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The first covenant had also ordinances
The ancient tabernacle
The writer now proceeds to compare the old and the new covenants with reference to their respective provisions for religious communion between man and God, his purpose being to show the superiority of the priestly ministry of Christ over that of the Levitical priesthood.
In the first five verses he gives an inventory of the furniture of the tabernacle pitched in the wilderness; in the next five he describes the religious services there carried on. “Now [our leading back to Hebrews 8:5] the first [covenant] had ordinances of Divine service and its mundane sanctuary.” The epithet κοσμικόν here applied to the tabernacle evidently signifies belonging to this material world, in opposition to the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:11) not made with hands out of things visible and tangible. The purpose of the writer is to point out that the tabernacle belonged to this earth, and therefore possessed the attributes of all things earthly, materiality and perishableness. The materials might be fine and costly; still they were material, and as such were liable to wax old and vanish away. In Hebrews 8:2-5 is given a detailed description of the arrangements and furniture of this cosmic sanctuary. No valuator could be more careful to make an inventory of household furniture perfectly accurate than our author is to give an exhaustive list of the articles to be found in the Jewish tabernacle, whether in the holy place or in the most holy. Indeed, so careful is he to make the list complete, not only in his own judgment, but in the judgment of his readers, that he includes things which had no connection with religious worship, bat were merely put into the tabernacle for safe custody, as valuable mementos of incidents in Israel’s history--e.g., the golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. It is further to be noted in regard to these articles, that they are: represented as being within the ark of the covenant, though it is nowhere in the Old Testament said that they were, the direction given being merely that they should be placed before the testimony, and it being expressly stated in regard to the ark in Solomon’s temple that there was nothing in it save the two tables on which the ten commandments were inscribed. Whether these things ever had been in the ark we do not know. The fact that they are here represented to have been does not settle the point. While his doctrine is that the ancient tabernacle was at best but a poor, shadowy affair, he takes pains to show that in his judgment it was as good as it was possible for a cosmic sanctuary to be. Its articles of furniture were of the best material; the ark of fine wood covered all over with gold, the altar of incense of similar materials, the pot with manna of pure gold. He feels he can afford to describe in generous terms the furniture of the tabernacle, because, after all, he will have no difficulty in showing the immeasurable superiority of the “true” tabernacle wherein Christ ministers. One single phrase settles the point χειροποίητος (Hebrews 8:11). The old tabernacle and all its furniture were made by the hands of men out of perishable materials. The “ gold, and silver, and brass,” &c., were all liable to destruction by the devouring tooth of time, that spares nothing visible and tangible. This eulogistic style of describing the furniture of the cosmic tabernacle was not only generous, but politic. The more the furniture ,was praised, the more the religious service carried on in the tent so furnished was in effect depreciated by the contrast inevitably suggested. The emphasis laid on the excellent quality of these really signifies the inferiority of the whole Levitical system. Looking now at the inventory distributively, let us note what articles are placed in either compartment of the tabernacle respectively. In the first are located the candlestick, the table, and the shewbread, which was arranged in two rows on the table; to the second are assigned what is called the θυμιατήριον, and the ark of the covenant, containing, as is said, the manna pot, Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the covenant, and surmounted by the Cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat, or lid of the ark. The only article of which there is any need to speak “particularly” is the θυμιατήριον, concerning which there are two questions to be considered: What is it? and with what propriety is it assigned to the most holy place? As to the former, the word θυμιατήριον may mean either “the altar of incense,” as I have rendered it, or “the golden censer,” as translated in the Authorised and Revised Versions. I do not suppose there would be any hesitation on the subject, were it not for the consideration, that by deciding that the altar of incense is intended we seem to make the writer guilty of an inaccuracy in assigning it to the inner shrine of the tabernacle. I have little doubt that this consideration had its own weight with our Revisers in leading them to retain the old rendering, “the golden censer”; and the fact detracts from the value of their judgment, as based, not on the merits of the question, but on the ground of theological prudence. A clearer insight into the mind of the writer would have shown them that this well-meant solicitude for his infallibility was uncalled for. This brings us to the question as to the propriety of placing the altar of incense among the things belonging to the most holy place. The fact is, that the altar of incense was a puzzle to one who was called on to state to which part of the tabernacle it belonged. Hence the peculiar manner in which the writer expresses himself in reference to the things assigned to the most holy place. He does not say, as in connection with the first division, “in which were” (ἐν η), but represents it as “ having” (ἔχουσα) certain things. The phrase is chosen with special reference to the altar of incense. Of all the other articles it might have been said “in which were,” but not of it. Nothing more could be said than that it belonged to the second division. The question is, whether even so much could be said, and why the writer preferred to say this rather than to say that the altar of incense stood outside the veil in the first division. Now as to the former part of the question, in so putting the matter cur author was only following an Old Testament precedent, the altar of incense being in 1 