinance, which was descent from Aaron. But this involved no certainty of their endowment with the true priestly helpfulness; they might or might not possess the gifts which distinguished their illustrious progenitor. Nay, it was rather a presumption against their endowment with these; for eminent qualities of mind and soul are not usually transmitted thus from generation to generation in the same family. Well, now, the apostle claims for Jesus that He was a Priest infinitely transcending them, and destined to set them aside, to banish them from the scene. And why? Because He was “made not after the law of a carnal ordinance, but after the power of an endless life.” He held the position undeniably. Multitudes of all classes and in many lands were looking up to Him and leaning on Him in spiritual matters; were turning confidingly to Him for spiritual guidance and succour; were calling Him, with eager reverence, Lord and Master. And how had He gained such position? Not by any appointment from without, nor by any recognised social rank into which He had been born, but by the might of what He was in Himself. He had been raised to it by no external edict or arrangement, but by an inward force--the force of the life with which He throbbed and overflowed. But it was the power of “endless life” which made Christ a Priest, aa, s the apostle, of life indissoluble, indestructible; by which He meant, I fancy, the irresistible strength and energy of the life in Him as distinguished from the dead perfunctoriness of the hereditary priests; that being life, and not death, it could not be suppressed or baffled, but was bound to thrust itself out and make itself felt, in spite of all difficulties and hindrances. How irresistibly strong and energetic the living spirit in Jesus, the force of His spiritual vitality, did prove itself! All the hostile circumstances and influences by which He was surrounded were unable to suppress it or prevent its triumph. They raged at Him, and eventually trampled Him to death. Nevertheless, He rose, and survived, and impressed Himself deeply on the world, became the acknowledged High Priest of millions, and the hereditary priesthood of Judea melted away before Him. But this is what I want to ask you: Is there not in Jesus a power of life indissoluble, indestructible--a power of life that withstands victoriously the wear of time, the shakings and convulsions wrought by the progress of knowledge, by the march of ideas, and the severest assaults of hostile criticism? Reiterated attempts have been made to resolve Him into mist or to reduce Him to clay. They have never succeeded; He has always reappeared; has always shone out afresh, with lustre undimmed, after each attempt; has been found looking down on us from above when the smoke of the attack has cleared away, with the same calm eyes and commanding aspect as before, like an angel in the sun. And, morally and spiritually, does not He remain the ideal, unsurpassed and unsurpassable--the ideal which gathers up and collects within it all the finest elements, all the best features of the various ideals represented by religions or nursed in the breasts of individuals--an ideal which we have never yet improved upon or advanced beyond? Yea, and after all our experiences and experiments in society, after all our projects and panaceas, who will not admit that the religion of Christ, generally embraced and practised, would be the life of the world--that nothing could bring us nearer to some realisation of the dream of the Golden Age than a general diffusion of His ethical ideas? After the lapse of nearly two thousand years, are we not learning to feel more than ever that if a new heaven and a new earth are to be reached, it must be by our uniting to follow these ethical ideas; that the way thither lies enfolded for us in His spirit and principles; that the penetration of society with Him would be the redemption of society. (S. A. Title.)
The incomparable priesthood
I. CHRIST’S PRIESTHOOD IS NOT AN ARBITRARY ORDINANCE, BUT A NECESSARY FACT.
1. Christ is a priest by the necessity of His own nature--God-man.
2. Christ is a priest by the necessity of depraved souls.
II. HIS PRIESTHOOD IS NOT A TEMPORARY ORDINANCE, BUT AN ENDLESS POWER.
1. His priesthood was not for the mere temporal interests of mankind.
2. His priesthood was not merely for the spiritual interest of the soul in time. (Homilist.)
The power of an endless life
There is a deep, mystic sense in which the life that Christ lived in this world--its infancy, its development, its temptations, its solitude, its conflicts, its sufferings, its joys, its holiness, its love, its dying, its rising--all is enacted over and over again in the soul and in the experience of every individual that lives in time, nay, beyond time into eternity. Who has not sometimes traced within himself the antitype to the type of Christ’s life that He lived upon this earth? What a view that gives us of the endlessness of that life which Jesus lived from Bethlehem to Bethany. And what a force there is in the fact; with what a power it must have invested, to the mind of Christ, every act, every deed, every word He spoke, as He walked His path of thirty years and three. But, apart from this mystic sense, in which the Holy Spirit re-casts in every Christian’s soul every feature of his Master’s life, see it more simply. Christ taught many things, and when He had taught them He passed away; but every word He said, as a precept, or a doctrine, or a promise, lives for the Church always. It stands now, and shall stand for ever, for evidence of faith or comfort to every one who is ever received into the Church’s pale. Or see Christ’s prayers--what were they? The first voices of that eternal intercession which goes up within the veil--beginnings ,.f petitions for His people’s sake, that will never cease--spoken here, this side the horizon, for this very end, that we might all know and realise how He is praying beyond it. And Christ, with His own hands, laid the foundation of the Church. And there it stood in its safeness, its gatherings, its order, its discipline, its unity, and its mission; and it is that same Church which He laid then, which is to outlive the universe, and “the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.” And Christ offered up, once for all, the sacrifice of Himself, to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world: but once though it be for all, do not we know that there is a sense--a sense, oh! how true to the eye of faith!--in which that blood is always flowing. Wherever there is a stain of guilt felt, is it not there ready to be poured out again to wash that stain away? But the efficacy of the “power” of Christ’s “endless life” does not stop here. It is the marvel of His grace that whatever is united to Christ by that union, shares His power; and hence it is not only His prerogative, it is yours and mine--“the power of an endless life.” You say a word--the word flies, and is lost, and never can be traced. But where is that word? It lives, and must live. It will meet you again. It, and all its effects--effects, it maybe, multiplying themselves into thousands and thousands, on and on, for ever and for ever. You think a thought--you receive an impression--you are conscious of a feeling. That thought, that feeling, that impression goes to make character, moral being; and that moral being is eternal; and in that eternity of being will be found again that thought, that impression, that feeling, which scarcely filled a space or occupied a moment. You do an act. It makes its little way, and that way gets marked; and so another way and another mark, in circles which have ,me centre, but no shore. You said a prayer, and there is no answer to it. But the prayer is recorded, and the record is imperishable, at the throne of God; and that prayer will live when you are dead. And who shall limit the answers, down to all generations of people? You form habits--you are always forming habits--every separate thing goes to habit--and these are to be your habits--your habits of mind and being to millions of ages. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
After the order of Melchisedec
The resemblance of Melchisedec to Christ
There is something very solemn in the thought that a man shall be lifted above his generation, moulded distinct from all his contemporaries, and thus stand out, not in respect of his own interest, but with a reference to some personage of a remote futurity--a pledge that he shall arise, a portraiture of his character and a specimen of his history. These instances are but few, and only appear in relation i o Him who was to come, and to the purposes of His mission. Prophet does not announce and foreshadow prophet. Christ only is thus predicted and prefigured. It is very important, in all these examinations, to hold fast as a first, principle that he correspondence which is supposed is not of the Messiah to any earlier personages, but of them to Him. He is the Prototype. Theirs only is the conformity. Like the morning planet that announces and catches the first light of the sun, these herald and reflect Him to whom they are so mysteriously bound.
I. WE SEE IN THE OFFICE OF PRIESTHOOD AN IDEA AND A PRINCIPLE WHICH EXCLUSIVELY BEAR UPON THE INCARNATE MANIFESTATION AND REDEEMING WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. From the beginning, the function of offering sacrifice was known and practised. The individual might act it for himself. It soon became vicarious. It grew into a service and a dignity. It widely, if not universally, obtained.
1. It was religious. All adoration and piety were founded upon it.
2. It was representative. He who was invested with it was “ordained for men in things pertaining to God.” But this was not all: he was rather appointed between heaven and the people than between the people and heaven.
3. It was divinely conferred. “No man taketh this honour unto himself; but he that is called of God.”
4. It was imparted by solemn induction. The candidate must pass through many ceremonials the most solemn and impressive.
It resolved itself into invariable duties.
1. To offer sacrifice. “Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices.” “Gifts” were oblations of a votive and eucharistic kind; “sacrifices” were the inflictions of death upon a victim, with confession of sin and hope of expiation. The flowers which grew just on the border of Eden might suffice for the one; the firstlings of the earliest folded flock were demanded for the other. The Messiah is the anti-type. “He has come a high priest of good things to come.” His temple was His own Body. His altar was His own Divinity. His ephod was His own authority. Yet in abasement and economic subordination, “He glorified not Himself to be made a high priest.” The blood of His sacrifice realises the twofold use of the emblem; it is the blood of sprinkling--toward the Divine throne for its honour and vindication, for its exercises of justice and mercy--toward the penitent sinner for his relief and hope, for his obedience of faith and love.
2. To present intercession. The priests, the ministers of the Lord, might weep between the porch and the altar; but our attention is turned to an advocacy more efficacious and direct. The high priest went alone into the holiest once every year. “We have such a High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” His sacrifice is single and complete. It cannot be repeated. ‘But it is continually presented. “He now appeareth in the presence of God for us.”
3. To pronounce benediction. “The Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bless in His name.” “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them.” The language is preserved (Numbers 6:23, &c.). It seems the outline of Christian formula. But it was not to be given until the sacrifice had bled and until the incense was kindled. The more painful and anxious ministrations were first to be accomplished. Our Lord, clothed in the days of His flesh with poverty and humiliation, seen in the form of a servant and the fashion of a man, having laid aside the ensigns of His glory, has now gone into heaven. His array on earth was for abasement, for sacrifice. “Many were astonished at Him.” He is now within the veil, and the heaven has closed upon Him as the curtain hid the most holy place. His intercession there is the cause and source of all spiritual blessings. Perfect analogies we cannot expect in relations like these. The law was the “shadow,” but not the “perfect image.” In the priesthood of our Saviour there must be peculiarities which cannot be reflected nor transferred.
(1) It is real. The title is not allusively conferred upon Him because it is common and known. Whatever is common and known in the title is only derived from His office.
(2) It is roundest on His actual death. He was at the same time Victim and Priest. He was “made perfect,” or consecrated to His work, “by sufferings.”
(3) It is strictly meritorious. There could be no congruity between the hecatomb and the effacement of human guilt. But in the death of Christ is a moral strength and right which the Scripture most emphatically describes.
(4) It is most tender in its design. “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
(5) It is associated with all other necessary offices. His suretyship of the new covenant involves these relations. He is Priest, Prophet, and King. Melchisedec was a priest and a king, but not a prophet; Samuel was a prophet and a priest, but not a king; David was a king and a prophet, but not a priest. All these high trusts and duties unite in Him who is the Prophet raised up unto us, the High Priest of our profession, and the King set upon the holy hill of Zion. The eternal perpetuity of His priesthood, which the text affirms, must, as a fact, embrace certain consequences which may be readily defined. It is not the exaggeration or poetry of truth, but a simple statement of it. What does it involve?
1. The influence of the atonement and intercession of Jesus Christ is supposed in the one idea of mediation. Merit and moral power are its effects. To this we owe all that justifies and cleanses the soul. We must ascribe to the same source the blessing of eternal life. Such an office can never cease to operate.
2. The union of the Divine and human natures in the person of Immanuel, as necessary to His priesthood, cannot, if that priesthood be eternal, admit of termination.
3. Whatever be the honours and rewards of His priesthood, they shall be eternal. His robe of light shall not decay. His tiara shall not dim. We may look deeper into this truth. There shall be a manifestation of principles, arising out of His incarnate and mediatorial work, which can only gather strength and clearness through all duration. He will be glorified in their exhibition and influence. There has also been brought by Him to His heavenly kingdom a countless multitude of redeemed sinners of our race. These were once enemies; all of them were alienated from the favour and the service of God. By His priesthood He has reconciled them to both. They have access to the Divine presence and sympathy with the Divine will. They stand forth before Him. He shall see His seed. They have become a holy nation--a royal priesthood, priests of God and of Christ. They offer themselves a living sacrifice. They offer to God the sacrifice of praise continually,
II. WE PROCEED TO CONSIDER THAT PARTICULAR RIFLE OR ARRANGEMENT IN WHICH THE HIGH-PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST IS CONSTITUTED AND DECLARED. It is necessary to collect, if we would form a proper and consistent judgment, whatever is recorded of Melchisedec, from his first appearance in sacred history, until he is made in far later inspired Scripture the subject of allusion and illustration.
1. It seems probable, though we would lay upon it no undue stress, that the fragmentary history of Melchisedec was not destitute of design. A sort of ambiguity belongs to it, not inherent in it as a whole, but because it is so singularly told. The curtain arises, there passes before us the suddenly apparelled actor; but ere we can discern his intent, it drops. The stranger crosses our path, hut as we would require his anxious errand, he disappears. The star shoots along the firmament, and all again is dark. Advantage seems taken of this sudden emergence, this undeveloped character, to give greater depth of resemblance to that Prototype whom it respects. “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name?” “No one knoweth who the Son is.” “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” “He hath a name written, that no one knoweth but He Himself.”
2. “The order” of this priesthood was doubtless primaeval. There is no disproof from chronology that Melchisedec might be Shem, “the father of all the children of Eber.” He lived five hundred years after the flood. We know that in him is the direct genealogy of Christ. But this is unimportant to our argument. It was assimilated to patriarchal service. It was that religion. Long before the Levitical ritual was given, the same “pattern” prevailed. The Aaronic rule was defective, a temporary relief, a mere substitute: Christ shall not be “called of God a high priest” in subjection to it. The Melchisedaican class was unchanging, germinant, comprehensive, initial; it is according to its perfect idea of pontificate that Christ shall be installed.
3. The resemblance is much promoted when we observe in type and counterpart the union of the regal and sacerdotal dignities. Censer and sceptre are in his hand; crown and mitre are on his head. Be passes from temple to palace, from palace to temple; from throne to altar, from altar to throne. His personal name and puissant style are significant. He is king of righteousness and king of peace. His capital, notwithstanding a thousand revolutions, still endures. He was not “the mighty hunter before the Lord,” the bloody tyrant, the desolating scourge; his reign was that of blameless justice and of benignant concord. The king is not lost in the priest. It is a sanctified alliance. Now our Lord is a priest for ever after this order.
4. The priesthood of Salem knew no separating demarcation. It regarded man with perfect impartiality. The high, altar of Calvary is covered wit, the “propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” The breast-plate of our High Priest is inscribed with all peoples. There is henceforth no middle wall of partition. Rival distinctions of speech, climate, and complexion are abolished, Nor is this anomalous. It is but a reverting to principles older than Judaism.
5. This order of priesthood involves an entireness and self-independence. It is pronounced by the historian that “he was the priest of the most high God.” The inspired commentator dilates upon this ministry in words confessedly remarkable: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life: he abideth a priest continually,” or uninterruptedly. We may premise from language so strong as this, that his office was immediately conferred, and that it could not possibly be alienated.
6. The oath which confirms the Saviour’s “order” is calculated to give it the deepest impression. “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent.” Bow much of interest must be contained in this order of priesthood! How should it awaken our study! The Lord doth not lift up His hand to heaven and swear by Himself, but for that which is great and dread and glorious! He will not afford this sanction to any dispensation and its priesthood which is temporary, national, interstitial; but seizing the purest Conception of atonement which earth could afford--the least diverted, admixed, corrupted by any taint of earth--the truest idea, the simplest abstract, the surest pledge of priesthood--as when God pitched the awful tent at the east of Eden and wrought for the guilty, naked fugitives garments from their sacrifices--honouring all this in the person and vocation of His servant Melchisedec--“the Lord said unto my Lord--the Lord sware and will not repent--Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec!”
7. Nor is another descriptive feature of this early priesthood to be depreciated. That strangeness which surrounds it simply arises from the broken and incomplete character of the narrative. It is not in any sense even the biographic sketch. It is but a segment, a single section, without reference to the extremes of human being. Nothing is guessed. That bare and abrupt account is made the basis of every reasoning. All we have to do with him is contained in that account. There consists all his typic importance. Not a single extraneous point is pressed. And this is not without its lesson. The everlasting priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ is wholly a revelation. Any idea that illustrates it, in cypher and image, is wisdom from above.
8. The symbols which this royal priest brought forth in meeting Abraham are not to be overlooked. They were the signs of oblation. The bread was for a perpetual offering in the ancient temple, and the wine was a libation poured continually upon the ancient altar. And when we hear that Christ is after this “order,” is it vain imagination to think of Him “who took bread and brake it, who took the cup and gave it”? Was it but accident that bread and wine were before Him? Were they not Paschal relics? Is their appropriation arbitrary? Is it not conformable to sacrificial law? Did not these aliments always signify the flesh and blood of sacrifice? And in our Christian feast, that feast on sacrifice, we behold them dedicate to one commemoration--Christ’s offered, though sinless, humanity! (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
Christ a Priest after the similitude of Melchisedec
I. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC COMBINED WITH IT REGAL AUTHORITY.
II. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC WAS FOR MANKIND RATHER THAN FOR A CLASS.
III. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC WAS MORALLY INFLUENTIAL. It touched the heart of Abraham, so that he “gave the tenth of the spoils.”
1. Christ’s priestly blessings, wherever truly received, will awaken gratitude.
2. Gratitude awakened will prompt generous contributions.
3. Such contributions are the only legitimate secular instrumentality for promoting the gospel.
IV. THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHISEDEC HAD NO HUMAN ANCESTRY.
V. THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST REMAINS FOR EVER WITHOUT A SUCCESSOR. (Homilist.)
Christ--a Priest and King
As a Priest, He relieves us from the curse and the guilt of sin; as a King, He relieves us from the power and the dominion of sin. By His sacrifice as a Priest He restores us to the Divine favour; by His sceptre as a King He creates within us the Divine image. If Jesus were not our Priest, we should lie under the curse; if Jesus were not our King, we should lie under the power and dominion of sin. By His priestly office we are pardoned; by His kingly office we are sanctified. In the first we have a title to heaven; in the last we have a fitness for heaven. It is as necessary that we should be made fit for the enjoyments of the blessed, as that we should have a title and a right to enter on the privileges of the blessed. And hence we believe in Christ, not only as our great High Priest, but also as our great and Almighty King. (J. Cumming.)
A priest after the order of Melchisedec
Two orders of priesthood are referred to in the Scriptures-that of Melchisedec and that of Aaron. Certain functions were common to both, such as sacrifice, intercession, and blessing. The text implies peculiarities in the order of Melchisedec, and that it was in some respects superior to that of Aaron. These were
1. That it was a royal order. Melchisedec was berth king and priest, which was never the case in the Mosaic economy. He was arrayed with double honour--a king of righteoustness and a priest of the Most High God; He received tribute from Abraham, and conferred his blessing upon him. In these respects he typified Christ, who was the Head of His Church, and thus their King; while He was also Saviour of the Church, which is His body, and so their Priest.
2. Its universality. The Levitical order was national and limited in its scope, and its honours and privileges were for the Jew alone. In Melchisedec’s day there were no Jews. No nation bad yet been chosen as the peculiar people of God. Humanity was one, and Melchisedec was a priest of humanity. The shadow of his mitre extended as far as the shadow of his crown, and the incense of his intercession covered all that his sceptre swayed. Christ was a Priest of this higher order. He never once called Himself the Son of Judah, but on sixty-three occasions the Son of Man. The intercession of the high priest was bruited to those for whom he offered sacrifice, arid no sacrifice was offered for Gentiles on the Great Day of Atonement. The extent of Christ’s intercession was evidenced by three little words. All, every, the whole. “Christ died for all.” “He tasted death for every man”; “for the sins of the whole world.”
3. It was intransissible. Melchisedec’s priesthood began and ended with himself, and thus differed from the Levitical, which was strictly dependent on an unbroken pedigree, on both father’s and mother’s side. Melchisedec was selected as one specially qualified for the office. The Levitical priests were officially, but not always personally, holy. Christ, too, fulfilled this requirement.
4. It was a perpetual priesthood. Under the Levitical law the priest could hold his office only between the ages of thirty and fifty. In Melchisedec’s day no such law obtained. The Levitical priest died out of his office, Christ in the exercise of His office. In the grave of Joseph He was still a Priest. That was His robing-room, where He was preparing for His everlasting work of intercession, putting off mortality that He might put on immortality. The golden bells on the hem of the high priest’s robe rang when he sprinkled the blood of the covenant upon and below the mercy-seat, and thus conveyed the assurance to the silent multitude without that their priest still lived, and that their sacrifice was accepted. These golden bells were paralleled by the declarations of the Word of God, such as “He is consecrated a Priest for evermore”; “I am He that liveth and was dead,” &c. Then there was the great bell of God’s oath, “The Lord hath sworn and will not repent; Thou art a Priest for ever,” &c. (R. Roberts.)
The law made nothing perfect
The old and new dispensations
The text tells us plainly that “the law made nothing perfect.” Now what are we to understand by this? It is not said that the law did not perfect everything, but that “the law made nothing perfect.” Are we, then to say that it was useless? The law in this passage means the dispensation of Moses, and are we at liberty to say that, since it “made nothing perfect,” that dispensation was in every point of view utterly useless? But of what is the apostle speaking when he says that “the law made nothing perfect”? Does he mean that it did no good to the Jews? Does he mean that it made no perfect, consistent, definite discoveries to them? This were to make it useless indeed. But the apostle means no such thing; he is speaking of the salvation of the world, and when he speaks of the law as “making nothing perfect,” he means to say that, with regard to the spiritual salvation of the world, it made nothing perfect. It did not touch that salvation at all; it did nothing for the spiritual salvation of the Jews; it did nothing for the spiritual salvation of the Gentiles; it could do nothing, it was intended to do nothing, for either. When we speak of the law as making nothing perfect with regard to spiritual salvation, it may be asked whether the Jews then had no salvation revealed to them. We answer that they had, but not in the law of Moses. You are not to take the whole of the Old Testament as belonging to the dispensation of Moses because it was delivered under that dispensation. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many of the prophets often discourse about the spiritual condition and character of the people, but there is nothing of that kind in the law of Moses. Here are discoveries made while the Jewish dispensation yet continued, but they are no part of the ancient economy. We must not receive any portion of the Old Testament which does not belong to the law of Moses as a part of that law. Looking at the subject, then, as leading us to a division between the parts of the Old Testament--the one part including the economy of Moses, the other the instructions of the prophets, of John the Baptist, and of the Saviour Himself--we shall find that the Jews had spiritual discoveries made to them beyond and irrespective of the disco-reties of the law of Moses. The law of Moses was not intended to teach them this spiritual department; it made nothing perfect there, though it made everything perfect within its own province. It provided a perfect division of the tribes; it provided a perfect appropriation of the land; it provided a perfect arrangement for rites and ceremonies; it provided a perfect arrangement for distinguishing between the Jews and Gentiles; it provided a perfect provision for the prevention of idolatry and of the practice of idolatrous rites; it provided, moreover, a perfect system of civil legislation for the management of affairs between man and man among-t the Jewish people. All these arrangements were perfect, and in all these respects instead of making nothing, the law made everything perfect. If its perfect commandment were not obeyed, that did not make them the less perfect in themselves. The imperfection rested in that case with the disobedient. So far as the provisions of the law of Moses were concerned, they came from a perfect God, and they were perfect provisions.