Kings 6:22 called the altar “that was by the oracle,” or more correctly, as in the Revised Version, the altar “that belonged to the oracle.” Then the directions given for fixing its position, as recorded in Exodus 30:6, are very significant. The purport of this directory seems to be: outside the veil for daily use (for within it could not be used save once a year), but tending inwards, indicating by its very situation a wish to get in, standing there, so to speak, at the door of the most holy place, petitioning for admission. So the eloquent eulogist of the better ministry of the new covenant appears to have understood it. He thinks of the altar of incense as praying for admission into the inner shrine, and waiting for the removal of the envious veil which forbad entrance. And he so far sympathises with its silent prayer as to admit it within the veil before the time, or at least to acknowledge that, while materially without, it belonged in spirit and function to the most holy place. In stating the case as he does our author was not only following usage, but utilising the double relations of the altar of incense for the purpose of his apologetic. He wanted to make it felt that the position of that altar was difficult to define, that it was both without and within the veil, that you could not place it exclusively in either position without leaving out something that should be added to make the account complete. And he wished to press home the question, What was the cause of the difficulty? The radical evil, he would suggest, was the existence of the veil. It was the symbol of an imperfect religion, which denied men free access to God, and so was the parent of this anomaly, that the altar of incense had to be in two places at the same time: within the veil, as there were the mercy-seat and the Hearer of prayer; without the veil, because the incense of prayer must be offered daily, and yet no one might go within save the high priest, and he only once a year. How thankful, then, should we be that the veil is done away, so that the distinction of without and within no longer exists, and we may come daily to offer the incense of our prayers in the presence of God, without fear of evil, with perfect “assurance to be heard”! After the inventory of its furniture comes an account of the ministry carried on in the Jewish sanctuary (verses 6-10); the description of which, coming after the former, has all the effect of an anticlimax. One can hardly fail to say to himself, What a fall is here! The furniture was precious, but the worship how poor f Every one capable of reflection feels that a religious system in which the vessels of the sanctuary are so much superior to the service cannot be the final and permanent form of man’s communion with God, but only a type or parable for the time of better things to come, that could last only till the era of reformation arrived. This truth, however, the writer does not leave to be inferred, but expressly points out and proves. On two things he insists, as tending to show the insufficiency and therefore the transitiveness of the Levitical system, and all that pertained to it. First, he asserts that the mere division of the tabernacle into an accessible holy place and an inaccessible most holy place proved the imperfection of the worship there carried on; and, secondly, he points out the disproportion between the great end of religion and the means employed for reaching it under the Levitical system. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
The earthly sanctuary
I. EVERY COVENANT OF GOD HAD ITS PROPER PRIVILEGES AND ADVANTAGES. Even the first covenant had so, and those such as were excellent in themselves, though not comparable with them of the new. For to make any covenant with men is an eminent fruit of grace and condescension in God, whereon He will annex such privileges thereunto as may evince it so to be.
II. THERE WAS NEVER ANY COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MAN BUT IT HAD SOME ORDINANCES, OR ARBITRARY INSTITUTIONS OF EXTERNAL DIVINE WORSHIP ANNEXED UNTO IT. The original covenant of works had the ordinances of the tree of life, and of the knowledge of good and evil, the laws whereof belonged not unto that of natural light and reason. The covenant of Sinai, whereof the apostle speaks, had a multiplication of them. Nor is the new covenant destitute of them or of their necessary observance. All public worship and the sacraments of the Church are of this nature.
III. IT IS A HARD AND RARE THING TO HAVE THE MINDS OF MEN KEPT UPRIGHT WITH GOD IN THE OBSERVANCE OF THE INSTITUTIONS OF DIVINE WORSHIP. By some they are neglected, by some corrupted, and by some they are exalted above their proper place and use, and are turning into an occasion of neglecting more important duties. And the reason of this difficulty is, because faith hath not that assistance from innate principles of reason, and sensible experience of this kind of obedience, as it hath in that which is moral, internal, and spiritual.
IV. THAT THESE ORDINANCES OF DIVINE WORSHIP MIGHT BE DULY OBSERVED AND RIGHTLY PERFORMED UNDER THE FIRST COVENANT, THERE WAS A PLACE APPOINTED OF GOD FOR THEIR SOLEMNISATION.
1. This tabernacle with what belonged thereunto was a visible pledge of the presence of God among the people, owning, blessing, and protecting them. And it was a pledge of God’s own institution, in imitation whereof the superstitious heathens invented ways of obliging their idol-gods, to be present among them for the same ends.
2. It was the pledge and means of God’s dwelling among them, which expresseth the peculiar manner of His presence mentioned in general before.
3. It was a fixed seat of all Divine worship, wherein the truth and purity of it was to be preserved.
4. It was principally the privilege and glory of the Church of Israel, in that it was a continual representation of the incarnation of the Son of God; a type of His coming in the flesh to dwell among us, and by the one sacrifice of Himself to make reconciliation with God, and atonement for sins. It was such an expression of the idea of the mind of God, concerning the person and meditation of Christ, as in His wisdom and grace He thought meet to intrust the Church withal. Hence was that severe injunction, that all things concerning it should be made according unto the pattern shown in the Mount. For what could the wisdom of men do in the prefiguration of that mystery, of which they had no comprehension? But yet the sanctuary the apostle calls κοσμικον, “worldly.”
(1) The place of it was on the earth in this world, in opposition whereunto the sanctuary of the new covenant is in heaven (Hebrews 8:2).
(2) Although the materials of it were as durable as anything in that kind could be procured, as gold and Shittim wood, yet were they worldly; that is, perishing things, as are all things of the world, God intimating thereby that they were not to have an everlasting continuance. Gold, and wood, and silk, and hair, however curiously wrought and carefully preserved, are but for a time.
(3) All the services of it, all its sacrifices in themselves, separated from their typical representative use, were all worldly; and their efficacy extended only unto worldly things, as the apostle proves in this chapter.
(4) On these accounts the apostle calls it “worldly”; yet not absolutely so, but in opposition unto that which is heavenly. All things in the ministration of the new covenant are heavenly. So is the priest, his sacrifice, tabernacle, and altar, as we shall see in the process of the apostle’s discourse. And we may observe from the whole
V. THAT DIVINE INSTITUTION ALONE IS THAT WHICH RENDERS ANYTHING ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD. Although the things that belonged unto the sanctuary, and the sanctuary itself, were in themselves but worldly, yet being Divine ordinances, they had a glory in them, and were in their season accepted with God.
VI. GOD CAN ANIMATE OUTWARD CARNAL THINGS WITH A HIDDEN INVISIBLE SPRING OF GLORY AND EFFICACY. SO He did their sanctuary with its relation unto Christ; which was an object of faith which no eye of flesh could behold. (John Owens, D. D.)
The simplicity of Christian ritual
The language of sign or symbol enters very largely into all the affairs of life. The human spirit craves and finds embodiment for its impalpable, evanescent ideas and emotions, not merely in sounds that die away upon the ear, but in acts and observances that arrest the eye, and stamp themselves upon the memory, or in shapes and forms and symbols that possess a material and palpable continuity. The superiority of sign or symbol as a vehicle of thought is in some sort implied in the very fact that it is the language of nature, the first which man learns, or rather which, with instinctive and universal intelligence, he employs. There is something, again, in a visible and tangible sign, or in a significant or symbolic act, which, by its very nature, appeals more impressively to the mind than mere vocables that vibrate for a moment on the organ of hearing and then pass away. Embody thought in a material representation or memorial, and it stands before you with a distinct and palpable continuity; it can become the object of prolonged contemplation; it is permanently embalmed to the senses. Moreover, it deserves to be considered that the language of symbol lies nearer to thought than that of verbal expression. As no man can look into another’s mind and have direct cognisance of another’s thoughts, we can only convey to others what is passing in our own minds, by selecting and pointing out some object or phenomenon of the outward world that bears an analogy to the thought or feeling within our breasts. And if further proof of the utility and importance of symbol were wanting, it might he found in the fact that all nature is but one grand symbol by which God shadows forth His own invisible Being and character. The principle on which symbolic language depends being thus deeply seated in man’s nature, it might be anticipated that its influence would be apparent in that religion which is so marvellously adapted to his sympathies and wants. But when we turn to that religious economy under which we live, by nothing are we so much struck as by the simplicity of its external worship--the scantiness, unobtrusiveness, and seeming poverty of its ritual observances. And this absence of symbol in the Christian worship becomes all the more singular when contrasted with the sensuous beauty and splendour of the heathen religions amidst which Christianity was developed, and with the imposing ceremonial, the elaborate symbolism, of that earlier dispensation from which it took its rise.
I. The simplicity of worship in the Christian Church is a sign of spiritual advancement, inasmuch as it arises, in some measure, from the fact THAT THE GOSPEL RITES ARE COMMEMORATIVE, WHILST THOSE OF THE FORMER DISPENSATION WERE ANTICIPATIVE. TO THE Hebrew in ancient times Christ was a Being of whose person and character and work he had but the most vague and undefined conceptions; to the Christian worshipper He is no shadowy dream of the future, no vague and visionary personage of a distant age, but the best beloved of friends, whose beautiful life stands forth before the mind with all the distinctness of history--whose glorious person and mission is the treasured and familiar contemplation of his secret thoughts. The former, accordingly, needed all the elaborate formality of type and ceremony, of temple and altar and sacrifice--of symbolic persons and objects and actions, to help out his idea of the Messiah and of His mighty work and mission. But to enable the latter to recall his Lord, no more is required than a few drops of water, a bit of broken bread, or a cup of wine. Around these simplest outward memorials, a host of thoughts, reflections, remembrances, are ready to gather. Deity incarnate, infinite self-sacrifice, reconciliation with God, pardon, purity, peace, eternal life through the blood of Jesus, union with Christ, and in Him with all good and holy beings,--these are some of the great Christian ideas already lodged in each devout worshipper’s mind, and which awake at the suggestive touch of the sacramental symbols to invest them with a value altogether incommensurate with their outward worth. The very simplicity of these material symbols implies that the senses have less and the mind far more to do in the process of spiritual conception than in a system of more imposing and obtrusive materialism.