1. In the first place, the Jewish dispensation was temporal, while the Christian is spiritual. Look through the whole of the law of Moses, examine every precept which it contains, and you will not find one enactment connected with spiritual and eternal salvation. Hence with regard to this you see at once that it “made nothing perfect.” It was intended to form a nation; it was intended to preserve that nation from mixing with the idolatrous nations of the earth; and hence you will find that all its rites and sacrifices were meant and adapted to remind the people of their transgressions, and to prevent them from going after other lords and other gods; whilst other peculiar provisions of their economy were intended to keep up the middle wall of partition between them and the Gentiles, lest the idolatry of the one should overwhelm the worship of the true God offered by the other. The altar, however, was a national altar; the sacrifices were national sacrifices; they all had reference to present things, to the present world, to the state of the Jewish people in the present world; and there is not, within the whole range of them, one single allusion to the world to come. Hence you will find that the priests and the Levites were instructors of the people, not instructors of the people in their eternal salvation. Prophets were raised up from time to time for this purpose, sometimes from the priesthood and sometimes from the sheepfold; not official characters described by the law of Moses, but characters raised up by Divine Providence to treat of the spiritual and eternal salvation of the people. You see, therefore, how the Jews might receive knowledge of the way of salvation, though they did not receive it through the law of Moses, and yet the law of Moses was necessary to prevent them from being lost amidst the idolatrous nations around them. We have said that the New Testament dispensation is spiritual as contrasted with the old economy, which we have shown you was temporal and worldly. Now, when we come to look at the New Testament dispensation, we not only find that it was spiritual, but we find that it was nothing else. As the economy of Moses was temporal, and temporal only, so the economy of Christ is spiritual, and spiritual only. It sets up no class of men clothed with worldly authority; it gives to no kingdom on earth worldly power. It deals with its disciples as persons having immortal souls that are to be trained by holy consistency in time into meetness for the glory of immortality.
2. The Jewish economy was limited m its extent, while the Christian economy is universal. The Jewish economy, as you are aware, was to be confine! to the Jewish nation. They were to have only one place of sacrifice, and that a place which God should choose. To this place they were to go up three times a year, at least all the males in Israel, to celebrate the feasts; and as there was a prohibition against carrying out the law in any place except Judaea, the one place appointed for that purpose, it is quite clear that the Jewish economy was to be an economy of limited range with regard to territorial extent. It is very true that there might be Gentile proselytes, proselyted to the Jewish economy, and acknowledging the one living and true God, and if they were in Palestine they might, in that part of it which was appointed for that purpose, present their offerings; but it was only in Palestine, and in that one spot which God had chosen, that the Jewish economy could be fully acted upon. Thus it is evident that the Jewish economy was to be of limited extent as to territory. Bat this was not the case with the Christian dispensation. The Christian economy, a, you arc aware, was intended to spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and from the rising to the setting of the sun.
3. The Jewish dispensation was temporary and intended to be temporary, while the Christian is intended to be perpetual. That a dispensation should be confined to one country, and yet be intended to be perpetual, would imply that God had doomed all other countries to everlasting darkness and everlasting alienation. This was far from being His intention. It was His intention to enlarge the range of territory over which His religion should spread; it was His intention to remove and abolish the temporary system by which the territory of true religion had long been limited. The whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews proceeds upon this principle; it shows that the Jewish dispensation was temporary, and the Christian perpetual, in duration; and it contrasts the one with the other. It shows that Aaron and his descendants were priests only for a tithe, but that Christ is a Priest for ever. Looking, then, at the Jewish dispensation as thus contrasted with the Christian economy, the perpetuity of which we need not dwell upon because it is admitted by all, I think we may clearly see the characteristic distinctions between the two. And if we look at one as worldly and the other as spiritual; if we look at one as limited in the range of its observances and the other as universal; if we look at one as temporary in its duration and the other as perpetual, we must see that we have no right at any time to blend the two dispensations of the Word of God; the distinction between them is clear if we will but keep it; and if we lose sight of it, away with ever, thing like sound principles of interpretation in reference to the New Testament. We defy any one to make a correct interpretation of the New Testament if there is to be a blending of the two dispensations.
4. But, finally, to show you that it is of great importance to distinguish between the Old Testament dispensation and the new, and that a serious evil is likely to result from blending them, we have now to notice two steps in the abolition of the ancient economy. The first step is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Saviour expired, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom. This was heaven’s own intimation--that heaven’s own economy had now passed away. It had done its work; it was required no more; and henceforth any person that would blend it with the new dispensation would be acting against the intimation which God had given of its abolition when He rent the vail of the temple. But there was another step in the abolition of the law of Moses. The Jews did not attend to this intimation. They maintained the perpetuity of the law; they refused to yield. The sacrifices at Jerusalem were still continued. The rites and ceremonies of Moses were still observed. But did this perseverance in keeping up the Jewish dispensation succeed? It was under the hands of God destined for the powerful arms of Titus to do what the Jews refused to do, and those arms scattered their temple, and their altar, and their city, and themselves to the winds of heaven. There was the abolition of ,he Jewish dispensation by an event of Divine providence. The people refused to abolish it themselves, but henceforth it was impossible to observe the law of Moses, because the place which God had chosen was taken by the arms of Rome, and belonged no more to the ancient people of God. How strikingly does this bring the abolition of the Old Testament dispensation before us! (John Burner.)
The impotence of the law
Man is naturally a legalist. He desires to be justified by his own character and his own works, and dislikes the thought of being accepted upon the ground of another’s merits. All confidence in personal virtue, all appeals to civil integrity, all attendance upon the ordinance of the Christian religion without the exercise of the Christian’s penitence and faith, is, in reality, an exhibition of that same legal unevangelic spirit which in its extreme form inflated the Pharisee, and led him to tithe mist, anise, and cummin. Still, think ,rid act as men may, the method of God in the gospel is the only method. God knows that, however anxiously a transgressor may strive to pacify his conscience and prepare it for the judgment day, its deep remorse can be removed only by the brood of incarnate Deity; that, however sedulously be may attempt to obey the law, he will utterly fail, unless he us inwardly renewed and strengthened by the Holy Ghost. He knows that mere bare law can make no sinner perfect again, but that only the bringing in of a “better hope” can, a hope by the which we draw nigh to God. The text leads us to inquire, Why cannot the moral law make fallen man perfect? Or, in other words, “Why cannot the ten commandments save a sinner?” That we may answer this question, we must first understand what is meant by a perfect man. It is one in whom there is no defect or fault of any kind--one, therefore, who has no perturbation in his conscience, and no sin in his heart; who is entirely at peace with himself and with God, and whose affections are in perfect comformity with the Divine law. But fallen man, man as we find him universally, is characterised by both a remorseful conscience and an evil heart. He lacks perfection, therefore, in two particulars: first, in respect to acquittal at the bar of justice; and secondly, in respect to inward purity. That, therefore, which proposes to make him p-fleet again must quiet the sense of guilt upon valid grounds, and must produce a holy character. If the method fails in either of these two respects, it fails altogether in making a perfect man. But how can the moral law, or the ceremonial law, or both united, produce within the human soul the cheerful, liberating sense of acquittal and reconciliation with God’s justice? Why, the very function and work of law, in all its forms, is to condemn and terrify the transgressor; how, then, can it calm and soothe him? Or, is there anything in the performance of duty, in the act of obeying law, that is adapted to produce this result by taking away guilt? Plainly not. For there is nothing compensatory, nothing cancelling, nothing of the nature of a satisfaction of justice, in the best obedience that was ever rendered to moral law by saint, angel, or seraph. Because the creature owes the whole. Whoever attempts the discharge of duties for the purpose of atoning for his sins takes a direct method of increasing the pains and perturbations which he seeks to remove. The more he thinks of law, and the more he endeavours to obey it for the purpose of purchasing the pardon of past transgression, the more wretched does he become. Shall the ten commandments of Sinai, in any of their forms or uses, send a cooling and calming virtue through the hot conscience? With these kindling flashes in his guilt-stricken spirit, shall he run into the very identical fire that kindled them? Let us fix it, then as a fact, that the feeling of culpability and unreconciliation can never be removed so long as we do not look entirely away from our own character and works to the mere pure mercy of God in the blood of Christ. The other requisite, in order that fallen man may become perfect again, is a holy heart and will. Can the moral law originate this? That we may rightly answer the question, let us remember that a holy will is one that keeps the law of God spontaneously, and that a perfect heart is one that sends forth holy affections and pure thoughts as naturally as the sinful heart sends forth unholy affections and impure thoughts. And now we ask, Can the law generate all this excellence within the human soul? In order to answer this question we must consider the nature of law and the manner of its operation. The law as antithetic to the gospel, and as the word is employed in the text, is in its nature mandatory and minatory. It commands, and it threatens. This is the style of its operation. Can a perfect heart be originated in a sinner by these two methods? Is he moulded by it? Does it congenially sway and incline him? On the contrary, is he not excited to opposition by it? When the commandment “comes,” loaded down with menace and damnation, does not sin “revive,” as the apostle affirms? Romans 7:9-12). Arrest the transgressor in the very act of disobedience, and ring in his ears the “Thou shalt not” of the Decalogue and does he find that the law has the power to alter his inclination, to overcome his carnal mind, and make him perfect in holiness? On the contrary, the more you ply him with the stern command, and the more you emphasise the awful threatening, the more do you make him conscious of inward sin and awaken his depravity. There is no more touching poem in all literature than that one in which the pensive and moral Schiller portrays the struggle of an ingenious youth who would find the source of moral purification in the moral law; who would seek the power that can transform him in the mere imperatives of his conscience and the mere strugglings and spasms of his own will. He represents him as endeavouring earnestly and long to feel the force of obligation, and as toiling sedulously to school himself into virtue by the bare power, by the dead lift, of duty. But the longer he tries, the more he loathes the restraints of law. Virtue, instead of growing lovely to him, becomes more and more severe, austere, and repellent. His life, as the Scripture phrases it, is “under law,” and not under love. There is nothing spontaneous, nothing willing, nothing genial in his religion. He does not enjoy religion, but he endures religion. Conscience does not, in the least, renovate his will, but merely cheeks it, or goads it. He becomes wearied and worn, and conscious that after all his self-schooling he is the same creature at heart, in his disposition and affections, that he was at the commencement of the effort, he cries out, “Oh! Virtue, take back thy crown and let me sin.” The tired and disgusted soul would once more do a spontaneous thing. Was, then, that which is good made death unto this youth by a Divine arrangement? Is this the original and necessary relation which law sustains to the will and affections of an accountable creature? Must the pure and holy law of God, from the very nature of things, be a weariness and a curse? God forbid! But sin that it might appear sin, working death in the sinner by that which is good--that sin by the commandment might become, might be seen to be, exceeding sinful. The law is like a chemical test. It eats into sin enough to show what sin is, and there it steps. Of what use, then, is the law to a fallen man? some one will ask. Why is the commandment enunciated in the Scriptures, and why is the Christian ministry perpetually preaching it to men dead in trespasses and sins? If the law can subdue no man’s obstinate will, and can renovate no man’s corrupt heart--if it can make nothing perfect in human character--then, “wherefore serveth the law? … It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19). It is preached and forced home in order to detect sin, but not to remove it; to bring men to a consciousness of the evil of their hearts, but not to change their hearts. It is easy to see, by a moment’s reflection, that, from the nature of the case, the moral law cannot be a source of spiritual life and sanctification to a soul that has lost these. For law primarily supposes life, supposes an obedient inclination, and therefore does not produce it. God made man upright, and in this state be could and did keep the commands of Go a perfectly. If, therefore, by any subsequent action upon their part, mankind have gone out of the primary relationship in which they stood to law and have by their apostasy lost all holy sympathy with it, and all affectionate disposition to obey it, it only remains for the law, not to change along with them, but to continue immutably the same pure and righteous thing, and to say, “Obey perfectly, and thou shalt live; disobey in a single instance, and thou shalt die.’” But the text teaches us that, although the law can make no sinful man perfect, either upon the side of justification or of sanctification, “the bringing in of a better hope” can. This hope is the evangelic hope--the yearning desire, and the humble trust to be forgiven through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be sanctified by the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost. A simple, but a most powerful thing! Do as the law, in its abrupt and terrible operation in my conscience, start out the feeling of guiltiness until I throb with anguish and moral fear? I hope, I trust, I ask, to be pardoned through the blood of the Eternal Son of God, my Redeemer. I will answer all these accusation of law and conscience by pleading what my Lord has done. Again, does the law search me, and probe me, and elicit me, and reveal me, until I would shrink out of the sight of God and of myself? I hope, I trust I ask, to be made pure as the angels, spotless as the seraphim, by the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit.
1. The unfolding of this text of Scripture shows, in the first place, the importance of having a distinct and discriminating conception of law, and especially, f its proper function in reference to a sinful being.
2. In the second place, the unfolding of this text shows the importance of using the law faithfully and fearlessly within its own limits, and in accordance with its proper function. It is frequently asked what the sinner shall do in the work of salvation. The answer is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart. Be continually applying the law of God to your personal character and conduct. Keep as active and a searching conscience within your sinful soul. Use the high, broad, and strict commandment, if God as an instrumentality by which all ease and all indifference in shall be banished from the breast. Employ all this apparatus of torture, as perhaps it may seem to you in some sorrowful hours, and break up that moral lethargy which is ruining so many souls. And then cease this work the instant you have experimentally found out that the law reaches a limit beyond which it cannot go--that it forgives none of the sins which it detects, produces no change in the heart whose vileness it reveals, and makes no lost sinner perfect again. Having used the law legitimately for purposes of illumination and conviction merely, leave it for ever as a source of justification and sanctification, and seek these in Christ’s atonement and the Holy Spirit’s gracious operation in the heart. Then sin shall not have dominion over you, for you shall not be under law, but under grace. (W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)
The inefficiency of law
1. That the law could not justify or sanctify any person, or make him perfect, by reconciling him to God and procuring salvation for him.
2. That believers of old, who lived under the law, did not live upon the law, but upon the hope of Christ, or Christ hoped for. Could justification and salvation bare been had any other way, or by any other means, Christ’s coming had been needless, and His death in vain.
3. That the introduction of a better hope by the gospel, after a sufficient discovery made of the weakness and insufficiency of the law, did make all things perfect, or bring the Church to that state of consummation which was designed unto it.
4. That when all mankind were at an inconceivable distance from God, it was infinite condescension of grace to appoint His own Son, who was the blessed hope of the saints under the Old Testament, to be the only way and means of our approaching unto Him. (W. Burkitt, M. A.)
The law cannot cleanse
The law is a looking-glass, which my lady holds up to her face that she may see if there be any spot in it; but she cannot wash her face with the looking-glass. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The law cannot heal
The law forces out the disease that is spreading under the skin. Such is its task. But healing it does not bring. (Harless.)
The bringing in of a better hope
The better hope
I. THAN WHAT THIS HOPE IS BETTER. It is not so much the law which it transcends, for the law is holy, just, and good--both the law and the hope are from God, each as He appoints--but we may as, that this hope is far better than all other hopes, whether for the present world or for the world to come.
II. IN WHAT SENSE IT IS BETTER.
1. In the sense of the eretical as well as practical life, in the sense of satisfying and exalting the mind, of informing and sanctifying human nature, in the sense of development and culture, in the sense of current progress and of final destiny.
2. Because of its animating principle, Divine love in the form of mercy, manifested grace.
3. Because of its foundation, standing on the great remedial system of the one atonement, Christ offered, all claims satisfied, all parties approving.
4. In its securities, for it abides in the everlasting purpose, above every disturbing element. It cannot be hindered or thwarted.
5. In its design and adaptation, for it secures in man and for him what nothing else can secure. It makes him a noble character, conformed to truth and justice, and produces this assimilation by means at once manifold and mysterious, but most effectual and most satisfactory.
6. In its aspirations, for it looks ,p into eternity, unlimited by the narrow bounds of time. It takes hold upon the existence which lies beyond, and counts the longest, brightest, most emblazoned life on earth as nothing to the dawning of the day which breaks beyond the tomb--a moment of fleeting twilight before the eternal splendour flows.
7. In its influence and effect. He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself.
III. To WHOM IT IS BETTER.
1. For the poor. They have little to hope for here. Their crust is dry; their cup bitter; their friends few; their days are wearisome and their nights desolate; life one desert; experience one blank; to them fortune is misfortune; time a burden; care a mill-stone about the neck; distress everywhere; relief nowhere. But when the better hope comes to them, oh, how changed they are! What a light springs up for their feet! what a joy is born in their heart!
2. For those who are toiling to build up the kingdom of Christ in this world. It has been the prop of God’s ministers in all ages. The prophets had it, and the apostles, and all the heralds of the cross that ever went forth, as they will have it who go forth to the latest time.
3. For all the afflicted. You say, How is it? I cannot tell. It is a mystery--God’s greatest mystery of love! Many a mourner has tried it, and many a widow and many an orphan child, and it never failed.
4. For the tempted in all the walks of life. It is better than all the contingencies, than all the dreams of earth. If you doubt this, try for yourself and see. No man was ever confounded in it; one hour’s experience of its value is worth all abstract theory or speculation.
5. For the dying. Sooner or later we must each lie down. And what does a man want then? The friends, riches, honours, titles of this world, what can they do for him then? Surely he wants the better hope, the perfecting, saving hope of the believer; the hope that carries him bravely through the struggle, over the river, on before the throne, and plants him there a king and priest for ever unto God! We know this Christian hope can do it. It is no spider’s web, no expectation of the wicked hypocrite or deceiver. It springs from the broken body and the falling blood of Jesus, gendered in His wounds--a river of life shooting from the decays of death; its garlands being abroad in heaven, its strong fibres take hold of the beams of the habitation of the Eternal God! (B. Sunderland, D. D.)
The better hope
I. A HOPE FOR HOLINESS, NOT SALVATION,
II. A HOPE THAT IS CERTAIN NOT ILLUSORY. Moral goodness is attainable for all.
III. A HOPE THAT IS EXPANDING, NOT NARROWING. Directed to a common good--a good that cannot be monopolised--a good that is infinite as God.
IV. A HOPE THAT IS OPERATIVE, NOV INACTIVE. It works benevolently, devoutly, unremittingly; works to purify and to bless. (Homilist.)
Two kinds of hope
Hope may be a flatterer; it may be a true friend. It may be a light unto my path, or it may be an ingis fatuus to lure my feet to death. Many have been saved by hope, many have been lost by hope. When an Ohio river steamboat was burned, a passenger was drowned by a defect in his life, preserver. The first thing I do on entering the state-room of a steamer or ship is to examine my life-preserver. I once found one with the strings so insecure that if I had trusted to it, it would have betrayed me. How dreadful to trust hope, to follow hope, to be lost by hope! It is not apt to be so with that hope which comes of trial, which grows out of discipline, which has its door in the “valley of Achor.” The trouble with joy-born hope, nurtured in sunshine and luxury and ease--the trouble with such hope is that it is conceited. It looks to self and not to God. It is based upon a continuance of prosperity. These cannot always continue. All of its joy has come from the quiet and comfort of its own narrow life. Such hope is doomed to sure disaster. It is like the spider spinning his silken web out of his own bowels, and laying his beautiful geometrical plans, when one sudden sweep from a counter plan brushes the graceful spinner and his work into one black ball of dirt, in which we find his hopes have become his winding-sheet. (R. S. Barrett.)
A better hope
“The law”--given by Moses--was a law as complete and “perfect” as was ever made. See how St. Paul speaks of it: “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good.” “If there had been a law given which could have given life,” that is, if any law could have given us life, “verily righteousness should have been by the law.” It was perfect. Then why that strange conclusion, “The law made nothing perfect.” Was it for the badness which is in man a badness with which no law can cope, or was it from any necessary, inherent insufficiency in that law, and in all law? I believe that we should be right to say both, but that the truest answer lies in the second. But first, What is perfection? What constitutes anything morally perfect? I should say a right action with a right motive. The motive will not do without the action, and the action will not do without the motive. But “law” can never in itself make a perfect motive. “Law,” by itself, strictly speaking, has little or nothing to do with motives. Now the Christian religion, on the other hand, meets man as a sinner, and immediately sets before him a field of “hope.” It tells him, “The debt you have incurred to God has been all paid. The punishment you deserve another has borne it for you. Your past is all cut off and obliterated. You may make an entirely new start, unshackled by anything that lies behind. A new power will enter into you, which will enable you to make changes which of yourself you could not make. You will be able to give up your sin, and to conquer it. You will have new affections, and new happinesses, and new aims in life. God loves you. He loves you now. You will soon feel His love. And He will be unto you a Father, a Guide, a Friend; and you will lead a good, happy, honourable, useful life. You will find what you have never yet found in the world--satisfaction. You will have peace of mind. Your friends will be God’s friends. And God will use you in His blessed service.” Now, do not yon see that just such “a better hope” as that will immediately awake in that man’s soul, if he receives it, very different feelings from any he ever had before? Will not that “better hope” soften him, purify him, assimilate him? Will it not begin to make love? So the true motive is being introduced into that man’s mind--love. He can scarcely help but love. And “love makes perfect.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
We draw nigh unto God
The banished restored
There are two forms in which men need to “draw nigh,” and in which believers do “draw nigh” “unto God.” By nature and wicked works, men are “far from God.” They are banished rebels, they are prodigal children who have wandered to a foreign land. In conversion and by faith the banished is restored, the wanderer comes home. This is one way of “drawing nigh unto God.” But another is specified Hebrews 10:22). That passage obviously relates to devotional intercourse with God. All spiritual worship, indeed, is a drawing nigh of the soul to the Father-Spirit of the universe. Much that is called worship, it is true, by no means realises this description. A man may regularly enter the house of prayer, a man may, with apparent reverence, fall upon his knees, and yet never “draw nigh to God.” But every pious soul, by prayer, and thanksgiving, and meditation, engages in this sublime and sacred exercise. And how? “By the better hope.” As by Christ and Christianity the sinner returns to God, so by Christ and Christianity the believer holds sweet and profitable fellowship with Heaven. A privilege--oh, how precious! A duty--oh, how urgent! Very thankful should we be for the Economy by which it may be realised; and very earnestly should we use that system for the fulfilment of the high design. (A. S. Patterson.)
Not without an oath
The priest ordained by the oath of God
I. Men should believe in Jesus Christ with their whole heart, and rely upon Him with unstaggering confidence: first, because of OUR LORD’S SPECIAL ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD. The Lord Jesus Christ was ordained to the priesthood, according to the 110th Psalm, in a manner distinct from all others. His ordination was unique, for neither Aaron, nor his sons, nor any of the priests of the tribe of Levi were ever ordained by an oath. But why an oath for Jesus and none for other priests?
1. Because of the greater dignity of Christ above all other priests that ever were, for He is the Son of the Highest, as they were not. They were men that had infirmity, but He is sinless. They lived and died, and so were changed, but “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.”
2. Another reason is found in the eternal character of His work. The priesthood of Aaron and his successors was intended to be temporary.
They were candles for the darkness, but the sun was to rise, and then they would not be needed; they were pictorial representations, but when the substance was come they would not be required. He allowed their priesthood to be one of imperfect men, because He intended by and by to supersede it by a perfect and enduring priesthood; hence no oath of God attended the ordination of the sons of Aaron. But our Lord Jesus Christ’s priesthood, and all the economy which He has ushered in, was intended by God to be perpetual, therefore doth He confirm it with an oath.
3. By an oath also was our Lord set apart, because of the reality of His priesthood, and the substance that dwelt in His sacrifice.
4. But perhaps to usward the main reason of Christ’s being installed in the priesthood by an oath of God is this, for the strengthening of our faith.