II. The simple and unimposing character of the Christian ritual is an indication of spiritual advancement again, inasmuch as it arises from the fact, THAT WHILST THE RIGHTS OF JUDAISM WERE MAINLY DISCIPLINARY, THOSE OF CHRISTIANITY ARE SPONTANEOUS AND EXPRESSIVE. The Jew could not eat or drink, or dress, or sow or reap, or buy or sell, arrange his household, hold intercourse with neighbour or friend, perform any one function of individual or social life, without being met by restrictions, forms, observances, which forced religious impression upon him, and, in combination with the more solemn ceremonial of the temple, left a constant deposit of spiritual thought upon the mind, and drilled the worshipper into religious habits. In a more spiritual and reflective age, on the other hand, in which the spiritual perceptions have become developed, and the mind has become receptive of direct religious instruction, such sensible helps to the formation of thought are no longer necessary. The mind in which truth has become an intuition needs no longer to spell out its conviction by the aid of a picture-book. The avenue of spirit thrown open to the worshipper, he no more requires to climb slowly up to the presence-chamber of the king by the circuitous route of sense. But if ritual may in such an age be dispensed with in great measure as a means of instruction, it still performs an important function as a means of expression. No longer necessary as a mould for the shaping of thought, it has still its use as a form in which religious thought and feeling may find vent. If the necessity for a visible temple and sanctuary to symbolise God’s residence with man has ceased, now that He who is “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person” has dwelt amongst us-if to prompt our minds in conceiving of sin and sacrifice, no scenic show of victims slain and life’s blood drenching earthly altars be needed, now that the stainless, sinless, all-holy One hath once for all offered up the sacrifice of a perfect life to God--still there is in the Christian heart the demand for outward forms andrites to embody the reverence, the gratitude, the devotion, the love of which it is inwardly conscious. The soul, in its relation to an unseen Father, still craves for some outer medium of expression that shall give form to feeling--that shall tell forth its devotion to the heavenly Friend as the smile, the look, the grasp of the hand, the meeting at the festive board, the gifts and tokens of affection, externalise and express our sentiments towards those we love on earth. And the conclusion to which, from this argument, we are led is obviously this, that the glory of our Christian ritual lies in its very simplicity. For the manifestation of our common life in God, and of our common faith in Christ, the mind craves some outward badge or symbol; and so, in gracious condescension to our needs, our Lord has instituted the two sacramental rites; but even these He has prescribed but in outline, leaving all accessories to be filled in, as the varied needs of His people, in different times and places and circumstances, should dictate. And in this lies the very grandeur of its worship, that in the “chartered freedom” of our Christian ritual, each nation and community, each separate society and church and individual, lifting up its own note of adoration, all axe found to blend in the one accordant anthem, the one manifold yet harmonious tribute of the universal Church’s praise. I conclude with the remark, that the simplicity of the Christian rites serves as a safeguard against those obvious dangers which are incident to all ritual worship.
1. The chief of these is the tendency in the unspiritual mind to stop short at the symbol--in other words, to transfer to the visible sign feelings appropriate only to the things signified, or to rest content with the performance of outward ceremonial acts, apart from the exercise of those devout feelings which lend to such acts any real value. A religion in which ritual holds a prominent place is notoriously liable to degenerate into formalism. The true way to avoid this error is, obviously, to remove as much as possible its cause. Let there be no arbitrary and needless intervention between the soul of the worshipper and the Divine object of its homage. Let the eye of faith gaze on the Invisible through the simplest and purest medium-Deprive it of all excuse to trifle curiously with the telescope, instead of using it in order to see. And forasmuch as, to earthly worship, formal aids are indispensable, let it ever be remembered that that form is the best which least diverts attention to itself, and best helps the soul to hold fellowship with God.
2. Moreover, the danger thus incident to an elaborate ceremonial, of substituting ritual for religion, is increased by the too common tendency to mistake aesthetic emotion for religious feeling. Awe, reverence, rapt contemplation, the kindling of heart and swelling of soul, which the grand objects of faith are adapted to excite, may, in a man of sensitive mind or delicate organisation, find a close imitation in the feelings called forth by a tasteful and splendid ceremonial. The soul that is devoid of true reverence towards God may be rapt into a spurious elation, while in rich and solemn tones the loud-voiced organ peals forth His praise. The heart that never felt one throb of love to Christ may thrill with an ecstasy of sentimental tenderness, whilst soft voices, now blending, now dividing, in combined or responsive strains, celebrate the glories of redeeming love. It is easy to admire the sheen of the sapphire throne, while we leave its glorious Occupant unreverenced and unrecognised. Banish from the service of God all coarseness and rudeness--all that would distract by offending the taste of the worshipper, just as much as all that would disturb by subjecting him to bodily discomfort, and you leave the spirit free for its own pure and glorious exercise. But too studiously adorn the sanctuary and its services; obtrude an artificial beauty on the eye and sense of the worshipper, and you will surely lead to formalism and self-deception. (J. Caird, D. D.)
Christian sanctuaries material, but not worldly:
I. THE ERECTION OF THE WORLDLY SANCTUARY. In contemplating the character of their “worldly sanctuary” whether in the wilderness or on Mount Zion--we behold God dealing with men in a manner accordant with the character of the covenant under which He saw fit to place them. For whether we review the history of our world at large, or the history of God’s dealings with His Church, we find it to be a law of the Divine Procedure, that, in civilisation and scientific discovery, and in the attainments of knowledge and of arts, no less than in matters directly spiritual, He allows period of lengthened infancy and childhood. In no respect does He allow men to attain at once to maturity. Thus, in mere secular things, how old was our world ere printing was invented, ere the powers of steam were discovered! Railways and electric telegraphs are but of yesterday, it is with the world at large and with individual nations, intellectually and socially, as with the individual man physically. We are born, not men and women, but babes; we speak, and think, and understand as children; we attain manhood slowly. It has been so with human society: it has been so with our own favoured land, where once savages swarmed, and Druids offered their bloody rites. The history of man in every country had been different had not this principle pervaded God’s designs and government--intellectual and social infancy--growth from infancy to childhood--from childhood to manhood--the manhood of intellect, and science and art, and civilisation; from the Rome of Romulus and Numa to the Rome of Augustus from the Gauls of Caesar’s day to the French of the nineteenth century; from the England of Roman conquest and Saxon rule and Norman triumph to the England of our birth. Apply this principle to the subject before us. Israel, long familiarised with material temples and carnal rites in Egypt, was spiritually a nation of children: their worship was wisely and mercifully adapted to their spiritual age and attainment. For the simple worship of the more spiritual dispensation they were wholly unprepared. Form and ceremony--material and sensuous splendour--were needful. To have elevated and simplified their minds and tastes for our simpler worship would have been, in fact, to have forstalled the progress of ages, and changed the whole course of God’s procedure with His Church and with our world.
II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE WORLDLY SANCTUARY AND THE SPIRITUAL WORSHIP OF THE GOSPEL DISPENSATION. The blessed truth, that He who was at once the sacrificial Victim and the sacrificing Priest, by His one offering of Himself, hath made an end of sacrifice, and for ever perfected His people, as touching their justification--these truths discerned, experienced, bring with them true spirituality of mind and heart and life. The believer, while he rejoices in Christ Jesus, and has “no confidence in the flesh,” exhibits also the other feature of the apostle’s portraiture--he worships “God in the Spirit.” The temple with which his eye and heart are filled is the spiritual temple, in which himself is a lively stone--the Chinch of the Father’s election, of the Spirit’s sanctifying. The glory of Christianity is not in tabernacles or temples, in carnal ordinances. The glory of Christianity is Christ; the glory of the gospel, its message, “God is love!” And in accordance with the spirit of simplicity which characterises its doctrines should be the spirit of its worship. (J. C. Miller, M. A.)
The gospel of the golden candlestick:
I. A type of the CHURCH (Revelation 1:20).
1. The end and use of the Church is to give light, and to hold forth the Philippians 2:15; 1 Timothy 3:15).
2. The matter of the Church. As the candlestick was of gold, so the matter of the Church is saints.
3. The discipline of the Church as the golden snuffers (Exodus 25:38) did cut off the snuff of the candle, so discipline and censures cut off corruption and corrupt members.
4. The union and distinction of Churches. Several branches and seven lamps--therefore distinct; but all growing on one shaft--therefore one.
II. A type of the MINISTRY. As the candlestick supports the lamp and the light., so does the Church the ministry; and as the lamp or candle shines in the candlestick, so does the ministry in the Church.
III. A type of the WORD (Psalms 119:105; Psalms 19:10; 2 Peter 1:19).
IV. A type of the SPIRIT (Revelation 4:5).
1. The lamps of the candlestick did shine and give light. So the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of light and illumination (Ephesians 1:19).
2. The lamps were fed with off (Exodus 27:20). Now this oil is the Spirit (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Of a softening and healing nature.
3. The sacred lamps were ever burning, and never went out (Ex Leviticus 24:3). So it is with the Spirit of God in the hearts of His people. The true believer cannot fall away totally and finally.
4. The dressing and trimming of the lamps signified the revivings of the work of the Spirit, in the hearts of His people, when it begins, or is in danger to decline. This teaches us both the Lord’s goodness and our duty Matthew 12:20; 2 Timothy 1:6). Also Church discipline and mortification are taught us hereby (Matthew 25:7).
1. Learn to prize and see the worth and excellency of Church society.
2. Prize the ministry.
3. Prize the Word.
4. Labour to find the Spirit burning and working in your hearts.
(1) Get fresh supplies of oil (Psalms 92:10). Jesus Christ is the Fountain, and the Holy Ghost the immediate Dispenser of it Zechariah 4:12).
(2) Stir up that which you have (2 Timothy 1:6; Revelation 3:2).
(3) Snuff the wick (James 1:23). (S. Mather.)