II. We ought to believe on the Lord Jesus because of THE SPECIAL CHARACTER OF HIS PRIESTHOOD. This is seen in the tenour of the Divine oath, which runs thus: “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
1. Our Lord is of the order of Melchisedec as surpassing and superseding all other priests.
2. It was a priesthood which united with itself the dignity of kingship. We ought to trust implicitly in one whose royal omnipotence supports His sacred merit. Double faith should be be-towed on him who exercises the double office of the kingdom and the priesthood.
3. Our faith should also rest on the fact that our Lord was, like Melchisedec, “without father, without mother.” Of His order there was none before Him--He is the only Priest of His line: none stood side by side with Him, for He needed none, and none can be compared with Him. By His one sacrifice He hath perfected all who accept His priesthood, and what more is needed? None can follow our Lord in His office. How can there be any successor to Him, since He hath an endless life, and in the power of that endless life ever liveth to make intercession for us?
4. This great Priest of our is Master of all, for as Melchisedec received homage from Abraham in the form of tithes, so doth our blessed Lord receive the reverence of all who believe.
5. Perhaps one of the main points about Melchisedec is that he is represented as bestowing blessing. Our Lord Jesus blesses all that trust Him; blesses them with the riches of heaven and earth, with the eternal Word which sustains their souls, and with supplies for this mortal life so that they live and praise Him.
6. Christ is never to be changed or superseded. He is a Priest for ever. As we read noticing of Melchisedec’s having given up the priesthood, so depend upon it Christ never will lay down His office while there remains a single man to be saved.
III. Notice that our text speaks of THE SUPERIORITY OF THE COVENANT UNDER WHICH OUR LORD OFFICIATES, in which, also, we shall find abundant argument for believing in Jesus.
1. The first covenant was conditional, and therefore liable to failure. There is no “if” in the covenant of grace.
2. The first covenant was typical and shadowy; it was but a school lesson for children. Christ is no surety of a mere model or pattern of things in the heavens, but of a covenant which deals with the heavenly things themselves, with real blessings, with true boons from God.
3. The first covenant was temporary: it was meant to be so. It was meant in part to teach the coming covenant, and in part to show the weakness of man and the necessity of Divine grace, but it was never meant to stand. This covenant of which Christ is the Surety standeth for ever and ever.
4. The old covenant was one in which there were imperfections Hebrews 8:7-9). In the economy of grace, of which our Lord is the Surety, no fault can be found, and in it there is no fuel for decay to feed upon.
IV. Now, of such a covenant or testament has Jesus Christ become the Priest and Surety, and with that we shall close, duelling upon THE RELATIONSHIP IN WHICH HE STANDS TO THAT COVENANT. Testaments do not need sureties, therefore the passage should be read “covenant.” But why did He turn from the idea of priesthood to that of suretyship? How is our Lord Jesus a Surety?
1. He is so because we are absolutely certain that the covenant of grace will stand because the Redeemer has come into the world and has died for us. The covenant now reads as a legacy, or a will, the will of God, the New Testament of the Most High. Christ has made it so, and the very fact that there is such a person as Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, living, bleeding, dying, risen, reigning, is the proof that this covenant stands secure though earth’s old columns bow.
2. But next, Christ is a Surety on God’s part. “Look,” says the Father, “have you ever doubted Me? Believe My Son. Have I not given Him to you? Is He not one with you in your nature? Has He not died for you? Surely, if I seem too great, and therefore too terrible for the grip of your faith, you may lay bold on the Well-beloved, your friend and kinsman; and you may see that I give Him to be for Me the pledge that I intend to keep the covenant of grace.”
3. But then mainly He is a Surety of the new covenant on our behalf. Adam entered into a covenant with God for us, but that covenant went to pieces in a very short time. Then the second Adam became our covenant head and surety, and represented us before God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A surety of a better testament
The surety of a better testament
1. The title given the gospel covenant, it is here called a better testament: better, not for substance, but for clearness; for substance, the old covenant dispensation and the new are the same: but the latter is made more clear, more free, more full, more surely ratified, by the death of Christ, and accompanied with a more weighty operation of the Spirit of God.
2. The title here given to Christ--He is the surety of a better testament. Our surety, because our sacrifice. The Socinians own Christ to be the surety of the covenant in respect of His holy life and exemplary death, sealing it as a testimony by His blood, but deny Him to be a surety in respect of His satisfaction, merit, and intercession. But, alas I as our sinful condition requires a mediator of redemption, so our changeable condition requires a mediator of intercession; and blessed be God, He has appointed one for both, even His own and only Son, who is a surety of a better testament. Learn thence that the Lord Jesus was not only made a surety on God’s part to us, to assure us that the promise of the covenant on His part should be performed, but was also a surety on our part, to furnish us with that grace and assistance which shall enable us to do answer, and perform all that is required on our part, that we may enjoy the benefit of the covenant, grace here, and glory hereafter. Christ has undertaken, as surety of the covenant, first, to satisfy for sin, by offering Himself a propitiatory sacrifice; and next to furnish forth a sufficiency of grace to enable for the fulfilling the conditions of the gospel covenant. (W. Burkitt, M. A.)
Not suffered to continue, by reason of death
Death terminating the pursuits of life
Thus it still fares with men, with ministers, with all. A simple lesson, but often poorly learned! That ultimately we shall “not be suffered to continue by reason of death” is oftentimes forgotten--sometimes, apparently, almost disbelieved. And even alas I when the fact is remembered and acknowledged, how frequent is it to overlook what death involves--the separation of body and soul; the source from which it emanates--sin; and the issues to which it leads--eternity, judgment, heaven, hell. In the very circumstance that deathremoves us from this terrestrial scene of things, and brings the professional pursuits of life to a termination, there is what should arrest and solemnise the mind. What a serious consideration this for worldly-minded and wicked men! What a pensive one even for the saints! “I must part with my library,” writes Richard Baxter in prospect of his death, “and shall turn over the pages of my pleasant books no more.” With death before them, well may men be cautious as to what temporal pursuits they choose. With death before them, how reasonable that ministers, and private Christians, should diligently ply the work of their sacred calling! A joyful thing it is to know that the faithful, in bidding the professional business of life farewell, shall pass to a nobler sphere of being, and a more illustrious kind of work. And amidst the funerals of the great and good, what a ground of hope and confidence is He--far greater and better than the best and greatest of them all--the High Priest who “continueth ever, and hath an unchangeable priesthood!” (A. S. Patterson.)
An unchangeable priesthood
The heavenly priesthood of our Lord
1. It is one and unchangeable (Hebrews 7:23-24). It was a weakness of the legal priesthood that, held by mortal men, the office had to be continually surrendered at the call of death. At the moment when “old experience” best fitted him for the discharge of his varied and often difficult duties, the priest of Aaron’s hue with his long gathered fitness was borne to the grave. At the moment when he had succeeded most completely in inspiring with confidence those who received the benefit of his priestly ministrations, his eyes closed upon their necessities and his ears to their cry. But it is not so with the Heavenly High Priest. In Hum the thought of “ many “ is fulfilled in that of one, the thought of the changing in that of the unchanging, the thought of a past to be cherished by the memory in that of the same living and abiding presence--“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever” (Hebrews 13:7-8). The worshipper under the better covenant might thus recall every instance of consolation given to the mourner, or guidance to the perplexed, or strength to the weak, known either to himself or learned from the history of others, and might feel that the same fountain of grace was open in all the fulness of its blessings to himself. In a spirit of unchanging trust he might build upon an unchanging Rock of Ages.
2. It is spiritual On this point the Levitical system had failed to satisfy the conscience (Hebrews 9:9-10) For a time it had served an important purpose. While the Jewish people were educating from the outward to the inward, from the carnal to the spiritual, while they were as yet unable to comprehend the true nature of God and of the worship which He required, it had inspired powerful, though still imperfect, nations of the disastrous consequences of forsaking, and of the glorious results of serving, Him. But the state of things then instituted could not continue. The education of men must advance, God must be better known, and the idea of sin be deepened. Thus the whole Judaic system would necessarily break down. “The blood of bulls and of goats cannot take away sin,” and a spiritual answer must be given to a spiritual need. That answer is given in the priesthood and in the priestly office of Christ. Identified with His spiritual offering, the offering of the will, believers offer up their wills to the Father of their spirits, and in His perfect offering they are accepted. By His offering they that are sanctified, or rather they that are being sanctified, are perfected for ever.
3. It is universal. The blessings of the Levitical system were confined to Israel. No stranger, unless first naturalised, might be partaker of its benefits. Human felling was kept in the isolation of a narrow groove. In the High Priesthood of Christ all distinctions between man and man fall away. He is not like Aaron the son of Israel. He is like Melchisedec a Son of man. In Him “there can be neither Jew nor Greek,” &c. (Galatians 3:28). Not, indeed, that such distinctions as lie in nature and providence are in themselves obliterated. But beneath them there is the common bond of a common love, in which all learn to feel for, to sympathise with, and to help, one another, for all are “one man in Christ Jesus.”
4. It is everlasting. The priests of Aaron’s line were made “after the law of a carnal commandment.” The High Priest of the Christian faith is made “after the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16). God Himself hath sworn to him,” Thou art a priest for ever.” His Priesthood endures through all the rolling years or ages of the Christian economy. Nay, it endures throughout eternity. It might be thought that, at last, when the end of life’s pilgrimage is reached and the number of the elect is gathered in to the safe protection of their heavenly home, there would be no need of a priesthood or a priest. But such is not the teaching of the New Testament. Rather are we taught that in Him, as Priest, must we always stand accepted before God. Throughout eternity the love of the Father must flow forth to us “in His name.” Therefore in the visions of the Revelation of St. John He is clad in priestly robes; and, in similar robes, in garments washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, His redeemed there either stand singing their song of grateful thanksgiving, or are guided by Him unto fountains of waters of life (chap. 7.). (W. Milligan, D. D.)
The ever-living priest
Our Lord is ordained unto an unchangeable priesthood; or rather, as the margin hath it, to a priesthood “which passeth not from one to another.” His office cannot be taken up by a successor: it is not transferable, but belongs to Himself alone, seeing He ever liveth to carry it out in His own person. We have only one Priest, and that one Priest we have for ever. In this we are not like Israel of old. I can conceive that to many Jewish believers the death of a priest was a great affliction. I could imagine an Israelite saying, “And so he is dead: that good man, that tender-spirited minister, that gentle and affectionate shepherd. I have told him all my heart, and now he is taken from me. I went to him in my youth in deep distress of conscience: he offered a sacrifice for me when I was unclean, and brought me near to the holy place. Since then I have gone to him when I have needed guidance; he has consulted the oracle on my behalf, and my way has been made plain. He knows the secrets of my family; he knows those delicate griefs which I have never dared to tell to anybody else. Alas! he is dead, and half my heart has perished. What a gap is made in my life by his decease!” The mourner would be told that his son had become his successor; but I think I hear him say, “Yes, I am aware of it: but the young man does not know what his father knew about me; and I could never again lay bare my heart. The son can never be in entire sympathy with all my sorrows as his good old father was. No doubt he is a good man, but he is not the same person: I reverenced every hair in the grey beard of the old high priest. I have grown up with him, and he has helped me so many, many times; it is so sad that I shall see his face no more.” There would always be the feeling in some minds that the next high priest might not be quite so acceptable with God, or so tender towards the congregation, as he who had passed away. He might be a man superior in education, but inferior in affection: he might be more austere and less tender, he might have greater gifts and less fatherliness. At any rate, it would seem like having to begin again when one went for the first time to the new priest: it would be a break in the continuity of one’s comfort. The quiet flow of life would be marred, as when a river comes to its rapids, and an impassable fall causes a break in the navigation, and a necessary unloading of the vessel and a laborious portage instead of an easy passage down a gently flowing stream. “Oh,” says one good Israelite, “the venerable high priest who has just fallen asleep was my friend; we took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.” Beloved, here is our comfort: we have only one Priest, and He ever liveth. He had no predecessor and He will have no successor, because He ever liveth personally to exercise the office of High Priest on our behalf. My soul reposes in the faith of His one sacrifice, offered once and no more. There is but one presenter of that one sacrifice, and never can there be another, since the One is all-sufficient, and He never dies. Jesus reads my heart and has always read it since it began to beat: He knows my griefs and has carried my sorrows from of old, and He will bear both them and me when old age shall shrivel up my strength. When I myself shall fall asleep in death He will not die, but will be ready to receive me into His own undying blessedness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The benefits of an unchanging priesthood
A question suggests itself. Why is the endless life of one high priest more effective than a succession, conceibably an endless succession, of high priests? The eternal priesthood involves two distinct, but mutually dependent, conceptions--power to save and intercession. In the case of any man, to live for ever means power. Even the body of our humiliation will be raised in power. Can the spirit, therefore, in the risen life, its own native home, be subject to weakness? What, then, shall we say of the risen and glorified Christ? The difference between Him and the high priests of earth is like the difference between the body that is raised and the body that dies. In Aaron priesthood is sown in corruption, dishonour, weakness; in Christ priesthood is raised in incorruption, in glory, in power. In Aaron it is sown a natural priesthood; in Christ it is raised a spiritual priesthood. It must be that the High Priest in heaven has power to save continually and completely. Whenever help is needed, He is living. But He ever lives that He may intercede. Apart from intercession on behalf of men, His power is not moral. It has no greatness, or joy, or meaning. Intercession is the moral content of His powerful existence. Whenever help is needed, He is living, and is mighty to save from sin, to rescue from death, to deliver Item its fear. (T. C.Edwards, D. D.)
Able also to save them to the uttermost
Christ the Saviour of sinners
THE ABILITY OF CHRIST TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST. That Christ is able to save, may be argued from His appointment to that work by the Father, whose infinite wisdom could employ no means inadequate to the purpose they were designed to accomplish. That He is able to save, may be argued from the dignity of His person, and His possession as God and as man of every qualification necessary in a Saviour. That He is able to save may be argued from the unequivocal testimony to that ability borne by all the subjects of His grace, both in earth and in heaven. That He is able to save, may be argued from the tokens of His Father’s approbation, by bringing Him forth from the prison of the grave, to which He was consigned by our sins, and investing Him with universal dominion for the Church’s weal. But we limit ourselves to the proof of His power to save to the uttermost, derived from the fact mentioned in our text, “that He ever liveth to make intercession.” To understand this, let us remember that in this chapter the apostle is setting forth, in various points, the superiority of the High Priest of our profession to the high priests of the legal dispensation.
II. SOME PARTICULAR POINTS IN WHICH THAT UNLIMITED POWER TO SAVE IS APPARENT,
1. His ability to save reaches to the uttermost depths of guilt and depravity; the greatest sinners may be pardoned, sanctified, and glorified through His power and grace.
2. He can save to the uttermost verge of life and time. “Though late repentance is seldom true, true repentance is never too late.” Let not the impenitence of sixty or seventy years tempt the aged man to cast his soul away. Long as the hardening process has gone on in his heart, a look to Christ on the cross may yet dissolve it in tears of deepest penitence. It is only when unmoved to the last that we can say, “The sinner, being an hundred years old, shall be accursed.” As Christ is thus able to save to the close of life, so He is not less able to save till time shall terminate. So long as there shall be guilty and perishing men, He can stretch forth His hand for their deliverance.
3. Christ can save to the uttermost extent of His people’s need. Salvation consists of innumerable benefits, all of which Christ is mighty to impart; but this topic being so extensive, we shall illustrate our statement by showing that He can save both body and soul, and save to eternity.
III. THE PERSONS ON WHOM THE POWER OF CHRIST TO SAVE SHALL BE EXERCISED: “all who come unto God through Him.” Without Him none can be saved; with Him none can be lost. (James Kirkwood, M. A.)
Salvation to the uttermost
I. JESUS CHRIST CAME INTO THE WORLD FOR THE PURPOSE OF MAN’S SALVATION. The pride of the evil heart is hardly willing to confess that it really needed a Saviour. The duty, then, of the preacher is to insist that Christ is the Saviour, and the only Saviour, of mankind. Sin had cast you down headlong to such an infinite depth that, bruised and bleeding by the fall, you could not climb up the steep ascents from darkness into light, from the power of Satan unto God. You were ruined, and you were helpless in your ruin; and to save you, to snatch you from perdition, Christ Jesus came into the world.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THIS SALVATION WHICH IS BY CHRIST.
1. His salvation covers the whole race of mankind.
2. It is salvation to the uttermost as regards the completeness and perfection of the means provided for the work.
3. In respect to its perfect consummation.
III. As TO THOSE WHO SHALL BE PARTAKERS OF THIS SALVATION.
1. Christ can only save in one accepted way, and that way is through Himself.
2. The atonement of Christ is made effectual for us by the exercise of sincere and loving faith.
3. If wisdom or amiability or any natural morality could save us, then Christ’s salvation would not be “salvation to the uttermost.” If what we can do is necessary to fill up the measure of demanded sacrifice, then Christ’s sacrifice is not infinite after all. And if Christ’s sacrifice is not infinite, then Christ Himself is not infinite. But if, on the other hand, Christ be infinite, if, therefore, His sacrifice be infinite, then the possibility of our coming acceptably to God in any other way is in the nature of things impossible.
4. Nay, more, it is an insult to Christ. Would it not be a grievous detraction from His glory who is worthy of all honour and praise if, after He had opened a new end living way for us through His flesh, God should accept the sinner coming to Him in any other way?
IV. IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES FLOWING FROM THESE TRUTHS.
1. What a debt of gratitude is imposed upon us by the preparation for us and the offering to us of this perfect salvation through Jesus Christ I
2. The perfection of Christ’s salvation is an inducement to an immediate acceptance of it.
3. A lesson of comfort and hope. In this world, even the best of men are continually obliged to struggle with sin. What a light, then, of consolation and hope is kindled for us in the text. He will save to the uttermost. The weak shall yet be strong; the impure shall yet be pure; the struggling, weary heart shall yet rest in perfection and peace beneath the smile of God, (W. Rudder, D. D.)
Salvation to the uttermost
I. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE TO BE SAVED.
1. Where these people come to. “Unto God.”
2. How they come. By Jesus Christ.
3. What they come for. Salvation.
4. In what style they come. Not with the pompous pride of the Pharisee, not with the cant of the good man who thinks he deserves salvation, but with the sincere cry of a penitent, with the earnest desire of a thirsty soul after living water. As my God who sits in heave, liveth, if you have not come to God in this fashion, you have not come to God at all; but if you have thus come to God, here is the glorious word for you--“He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him.”
II. WHAT IS THE MEASURE OF THE SAVIOUR’S ABILITY?
1. Sinner! Christ is” able to save to the uttermost”; by which we understand that the uttermost extent of guilt is not beyond the power of the Saviour. Can any one tell what is the uttermost amount to which a man might sin?
2. To the uttermost of rejection. There are a thousand prayers on which you have trampled, there are a hundred sermons all wasted on you, there are thousands of Sabbaths which you have thrown away; you have rejected Christ, you have despised His Spirit; but still He ceases not to cry, “Return! return!” He is “able to save thee to the uttermost,” if thou comest unto God by Him.
3. There is another case which demands my particular attention: it is that of the man who has gone to the uttermost of despair. Let me whisper to him words of consolation. Despairing soul! hope yet, for Christ “is able to save to the uttermost”; and though thou art put in the lowest dungeon of the castle of despair, though key after key hath been turned upon thee, and the iron grating of thy window forbids all filing, and the height of thy prison wall is so awful that thou couldst not expect to escape, yet let me tell thee, there is one at the gate who can break every bolt, and undo every lock; there is one who can lead thee out to God’s free air, and save thee yet, for though the worst may come to the worst, He “is able to save thee to the uttermost.”
4. And now a word to the saint, to comfort him; for this text is his also. Christ is able to save thee to the uttermost. Art thou brought very low by distress? hast thou lost house and home, friend and property? Remember, thou hast not come “to the uttermost” yet. Badly off as thou art, thou mightest be worse. He is able to save thee; and suppose it should come to this, that thou hadst not a rag left, nor a crust, nor a drop of water, still He would be able to save thee, for “He is able to save to the uttermost.” So with temptation. If thou shouldst have the sharpest temptation with which mortal was ever tried, He is able to save thee. If thou shouldst be brought into such a predicament that the toot of the devil should be upon thy neck, and the fiend should say, “Now I will make an end of thee,” God would be able to save thee then. Aye, and in the uttermost infirmity shouldst thou live for many a year, till thou art leaning on thy staff, and tottering along thy Weary life, if thou shouldst outlive Methuselah, thou couldst not live beyond the uttermost, and He would save thee then. Yea, and when thy little bark is launched by death upon the unknown sea of eternity, He wilt be with thee; and though thick vapours of gloomy darkness gather round thee, and thou canst not see into the dim future, though thy thoughts tell thee that thou wilt be destroyed, yet God wilt be “able to save thee to the uttermost.”
III. Now, in the last place, WHY IS IT THAT JESUS CHRIST IS “ABLE TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST”? The answer is, that He “ever liveth to make intercession for them.” This implies that He died, which is indeed the great source of His saving power. Oh I how sweet it is to reflect upon the great and wondrous works which Christ hath done, whereby He hath become “ the High Priest of our profession,” able to save us t That Man who once died on the cross is alive; that Jesus who was buried in the tomb is alive. If you ask me what He is doing, I bid you listen. “O My Father I forgive--! “Why, He mentioned your own name!” O My Father, forgive him; he knew not what he did. It is true he sinned against light, and knowledge, and warnings; sinned wilfully and woefully; but, Father, forgive him!” Penitent, if thou canst listen, thou wilt hear Him praying for thee. And that is why He is able to save. A warning and a question, and I have done. First, a warning. Remember, there is a limit to God’s mercy. I have told you from the Scriptures that “He is able to save to the uttermost”;. but there is a limit to His purpose to save. If I read the Bible rightly, there is one sin which can never be forgiven. It is the sin against the Holy Ghost. Tremble, unpardoned sinners, lest ye should commit that. And now, lastly, the question. Christ has done so much for you: what have you ever done for Him? Oh t there are some of you that will loathe yourselves when you know Christ because you did not treat Him better. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A great Saviour
Jesus is above all praise. As the stars disappear when the sun rises, so all subject fade away when we think of Christ. He is spoken of elsewhere as a Friend, Teacher, Light, Redeemer, Ransom, Physician, and here as a Great Saviour.
I. How JESUS SAVES.
1. Kindly. It is often said, “He was moved with compassion” (John 11:35).
2. Quickly. Sometimes accidents are long before they are healed. Christ heals and forgives “ straightway.”
3. Fully. “From their sins.” From pride, anger, hate, wrong words, evil thoughts. From death and hell to heaven.
II. WHOM HE SAVES.
1. “Them that come.” Christ is a Spring. If we thirst we must come. Bread of Life, Burden-bearer, Physician.
2. All who come. “To the uttermost.” Some children are much worse than others. They know more, and yet sin against God. But Christ can save the worst among us.
III. A GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT. Jesus still lives. The priests died. Our friends die. Jesus never dies. Let us come to Him to-day, and receive His great salvation. (R. Brown.)
I. WHOM DOES CHRIST SAVE? “Them that come unto God by Him.”
II. THE WAY IN WHICH HE SAVES THEM. “He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Christ stands for them, not they for themselves. He answers for their sins, He gives virtue to their services, He obtains supply for their wants.
1. The intercession of Christ is to us the source of safety.
2. The intercession of Christ Is to us the source of acceptance for our services.
3. Christ’s intercession procures the supply of all our wants.
III. THE COMPLETENESS AND PERFECTION OF THE SALVATION OFFERED IN CHRIST. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God through Him.”