If the priests had had any duties to discharge at night in the holy place, I should have felt no necessity to make any inquiry at all about the significance of the seven lights; the impossibility of performing the sacred functions in total darkness would have been an adequate explanation. But there was no midnight ritual; why then, when the curtain, which was thrown aside during the day to admit the light of heaven, was closed for the night, was not the holy place left in darkness? There seems to me to be a perfectly obvious and natural answer. The holy place was in the thoughts of every devout Jew when he longed for the mercy of God to forgive his sin, or cried to Him for consolation in time of trouble. It was there that, day by day, the priest offered the incense, which was the visible symbol of all supplication and worship. That was the chamber in which the Lord received the prayers and homage of the nation, as the most holy place was His secret shine. And would not the lamps that burnt there during the darkness, and filled it with light, seem to say to every troubled soul, that God never slumbered nor slept; that the darkness and light are both alike to Him, and that at all times He is waiting to listen to the prayers of His people? (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
The tabernacle, and its three antitypes
The tabernacle, of course, was a type. What did it typify? Some say that it typified Christ, and, particularly, that it typified His incarnation (John 1:14). Others hold that the tabernacle represented the Christian Church. Yet a third opinion is that the tabernacle signified heaven. Which of these opinions shall we choose? We shall not choose any one of them to the exclusion of the others. We incline to adopt all three, and to hold that the tabernacle was a type of Christ, and of the Church, and of heaven. The Man Christ Jesus is God’s tabernacle; so is the Church; so is heaven. God dwells most wondrously in Christ: He dwells most graciously in the Church; and He dwells most gloriously in heaven. Christ is God’s tabernacle to the eye of the Church; the Church is God’s tabernacle before the world; heaven is, and, with the gathered company of the redeemed set round the throne for ever will be God’s tabernacle before the universe. (Andrew Gray.)
The golden censer
The golden censer:
You will have noticed the peculiarity of the expression at the commencement of the Hebrews 9:4; “which”--i.e., the Holiest of all, “had the golden censer,” or rather, “the golden altar of incense.” Of the holy place it is said, in Hebrews 9:2, “Wherein was the candlestick and the table,” &c. The change of expression is significant. The writer does not mean to say that the altar of incense was within the holy of holies, but that the altar of incense belonged to it. The altar actually stood in the holy place, but more truly belonged to the holy of holies itself. It is very wonderful that any man who had read this Epistle intelligently could imagine for a moment that it was possible for the writer to have been so ill-informed as to have believed that the altar was actually within the most sacred inclosure. Apart altogether from inspiration, the intimate and profound knowledge of the Jewish system which the whole of the Epistle indicates, renders it absurd to suppose that on such a simple matter as the.position of the altar of incense the writer could have blundered. It would, to my mind, be just as reasonable to infer from some peculiarity of expression in Lord Macaulay, that the great historian had erroneously imagined that the Spanish Armada came against this country in the reign of Charles I., or to infer on similar grounds that Dr. Livingstone was under the impression that the island of Madagascar formed part of the African continent. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
The ark of the covenant
Christ typified by the ark of the covenant
I. THE ARK TYPIFIED THE DIGNITY AND PURITY OF CHRIST’S PERSON. It was made of incorruptible wood; was overlaid with pure gold; and had crowns of gold wrought round about it. Here is distinctly pointed out to us
1. The holiness and incorruptibility of Christ’s human nature.
2. The divinity of Jesus.
3. The regal glory of Jesus.
II. THE CONTENTS OF THE ARK TYPIFIED THE FULNESS AND WORK OF CHRIST.
1. In it were the two tables of the law. In Jesus these laws were embodied. He had them in His heart. He exemplified them in their fullest extent.
2. In it was the golden pot of manna. So in Jesus is the bread of life. “His flesh is meat indeed.” He is the soul’s satisfying portion.
3. In it was Aaron’s rod that budded. Typifying Christ’s exalted and abiding priesthood.
III. THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE ARK TYPIFIED THE VICTORIES OF CHRIST.
1. The ark opened a passage through Jordan to the promised land. So by Christ a way has been opened through the grave to the heavenly Canaan.
2. By the ark’s compassing the walls of Jericho they were thrown down. So Jesus by His Divine power spoiled the powers of darkness, and He shall finally overthrow all the bulwarks of Satan’s empire.
3. The presence of the ark broke the idol Dagon to pieces. So shall the Saviour cast down all the idols of the heathen.
IV. THE MOVEMENTS OF THE ARK TYPIFIED THE PROGRESS AND CONSUMMATION OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM. The ark was possessed by the Israelites, then it was in the hands of the Philistines, and finally it was laid up in Solomon’s temple. Thus Christ was first preached to the Jews, the gospel kingdom was first set up among them, afterwards it was extended to the Gentiles; and when consummated, it shall consist of all nations in the heavenly temple, there to be permanently glourious for ever and ever. Application: Learn
1. The privilege you possess in having Christ the true ark with you. In it you have treasured up a fulness of all spiritual blessings.
2. With believing reverence draw near to it, and receive mercy, enjoy fellowship with God, and obtain grace to help you in every time of need.
3. Despisers of Christ must inevitably perish. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The holy chest:
What was the lesson taught by this wonderful article of tabernacle furniture? Are we not to look upon it as a picture of Jesus?
I. Let us consider the OUTSIDE. What do we see? a chest most likely about three feet long, by eighteen inches wide, and eighteen inches deep. It is a box made of common wood, but covered with fine gold; and is not our Jesus both human and Divine? Both are there, and you cannot separate them; just as the ark was not perfect, though the right shape and size, till it was covered with fine gold, so Christ could not be Jesus without the gold of divinity. Still we do not overlook the wood, though it is covered with gold. It is sweet to know that Christ shares our nature. He passed over the cedar of angelic life, and took the common shittim, the tree of the wilderness. When we think of our sins, we are thankful that our Saviour was Divine, and therefore able to save to the uttermost; but when we think of our future, we are glad that we are to spend our eternity with the Man Christ Jesus. He is one of ourselves. Do you notice that at each corner there is a ring of gold? What are these rings for? To receive the staves which are passed through the rings. By these gold-covered staves the Levites carried the ark on their shoulders. The holy thing was portable; it went before, and led the people on their march. They were sure to be safe if they went where the ark led them. It would be a blessed thing if” the Church of God would be persuaded to go only where Christ would have gone. But what are these figures which stand at each end of the ark--winged creatures, whose faces are looking with such earnestness at the gold oh the top of the ark? These are the cherubim, the representatives of the angelic world. They gaze with interest upon the mercy-seat. Is it not Jesus who links heaven to earth? Upon what are the cherubim gazing so intently? Follow the direction of their eyes, and what see you? There is a spot of blood! Blood? Yes, blood. Blood on the pure gold? Yes, this ark is the meeting-place between God and man--the only place where the Holy God can be approached by Him who represents sinners.
II. We will now lift the lid of the ark and look INSIDE. What do we see? “The golden pot.” A vessel of gold filled with manna! Does not this teach that in Christ we have spiritual food? Just as the manna fell all the time the children of Israel were in the wilderness, so Jesus is the bread of life to us, all the time we are on this side Jordan. Have another peep inside, and what meets your gaze? “The rod that budded” (Numbers 17:1-13.). What does this teach us? That in Christ is the true, God-chosen, God-honoured, God-prevalent priesthood. Look again. What see you now? “The tables of the covenant.” The stones upon which God wrote the law. Not the first tables: they were broken. Moses did not pick up the fragments and patch them together and put them in the ark. No, it was the new, unbroken tables which were put in the ark. And is not Christ Jesus our righteousness? Do we not glory in the fact that our Substitute was sinless? We have no righteousness to plead, but we have a perfect Saviour. Our efforts at reformation are but a clumsy piecing of the broken tables, but in Christ we have a perfect law. (T. Champness.)
The golden pot
The pot of manna
I. THE MANNA (Exodus 16:11).
II. THE GOLDEN POT IN WHICH IT WAS CONTAINED may be applied
1. To the Divine Word; which is more precious than gold, and which is the “Word of Christ,” every part of which is full of Him.
2. To the holy ordinances; where He is so strikingly exhibited.
3. To the preached gospel; where Christ is the Alpha and Omega.
4. To the believer’s heart.
5. To the holiest place; where He ever dwells in all His glory, as the infinite source of all the blessedness of the heavenly world. Application:
(1) Be thankful for this heavenly bread.
(2) Receive it with all cordiality and joy.
(3) Constantly seek it in those means where His presence and blessing are promised.
(4) Despisers of Christ must starve and die. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The cherubims of glory.--The cherubim and the mercy-seat
I. We are taught by this sacred symbol, an ark thus constructed and accompanied, that THERE IS NOW, UNDER THE EVANGELICAL DISPENSATION, A RELATION BETWIXT LAW AND GRACE.
1. The law was there because it is eternal, and must therefore harmonise with every dispensation of religion to man.
2. The tables of the law are there in the ark, and connected with evangelical symbols representing the dispensation of mercy to mankind, because it was the violation of the law by which the dispensation of mercy was rendered necessary.
3. But we see the tables of the law thus connected with evangelical symbols, to intimate to us another truth, that the grand end of the administration of grace to man is the re-establishment of the law’s dominion over him.
4. This connection between the law and the mercy-seat indicates, finally, that the administration of grace is in every part consistent with law.
II. There was not only a connection between the tables of the law and the mercy-seat, but over this mercy-seat the cherubims of glory were placed. We are therefore instructed in the fact, that THERE IS AN HARMONIOUS RELATION BETWIXT THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE TO MAN AND THE HEAVENLY WORLD.
1. We may, therefore, observe, with respect to the angelic powers, of whom the cherubim were the emblems, that “they have an intellectual interest in this great subject.
2. We may go farther, and say, that we have evidence from Scripture that the connection of the angelic world with the Christian system is not one of mere intellectual curiosity and gratification, but likewise of large and important moral benefit.
3. There is another view in which we may regard the connection between the angelic world and the Church: they are angels and ministers; ministers to the Church, and ministers to individuals.