1. He is able to save them to the uttermost from their guilt.
2. He is able to save them to the uttermost from their sins.
3. He is able to save to the uttermost through every obstacle. (G. Innes, M. A.)
I. THE SALVATION of man is THE MORAL COMING OF THE SOUL TO ITS GOD.
1. In low.
2. In likeness.
3. In fellowship.
II. The true coming of the soul to its God is THROUGH THE MEDIATORSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST. By bringing man back to God.
1. By demonstrating God’s love.
2. By revealing God’s character
3. By manifesting God’s presence.
III. The mediatorship of Christ for he purpose is PERMANENTLY AVAILABLE.
1. The saving virtues of His system are permanently available.
2. The saving agency of His Spirit is permanently available.
IV. The permanent availableness of His mediation RENDERS SALVATION POSSIBLE TO ALL. (Homilist.)
A Saviour to the uttermost
I. THIS COMING TO GOD BEGINS IN REPENTANCE. The pinch of hunger makes the prodigal cry out, “I am perishing with hunger.” This leads him to reflect on the past, and lays on his conscience the sense of guilt. “I will arise and go unto my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned.” That is his errand. Thus, want creates desire; desire expresses itself in prayer; faith sustains prayer; God’s promises and perfections sustain faith. Hence the universal law, “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” But though, in the Word, and through His works, God is revealed infinite in wisdom and in power, “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask, or even think,” though He is here revealed as condescending to our lowliness, pitying our weakness, merciful to our transgression; yet He is the Infinite Spirituality. Our senses cannot reach Him. No thought of ours can grasp His greatness. He is ineffably exalted, infinitely glorious, eternally true, inflexibly just, spotlessly pure--a moral glory, the blaze of which would entirely consume us if we got directly confronted with it. The reflecting man then asks, “How can I think of Him, of approaching Him, of speaking to Him?” You hope to be accepted. There is an intercessor--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. That intercessor has revealed His Father’s love, inviting us to go on. He has met every claim; He pleads our cause. Believing it, the mind enters into rest; the heart grows calm; there is a conscious approach to the Most High.
II. But, secondly, WE WILL GLANCE AT THE WORK OF CHRIST. “He ever liveth to make intercession.” An intercessor is a third person coming betwixt two others. He stands related to both, and is accepted by both. Thus it is said that the Holy Spirit intercedes. On the other hand, and God-ward, we say, “He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” The Divine Spirit dwells in the Divine mind, and all His impulses must be in perfect harmony with the Divine will. And, on the other hand, and in view of man, we say, “We know not what to pray for as we ought.” “The Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” We are sometimes so ignorant or so troubled that we can only groan out our desires; but as He prompts them, He fills them with meaning and secures their acceptance. Thus, too, the Divine Redeemer exalted in heaven is said to intercede, and to intercede on behalf of all those who offer prayer to God.
III. In the third place, we glance AT THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF THIS ABIDING INTERCESSION. By virtue thereof He saves. He is “able to save.” He is “able to save to the uttermost.” Oh, priceless words? Is there one sinburdened, beclouded mind, one needing a Saviour and conscious of it, one who feels that God is supreme good--that away from Him happiness and rest will be impossible, yet conscious of much to keep Him away--afraid? Oh I think of the Intercessor and the result of His intercession. He can save. “His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” This is the brief and yet full exposition of the message of the great and blessed Saviour, for concerning Him it is, to the end of time, “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” even the very chief. All the divinely illuminated have seen that Saviour. Their language is, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” They have welcomed Jesus, and they have Him in their hearts, and they have heard the words, “This day has salvation come to his house.” There is nothing of the kind anywhere else. I have read of all the systems of philosophy and religion, from the earliest days, and all over the world until now; but I know of nothing that pretends to bring this salvation but the glorious gospel. “Neither is there salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved.” But this is enough. “He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him.” Now, He not only saves, but He has power distinctively, for He is “ able to save.” The old predictions and invitations proclaim this. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” This, therefore, is the position in which the whole thing is presented to our minds in the New Testament. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” This, therefore, is our Lord’s special claim. Doubting, troubled soul, weary with the burden of thy sin, and anxious for rest, this is our Lord’s special claim. What He said to the blind man He says to you--“Believe ye that I am able to do this?” He honours faith, faith honours Him. “Be it unto you according to your faith.” One of the most familiar similitudes to represent the salvation of the soul is the deliverance of captives--men who have been made prisoners in war; These are lost men--lost to country, to kindred, to liberty, to honour, to hope; bound in chains, cast into dungeons, to suffer without pity, to toil without recompense, to weep, to groan, to die--no friend but death, no shelter but the grave. One comes to deliver. With strong hand He smites down the captor, and sets the captive free. In doing that He lost His life. He knew that He should, but He did it, notwithstanding- nay, with that very end in view. As the captives move away, gladly they say, “He died for me! He died for me!” “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” “Ever liveth,” and therefore “able to save to the uttermost.” In the margin the word is “for evermore.” “To the uttermost” perfectly, in every sense, and for every object. “To the uttermost.” Oh, sinking soul, the hand is strong; the hand is loving. Take hold of it. (John Aldis.)
Christ able to save
What is salvation? We cannot fully answer this question unless we knew the extreme evil and demerit of sin; unless we understood the worth of the soul, the duration of eternity, and the felicity of heaven. This we know, salvation is deliverance from sin and all its consequences; freedom from the curse of a broken law, and from the wrath of an offended God; the possession of pardon, peace, and growing purity in this life; and the full fruition of holiness, happiness, and glory in the life which is to come. Salvation includes whatever constitutes the perfection of our immortal nature, its highest enjoyment; and this enjoyment perpetuated to the countless ages of eternity. Christ is “ able to save.” We notice
I. His NATURAL ABILITY. His ability of nature, irrespective of any office He fills, or engagement He has made: in plain words, His ability as God.
II. HIS OFFICIAL ABILITY. His ability of office, in virtue of which it is His right, His prerogative, to save. The Son of God undertook the cause of ruined man: He became Mediator. This was the office He condescended to sustain; and in pursuance of this office He saves.
III. His MORAL ABILITY. His ability of mind, if it may be so expressed; His inclination: in one word, His willingness to save. And how does this appear? How is it proved? Consider
1. What He hath said. He hath given the strongest assurances of His ability, His resolution, to save; and shall we not believe Him?
2. What He hath done. He hath saved sinners, the greatest sinners; and facts are decisive.
3. What He is now doing is farther proof of the ability, the willingness, of the Saviour. I refer not to His intercession in heaven, though this is decisive; but to the grace which He bestows on earth, the saving power which He now exerts among the sons of men. (T. Kidd.)
Christ saves fully and evermore
The Greek term includes two things: to save fully, and to save evermore--both are included. They are put in the text, to save to the uttermost; they put into the margin, very properly, the other term, evermore; and both are included. The Lord Jesus saves to the uttermost from all the power of sin. He will give you power to conquer every evil--the yoke of iniquity will be removed--the chain by nature takes away, snapped asunder--and your souls enter into liberty through the blood of the covenant. He is able to save to the uttermost from all past guilt. He is able to save to the uttermost from all pollution. To cleanse the polluted heart--to destroy everything contrary to the Divine nature--to raise the soul to bear the stamp divine of the lovely image of our Lord. The marginal reading (evermore) is also to be included. “He is able to save evermore.” Oh, how common is the fear with many that if they were to enter into the heavenly way, and that if they were to connect themselves with the people of God, that they should very soon fall from grace, and make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. Cannot Jesus keep you? Will not His grace prove sufficient for you? Will He not save you in your dying hour? Is He not an almighty Saviour? We may often reflect on that subject when you and I stand on the verge of eternity. But whom will Jesus save? “All them that come unto God by Him.” We can only come to God through His atoning blood; there is no other way. (G. Marsden.)
Christ’s power to save sinners
I. THE POWER OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST TO SAVE SINNERS,
1. The perfection of His atoning sacrifice.
(1) The appointment of the Father.
(2) Immaculate purity.
(3) Voluntary substitution of Himself.
(4) The infinite majesty of His person.
2. The duration of His life, and the perpetuity of His office.
3. The prevalence of His never-ceasing intercession.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN HIS INTERCESSION.
1. The expression, “to come to God by Him,” implies a practical conviction of the existence of the one true God, in opposition to the polytheism and idolatry of the heathen nations.
2. It implies a conviction of guilt and ruin, and a simple dependence on Him for acceptance before God.
3. It implies an ardent attachment to those ordinances which God, through this High Priest, has in mercy appointed. It is in His ordinances that He has promised to bless.
4. It implies a consecration to Jehovah.
III. THE VAST EXTENT TO WHICH HIS SAVING POWER REACHES.
1. He is able to save to the utmost limit of this world’s duration.
2. He is able to save from the lowest gulf of guilt and ruin.
3. He is able to save from the lowest depths of defection and apostacy.
4. He is able to save at the last moment.
1. The vast importance of the doctrine of the Atonement.
2. The vast importance of the essential deity of Christ.
3. The necessity of a personal application of the blood of the
4. The encouragement which this doctrine affords to the weeping, broken-hearted penitent.
5. The most astonishing display of the love of God to man. (W. Thorpe.)
The suitableness of Christ as a Saviour to all who believe in Him
I. THE GLORIOUS TRUTH DECLARED. “He is able to save to the uttermost.”
1. The extent of His atonement.
(1) Infinite in merit.
(2) God has promised to pardon the sins of those who believe in His only begotten Son.
(3) The invitations of Scripture to believe in Christ are universal--without regard to persons.
(4) All men are directly or indirectly commanded to believe in Christ, or encouraged to do so.
(5) The Scriptures evidently assert that unbelief is a sin, and a sin which is threatened with endless punishment.
2. He is able to save to the uttermost as it regards the perfection of the work. The work of salvation by Christ will be perfect in the highest degree. And this will appear more glorious when you consider the lengths to which some have gone in a sinful course towards misery before they were arrested by the poser of sovereign grace.
3. He saves to the uttermost as it regards the duration of the work. And this may be considered in two respects.
(1) As it regards the work in this world. To the progress of Divine grace in the heart, there is often much opposition made by temptations, trials, and the remaining corruptions of a sinful heart of unbelief: but through all, Jesus Christ, as our faithful High Priest, is engaged to carry on the work to perfection, even in the weakest and the humblest of His people.
(2) His saving to the uttermost, with regard to the duration of it, may be considered in reference to the world that is to come. This salvation will be eternal.
II. THE MANNER WHICH THIS SALVATION IS OBTAINED. “Them that come unto God by Him.”
1. Christ as a Mediator is the only way of worship.
2. This implies faith in Him as our great High Priest, whereby we become interested in His saving power Faith in Him enables the believer to feel and Hebrews 10:19-22). As He is the Legislator of the New Testament dispensation, as well as the only Priest, we must worship God in the way of His appointment. We are to come unto the Father in His name, seeking the influence of the Holy Spirit to help our infirmities. We must also come with affiance in His mediatorial office, as to the acceptance of every act of worship and obedience. Without this simple reliance and humble confidence we can have no saving interest in the blessings of redemption through Him (John 15:6).
3. This will enable us to judge whether we are among the number of those who are saved through Him. If we are, we know what it is to plead His all-sufficient atonement before the mercy-seat as the only ground of our acceptance with God.
III. The REASON which the apostle assigns in confirmation of this truth: “Seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” This shows us
1. That the mediatorial work of Christ, while on earth, was accepted of God.
2. He lives to carry on the work of redemption. Though exalted at the right hand of the Majesty on high, yet He remembers His people below, and makes intercession for them above. (N. M. Harry.)
The almighty Saviour
I. First, let us look at THE OBJECT OF THE REDEEMER’S WORK. It is “to save.” What is it “to save”? To save implies much. It implies that it was the design of God that poor fallen man should be raised higher in felicity than he had sunk low in misery: “Who hath saved us, and called us, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace, which were in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” Then it implies that there is a Saviour; and who is that Saviour? And what is His name? And where does He dwell? If I turn to fallen man, he say, “Oh! He is not among us; I have not even righteousness enough to save myself.” If I turn to angels, they say, “He is not amongst us; we have no righteousness to spare.” If I turn to the sea, it says, “It is not in me.” If I turn to the earth, it brings me nothing but shame, and poverty, and want. And while I am musing and turning hither and thither, lo, a voice from the heavenly world arrests my attention, and says, “Behold My servant whom I uphold, Mine elect in whom My soul delighteth; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall show salvation unto the Gentiles, His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” And it includes, as well as implies, mark you, what it is to save. To save is to deliver an individual from the curse and condemnation of sin, from the rule and slavery of sin “from the consequences and dismal end of sin.
II. But you say to me, “Yes, it is true that this is the salvation that I should desire to enjoy; BUT NOW CAN I BE SURE THAT CHRIST WILL SAVE ME?” Well, that matter is quite settled; but, just to bring it before you a little, let me illustrate it. There are three things that make this sure in the ability which He has to secure this object. First, it is ensured by the dignity of Hi-person; secondly, it is ensured by the perfection, of His work; thirdly, it is ensured by His never-failing success.
III. Then here are THE PEOPLE WHOM HE WILL SAW: “them that come unto God by Him.” Mark the phraseology, for it is peculiar. “Them that come to God.” Ah! here is a change; all the man’s life was going from God; now he is coming to God. Here is the prodigal coming home; here is the criminal coming to God for mercy. But how can a poor, wretched, lost, guilty, undone criminal expect to find mercy of God? “Coming to God by Him.” Ah! that explains the difficulty, and removes it out of the way. O Lord! I have no name to come in, but I come in the name of Thy Son; I have no righteousness to offer before Thee, but I come in the robe of Thy Son; I have no merit, but I come in the merit of Him who hung upon the tree.
IV. Finally, here is THE REASON WHY THIS SALVATION IS TO BE EXERCISED UPON THESE PERSONS. “Seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” And an important reason this is. The comparison is drawn here between the priests under the law and Himself. They died; and they had to make atonement for themselves, as well as for the people. He had none to make for Himself; and He “ever liveth.” Oh! what a mercy for me that I have a living Saviour; that He is not dead, but that He lives, and lives to plead tot me; that His voice is heard in heaven--“whom the Father heareth always!”--and heard for me! What an encouragement it is to know that you have some one who will introduce you into the presence of the King, who will speak well for you, and is not accustomed to be refused! And here is one that “ever lives to make intercession”! You recollect that about the throne of glory there are certain vials, and these are the “praters of the saints.” So precious are these prayers, poor and imperfect as you think them, that they are put into vials to keep them; and so high is the estimation of them that they are put into golden vials, and God Himself says they are used as odours in the heavenly world. And if the prayers of my father, and my mother, and my sister, and my brother are so precious in God’s estimation, what must my Saviour’s intercession be? (James Sherman.)
The ability of Jesus Christ to save to the uttermost
In the text two things engage us: first, the character of the persons to whom it relates, “Those that come to God by Jesus Christ”; and, secondly, the ability of Jesus Christ to save such, and the extent of that ability, “He is able to save such to the uttermost.”
I. THE CHARACTER IS THAT OF THOSE WHO COME TO GOD BY JESUS CHRIST. The grand assumption of Christianity consists of two parts: first, that we stand in a natural relation to God; and, secondly, that we have violated this relation. The idea of coming to God seems to be taken from the practice of the Israelites as coming to the temple in their local worship: it is no longer now a local approach, it is a mental approach, a movement of the mind, a turning of the heart to God. This coming may be regarded under two aspects: we must come as subjects to obey God, and come as suppliants to enjoy God. Whoever so comes is the character that has t e comfort of the text, has a share in the redemption of Jesus Christ. But all that come to God must come by Jesus Christ.
II. THE ABILITY OF JESUS CHRIST TO SAVE SUCH, AND ITS EXTENT, “TO THE UTTERMOST.”
1. His ability.
(1) He alone is appointed by God: “Him hath God the Father sealed” to dispense the bread of life to dying sinners.
(2) He actually shed His blood as an atonement for sin.
(3) It is a clear evidence of His ability to save that God has raised Him up to sit at His own right hand.
(4) Since “He ever liveth in heaven to make intercession for them,” therefore He must be able to save believers. Whether His intercession is actual or merely virtual, literal or merely figurative, we may not be able to determine: probably it is the former; probably, as He interceded on earth for His followers, so He does in heaven; He continues the priesthood which commenced from His sacrifice and ascension: this seems implied in His words, “I will pray the Father.” He stands as a High Priest before the throne of God.
2. His ability to save extends “to the uttermost.”
(1) Every kind and degree of guilt is here included. The sins of men are very various; every man’s conscience reads a different history to him, peculiar to himself; every one that knows the plague of his heart is apt to suppose that he must be a greater sinner than all beside; must be, as the apostle considered himself, “the chief of sinners”; though this can be strictly true of only one of so many aggravations of sin present, themselves to his view, so many chicks and resolutions broken, so much light and grace resisted, so many mercies despised; surely no other offender ever equalled himself! But let these aggravations be what they may, the blood of Jesus Christ is adequate. And Jesus Christ saves “to the uttermost,” not only in regard to the first conversion of the sinner: there remains much yet to be effected aft-r his conversion, and Jesus Christ effects it.
(2) The extent of His ability through all duration is everywhere asserted. His blood, so to speak, is just as warm and fresh as when it was first shed; it has an undecaying virtue. (R. H Calf, M A.)
The power of Christ to save
I. As to the ability of Christ to save--this is considered under two different aspects: as to its extent or range, and as to its intrinsic efficacy. IT EXTENDS TO ALL THOSE WHO COME TO GOD BY HIM. For though the word “all” does not occur in the passage, it is of course implied. The phrase is precisely analogous to our Lord’s own words: “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out,” which is equivalent to saying, “Every one that cometh to Me shall certainly be received.” And this is a source of absolute and unqualified encouragement. For if you wish to come to God at all, how are you to come unless it be by Christ? His interposition as a third person is not the introduction of a harrier that arrests or impedes your approach On the contrary, as it is the aim of this Epistle to show, it is the one thing that makes that approach possible, and prevents it from being vain. For you cannot come to God in Himself just as you are. He is a remote impalpable presence, who retires in proportion as you advance, and who evades and eludes the embrace of the human heart. He may be a bright vision or an awful presence, but He will always remain above and beyond yet, a Being with whom you can have no fellowship, and who renders you no conscious help in the hour of temptation or the article of death. Besides, you are sinful, and the more earnestly’ you try to reach Him, the clearer to your own consciousness becomes the gulf between you, and the strength of the power that holds you back. You must either renounce the hope of reaching Got at all, and suffer Him gradually to vanish from your sight; or you must become content with a vague sentiment which will never quicken or sustain the heart, though it may invest your life with a certain measure of mystery and reverence. “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Now this definite knowledge of God, which otherwise we lack, and this restraint which is exercised by the power of our sin, is precisely what the intervention of Christ on the one hand provides, and on the other removes. In Him God becomes manifest in such a why as to be present clearly and powerfully to our thoughts. He is no longer an assemblage of qualities such as holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, which we painfully try to group together and cement into some sort of cohesion in our own mind. But in Christ all these receive their highest and purest conceivable expression, and are combined into the unity of a living Person, whose history lives before us in the pages of the Evangelists, and is impressed with an individuality at once most definite, unique, and indelible. Indeed, if you choose, you can know Christ better than those who are nearest to you on earth, and can have a much greater certainty as to His will. Moreover, in Him the mercy of God towards sinners, of which we have otherwise no assurance, workout for itself a perfectly free and unambiguous channel. In His sacrifice the claims of justice are satisfied, and satisfied by a love that willingly submits to the last extremity to achieve its beneficent end. His atonement opens His arms to the whole world, and presents Him in the attitude of an inviting and pitiful Saviour. Not to strike is His hand reached forth, but to help. Not to avenge is His arm uplifted, but to bring salvation, and beckon the weary and heavy laden to His rest. As One who will without fail bring you to God, as One who can forgive all your iniquities, and heal all your diseases, He calls you to Himself. When He cries it is God’s mercy that cries, a mercy that is boundless because it rests on a propitiation for the whole world. And if you wish to come to God there is nothing to hinder and everything to help you. Christ does not block the way, but opens it. “I am the door.” No one is met with a refusal, for every possible ground of refusal He has Himself abolished. None have failed of salvation because Christ could not save them. No one has come to Him and found that while He could bring every one else to God there was something in his case that baffled His power, or made him an exception to the free and universal offer of His help. But Christ’s ability to save not only meets us at the threshold, as it were, of our approach to God, and assures us of its sufficiency to bring us into His fellowship, it also assures us of His power to complete the process which He thus begins. He is able to save to the uttermost. This does not mean to the end of life, or up to the time of the Second Advent, though that is no doubt involved in the words. Nor does it mean that Christ’s power extends so far as to reach and include those that have gone even to the farthest verge or extremity of wickedness, for that has already been implied in the words we have just considered. The idea rather is that His power is adequate to secure the perfect salvation of all who come to Him, so that nothing shall be requited mr its completeness which He is unable to supply. And this is the assurance that we need. The smouldering fires of half-extinguished passion flicker up on the slightest provocation and strive to resume their old ascendancy. Evil habits reassert themselves at times, and seem as stubborn and unyielding as they ever were. Subtle currents of envy and malice betray their presence in the most humiliating ways, and a deep-seated pride and s If-righteousness refuses to acknowledge the power of the Cross. Not only so, winds of doctrine carry you about, spectres of doubt start up to trouble you. A dull indifference to Divine things, a sullen reluctance to rise to higher heights of holiness or consecration to God, baffles you and holds you down as with a dead weight. Indeed, there is so much in you that is opposed to God, and that seems to resist the influence and supremacy of grace, a perfect salvation, seems to you an almost impossible consummation. Now the successful issue of the process of salvation depends on what Christ is able to provide and to do. If there is any limit to His power, or any defect attaching to it, there will be a corresponding risk. If in any respect He is incompetent, then you may anticipate disaster. But in Him dwells all the fulness of Divine grace. Everything that we lack and require to have we find in Him and in its infinite perfection,. There is no weakness which He cannot develop into strength, no spiritual emptiness which He cannot fill, no darkness which He cannot enlighten. There are no hindrances so determined that He cannot carry you triumphantly over them, no temptations so insidious or strong but that He can make a way of escape so that you shall be able to bear them.
II. This saving ability of Christ rests upon THE FACT OF HIS EVER LIVING TO MAKE INTERCESSION. In this respect He presents a contrast to the Levitical priesthood. It passed from one to another as death removed the successive occupants of the office. But Christ abideth for ever, and there is no interruption to the continuity of His mediation. At no point does it cease even for a moment so that those He represents can possibly have their interests imperilled. Unbroken, it prolongs itself from age to age, unchanging in its character, and unintermittent in duration. For He is made a priest, not “after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” It is not, then, on the fact of a past atonement, but on the power of a bring Saviour your safety depends. That Christ died would be of no use to us if He were not alive now, and alive, so to speak, more mightily than He ever was before. Other men death removes from their intercourse with the world It brings Their direct influence and agency to an end. But death did not so affect Him. It produced no change in His activity, except to widen its range and intensify its energy. And now the whole of His priestly functions are taken up and absorbed in this one attitude or act of intercession How it proceeds it is difficult for us to say, anti it is not necessary that we should know. But He has left us an illustration in the prayer which He offered in the days of His flesh of how it was accomplished then, “and translating this into the modes of heavenly communion so far as we can imagine them we may perhaps form some conception of its character.” Of this at least we are assured--that it embraces and takes into account the whole sum of our necessities, and provides effectually for their supply. Our strongest and most earnest prayers, our confused and importunate petitions, our dumb and mute appeals, when the weight and pressure of life lie too heavily upon us, and we groan being burdened--all receive their pure, articulate, and prevailing expression in Him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and knows the frailty of our frame. Again, we may gather that the power of Christ’s intercession springs from His atonement. This is, so to speak, the basis on which it proceeds, the great argument which makes it conclusive. And what can make it more so? It is true our sins cry out for vengeance, but Christ’s blood cries still louder mercy. And its cry continues sustained, penetrating through all obstructions, resistless, clear, never failing to enter into the ears of God. (C. Moinet, M. A.)
Christ’s saving ability
I. CHRIST’S SAVING ABILITY.
1. The nature of this ability. Jesus possesses
(1) Meritorious ability.
(2) Official ability.
(3) Efficient ability.
(4) Gracious ability. He is as willing as able.
2. The extent of Christ’s saying ability. He is able to save “to the uttermost”
(1) From all the present and future consequences of sin.
(2) Into all the positive enjoyments of the Divine favour.
(3) From the lowest depths of sin and misery.
(4) At the last extremity of life.
(5) From the beginning to the end of our world’s duration.
(6) All and every man within our world’s circumference.
(7) Into all the inconceivable glories of eternal life.
II. THE CHARACTERS WHOM THIS SALVATION EMBRACES. Those who come unto God by Christ. This implies
1. Our distance from God. And in coming to God we must be sensible of it, feel it, deplore it, &c.
2. The movement of the heart towards Him.
3. The reception of God’s favour through Jesus Christ.
Application: Here see
1. The greatness of the salvation of the gospel.
2. Supreme dignity and power of the Redeemer.
3. The only way to obtain eternal life. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Why not be saved?
“Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” To convert the youthful soul which has never yet yielded to the fascination of sinful indulgence is a great work of God; but to save the man who knows the pleasures of sin and whose chief delight is to drink from its cup so that he shall loathe it as an abominable thing, is a greater miracle than the creation of the world. Now, the gospel is specially addressed to those who have given up all hope of being able to save themselves. Its chief statement is very startling, namely, that God loves the sinner. Let any man believe this fact, and salvation is half done already.
I. ALL MEN NEED SALVATION FROM SIN. YOU may exclaim, “Am I not as God made me?” You are not. He made you in His own image; but you have defaced that likeness by your own doing. Men give evidence against each other in the witness-box at the court of justice, but God is in each heart witnessing there to the sinner himself. God’s witness is true. We sometimes think it is our own better nature which warns us to avoid sin, but it is the voice of the Holy Spirit of God. A minister was preaching one day about the certainty of judgment, and sail, “I have warned you faithfully and earnestly, but if you do not hear my words, there is another voice which shall summon you to judgment.” At that moment a soldier jumped up, crying, “Oh, sir, stop! do not go any further” The Lord was speaking in that soldier’s soul, and showing him the vileness of his sins until he could sit still no longer. He thought the minister was speaking specially to him, and he cried out for fear of his sins. If there be sorrow for sin in your heart, let me repeat that it is caused by the Spirit of God. You say, “But I feel such an awful sinner!” I tell you in reply that it is the Lord who gives you the knowledge which makes you feel you are so wicked. Is it not an evidence of His love? You may be saved to-day. But, perhaps, you may tell me that you never have done anything wicked enough to send you to hell. In reply, I ask you to look at the record of your life. Does not that show you have done things of which you would be utterly ashamed if I were to mention them in your ear? If you have not done wickedly, why try so carefully to hide it from others? The Lord, through me, is now reminding you of sins which He saw you do. Likewise, God cannot allow you to enjoy any peace until you have confessed your sins to Him. Why have you continued in sin so long? Is it not because you think you can continue to hide it? It is often the greatest kindness God can do us when men discover and punish us for our sin. A few weeks ago, walking down Lower King Street, I saw one of our detectives place his hand upon the shoulder of a man who was looking into a shop window. When the thief turned his face and saw who had touched him, he was so startled as to jump in fear. The thief knew that he had broken the law, and he was afraid of the discovery. But you hay, sinned against God, and His Word is now the spiritual detective which lays hold of you. You tremble, but, remember, God lays hold of you to save you. He does not come to punish you, but to bless you. Instead of taking you to the prison of hell, He leads you to the Cross of Jesus to receive a full and everlasting pardon. Then He gives you grace to sin no more. But, others may tell us that they have never done any wickedness either in secret or in public. You have indeed much for which to be thankful. I should like to have you for my master or for my servant. But if you have done nothing that you think is wicked, have you not forgotten to attend to the wants of your suffering neighbour? If you have loved God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself, you do not need any Saviour. But have you not been selfish? Let me exhort you to cry to God for salvation to-night. You do not intend always to be wicked and selfish. Then, why not seek for salvation at once? Why delay? Will you not cry to God for pardon and mercy at once? We say sometimes, “It is a long lane that has no turning.” Stop! Cry for mercy! A friend of mine some time ago, through the carelessness of one of his men had a serious accident at his works through the bursting of a boiler. I said to him, “I suppose you will not employ the same man again.” He replied, “Oh yes, because he will always take good care in the future; and we shall not have a ,other explosion.” No doubt that man would be careful. But in)our case, you have not only sinned once and twice, but your life has been a continual fall. Ought not God to give you up? Surely He will be weary of trying to save you. But no, the Lord answers, “How can I give him up for whom I died?” Confess your sins to God. Say to Him, “Father, I am an unsaved wretch; I am Thy wicked child who begs for mercy!” Behold, the Lord calls you to come to Him for mercy, for pardon, and for peace. Come and trust. Him.
II. CHRIST IS ABLE TO SAVE ALL WHO COME UNTO GOD BY HIM.
1. The words and teaching of Christ tell us the truth. If we believe the word of Christ concerning God to be the truth we cannot help but love God. He tells us that God is our Father. Christ tells us that God has compassion on the penitent, and this makes us glad to come to Him. If He really loves us, why stay away?
2. The death of Jesus is the way by which God saves us from the penalty of sin. He is the Good Shepherd who layeth down His life for the sheep. Behold Him bearing our sins in His own body on the Cross! Behold the Lamb of God on the Cross and you shall be saved.
3. He ever liveth to intercede for us. The body of Jesus Christ is somewhere in the universe an evidence of God’s willingness to save sinners. Where is He? Is He not speaking to you and saying, “I died for thee”? Our Father needs no persuasion to look upon us with compassion. But there is one thing that is necessary--it is that God should come to you and persuade you to be saved. To-night, the Lord is not afar off, but near to all of us, and if you will read the words of Jesus you will clearly perceive that there is salvation to the very uttermost. (W. Birch.)
“To the uttermost”
I was once reading to a blind and aged Christian the verse in chap. 7.: “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them,” and he stopped me with the remark: “I like that word uttermost; it seems to me to have in it everything that a poor sinner can want.” (Sir E. Bayley, B. D.)
God offers a whole salvation
He comes to us with a whole salvation, with healing, cleansing, vivifying grace, which will grow in us, and develop us into perfectness. It is not the finger of direction, but the hand of help He gives us. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
God’s illimitable power to save
There is no limit to the power of the grace of God, save that which is imposed by ourselves. (Bp. Thorold.)
Salvation to the uttermost
Suppose I were drowning, and you drew me out of the deepest water, just in time to save my life, but then left me wet and shivering and exhausted on the bank, to run the more than risk of wretched after-effects of cold and rheumatism, from which I might never entirely recover! That would not be saving “to the uttermost” in this sense of the word. But if you did the thing completely,--carrying me home, and doing everything necessary to restore me and avert evil effects, and that effectually; never relaxing in care and effort, nor letting me go, till you had me safe and well, however long and difficult it might be, then you would have saved me “to the uttermost,” in the true meaning of it. This is what Jesus is able to do for you. Having saved you from destruction, His very name is the guarantee that He will not leave you to struggle helplessly with your sins, much less to “continue” in them, but that He shall save you from them. You will find it a daily continual salvation, by which He will keep you by the power of God through faith, unto the consummated salvation of body and soul, “ready to be revealed in the last time.” (F. R. Havergal.)
Christ’s saving power
The Emperor Theodosius, having on a great occasion opened all the prisons, and released his prisoners, is reported to have said. “And now, would to God I could open all the tombs, and give life to the dead!” But there is no limit to the mighty p wet and royal grace of Jesus. He opens the prisons of justice and the prisons of death with equal and infinite ease: He redeems nut the soul only, but the body. (C. Stanford.)
Salvation in Christ
Our salvation is in Christ and with Him, but not apart from Him. When a bank note or a gold coin is put into my hands, my money is in that, not apart from it. When a deed is signed, sealed, recorded, and delivered to me, my title is in my deed, and not apart from it. My bank note or gold coin will pay my debt and pay my journeying expenses. My deed will ensure me my farm. Even so in Christ I have my debt cancelled, my journeying support, and my heavenly inheritance all secure. (W. E. Boardman.)
A tested remedy
It is related that Bishop Kavanagh was one day walking when he met a prominent physician, who offered him a seat in his carriage. The physician was an infidel, and the conversation turned upon religion. “I am surprised,” said the doctor, “that such an intelligent man as you should believe such an old fable as that.” The Bishop said, “Doctor, suppose years ago some one had recommended to you a prescription for pulmonary consumption, and you had procured the prescription and taken it according to order, and had been cured of that terrible disease, what would you say of the man who would not try your prescription?” “I should say he was a fool.” “Twenty-five years ago,” said Kavanagh, “I tried the power of God’s grace. It made a different man of me. All these years I have preached salvation, and wherever accepted have never known it to fail.” What could a doctor say to such a testimony as that? And such testimonies are what men need to turn them from the error of their ways, to the personal experience of the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. “How would you prove the Divinity of Christ?” said some ministers to a young backwoods preacher whom they were examining. “What?” said be, puzzled by their question. “How would you prove the Divinity of Christ?” “Why, He saved my soul,” was the triumphant reply. But to give” this answer one must be saved, and know it in his heart, and show it in his life, and he then becomes a living epistle known and read of all men.
Salvation to the uttermost
Mr. Carl Steinman, who in 1846 made a trip to Iceland, thus describes a visit to the crater of Mount Hecla. On the brink he was prostrated by an eruption of the crater, and held a prisoner by the lava surrounding him. He says, “Oh, the horrors of that awful realisation! There, over the mouth of a black and heated abyss, I was held suspended, a helpless and conscious prisoner, to be hurled downward by the next great throe of trembling Nature. ‘Help! help! help! for the love of God, help!’ I shrieked in the very agony of my despair. I had nothing to rely upon but the mercy of Heaven, and I prayed to God as I never prayed before, to blot out my sins, and not let them tallow me to judgment. All at once I heard a shoot; and looking around. I beheld, with feelings that cannot be described, my faithful guide hastening down the side of the crater to my relief. ‘I warned you!’ he said. ‘You did!’ cried I, ‘but forgive and save me, for I am perishing.’ He reached out his hand and took me, and set my feet on solid ground. I was free, but still on the very verge of the awful pit.” Reader, is the lava of hell beginning to flow about you? are your feet already being entangled? Oh! make haste to reach out your hand to your Saviour and Guide, who is able to set your feet on the solid rock, and to stablish your ways. Oh! that you could see your danger, and seek refuge before it is too late. (C. W. Bibb.)
That come unto God by Him
Coming to God
A friend of one of the Imperial Caesars came to him with sad face and murmuring voice on account of the many troubles that oppressed him, but the Emperor replied, “Do not complain of thy misfortune so long as thou hast Caesar for thy friend.” Though most of us know what it is to suffer pain and grief, and often are overwhelmed by seas of trouble, yet we do not complain so long as we have the great King of kings for our friend. His kindly eye beholds every movement of our daily lives, and His sympathising mind numbers the very hairs of our head; His strong arm holds us in the narrow path of righteousness, and when we are weary His loving heart seeks to draw us to the pillow of His breast. Having God for our Friend, none need despair.
I. THE TEXT IMPLIES A SEPARATION FROM GOD. This separation is not of the body, but rather of the spirit within us, which directs our thoughts and actions.
1. It is a want of sympathy with God. Like a Christian father who has a wayward son. How near the two bodies are when the father grasps his son’s hand! Alas, what a distance there is between their souls!
2. It is a separation from communion with God. There has been a time in your life when, kneeling in your chamber, you have communed with God in prayer; you have sought a blessing and have obtained it; and your daily life was a continual walking with God. But sin like a mighty ocean, has separated you from the companionship of your Heavenly Father.
3. It is also a rebellion of heart. Oh, sinner, remember that though you have ceased to love your God, He still yearns over you, and even as a mother always keeps the image of her erring son in her heart, so your God never forgets you.
II. THE TEXT SPEAKS OF COMING TO GOD.
III. THE TEXT DIRECTS US HOW TO COME TO GOD.
1. We come to God, by Christ, as our Saviour. We, therefore, have full liberty to come to God, seeing that Jesus has saved us from the penalty due to us on account of our transgressions of the law.
2. Jesus is to us as our Priest bringing us nigh to God. He did not seek the blood of an angel to present it to God for us; but He, the Lamb of God, presented Himself as a sacrifice for us.
3. Christ also is our Deliverer; breaking the fetters of sin and opening the door, so that we may come to God.
IV. THIS TEXT COMFORTS US WITH A SWEET FACT. “He ever liveth to intercede for us.” Christ’s work is not yet done. We sometimes say, “It is finished.” True, His sufferings for you are finished; but His work is not yet completed until He has saved you from your sins. ‘Tis a great work to create a world, but ‘tis a greater to make you a holy child of God. Well, we are comforted by the assurance that “He ever liveth for us.” (W. Birch.)
All who come
I. UNLIMITED SALVATION. “All”--whole human race, without respect to nationality, attainments, or character.
II. NECESSARY ACTION. “Come.” Sitting still will not save.
III. GLORIOUS ANTICIPATION. Salvation--safety, satisfaction, joy.
IV. IMPORTANT RESPONSIBILITY. We may be left behind. How needful to regard the warning! (T. Heath.)
He ever liveth to make intercession for them
A living Saviour, therefore a complete salvation
The long interval between the fall of man and the Redeemer’s advent showed the hopelessness of men without Him. Through those four thousand years all they could desire and do to rise to a higher state was tried in vain, till it is not too much to say that they were fast settling into despair. But when the hope of saving themselves was dying out, there appeared One who lived, and taught, and died, and rose again to heaven, of whom it was affirmed with utmost emphasis in the words before us, “He is able to save.” And This His ability is because “He ever liveth to make intercession.” Our Lord liveth. We cannot dwell too much on the glorious truth that “ Christ died for our sins,” but we can dwell too little on the truth which is even beyond that, “He rose again for our justification,” aye, and for our sanctification too. Salvation will be to us what it might be in proportion as we look for it, not to the Cross, but to Him who, once crucified, is now living--living for evermore, to continue in heaven the work begun on earth.
I. Then, in the first place, the text reveals OUR LORD AS LIVING TO SAVE. In our jealousy of the truth of the sufficiency of His atonement we may think of it to our great impoverishment as though there were nothing more for Him to do. But the atonement does not include the whole work of salvation, as Saviour Christ never rests, He ascended to carry on His work to further developments, and we need for His praise and our own comfort to train ourselves to think of Him as living to make redemption complete. Certainly this is true of Him, for
1. Nothing less reaches the perfection of grace. A Saviour that died for us were much, how much! but a Saviour who then goes on to live for us is more, and we can believe even that possible. Then it is true. We cannot think God greater than He is, His grace must be beyond our thought, and that we can imagine grace like this is in itself the assurance that Christ liveth to save.
2. Without this His work on earth were unavailing. His death alone would not avail for redemption. Christ for us once was not enough; the world were lost, the cross were useless, were that all; we need Christ for us still--by His life making it possible for us to accept the salvation He securedby His death.
3. Only this explains our continued spiritual enrichment. We have visible assurances of many an unseen cause. Behind the works of nature we see the unseen God; only God, we say, could work thus. So the history of the church is an assurance of a living Redeemer. If she has passed unharmed through ages of fiery trial it can only be because a Divine hand, never withdrawn, followed her with an encircling shield. If her light through storms of opposition has not been quenched, it can only be because a Divine hand, with ceaseless care, has supplied the lamp with oil. And the history of each of her members points to the same fact--notwithstanding the corruptions of their nature and their helplessness against the adversary, and their tendency to neglect what is spiritual, notwithstanding their slowness to learn and trust and obey, their spiritual life has been maintained--maintained in spite of sin and of Satan, and of the world, and even ofthemselves.
II. THE METHOD BY WHICH OUR LORD CARRIES ON HIS SAVING WORK IN HEAVEN IS THAT OF CEASELESS INTERCESSION. Christ Himself is the great plea; His presence in heaven is the prayer for His people than which none could avail more. And that is necessary. Divine redemption must accord with the requirements of Divine law; hence we read of our being “justified,” that is, acquitted--a legal term; so “Intercession,” “Mediation,” “Advocate”--they are all due to the necessarily legal aspect of redemption; God cannot gratify His fatherly love but by simultaneously satisfying His kingly rights: He must deal with us as sinners though He receive us as sons; He can grant no blessing save through the atonement. Hence our Lord intercedes, presenting His atonement for us.
1. This intercession is for those that come unto God by Him. And what it is to come unto God is shown by the prodigal son: “he arose and came to his father.” But there are different ways of coming. We may come making light of sin, or trusting our own righteousness--“God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men!” to such there is no promise here. But suppose we come relying on Christ, sensible of unworthiness, looking to be received only for His sake; the promise is to such; Christ intercedes “for them.”
2. And this secures for them everything He asks. We know that from the merit of His sacrifice. On earth He said, “Father, Thou hearest Me always! “He, the well-beloved, cannot ask in vain. But, say you, that is when He asks for Himself. It is equally true when He asks for His people, since He presents the plea of the cross. Do we realise that we are to receive all that the Cross deserves, and that He ever presents its claim?
3. But let us carefully mark that this intercession includes all possible good. We are assured of that by His love. Jesus never tires, never forgets, never leaves off.
III. Then THIS INTERCESSION ENABLES HIM TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST. “To the uttermost.” What “uttermost”? Every “uttermost.”
1. To the uttermost depth of depravity. I am too great a sinner to be saved, ore thinks. That cannot be. Could we stand at God’s throne and look on men in their varied distances from Him, some not far off, others by increased hardness of heart and wicked works farther and yet further and further still away, somewhere in the dark, dark distance, we should see one further from the Father than any other of Adam’s sons--some one at the extreme limit of alienation. Now, can Christ save that one? Well, the “uttermost” is the “uttermost,” and if “He is able to save to the uttermost” He can save that man. He is able because of the sacrifice of infinite merit which He presents for the sinner.
2. To the uttermost limit of time. I am saved to-day, but what if I be ultimately lost! We ought to be ashamed to think that the salvation Christ purchased by His blood can be so poor as that. No doubt if we must depend on ourselves we must have that fear, but have we not learnt that we are not saved partly by Christ and partly by self, but altogether by Him, that we are in the keeping of One who having died for us, lives for us, and that from His mighty tender hands we cannot slip!
3. To the uttermost measure of perfection. And I pray you not to think of that only in connection with the other world. There is a perfect Christian life for earth. He is able to save to the uttermost of God’s requirements and purposes, the “uttermost” of what He would give to us and do for us on earth developing into the “uttermost” of heaven. Wonderful salvation! The length, the breadth, the height of it are equal; it is “uttermost” everywhere. Then why is the salvation of some of us so poor; why, if He is able to grant it, is ours not of the “uttermost “ kind; why are some of us Christians only partly saved? Because of our unbelief, because we only trust Him partly, because our obedience and confidence do not look to Him for it or expect it of Him. (C. New.)
The intercession of Christ, a demonstration of His capacity to save
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY CHRIST BEING “ABLE TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST”?
1. The danger and calamity of those to whom He is proposed as a Saviour 2 Corinthians 5:14 : Romans 5:12).
2. A power working out complete deliverance for His people.
(1) From the curse of the law (Isaiah 42:21; Galatians 3:13; Acts 13:39).
(2) From the pollution of sin (Romans 8:2).
(3) From all the artifice and power of the prince of darknessColossians 1:13; Colossians 1:13).
(4) To support His people in death, and receive their spirits to a world of Psa 73:26; 2 Timothy 1:12; Psalms 23:4).
(5) To raise their bodies from the dissolution of the grave, and conduct their complete persons to the regions of eternal felicity (John 11:25; John 11:44; Philippians 3:21).
(6) The efficacy of His saving grace continueth the same throughout all succeeding ages. His energy wrought from the date of the first promise Genesis 3:15). By faith in Him the “elders obtained a good report” Hebrews 11:2). His victorious energy still continueth the same Hebrews 13:8).
II. WHAT EVIDENCE WE HAVE THAT HE IS REALLY SO.
1. He was commissioned by the Father for this great work (1 John 5:11).
2. He appears in His person and character, eminently fitted for the work.
3. He has done and borne all that we can imagine necessary to effect it 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:7-8; Hebrews 9:24).
4. He has been approved by the Father, as having completely answered this glorious design (Romans 1:4; Matthew 28:18-20).
5. He has made such gracious promises of salvation, as imply a full power of accomplishing it (Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; 1 Timothy 4:10; Romans 5:18).
6. He has already begun and carried on the salvation of a multitude of souls 1 Corinthians 6:11; Revelation 7:13-14).
III. THE PARTICULAR ARGUMENT FOR IT. “He ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
1. The foundation of it. His atonement (Hebrews 9:12).
2. The extent of it. The intercession of Christ is not merely His appearance before God in the body in which He suffered; but it is attended with a constant and ardent desire that His death may be effectual to the purposes designed, in bringing many sons and daughters to God (Hebrews 2:10).
3. The perpetuity of it: “He ever liveth.” Even at this moment Christ appeareth in heaven for us (Isaiah 40:28).
IV. THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS WHO ARE ENCOURAGED TO EXPECT SALVATION IN HIM. Such as “come unto God by Him.”
1. A sinner must come to God through Christ. His coming to God implieth
(1) A firm persuasion on of His being and attributes (Hebrews 11:6).
(2) An earnest desire to secure His favour (Job 10:12; Psalms 4:6; Psalms 30:5).
(3) A readiness to forsake whatever cometh in competition with Him Isaiah 26:13).
(4) A willing subjection to His service (Luke 10:27; Romans 6:13; Psalms 119:16-127).
(5) A keeping up a constant correspondence with Him (Psalms 73:23; 1 John 1:3).
2. His coming to God through Christ implieth
(1) A deep sense of his need of a Mediator, in order to a comfortable intercourse with God. Christianity is the religion of sinners; self must be humbled, that Christ may be exalted (1 Peter 5:6). Christ is our day’s-man.
(2) A full persuasion of His saving power (Mark 9:24; Matthew 8:2).
(3) A cheerful confidence in the grace of Christ (John 6:37; John 7:37; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:20).
(4) A cordial approbation of the method in which He bestows salvationActs 9:21; Acts 9:21; Romans 1:17).
(5) A constant care to maintain proper regards to Christ in the whole course of our walking with God (Ephesians 2:18; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:5). Reflections:
1. How great is that salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ hath wrought out for us (Hebrews 2:3; Isaiah 43:11).
2. How important is it that we all seriously inquire after this great salvation 2 Peter 1:10).
3. How great is the danger and misery of those who reject and affront such an Almighty Saviour (Revelation 6:15-17).
4. How admirable and amiable doth the blessed Jesus appear, when considered as the great Intercessor of His people (Song of Solomon 5:16).
5. With what holy boldness may the sinner draw near to God, in dependence on such an Intercessor (Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22).
6. Let us adore the Divine goodness, that such a salvation is offered us in so reasonable, so easy, and so gracious a way (Romans 10:8; Luke 19:40).
7. Let us seriously examine whether we come to God by Christ (Acts 13:26).
8. Let those who have come in this manner be thankful and courageous: let them go on till the God of p ace bruise Satan under their feet, give them victory over death, and finally crown them with eternal life. (J. Hannam.)
Of Christ’s making intercession
For this intercession of Christ there is all sorts of evidence in Scripture, by types, prophecies, and plain assertions. That was typified under the law, by what the high priest is appointed to do on the day of expiation (Leviticus 16:11-15). It is foretold by the prophet (Isaiah 53:12). It is plainly asserted in the New Testament Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24); how, and in what capacity he appears for us (1 John 2:1-2).
1. For the nature of it. In general, it is Christ’s appearance in heaven in behalf of His people, as having on earth satisfied for them, done and suffered all things which were requisite on His part to be there accomplished for their salvation, both for the removing of what might hinder it, and purchasing what might perfect it, and make it complete; or a presenting of Himself, as having finished what was necessary on earth, for the saving of them to the utmost. More particularly, it includes these severals:
(1) He appears in our nature, not only as God, but as man (1 Timothy 2:5). He appears as one concerned for us, as one who is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.
(2) He appears as our advocate, to present us and our cause unto God.
(3) He presents His death as suffered in our stead, His blood as shed for us.
(4) He presents His will and desire that His people may have all the purchase of His blood. The will of The Divine nature as He is God, the desires of His human nature as He is man. Thus He is said to intercede for us, in that the Father understands that it is His will and desire, qs He is God and man, that His people may be possessed of all the effects, and receive all the advantage of His obedience and sufferings for them; so that His intercession is in effect His praying for us in heaven.
2. For the efficacy of it.
(1) The intercession of Christ is grounded upon merit, an therefore must prevail in point of justice.
(2) The efficacy of it appears in the acceptableness of all included in Christ’s intercession unto God the Father, and His readiness to comply with the motions which it imports.
(3) By virtue of His intercession all that He purchased by His obedience and sufferings is actually conferred.
(4) Christ’s intercession was effectual before He was actually an intercessor. By virtue of this all believers from the beginning of the world were pardoned and saved.
3. As to the continuance of this intercession, it is perpetual. The text is express for this, “He ever lives,” &c. He intercedes while He lives, and He ever lives; He intercedes always.
(1) Without intermission.
(2) Without end. It is represented as the end why He lives, and the end of His life He pursues every moment.
Use 1. This leads us to admire the loving-kindness of Christ to lost sinners, in that He lives ever to make intercession for them. His affection to His people, His condescension for them, appears herein every way admirable and astonishing. There are four severals held forth in the text, which may render this for ever wonderful in our eyes.
(1) That this should be one end of His life. That He should live for us; live, to make intercession for us; live, that this should be an end and design of His life, to free us from misery, to promote our happiness and secure it; that the Son of God, infinitely happy and glorious without us, should make the concerns of men, inconceivably below Him, the design of His life; and declare that He lives for this reason, and will live upon this account, to appear on their behalf.
(2) That He should live again for us; live mote than once, more than one life for us. He had already lived one life for us, and had already lost one life for us; and when a new life was restored to Him, He would live that life for us too. As though He had not thought it enough to live one life for us on earth, He lives another for us in heaven.
(3) That He lives in our nature, and appears for us, not only as God, but as man, as one of us, as nearly allied to us; as our kinsman (Job 19:25), our brother (Hebrews 2:11-12). It was a wonderful condescension, that He would take our nature, and unite it with the nature of God in one person; for what is man to Him but a worm? It is more worthy of admiration than if the greatest monarch should take upon him the form, and live in the likeness of a worm. This was greater love and honour than He would show the a gels (Hebrews 2:16).
(4) That He lives thus evermore (Revelation 1:18). And for what end He evermore lives, He expresses here by the apostle. This second life He lives for us is not like the first, a life of some certain years, but an endless life. He ever lives in our nature; He is never wary, never ashamed of it, how mean and vile soever it be, as it is ours.
Use 2. This teaches us to live for Christ. This highly, strongly engages us to it. Shall He live for us again and again, and live eternally for us; and will not we live once, live a little while for Him? But how? Why, after His example and method He shows us. His living for us in the text succeeded His dying for us; He was made a sacrifice before He lived to intercede for us. There is something we must die to before we can live for Him. We must sacrifice our worldly, carnal, and selfish interest; carnal and earthly designs, and affections, and inclinations, and actings, must be crucified. And then positively, to live for Him is to make it the chief end and constant design of our lives, to please Him and be serviceable to Him; to conform in all to His will, and employ all for His honour and interest.
Use 3. Here is great encouragement to faith and hope. Firm ground to believe and expect salvation to the uttermost, for those that come unto God by Christ, i.e., to those that repent and believe; those that abandon sin in heart and life, i.e., in sincerity, resolution, and endeavour, and fly unto
Christ for refuge, betaking themselves to Him, to be rued and saved by Him. Such may have strong consolation from the intercession of Christ Hebrews 6:18-20). (D. Clarkson.)
Christ interceding in heaven for His people
I. IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST IS, AND WHAT IS IMPLIED IN IT, WE MUST CONSIDER AND COMPARE THOSE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WHERE IT IS SPOKEN OF. The two principal passages of Scripture where it is directly spoken of are the text and Romans 8:34, in which the same word is used as in the text. The word which in these two passages is translated “to make intercession,” just means to plead with--to use entreaties and importunities (in order to obtain something we desire)with reference to another person. There is a other passage of Scripture which refers to one branch at least of Christ’s intercession, and casts additional light upon it, viz., 1 John 2:1. The idea which this statement is intend, d to bring before our minds is substantially this--that whenever a believer commits a sin, and that sin comes up before the throne of God, pleading for punishment against the offender, upon the ground that “cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them,” Christ steps forward as his Advocate and Intercessor, to avert the threatened danger--takes the sin on His own shoulders--and pleads, in order to its remission, the perfect sacrifice He once offered up of Himself to satisfy Divine justice, and to purchase for Himself a peculiar people. That His sacrifice is the foundation of His advocacy or intercession with reference to the sins of believers, is implied in the statement which immediately succeeds, viz., in the second verse. He has expiated or atoned for our sins by shedding His precious blood, and is therefore well entitled to appear as our Advocate, when we are accused, and to prevail on our behalf. The apostle goes on to state that this privilege of having with the Father an Advocate who had expiated their sins, was not peculiar to them, that is, to those of whom, and in whose name, he was then speaking--in other words, to those who had already believed on Christ Jesus;--but that it extended to the whole world--to all who should afterwards believe on Him, without distinction of period or country. Finally, in illustration of the nature of our Saviour’s intercession, we have what is commonly called His intercessory prayer, as recorded in John 17:1-26. We have another instance of intercessory prayer on our Saviour’s part, in a particular case, when He prayed for Peter, that his faith should not fail, notwithstanding the peculiar violence of Satan’s temptation. We are assured, then, that Christ ever liveth to make intercession for His people--that He is continually employed at the right hand of God pleading on their behalf--pleading what He Himself has done and suffered for them--presenting, in their name and for their sakes, the punishment He has endured, that they might be delivered from guilt and danger--the merit which He has wrought out, that they might be accepted, and blessed, and rewarded. Christ is continually presenting before His Father His wishes with regard to what His people should enjoy and suffer; and their enjoyments and their sufferings, their trials and their supplies of grace, are just what He sees to be best for them--what He in consequence wishes and pleads for in their behalf--and what they therefore certainly receive. This is what is implied in Christ’s intercession. We are told that “Him the Father heareth always”; and no wonder, when He pleads the efficacy of that sacrifice which has fully satisfied Divine justice, and which is commensurate in efficacy with the exceeding sinfulness of sin;--when He pleads the worth of that meritorious obedience which has fully satisfied the Divine law, and which is commensurate in value with an eternal and exceeding weight of glory. All true believers, then, should have perfect confidence in Christ’s willingness and ability to work out their complete salvation--to finish the good work that He had begun in them--to overrule everything in their temporal circumstances for their eternal welfare--and at last to make them more than conquerors.
II. WE SHALL NOW ENDEAVOUR TO ILLUSTRATE THE PRACTICAL PURPOSES TO WHICH THIS GREAT DOCTRINE WE HAVE ATTEMPTED TO EXPLAIN, TO ILLUSTRATE, AND TO ESTABLISH, MAY MOST OBVIOUSLY BE APPLIED.
1. Let us consider the practical application of this doctrine, with regard to the sins of believers. The knowledge that we have an Advocate or Intercessor--ready at all times to take the burden of our guilt upon Himself, and to free us from its painful consequences--while it tends greatly to comfort and encourage us, and is indeed indispensable to our serving God acceptably.
has no tendency, when rightly viewed and seen in its proper connections, to encourage us in sin, or to lead us to think lightly of guilt. Everything connected with the history and work of Christ--with His incarnation, and humiliation, and suffering, and death--isfitted to lead us to regard sin as exceeding sinful.
2. Let us consider the intercession of Christ with reference to the outward circumstances and worldly condition of believers. The truth which in this view it presents to our mind is this, that the outward circumstances of believers, except in so far as they are the necessary results--according to the ordinary laws of nature and providence--of the sins they have committed, are just, at any one time, precisely what their kind and compassionate Saviour wishes them to be;--and that they, are wholly the result of His wishes and prayers, presented before the throne of His Father--and because they are His, carried into complete effect.
3. Let us consider the doctrine of our Saviour’s intercession with reference to the believer’s prayers. We are to pray at all times in Christ’s name--relying entirely upon Him and His work for the acceptance of our services, and the answering our petitions. But His intercession implies something more than this, or rather it gives a distinct and palpable form to this idea. It implies that our prayers are heard and answered only in so far as Christ takes them and presents them in His own name, and on the ground of His own merit, before the throne of His Father.
4. Let us consider the intercession of Christ in its reference to the believer’s prospects and ultimate condition. The very object of Christ’s intercession for His people, then, is that He may thereby secure their final deliverance from sin and all its consequences--their restoration to God’s image--and their admission to dwell for ever in His presence. All this it is admirably adapted to effect; and all this, therefore, it will assuredly accomplish. To have Christ interceding for us at God’s right hand is all that we can need, and all that we should desire, as appertaining to life or to godliness. It secures deliverance, full and final, from every real evil--the possession, complete and eternal, of every genuine source of happiness. (W. Cunningham, D. D.)
The knowledge of Christ as the Mediator is essential to the spiritual life. There is no truth within the range of the Christian system of richer interest and of higher worth. Like the orb of day, it is the source of the light, life, and joy of religion.. It is the one foundation on which rest man’s acceptance with the Judge, and his dearest hopes of the future. It is a treasure of mercy to the guilty, and of consolation to the believer. It proves the perfection of Christianity as the system of salvation, and establishes its claim to be the religion of the world.
I. ITS NATURE. A priest resembles one who seeks to reconcile parties at variance, and has the probability of success from being their mutual friend.
In the Bible it is generally understood to denote a holy person, presenting sacrifices to God, as a propitiation for sin in the behalf of others. The priestly dignity of the Lord Jesus is not to be considered as a mere figurative expression. His is a true and real priesthood. He was called of God, in those ineffably mysterious transactions of the Godhead in the pre-distant eternity, when the Son was designated and “made an high priest”; by the impressive solemnity of an oath, when “the Lord sware, Thou art a priest for ever”; and by His sublime consecration, when being “obedient ante death, even the death of the Cross”; He was baptized with blood, as was Aaron, and was made “perfect through suffering.” Will He not then be heard in your behalf? Will the Father ever reject Him? Should not this banish your fear and doubt, and minister “strong consolation” when you flee to Him as your refuge?
1. To make oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the people was the first act of the priesthood. “Beneath our curse He bowed His head”; this was the true and perfect atonement making full reconciliation; this was the only plea God could accept, and it is the basis of the whole mediation of Christ, giving to it its efficacy and prevalence. It is the all-sufficient reason and motive for the exercise of His mercy in restoring holiness and happiness to man’s guilty race; possessing such fulness of merit as to entitle the believer to a salvation replete with blessings; and retaining an everlasting efficacy, amidst the changes of time, until the consummation of all things.
2. Intercession was a necessary duty of the priesthood. Aaron fulfilled it by signs upon the annual day of expiation, passing through the courts of the sanctuary, and appearing before the awful symbols of Jehovah’s presence, he sprinkled the mercy-seat with the sacrificial blood, and presented the fragrant incense. The sprinkling of the blood was the perpetuation and completion of its being shed as a sacrifice. There was the same necessity that the Victim of Calvary should appear in the highest heavens for us. Had He remained in the sepulchre, you could not participate in the benefits of His death, its everlasting efficacy as an atonement would cease. Why should He reappear in glory with His crucified body, bearing the symbols of its humiliation unto death? Might He not have left it in the sepulchre, and clothed Himself with a new body, pure as the firmament? This would be easy, but it would destroy His purposes of grace. The Jewish priest came before the God of Israel with the same blood which the victim had shed, thus appealing to it as “the atonement.” So likewise does the Mediator present Himself to God in the same nature which bore the curse, and whose precious blood was the ransom price. Thus “His presence in heaven” is virtually a continuation of His bodily passion, and a continued presentation of the sacrifice; it is a testimony to its fulness and perfection, to its permanent validity and efficacy.
3. To bless the people was another prominent duty of the high priest. This was the sequel to the intercession. To give full exhibition of this glory of the Lord Jesus, the illustrious Melchisedec was chosen as a type, and special notice is taken of his blessing Abraham, by virtue of his authority as “Priest of the Most High God.” This was the “joy” desired by Jesus when He endured His Cross the reward that was set before Him. Even the right to confer the infinite and everlasting blessings of redemption on a world of sinful and lost beings.
II. THE TEXT SUGGESTS SOME OF THE EMINENT PECULIARITIES OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.
1. It is unchangeable. This is its excellence, its perfection. It is Jesus still, and will be always so. The office cannot be transferred. He is the great High Priest, supreme in dignity and power, without an equal, rival, or successor. There needs no change. “Death hath no more dominion over Him.” “I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore.”
2. His priesthood is eternal. He” is consecrated for evermore.” It is not “ endless “ absolutely, but only while the mediatorial dispensation abides. The period will come when the Son shall deliver up the kingdom to God; no more shall the cry of blood be heard, intercession shall cease, and the Triune God in His glory and felicity shall “be all in all” to the myriads of pure spirits. Then the triumphant church can no more need a Mediator.
3. The priesthood of Jesus possesses a peculiar perpetuity. “He ever lives,” or He lives to be ever interceding. The infirmities of earth cannot exist in glory to mar the beauty and perfection of His mediatorial work. His love is not subject to the uncertain fluctuation of human passions. His mediation is not formal or official, it is the labour of His heart. His intercessions too are uninterrupted by external causes. Though the care of the universe reposes on Him, yet His mind is never absorbed with its anxieties, nor withdrawn from the high purposes of His intercession.
III. THE BENEFITS DERIVED THROUGH THE INTERCESSIONS OF CHRIST. “He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” For whom? The angels need it not; the devils are “reserved m everlasting chains under darkness,” and no purgatory has received the lost of mankind, from which masses or intercession can release them; the shadows of eternal night settle over their doom. Nor, on the other hand, are the benefits of the intercession limited to believers only, though they share most largely His affections. He prays for all who believe in His name. Yea, He intercedes for the world, for sinners of every age, every country, every shade of guilt. A right to the Tree of Life is the boon of every sinner. Who needs despair of mercy? Why will ye perish? The list of blessings descending to you through Him is infinite. Thence come all the mercies of “the tile that now is,” riches, honour, and length of days. You little consider how it affects the choice of your inheritance, your trade, your fields, your life, your health, your family, your “all things”! The range of spiritual blessings is still more extensive. There is your preservation from a merited punishment. Review the follies of youth, the sins and backslidings of riper years, and you will confess “Tis just, the sentence should take place.” But what an impressive consideration, that you are now kept from “the everlasting burnings,” only through His merciful intercessions! Here also is the pledge of pardon to the penitent. Would a guilty creature dare to utter cry for mercy before a throne of “justice and judgment,” clothed with majesty and terror, and guarded by the flaming sword of wrath? Trembling soul! that flaming sword of the cherubim is gone, that throne is a mercy-seat through “ the blood of sprinkling,” bending over it is the covenant sign of peace, the radiant bow of mercy. The presence of the Intercessor there is the testimony that “God is reconciled,” and it proclaims to you a free salvation through faith in His name. Here is your hope of the universal spread of the gospel. It is for this He ever tires in glory, that He may secure the consummation of His own plans of love, and rejoice over a recovered world, prostrate at His feet, glorifying Him in endless praise. (George F. White.)
The great Intercessor
I. THE NECESSITY AND NATURE OF THIS INTERCESSION
1. It was necessary. As necessary as every other part of the work of our salvation. His incarnation was necessary to His obedience, His obedience to His death, and His death to His intercession. His object in obeying and dying was to intercede on behalf of transgressors, for whom He made an atonement. His atonement would be of no avail without His intercession. Hebrews 9:7-8; Romans 8:34).
2. Its nature. Appearing in the court of heaven as our Advocate and Mediator (Hebrews 9:24). Appearing in human nature to represent us Acts 7:55-56). Presenting His wounds as a plea to he heard Revelation 5:6). Presenting our prayers perfumed with the incense of His merit (Revelation 8:3-4). Answering all accusations preferred against us (Zechariah 3:1-2). Pleading with God for all covenant blessings (John 17:24).
3. The manner of Christ’s intercession. He admits our guilt, confirms and establishes the law, and pleads His own obedience and death for our acquittal (Romans 3:21-23).
II. THE QUALIFICATION OF THE INTERCESSOR, AND THE DESIGN OF HIS INTERCESSION.
1. His qualification as Intercessor. He is one with God, and therefore can enter into the mind of God; the anointed Mediator, and therefore has authority in the court of heaven. He is perfectly holy, and has free access to the throne; He has done all that was required of us, and therefore has a claim, and cannot be denied the privilege of representing our cause. He is omniscient, and knows all our wants; faithful, and will not forget or deceive us; true to His engagement, and will fulfil all His promises; full of sympathy, and can wed feel for us.
2. The end and design of His intercession. For the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for the pardon of sin, reconciliation with God, access to God, and acceptance with Him; our preservation from sin, perseverance in holiness; our sanctification and glorification, and also for the establishment of His kingdom in the world.
III. THE PREVALENCY AND PERPETUITY OF HIS INTERCESSION.
1. Its prevalency. The dignity of His person secures it; God will ,not refuse His Son. The perfection of His work; God is well pleased in Him. The wisdom of His request; it is in accordance with the will of God. His ability to save all who come to Him; the many instances in which He has already saved. He is always ready to undertake our cause, and has never pleaded in vain. Believers in every age are receiving blessings from Him.
2. Its perpetuity. There will be no change in His priesthood as there was in Aaron’s (Hebrews 7:11-25). He continues for ever. He is always before the throne, pleading our cause. This day, this hour, while we are assembled to worship, he is representing our cause in the court of heaven. Lessons:
1. Learn not to trust any other intercessor but Christ.
2. There is no case He will refuse.
3. In all our approaches to God we must look by faith to Him.
4. How great is the privilege of having an Advocate in heaven.
5. The awful state of those who do not seek an interest in His atonement and intercession. (The Evangelical Pro,chef.)
The intercession of Christ
I. ITS REALITY (Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34).
II. ITS NATURE. On earth He offered the necessary sacrifice for sin, and now, in heaven. He pleads it.
III. ITS DESIGN OR END. To secure to His disciples the actual possession of all those inestimable privileges which it was the object of His obedience and sufferings to procure on their behalf.
1. The pardon of their daily sins.
2. The acceptance of their worship.
3. Victory over their enemies, consolations under their trials, a spirit of affectionate union among themselves, increasing sanctification, and preservation from the evil of the world.
4. Grace to persevere to the end.
5. Final acceptance, and certain admittance into heaven.
III. THE PECULIAR EXCELLENCIES OF CHRIST AS AN INTERCESSOR. In Him exists every moral quality that is suited to inspire the profoundest reverence, to call forth the warmest affection, and to justify the most unbounded confidence.
1. He is a wise Intercessor. He knows what blessings to seek for us, what pleas to offer, and how best to enforce them in order to ensure success.
2. He is a faithful Intercessor.
3. He is a merciful and sympathising Intercessor. He is capable of conducting the cause of many at once, and yet of attending minutely to the case of each individual.
4. He is a successful Intercessor.
5. He is an ever-living Intercessor.
6. He is the only Intercessor. Lessons:
1. The unchangeable nature of the Saviour’s love.
2. How great the obligations of every Christian!
3. How deplorable is the situation of those who have no Advocate in heaven! (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
The Saviour interceding
I. There are THREE OFFICES which Christ sustains in reference to the salvation of men prophetical, sacerdotal, and regal. These comprehend all that He has done, is doing, and will do, in reference to our salvation, until the mediatorial kingdom be given up. Intercession is part of the sacerdotal office.
II. THE PURPOSES for which He sustains the office of mediation and intercession.
1. For the suspension of merited punishment and the extension of our probationary existence.
2. For the continuance of the economy of grace in the Church, and the supply of spiritual influence to the minds of men. This is necessary to help in improving our extended probation.
3. For the pardon and salvation of the most reprobate and guilty. So Isaiah tells us in that admirable prophecy of the mediatorial work of Christ with which the whole of his fifty-third chapter is engrossed. “He made intercession for the transgressors.”
4. That our persons and services may be acceptable to God. “Through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
5. The intercession of Christ embraces in a very special manner the interests of His people. Lessons:
1. The majesty and holiness of God the Father.
2. The love of Christ.
(1) Its constancy.
(2) Its comprehensiveness.
3. The necessity of availing ourselves of the advocacy of Christ.
4. The necessity of cultivating a continual sense of dependence on Christ. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)
The two Intercessors
(with Romans 8:27):--One of the ways in which the enemy of souls destroys men is by joining together what God has separated. Hence the alliance between the world and religion. Another mode by which he destroys is to separate what God has joined together: such as principle and practice; doctrine and duty; pardoning mercy and renewing grace. That man is not yet truly awakened and enlightened from above who does not see and feel his equal need of--the Saviour and the Sanctifier--the Son of God and the Spirit of God--the work of the one for him, and of the other in him. To such a connection I am going to lead you. For, be it remembered, every Christian has two Advocates, two Intercessors; and they should be viewed relatively to each other. “Jesus ever liveth to make intercession for them. The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us.” (See Romans 8:27.)
I. Let us consider THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST. Dr. Owen long ago complained, and there is much truth in the remark, that we do not dwell enough, in our thoughts, on the present life of Christ: for He is living, not a life of glory only--though even this should delight those that love Him--but a life of office. When our Saviour left our world He ascended up far above all heavens; and frailty might have feared that His concern for us would have ceased with His residence among us. But, says Paul, though Jesus the Son of God be passed into the heavens, “we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” The ligature which unites us remains, and is all sensibility and life. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Volumes might be written on the subject; but we must be brief. It has been questioned whether this intercession be vocal. Why should it not? He is “clothed in a body like our own.” But, not to intrude into things which we have not seen, it is enough for us to know
1. That His intercession is real. It consists in His personal appearance; in the presentation of His sacrifice, and claiming the, benefits arising from it. AEschylus was strongly accused, and likely to be condemned. His brother Amyntas engaged to be his advocate. Amyntas had done much for the commonwealth; and, in a certain action, in their service, had lost a hand. He came into the court. The court was uncommonly crowded; and all were eager to hear him plead ,in so interesting an occasion. But he said nothing--he only held up his dismembered arm! The audience and the judgeswere so moved as immediately to order his brother’s release. It does not appear that the high priest said anything when he entered the holy place: but what he did spake loud enough. He wore the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his breastplate; he took the blood of the slaughtered victim in a basin, and sprinkled the mercy-seat, and burned incense before the golden altar, and then came forth and blessed the people. Abel’s blood spake to God from the ground; that is, it demanded vengeance: the blood of Jesus is equally vocal; but it speaketh better things than that of Abel--it calls for mercy. How did John see Him in the vision? As a lamb that had been slain; that is, with the wound in the neck, and the blood on the wool. Without a figure--He retains in His glorified body the marks of His sufferings and death.
2. It extends to all our important interests. We may look upon His prayer for His disciples, on the night in which He was betrayed (John 17:1-26.), as a specimen of His continued intercession before the throne. And for what does He not there plead? Is it their preservation (verse 15)? Is it their renovation (verse 17)? Is it their union (verses 21-23)? Is it their glorification (verse 24)?
3. It is successful. “I know,” says He, “that Thou hearest Me always. This conclusion is derivable from the grandeur of His character, and His nearness to God.
II. Let us examine THE INTERCESSION OF THE SPIRIT: for the Spirit “ itself maketh intercession for us.” In entering on this, it is necessary to observe, that, subjectively and instrumentally considered, religion is our own work: we run the race set before us; and fight the good fight of faith: we believe, and repent, and pray; but, owing to our natural ignorance, and weakness, depravity, and aversion, it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. To His Spirit, therefore, all our renovation is ascribed: we are said to be “ born of the Spirit”; to be “led by the Spirit”; to “live in the Spirit”; to “ walk in the Spirit”; and to “worship God in the Spirit.” Let us see, then, how this Divine agency brings the sinner upon his knees and keeps him there.
1. The Spirit leads us to an acquaintance with ourselves. He removes the veil of ignorance and delusion that concealed our state, our wants, and our desert; and the man who once said, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, now sees that he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
2. The Spirit fixes upon the mind a concern to be delivered and relieved, too great to be shaken off. His sin is ever before him. Neither business, nor company, nor amusement, can ease the anguish of his broken heart, or divert him from the inquiry, “What must I do to be saved?”
3. The Spirit enables us to apprehend and believe the mercy and grace revealed in the gospel. Hence arises a hope that maketh not ashamed. This hope enters the soul, as the sun does a garden in spring, calling forth, by a genial influence, the leaves and the buds, after the dreariness of winter.
4. The Spirit renews our souls, removes our alienation from the life of God, and produces in us those principles and dispositions which cause us to delight in approaching Him, and even to give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. Thus our duly is converted into a privilege; and we find it too good to draw near to God ever again to restrain prayer before Him.
III. View them IN THEIR RELATION TO EACH OTHER. It is easy to distinguish these Intercessors. The one makes intercession above; the other below: one in the court of heaven; the other in the conscience. The one makes intercession for us, the other in us. But there is a connection between them; and it is threefold.
1. A connection of derivation. The one flows from the other.
2. A connection of dependence. The one needs the other.
3. A connection of evidence. The one proves the other. As to some of you, how long have you been praying, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Show me a token for good, that I may rejoice in thee “? What happy beings would you go away at the end of this exercise, if you could ascertain one thing; n freely, that the Redeemer thinks upon you for good--and appears in the presence of God for you! Well, the proof does not lie far off--it is nigh thee, even in thy month and in thy heart. It is prayer--not fine prayer--not well-arranged language. The proof does not require language at all.No--but a broken heart: a contrite spirit; tears; sighs; groanings--groanings which cannot be uttered. Of this therefore rest assured, that if the Spirit itself is thus making intercession in you, Jesus is ever living to make intercession for you. (W. Jay.)
The Saviour’s intercession
“He ever liveth to make intercession for us” is the noble description of Christ’s mission in heaven, and as though to complete the idea of unceasing and perpetual vitality it is added that the work is carried on according to “the power of an endless life.” In these days of freedom and independence we scarcely realise the force of a word like “intercession.” How strange it seems to us to read, in the prefaces of their books, the most earnest entreaties for patronage and aid from great authors to persons now utterly forgotten, though once powerful. It is not easy to conceive how dependent was genius and worth upon the influence of those in power. Or in still worse days, such as those of war and violence, the weak and helpless were utterly neglected, and even for mere justice were dependent on the good offices of the influential and powerful. What a state of society is shown by the old German proverbs, supposed to have originated amidst the terrible hardships of the peasant and the poor man during “the thirty years’ war.” Such sayings as “Favour is better than right,” or “A handful of might is better than a sackful of right,” tell of days of bitter oppression and injustice, and in such times the good steward who would intercede for the starving peasant, or the kind countess who would plead for the oppressed, or the benevolent bishop who advocated the poor man’s rights before greedy monarchs and servile counciler made the office of a mediator and an intercessor well understood. Let us picture to ourselves such a scene as may often have occurred. The father of a little family has been compelled to follow his feudal lord to the field, and fallen in battle. A covetous neighbour grasps their little farm, and the unfeeling over-bailiff pays no heed to their complaints. At length, driven from their home, the poor widow, with the ragged little children, begs her way to the palace of the king. Oh, if only she could lay her troubles before him, surely his kind heart would feel for her; doubtless his authority could redress her wrongs. But now, as she stands before the royal palace, she perceives that the gate is guarded by watchful sentinels, who forbid all entrance. She gazes wistfully through the gilded railings, she sees the splendour within--the towers and colonnades, and ranges of windows glistening in the sunlight; she beholds the smooth lawns, and the parterres gay with bright flowers, and wonders if those who enjoy all this magnificence know how hard and miserable are the lives of many others! But at this moment a lithe young figure advances along the broad gravelled walk. He is richly clad, a white plume adorns his cap, a noble hound gambols by his side, two attendants follow at a respectful distance. It is the king’s only son. And now his keen young eye has caught sight of the wretched group that are peering through the iron bars. He notes their hungry looks, and bare feet, sore and blood-stained with long travelling, and their poor rags and emaciated frames. His heart is filled with pity for their sufferings. Drawing near he asks their history, what they seek, what they need. He listens patiently to the mother’s long narrative, he helps her to explain herself by encouraging questions, and at last, finding that her great desire was that she could have her cause brought before the notice of the king, and that she had none to plead for her, he bids the sentries admit her, and taking the poor woman by the hand he leads her up to the palace door, and then, entering within its gilded portals, he himself lays the statement of her helplessness and misery before the throne, and asks in his own name for her petition to be granted! This is what intercession means, and the Christian rejoices as he kneels to utter the name of Jesus, to pour out his heart before Him, and realises with joy that the cause of the poor trembling, sin-stained mortal is pleaded on high by the ascended Lord--that wondrous Mediator, who is Man to feel with us, but likewise Divine in His nature, and endued with “the power of an endless life.” (J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
Christ as Intercessor
I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter who was to be most tempted. I am on His breastplate. It I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me. (R. M. McCheyne.)
Intercession is a law term borrowed from courts of judicature, and signifies the action of a proxy or attorney, either in suing out the rights of his client, or answering the cavils and objections brought against him by the plaintiff. This Christ does for believers. (Sunday School Chronicle.)
Christ’s prevailing intercession
To the uttermost! Oh, my friends, these are precious words to a ruined world. Where is the individual whom He cannot save? Is it the man who to the treachery of Judas adds the persecuting ferocity of Saul? He intercedes, and the lion in a moment is changed into a lamb. Is it the man who is backsliding as Peter, or steeped in wickedness as Manasseh? He intercedes, and a conversion is accomplished. Is it the man who with the hypocrisy of the Pharisee combines the daring profanity of the infidel? He intercedes, and heaven is filled with gladness at the man’s salvation. Is It, in short, the man whose whole life has been spent in insulting the name and breaking the law, and trampling on the grace of God? Even for him there is mercy. The High Priest intercedes, and the repentant prodigal is saved. You cannot name a sin which He is unable to forgive. You cannot think of a sinner whom He is incompetent to save. Tell us not of limitations. Talk not to us of exceptions. An infinitely valuable sacrifice recognises not the one--mercy admits not the idea of the ether. Every attribute of God disowns--the whole covenant of redemption repels such an unworthy notion as ruinous at once to the scheme of grace and to the hopes of man. No matter how deeply dyed with pollution my bygone history may have been; no matter what may have been the amount or enormity of the transgressions which I have committed, if I have come unto God through Christ, I am so sure of the efficacy of Christ s intercession in my behalf, that I can confidently join with the apostle in his exulting exclamation (Romans 8:33-34). (James Jeffrey.)
Intercessor and Mediator
To mediate and intercede are both conciliatory acts; the intercessor a d mediator are equals or even inferiors; one intercedes or interposes for the removal of evil; one mediates for the attainment of good. Christ is our Intercessor, to avert from us the consequences of our guilt; He is our Mediator, to obtain for us the blessings of grace and salvation. An intercessor only pleads; a mediator guarantees; he takes upon himself a responsibility. Christ is our Intercessor by virtue of His relationship with the Father; He is our Mediator by virtue of His atonement, by which act He takes upon Himself the sins of all who are truly penitent. (G. Crabb.)
Such an High Priest became us
The priest whom we need
WE ALL NEED A PRIEST, AND WE HAVE THE PRIEST WE NEED IN JESUS CHRIST. In fair weather, when the summer seas are sunny and smooth, and all the winds are sleeping in their caves, the life-belts on the deck of a steamer may be thought to be unnecessary, but when she strikes on the black-toothed rocks, and all about is a hell of noise and despair, then the meaning of them is understood. When you are amongst the breakers you will need a life-buoy. When the flames are flickering round you, you will understand the use and worth of a fire-escape, and when you have learned what sort of a man you are, and what that involves in regard of your relations to God, then the mysteries which surround the thought of the High Priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be accepted as mysteries, and left where they are, and the fact will be grasped with all the tendrils of your soul as the one hope for you in life and in death.
II. WE NEED FOR A PRIEST A PERFECT MAN, AND WE HAVE THE PERFECT PRIEST WHOM WE NEED IN JESUS CHRIST. The writer goes on to enumerate a series of qualities by which our Lord is constituted the priest we need. Of these five qualities which follow in my text, the three former are those to which I now refer. “He is holy, harmless, undefiled.” Taken generally, these three characteristics refer to the priest’s relation to God, together men, and to the law of purity. “He is holy”; that is to say, not so much morally free from guilt as standing in a certain relation to God. The word here used for “holy” has a special meaning. It is the representative of an Old Testament word, which seems to mean “devoted to God in love.” Such is the first qualification for a priest, that he shall be knit to God by loving devotion, and have a heart throbbing in unison with the Divine heart in all its tenderness of pity, and in all its nobleness and loftiness of purity. And, besides being thus the earthly echo and representative of the whole sweetness of the Divine nature, so, in the next place, the priest we need must, in relation to men, be harmless--without malice, guile, unkindness; a Lamb of God, with neither horns to butt, nor teeth to tear, nor claws to wound, but gentle and gracious, sweet and compassionate; or, as we read in another place in this same letter, “a merciful High Priest in things pertaining to God.” And the priest that we need, to bridge over the gulf between us sinful and alienated men and God, must be one “undefiled,” on whose white garments there shall be no speck, on the virgin purity of whose nature there shall be no stain; who shall stand above us, though He be one of us, and whilst “it behoves Him to be made in all points like unto His brethren,” shall yet be “without blemish and without spot.” I pass on just to notice, in a word, how this assemblage of qualifications which, taken together, make up the idea of a perfect man, is found in Jesus Christ for a certain purpose, and a purpose beyond that which some of you, I am afraid, are accustomed to regard. Why this innocence; this G d-devotedness; this blamelessness; this absence of all selfish antagonism? Why this life, so sweet, so pure, so gentle, so running over with untainted and ungrudging compassion, so conscious of unbroken and perfect communion and sympathy with God? Why? What He might, “through the Eternal Spirit, offer Himself without spot unto God”; and that by His one offering He might perfect for ever all them that put their trust in Him.
III. WE NEED A PRIEST IN THE HEAVENS, AND WE HAVE IN CHRIST THE HEAVENLY PRIEST WHOM WE NEED. The two last qualifications for the priestly office included in my text are, “separate from sinners; made higher than the heavens.” Now, the “ separation” intended is not, as I suppose, Christ’s moral distance from evildoers, but has what I may call a kind of half-local signification and is explained by the next clause. He is “separate from sinners,” not because He is pure and they foul, but because having offered His sacrifice He has ascended up on high. He is “ made higher than the heavens.” Scripture sometimes speaks of the living Christ as at present in the heavens, and at others as having “ passed through “ and being “high above all heavens”; in the former case simply giving the more general idea of exaltation, in the latter the thought that He is lifted, in His manhood and as our Priest, above the bounds of the material and visible creation, and “ set at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Such a priest we need. His elevation and separation from us upon earth is essential to that great and continual work of His which we call for want of any more definite name, His intercession. The High Priest in the heavens presents His sacrifice there for ever, We need no other; we do need Him. Oh, friend! are you resting on that sacrifice? Have you given your cause into His hands to plead? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Sinlessness of Jesus
He was without sin, as a child, as a youth, as a man. In the synagogue, when they were singing psalms, with tears on their cheeks, I wonder how He felt, and what He did. He would have liked to join them, but lie could not. He knew nothing of the remorse and misery of the young men and grey heads coming up with the week’s sin on their heads. He knew the sin was there: He saw it in every eye, saw it in the workshop sod in the street, in the malice and ill-will hat made riots there; but He did not feel it in Hires, if. (A. Whyte, D. D.)
The unstained life of Jesus
His life resembled a polished mirror, which the foulest breath cannot stain, nor dim beyond a passing moment. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Christ walked through the midst of sinners undefiled. Like a beam of light piercing into a foul dung, on, or like a river purifying and fertilising, itself untainted, so did Christ pass through this world. (R. M.McCheyne.)
The sinless High Priest
A priest who could be charged with the slightest infraction of the law would have been no Saviour. The hopeless debtor can never be a surety for a debtor; the helpless slave never liberates his companion slave; nor the fallen lift the fallen from the dust. So that all our religion, with its perfection ‘of righteousness and infirmity of consolation, depends upon the single fact that Christ is the Hey One of God. (C. Stanford, D. D.)
The excellence of Jesus
According to Renan, the excellence of Jesus was due to the climate and soil of Palestine I But he forgets to ask how it is that the climate and soil of Palestine have never produced such another! (C. Clemance, D. D.)
The holiness of Christ
I. THE REALITY of our Lord’s holiness is most clearly and strongly declared in Scripture.
1. We are told that He came into our world with a holy nature.
2. His life, too, was holy.
II. THE PECULIARITY of His holiness.
1. It was holiness amidst sin and temptation, perfect holiness amidst abounding sin and the utmost possible temptation.
2. His was holiness also amidst weakness and suffering.
III. Let us come now to THE IMPORTANCE of Christ’s holiness. The character He had to sustain, and the work He had to perform, required it.
1. It was necessary in order to constitute Him a real manifestation of God.
2. It was needful to make Him an effectual sacrifice for our sins.
3. But our Lord’s office as our great Redeemer was not to end with His life on earth, He was to go into the eternal heavens in the same character that He bore here, and to carry on there, though in a different manner, the same work. We sometimes think of Him as simply entering there into His glory and joy, but He is intent on our salvation in the midst of His glory and joy; as much engaged in it on His throne as He was on His cross. The apostle accordingly represents Him in this passage as our High Priest in the heavens, “ever living to make intercession for us”; and tells us that it became Him to be holy in order to qualify Him for this heavenly office and work.
4. As the pattern and example to which all His people are to be conformed, it was needful that our Lord should be holy. We want a perfection like His, the perfect on of holiness, and earthbound as our affections sometimes are--nothing below this will satisfy us. But now there is this perfection in thehey Jesus, a sinless perfection. We cannot look higher. Be is purity itself, the Divine purity embodied. To be made like unto Him comprehends m it all that is blissful and glorious. We feel that we shall indeed be satisfied when we awake with His likeness. Lessons:
1. Let us rejoice in His holiness, and admire and adore Him for it.
2. Let us seek for ourselves a share in this holiness of Christ.
3. And let us banish from our minds for ever the thought, that though living ungodly lives, we may yet be followers of this holy Saviour. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The doctrine of the Incarnation
While the sacred writers inform us that “Jesus Christ the Righteous” came into the world to save sinners, and to take upon Him our infirmities, they are most careful to tell us that He Himself was without sin. Ever since order and beauty arose out of chaos, only two who might properly be termed perfect beings have appeared in, our world. The first Adam was of the earth, earthy. The other the Lord from heaven, produced not out of nothing, or of the dust but conceived in a supernatural and miraculous manner by the direct power and overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. That in every point He might be like us, with the exception of sin, He was born a babe, underwent all the weakness, s peculiar to our infantine years, and passed in progression through the very steps that we do from youth to manhood. Now, He behoved to be thus like us in advancing to maturity; yet His whole thoughts, sayings, and doings, through all the progression to which He submitted were in entire conformity to the Divine will and commands. Had the Lord our righteousness been man, of a sinful nature, that He must have proved for us an unsuccessful representative is but too evident, when we reflect that the trial of Christ Jesus was of a severer nature than that endured by Adam; for whilst our first progenitor had merely one object placed before his eyes as a trial of obedience, the man of sorrows had a continued conflict of sufferings, from the manger to His crowning act of obedience in Geshsemane and on the cross. If sin had been interwoven in His nature, it would have manifested something of its existence; and surely in His interesting history, there were not wanting occasions awfully trying, when betrayed by a fed wet, deserted by friends, assailed by the powers of wickedness, and suffering an eclipse by the hidings of His Father’s countenance in the hour and power of darkness. But here let us consider how it became requisite for this Divine personage to assume the nature of man, and to take upon Him the likeness of sinful flesh. As it was man who had transgressed, it was necessary that the penalty should be paid by man--not that the punishment should be endured by a nature different fromthat which had fallen. Accordingly, that our iniquities might be all put to His account, and expiated by Him, He took to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, and died, the just for the unjust. Probably, had He interposed on behalf of intelligences of a higher order, instead of us who had sunk so low in the mire of sin, He would have assumed the nature of those intelligences. Between the person of Christ and His blessed work, between the inherent splendour and excellency of His character, and the exalted dignity of His station, there is therefore an intimate and beautiful connection. The being who would redeem another from misery and ruin by yielding a vicarious righteousness, must be one who is not himself under any obligations to obey, or to endure the penalty of the law on his own behalf. Apply this principle in reference to Christ Jesus, who undertook our cause, and you will see that He could not be chargeable with presumption or disaffection to the Divine government, by His laying claim to the character of independence and self-existence; for He was “in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” No exactions of a personal kind could hay, been required of Him who, of His own free choice, was made under the law, and who magnified it and made it honourable. Could this perfect and unchangeable law have been fulfilled if the second Adam had not been altogether independent, holy, and Divine, and thus placed in the most favourable circumstances to ensure our salvo, ion? But we are to remember that Christ not only required to be independent and self-existent, to make an atonement at all, but also to be a person of the highest worth, in consequence of the demerit of sin as an offence against all the glorious perfections of infinite and unblemished purity, whose name is holy, and who is altogether glorious in holiness; and this being an unchangeable perfection of His nature, it would seem that a Redeemer was required, equal in dignity and worth to the Mighty Being offended, and to the extent of the evil committed. But who in heaven or earth could be fit for the undertaking but the incarnate God, the Man that was Jehovah’s fellow? (G. Mitchell, M. A.)
Separate from sinners
Christ’s detachment from sinners
Look at Christ’s detachment from sinners
I. As A VAST FEELING IN THE MIND OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES. (Luke 4:14-27; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 21:12; John 8:1-11.)
1. This feeling of distance which they had in relation to Him cannot be accounted for on the ground of
(1) Miraculous manifestations;
(2) His social superiority;
(3) His non-sociality.
2. It was purely moral. His incorruptible truthfulness, exquisite sensibilities, calm reverence, overflowing benevolence, unconquerable love of eternal right, invested Him with that Godlike air and bearing which made them feel that He stood at an unapproachable moral distance.
II. AS AN UNDOUBTED FACT REALISED BY HIMSELF. This is seen in
1. His frequent personal withdrawal from men in order to hold fellowship with His Father.
2. Much of the language He addressed to men, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above.” “I and My Father are one.”
III. As ARE ESSENTIAL POWER IN HIS REDEMPTIVE UNDERTAKING.
1. It was just that power which rendered His services as a Redeemer acceptable to God.
2. It was just that power that rendered His services as a Redeemer efficacious to man. (Homilist.)
Christ as separate from the world
With us of to-day it is the commendation of Jesus that He is so profoundly humbled, identified so affectingly with our human state. But the power He had with the men of His time moved in exactly the opposite direction, being the impression He made of His remoteness and separateness from men, when He was, in fact, only a man, as they supposed, under all human conditions. With us it is the wonder that He is brought so low. With them that He could seem to rise so high, for they knew nothing as yet of His person, considered as the incarnate Word of the Father. What I propose, then, for my present subject is--The separateness of Jesus from men; the immense power it had and must ever have on their feeling and character. I do not mean by this that Christ was separated as being at all withdrawn, but only that, in drawing Himself most closely to them, He was felt by them never as being on their level of life and character, but as being parted from them by an immense chasm of distance. These impressions were not due, as I have said, to any distinct conceptions they had of Him as being a higher nature incarnate, for not, even His disciples took up any such definite conceptions of His nature till after His death and ascension. It was guessed, indeed, that He might be Elias, or some one of the old prophets, but we are only to see, in such struggles of conjecture, how powerfully He has already impressed the sense of His distinction or separateness of character, for such guesses or conjectures were even absurd, unless they were instigated by previous impressions of something very peculiar in His unearthly manner requiring to be accounted for. His miracles had undoubtedly something to do with the impression of His separateness from ordinary men, hut a great many others, who were strictly human, have wrought miracles without creating any such gulf between them and mankind as we discover here. It is probably true also that the rumour of His being the Messiah--the great., long-expected Prince and Deliverer--had something to do in raising the impressions of men concerning Him. But their views of the Messiah to come had prepared them to look only for some great hero and deliverer, and a kind of political millennium under His kingdom. There was nothing in their expectation that should separate Him specially from mankind as being a more than humanly superlative character.
I. Pursuing, then, our inquiry, let us notice, in the first place, How THE PERSONS MOST REMOTE AND OPPOSITE, EVEN THEY THAT FINALLY CONSPIRED HIS DEATH, WERE IMPRESSED OR AFFECTED BY HIM. They deny His Messiahship; they charge that only Beelzebub could help Him to do His miracles; they are scandalised by His familiarity with publicans and sinners and other low people; they arraign His doctrine as a heresy against many of the most sacred laws of their religion; they charge Him with the crime of breaking their Sabbath, and even with excess in eating and drinking; and yet we can easily see that there is growing up, in their minds, a most peculiar awe of His person. And it appears to he excited more by His manners and doctrine and a certain indescribable originality and sanctity in both, them by anything else.
II. TURN NOW, SECONDLY, TO THE DISCIPLES, AND OBSERVE HOW THEY WERE IMPRESSED OR AFFECTED BY THE MANNER AND SPIRIT OF JESUS. And here the remarkable thing is, that they appear to be more and more impressed with the distance between Him and themselves the longer they know Him, and the more intimate and familiar their acquaintance with Him.
III. WHAT NOW IS THE SOLUTION OF THIS PROFOUND IMPRESSION OF SEPARATENESS MADE BY CHRIST ON THE WORLD? That His miracles and the repute of His Messiahship do not wholly account fur it we have already observed. It may be imagined by some that He produced this impression artificially, by means of certain scenes and observances designed to widen out the distance between Him and the race; for how could He otherwise obtain that power over them which He was properly entitled to, have by His own real eminence, unless He took some pains to set them in attitudes in which His eminence might be felt. In o her words, if He is to have more than a man’s power, He must somehow be more than a man. Thus, when He says to, His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come”; or when, being notified that His mother and brethren are standing without waiting to see Him, He asks, “Who, then, is My mother, and who are My brethren?” it will be imagined that He is purposely suggesting His higher derivation and His more transcendent affinities. But, even if it were so, it must be understood only that He is speaking out of His spiritual consciousness, claiming thus affinity with God, and with those who shall embrace Him in the eternal brotherhood of faith; now, as boasting the height of His natural Sonship. The remarkable separation, therefore, of Christ from the sinners of mankind, and the impression He awakened in them of that separation, was made, not by scenes, nor by words of assertion, nor by anything designed for that purpose, but it grew out of His life and character--His unworldliness, holiness, purity, truth, love; the dignity of His feeling, the transcendent wisdom and grace of His conduct. He was manifestly one that stood apart from the world in His profoundest human sympathy with it. He often spent His night, in solitary prayer, closeted with God in the recesses of the mountains. He was plainly not under the world, or any fashions of human opinion. He was able to be singular, without apparently desiring it, and by the simple force of His superiority.
1. How great a thing now is it that such a Being has come into our world and lived in it--a Being above mortality while in it--a Being separate from sinners, bringing unto sinners by a fellow-nature what is transcendent and even deific in the Divine holiness and love. Yes, we have had a visitor among us, living, out, in the moulds of human conduct and feeling, the perfections of God! What an importation of glory, and truth! Who that lives a man can ever, after this, think it a low and common thing to fill these spheres, walk in these ranges of life, and do these works of duty which have been raised so high by the life of Jesus in the flesh? The world is no more the same that it was. All its main ideas and ideals are raised, b kind of sacred glory invests even our humblest spheres and most common concerns.
2. Consider, again, as one of the points deducible from the truth we have been considering, how little reason is given us, in the mission of Christ, toe the hope that God, who has such love to man, will not allow us to fail of salvation by reason of any mere defect or neglect of application to Christ. What, then, does this peculiar separateness of Christ signify? Coming into the world to save it--taking on Him our nature that He may draw Himself as close to us as possible--what is growing all the while to be more and more felt in men’s bosoms but a sense of ever-widening, ever-deepening, and, in some sense, incommunicable separateness from Him? And this, you will observe, is the separateness, not of condition, but of character. Nay, it grows out of His very love to us in part and His profound oneness with us, for it is a love so pure and gentle--so patient, so disinterested, so self-sacrificing--that it parts Him from us in the very act of embrace, and makes us think of Him even with awe! How, then, will it be when He is met in the condition of His glory, and the guise of His humanity is laid off? There is nothing then to put Him at one with us or us at one with Him, but just that incommunicable and separate character which fills us even here with dread. If He was separate before, how inevitably, insupportably separate now.
3. Consider, also, and accurately distinguish, as here we may easily do, what is meant by holiness, and what especially is its power, or the law of its power. Holiness is not what we may do or become in mere self-activity or self-culture, but it is the sense of a separated qualify in one who lives on a footing of intimacy and oneness with God.
4. But the great and principal lesson derivable from this subject is, that Christianity is a regenerative power upon the world only as it comes into the world in a separated character--as a revelation or sacred importation of holiness. This brings me to speak of what is now the great and desolating error of our times. I mean the general conformity of the followers of Christ to the manners and ways, and, consequently, in a great degree, to the spirit of the world. Christ had His power, as we have seen, in the fact that He carried the impression of His separateness from it and His superiority to it. He was no ascetic, His separation no contrived and prescribed separation, but was only the more real and radical that it was the very instinct or freest impulse of His character. A true Christian, one who is deep enough in the godly life to have his affinities with God, will infallibly become a separated being, The instinct of holiness will draw him apart into a singular, superior, hidden life with God. And this is the true Christian power, besides which there is no ,thee. And when this fails everything goes with it. Neither let us be deceived in this matter by our merely notional wisdoms, or deliberative judgments, for it is not a mat,st to be decided by any consideration of Jesuits--the question never is, what is really harmful, and so wrong, but what will meet the living and free instinct of a life of prayer and true godliness? There is no greater mistake, as regards the true manner of impression on the world, than that we impress it being homogeneous with it. If in our dress we show the same extravagance, if our amusements are theirs without a distinction, if we follow after their shows, copy their manners, busy ourselves in their worldly objects, emulate their fashions, what are we different from them? It seems quite plausible to fancy the great honour we shall put on religion, when we are able to set it on a footing with all most worldly things, and show that we can be Christians in that plausible way. This we call liberal piety. It is such as can excel in all high tastes, and make up a figure of beauty that must needs be a great commendation, we think, to religion. It may be a little better than to be openly apostate; but alas I there is how little power in such a kind of life! If we are to impress the world we must be separate from sinners, even as Christ our Master was, -r at least according to our human degree, as being in His Spirit. Oh, that we could take our lesson here, and plan our life, order our pursuits, choose our relaxations, prepare our families, so as to be truly with Christ, and so, in fact, that we ourselves can say, each for himself, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” And this exactly is our communion with Jesus; we propose to be one with Him in it. In it we connect with a Power transcendent, the Son of Man in glory, whose image we aspire to, and whose mission, as the Crucified on earth, was the revelation of the Father’s love and holiness. We ask to be separated with Him and set apart to the same great life. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
Christ separate from sinners
There are certain senses in which Jesus was not “separate from sinners.”
1. He was not separate from them in respect of nature. It was a true, though immaculate, humanity which He assumed, and in which He tabernacled in the midst of men.
2. He was not “separate from sinners” in respect of residence. He lived on earth. He laboured in Galilee; and Galilee was proverbially bad. He preached, and suffered, and died in Jerusalem; and the voice of Jerusalem’s crimes “entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.”
3. He was not “separate from sinners” in respect of society. As one who came, “not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance,” He held intercourse with wicked men. The Physician was found beside the sick-bed. The Deliverer of guilty and ruined souls “ate and drank with publicans and sinners.”
4. He was not “separate from sinners” in respect of His personal experience at the hands of men, or even at the hands of God. He shared in the ordinary trials incident to sinful man. He was the object of harsh reproach and contumelious scorn. He was judicially condemned to a tremendous kind of death. And it was, literally, in the midst of malefactors that He died. What, then, is meant by the statement that Christ was “separate from sinners”? Plainly, that in respect of character He was altogether different from them. Partaker of the same humanity as they, in Him, characteristically and exclusively, it was immaculate; and thus, even while He moved in the midst of sinners, and was come to “seek and to save that which was lost,” His Spirit, in some sense, dwelt apart. Christ was morally perfect in all the parts of His constitution. His intellect was filled with pure and lofty thoughts. His conscience was true to the dictates of eternal rectitude--quick to discern the right, and bold and strong to choose and follow it. His heart was the home, alike of the mild, and the majestic, forms of feeling. His ears were ever wont to hearken to the plaint of sorrow. With a simplicity to which ostentation and art were strangers, His eyes were bedewed with tears for human wretchedness and sin, and anon lifted up in prayer to Heaven. His hands--how busy were they in the cause of goodness and of God! And even as, in the ark, the stony tablets of the law were kept, so in the soul of Jesus that good and: righteous law found a habitation and a home.
Every class of virtues was nobly realised in Christ.
1. In Him the devotional virtues were perfect awed complete. Prayer was His recreation and delight. Even when “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him,” He gave Jehovah thanks (Luke 22:17; Luke 22:19). And “truly,” His “fellowship was with the Father.”
2. In Him too, the active virtues were gloriously displayed. The exclamation of His boyhood might serve as a general motto for His earthly history:--“Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” His aims were high, His heart was earnest, and His hand was busy. “The work of Him that sent Him” was His regular, His uniform pursuit. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
3. And in the passive virtues, how pre-eminently great was Jesus! How “meek and lowly in heart”! How calmly did He bear the abuse of man! How patiently did He submit to the hand of God! “Abba, Father, not My will, but Thine be done,” “The cup which My Father giveth Me, shall I not drink it?” were not only the memorable expressions of His tongue, but also the genuine spirit of His soul. It is indeed a glorious character, the character of Christ--fitter for a seraphic harp than for a human pea to celebrate. In His gentleness He was great, in His greatness He was gentle.
Truly, He was “ the Lamb of God,” and yet “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” John 1:29; Revelation 5:5). The moral glory of Divinity, and the perfect virtue of an unsullied human nature, met in Him. (A. S. Patterson.)
Made higher than the heavens
The transcendent majesty of Christ
In what sense is Christ higher than the heavens?
I. In a MATERIAL sense. Is not the painter greater than his painting; the engineer than his machine; the architect than his building; the author than his book? So Christ is higher than the heavens, because He created them.
II. In a MORAL sense. The untold myriads of unfallen and redeemed spirits that populate those heavens are very good, very affluent in holy thoughts and Divine aspirations; but Christ, in goodness, is higher than them all.
1. Their goodness is derived. Christ’s is original--His is the primal fount whence theirs flows; His the sun whence their radiance beams.
2. Their goodness is measurable. “The Spirit is not given to Him by measure.”
3. Their goodness is contingent. Christ’s is absolute.
III. In a POSITIONAL sense. He is in the midst of the throne. He is to all what the sun is to the planets--the centre round which they all revolve, and from which they all derive their life, strength, beauty radiance, joy. (Homilist.)
He offered up Himself
The only offering for sin
I. THE OFFERING AND THE OFFERER. “He offered up Himself.” I never knew any other priest do that. Priests under the law offer costly things; but they plunder the people for them. They do not even offer their own property, much less offer themselves. But here is the gracious, glorious High Priest of our profession who, because no other offering could be found suitable, and acceptable, and sufficient, offered Himself--“the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Oh, pause a moment over this precious offering, and note the voluntary manner in which it was offered--an offering adequate to the purpose for which it was intended.
The other priests offered offerings, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people--this glorious Priest found in the one offering of His own precious body and soul an adequate amount of merit for all the sins of all the election of grace, and presented it as such to God the Father. Pass on to mark that this offering, so valuable and perfect and acceptable to God the Father, is administered to the faith of God’s elect by the Holy Ghost. It is expressly His work to plant faith in the heart of a poor, ruined sinner; which faith is to bring nothing, to find nothing in the creature, to come empty-handed, just to receive the application of blood Divine, by the Holy Ghost administered to personal experience; so that in the offering itself is found all that is adequate for the sinner’s salvation, and redemption of the Church of God, in the Father’s acceptance of it, a receipt in full of all demands for the whole Church, and in the Holy Spirit’s ministry, the application of it to the hearts of all the election of grace. Now look at the offerer--“He offered Himself.” It is the business of a priest to offer a sacrifice. He goes forth as our Priest, after the order of Melchisedec, to offer Himself a sacrifice acceptable unto God.
1. Here is, first of all affection. He so loved the Church that He gave Himself for it. The Father sends the Son, and the Son comes voluntarily.
2. Moreover there was affinity. Christ loved His Church as the apostle exhorts husbands to love their wives; as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might wash it, and cleanse it, and present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
3. For one moment glance at the agony which this voluntary act involved. The whole amount of Divine wrath poured out like a cataract upon His soul--all the vengeance of stern justice waiting with its sword to smite Jehovah’s fellow was felt when He bowed His head and died--all the curse of the law, like barbed arrows, penetrated His very soul. He endured all this for His Church. Go a little further, and you find Him typified under the Old Testament dispensation, and becoming Himself the fulfilment of all its types. Time would fail me here to enter largely upon them, but I will just mention the morning and evening lamb. Ages of offerings of the blood of animals never blotted out one sin--they only pointed to Christ--but the six hours of a precious Christ on the cross carried back a flood of atoning blood to Adam’s day, and it rolled its tide forward to the end of time, that the whole election of grace might be for ever exonerated by that one offering. “He hath obtained eternal redemption for us,” saith the apostle. I dwell upon that phrase with peculiar delight. “Eternal.” Can you put a termination to it? It runs backward to the first transgressor, and it runs forward to the end of time, and then into eternity with its blessings. “Eternal redemption.” “Aye,” say you, “that little word ‘us,’ I dare not claim it.” Why not? “Having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Who was it for? I want the appropriation put forth by you and me upon simple principles. How do you know that some poor slave, under a foreign yoke of tyranny, was redeemed? How would he know it himself? Why, in the first place, he would be thoroughly sick and tired of his chains; in the next place, he would know that the price has been paid for his ransom; and, in the third place, he would be set free; and when a man is set free he will not stay under the yoke of the tyrant any longer, he will be off to his own country. Now you and I may know it in the same manner. “Having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Lay hold of it by faith, if God enables you, and go and plead it at the throne, and never fear losing it--it includes all the blessings of the gospel for time, all the fulness of the covenant for enriching the Church, and all the glories of heaven for everlasting possession. Well, this He did officially, relatively, not as a common-place sufferer, but under appointment, and, consequently, under responsibility. This He did as the covenant Head, in the name and on befall of His whole Church; and He did it openly in His life and death, before all worlds.
II. THE ILLUSTRIOUS TRIUMPHS OF THIS ONE OFFERING. The apostle, in addressing the Colossians, tells them concerning these illustrious triumphs, that He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly on His cross, triumphing over them in it. The triumphs are vast and extensive, and they shall never be subdued. The first feature of these triumphs we see in new covenant terms of salvation met and fulfilled. Terms? say you. Yes, terms--not made with man, though, nor left to man. If they were, woe to the whole race of Adam. Away with all conditions and terms only as they belong to Christ. Still, there ale terms of salvation, and let me mark what they are. Why Jehovah says He will by no means clear the guilty; then if a man be saved at all his guilt must be cleared away, or there is no salvation for him, for God says He will by no means clear the guilty. Jesus met the terms, allowed the whole mass of guilt and transgression which pertained to His Church to be laid upon Him, and the Father Himself did it. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Go on to mark that in these New Testament terms which are met there is another condition--“without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” What a mercy that this is not left to you or me! Our glorious High Priest, who offered Himself, impart, His own life, His own nature and will, sends down His Holy Spirit, to take possession, of the souls of all for whom He bled, that they may stand complete in the holiness of God. Moreover, if I may mention a third term, I would say it is the being clad in a spotless, perfect, sinless righteousness for justification. Where is the man to get it? Hear what Jehovah, by His prophet Isaiah, says. The prophet was directed to set it down, that everything pertaining to the creature should wear out as a garment, and that the moth should eat up all creature excellencies; but, says God, “My righteousness shall be for ever, and My salvation shall not be abolished.” That is an everlasting righteousness. Paul perfectly understood it, and blessedly appropriated it, when he said, “That I might be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Again, His enemies are all vanquished, and an expiation accomplished in behalf of all His Church. “O death, I will be thy plague; O grave, I will he thy destruction,” said He. “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.” The conquest of the heart is one of Jesu’s triumphs. Moreover, the expiation coupled with it includes the whole Church of God. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” Oh, the prospect is bright while Jesus is kept in view. Only let the Sun of Righteousness shine upon us, and our prospects for eternity must be brightened. Just pass on to observe that this glorious High Priest of our profession has opened His new and living way unto the throne of God for all that the Father gives into His hands, and will infallibly bring them all home to everlasting glory.
III. THE SINFULNESS OF EITHER REJECTING OR MOCKING THIS ONE OFFERING FOR SIN. I cannot possibly look for merit in the creature without believing ,hat the merit of Christ is not sufficient--without announcing, in that wry act, that I am not satisfied that Christ spoke the truth when He said, “It is finished.” If it is finished, an eternal redemption is obtain d; any pretension to add to it is nothing less than a blasphemous insult to Christ. Negotiation with the Father is not attainable by any human power, but in and by this offering. “No man cometh to the Father but by Me.” Go to the footstool of Divine mercy, guilt-burdened sinner, and name the blood and righteousness of Christ. Go and print the Father to His sufferings in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Go and tell what Christ has done perfected for ever them that are sanctified, and dare assert, under all the load of your guilt, “Lord, I believe in the efficacy and power of that offering”; and go on till you are enabled to say, “I believe it was offered for me.” Then begins your peace and happiness. I pray you to mark, once more, that all our negotiations must be successful when the name, and merit, and righteousness of Jesus are pleaded. This leads me to the last, thought, that the trust and confidence of all the elect of God will be found placed there. (J. Irons.)
Our Lord’s offering
Our fundamental conception of the offering of Him who ascended the cross of Calvary to die must be, that it was an offering of life, not of death. It began with the cross, with the moment when He was lifted on high out of the earth; and then, separated from all that was material, local, or limited, He was able to enter upon a spiritual, universal, and everlasting priesthood. Then, as One bearing, the sins of all who had committed, or should afterwards commit, themselves to Him in faith, He yielded up His own life, and theirs in His, as the penalty due to sin. For Himself and for the members of His body He accepted the sentence, “The soul that sinneth shall die”; while at the same time He bowed Himself in submission to the law so mysteriously linked with that sentence, that, as things are in a present world, it is only through death that we can conquer death and find the path to life. On the cross He gave Himself for us, the just for the unjust; so that when we think of Him as the Victim upon which our help is laid, and identify ourselves with Him by faith, we may see that in Him our sins are expiated, and that they no longer bar our admission to the Divine presence and favour. All this, however, was no more than the first stage of the offering made for us by our heavenly High Priest; and the mistake of many is to think that, as the offering was begun, so also it was finished on the cross. In reality, only the initial step was taken when Jesus died. As the blood, or in other words the life, of an animal sacrificed under the law was liberated in death, not merely that the offering might be completed, but that the true offering might be made by the sprinkling; so the blood, or in other words the life, of Christ was liberated on the cross, that His true offering might be made by the surrender of that life to God in a perpetual service of love, obedience, and praise.
1. The conception of Christ’s priesthood as a heavenly priesthood, and of the life that He now leads in heaven as the consummation of His offering, alone gives us the accomplishment, and that too in their appropriate order, of everything that was involved in the separate offerings of the law. In the life now offered to the Father and before the Father’s throne we see, not only the perfected Sin and Trespass, but the perfected Burnt and Peace-offerings. There the life won through death is surrendered into the Father’s hands. There it burns in the never-ceasing devotion of love and praise. There it is passed in the enjoyment of a fellowship with God undisturbed and glorified. And thence it descends to all the members of the body, so that they find, in Him who gave and still gives Himself for them, reconciliation, union, nourishment for a heavenly service, and the comfort and joy of a heavenly feast.
2. As an offering of life Christ’s offering is complete, embracing in its efficacy the whole life of man. In this respect the offerings of the law were necessarily incomplete, and so also must be the offering presented in any single act of the life of Christ. But when, as our High Priest and Representative, Jesus offers His life to God, that life covers every stage or department of our life. There is no part of our life in which, by the very fact that He lived a human life, the Redeemer of the world did not share. Must we labour? He laboured. Must we suffer? He suffered. Must we be tempted? He was tempted. Must we have at one time solitary hours, at another move in social circles? He spent hours alone upon the mountain top, and He mingled with His disciples as companions and friends. Must we die? He died. Must we rise from the grave? He rose from it on the third morning: Must we appear before the Judge of all? He appeared before Him who sent Him with the record of all that He had accomplished. Must we enter into eternity? Eternity is now passing over Him. More even than this has to be said; for our High Priest not only moved in every one of these scenes, He has also consecrated them all, and made them all a part of His offering in heaven. In each He was a conqueror, and the fruits of His conquest in each are made ours.
3. As an offering of life Christ’s offering is everlasting. His life is presented continually to God; and in it the children of God, whose own it is made by faith, are kept consecrated for evermore. The efficacy of the legal offerings lasted for a time. This offering never ceases, and its efficacy never fails.
4. As an offering of life Christ’s offering is made once for all, and cannot be repeated. It is simply impossible to repeat it, for we cannot repeat what has not been first brought to an end; and since the offering on the part of the eternal Son is His life. It follows that His offering must be as eternal as
Himself. That offering of our Lord, then, which is the leading function of His priesthood, was only begun, and not completed, on the cross. It is going on still, and it will go on for ever, as the Divine and perfect sacrifice in which our great Representative and we in Him attain the end of all religion, whether natural or revealed, as that sacrifice in which we are made one with His Father and our Father, with His God and our God. (W. Milligan, D. D.)
The Son, who is consecrated for evermore.--He giveth a special reason why it beseemeth not us under the gospel to have a sinful man for our priest, because ibis is the very difference betwixt the law and the gospel.
1. The law maketh men which have infirmities high priests; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, and none but the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
2. He maketh the difference of the law and the gospel to stand amongst other things in the difference of priests, so as the gospel cannot admit such priests as the law admitted.
3. The differences, as the apostle setteth them down here, are
(1) The course taken about priests under the law was alterable, they were made without an oath, the lawgiver declaring it to be his will to change that course when he saw fit; but the course taken about the priests -f the New Testament is with an oath, and so cannot be changed.
(2) The next difference he maketh this: The law admitteth men in the plural number, a plurality of priests; but the gospel admitteth no plurality of priests, but the Son only to be priest. Melchisedec’s order in the type hath no priest but one in it, without a suffragan or substituted priest. Therefore Christ, the true Melchisedec, is alone in His priesthood, without partner or deputy or suffragan. Then, to make plurality of priests in the gospel is to alter the order of Melchisedec, and to renounce the mark set betwixt the law and the gospel,
3. The third difference: The law maketh men priests; but the evangelical oath maketh the Son of God priest for the gospel. Then, to make a man priest now is to mar the Son of God’s privilege, to whom the privilege only belongeth.
4. The fourth difference: The law maketh such priests as have infirmity; that is, sinful men. But the evangelical oath maketh the Son, who is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God, through Him. Then to make a sinful and weak man a priest now is to weaken the priesthood of the gospel, and make it like the law.
5. The fifth difference: The law maketh men priests which have infirmities over whom death had power, that they could not be censer, rated but for their sliest life time. But the evangelical oath maketh the Son, whom the sorrows of death could not hold, and hath consecrated Him for evermore. Then as long as Christ’s consecration lasteth, none must meddle with His office.
6. The last difference: The law instituting priests was not God’s last will, but might suffer addition. But the evangelical oath is since the law, and God’s last and unchangeable will. Therefore to add unto it and bring in as many priests now as did serve in the temple of old, is to provoke God to add as many plagues as are written in God’s book upon themselves and their priests also. (D. Dickson, M. A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29