III. THERE WAS THE PRESENCE OF GOD CROWNING THE WHOLE. In the sanctuary you have not only the ark of the covenant, the tables of the law, the mercy-seat, and the cherubim shadowing it, but the visible symbol of the Divine presence. God was there. And thus are we shown that all things are of Him, and by Him, and for Him. The tables of the law declared His will; the covenant sprang from His everlasting wisdom and love; the mercy-seat was His throne; the cherubim were His servants; the holiest of all was His “resting-place” (2 Chronicles 6:41). The people came to worship Him, and were dismissed with His blessing. As creation itself is from the will of God, so is redemption. All is the result of His benevolence. The whole plan of mercy sprang from the depths of His eternal love, and all its arrangements were fixed according to the treasures of His own knowledge and wisdom. This indicates, too, the necessity of Divine agency. As He originated the whole scheme of redemption, so must He be present with it to give it power and efficacy. (R. Watson.)
Of which we cannot now speak particularly
The inexpediency of dwelling on curious questions:
Sundry other things there were about the tabernacle, the narration whereof might have delighted the reader. But St. Paul here is a moderator to himself: you are desirous to hear more, but it is expedient to cut them off. Wherein he may be a precedent to all teachers. Though the discussing of curious and intricate questions would more delight the auditory, yet we must not feed their humour that way. Let us give them but a taste of them, and a whole mouthful of sound and wholesome food. Some, peradventure, in this place would have said, Oh, Paul, why dost thou so slightly handle the things belonging to the tabernacle? Repeat, I pray thee, every particular to us; it doth us good to hear of them. Yet he doth not satisfy their itching ears in that. St. Paul hath more necessary matter. Let us especially be desirous to hear of Christ our High Priest and Bishop of our souls, of repentance, of faith in Him, of making our calling sure by good works, of the true sanctuary of heaven, than of those earthly things: these are more profitable for us. The Spirit of God passeth over sundry other things about the tabernacle, because He had more substantial points in hand tending to our salvation by Christ. (W. Jones, D. D.)
The Holy Ghost thus signifying
The overtones of Judaism:
Musicians tell us that the quality of the voice in song depends upon its overtones; that is, the accordant notes which are heard sounding faintly above the fundamental tones.
It is the same peculiarity which gives the silvery ring to some voices in speech. And so as we listen to the voices of the Law and of the Prophets, we find a wondrous, and, to some, a mysterious charm. But the ear that has been trained by the same master-skill that taught their lips, solves the secret of the spell, and catches with delight, through the deep thunder utterances, the glad overtones of the coming gospel. (Sarah F. Smiley.)
The way into the holiest of all
1. He expoundeth what the high priest’s going through the veil but once a year did mean, saying the Holy Ghost signified something thereby. Then
(1) The Holy Ghost is the Author of these ordinances of Levi, and of matters appointed about that old tabernacle, as of the expressions of His own mind to the Church, and so He is very God.
(2) The Holy Ghost is a distinct Person of the Godhead, exercising the proper actions of a person, subsisting by Himself; directing the ordinances of the Church, and interpreting the meaning of the types unto the Church.
(3) The Church under the Law was not altogether ignorant of the spiritual signification of the Levitical ordinances, because the Holy Ghost was rhea teaching them the meaning.
(4) Those rites and ceremonies were not so dark in themselves, as they could not be in any sort understood, but were expressions of the mind of God to the Church of that time.
2. That which the Holy Ghost did signify was this: that the way unto the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. (D. Dickson, M. A.)
The mind of the Holy Spirit manifested in the institutions of religion
I. THE DIVINE ORDINANCES AND INSTITUTIONS OF WORSHIP ARE FILLED WITH WISDOM SUFFICIENT FOR THE INSTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH IN ALL THE MYSTERIES OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE.
II. IT IS OUR DUTY, WITH ALL HUMBLE DILIGENCE, TO INQUIRE INTO THE MIND OF THE HOLY GHOST IN ALL ORDINANCES AND INSTITUTIONS OF DIVINE WORSHIP. Want hereof lost the Church of Israel.
III. ALTHOUGH THE LORD CHRIST WAS NOT ACTUALLY EXHIBITED IN THE FLESH UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT, FOR HAD ACTUALLY OFFERED HIMSELF UNTO GOD FOR US, YET HAD RELIEVERS THEN AN ACCESS INTO THE GRACE AND FAVOUR OF GOD, THOUGH THE WAY, THE CAUSE AND MEANS OF IT WAS NOT MANIFESTLY DECLARED UNTO THEM.
IV. THE DESIGN OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE TABERNACLE, AND IN ALL ITS ORDINANCES AND INSTITUTIONS OF WORSHIP, WAS TO DIRECT THE FAITH OF BELIEVERS UNTO WHAT WAS SIGNIFIED BY THEM.
V. TYPICAL INSTITUTIONS, ATTENDED DILIGENTLY UNTO, WERE SUFFICIENT TO DIRECT THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH UNTO THE EXPECTATION OF THE REAL EXPIATION OF SIN, AND. ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD THEREON.
VI. THOUGH THE STANDING OF THE FIRST TABERNACLE WAS A GREAT MERCY AND PRIVILEGE, YET THE REMOVAL OF IT WAS A GREATER; FOR IT MADE WAY FOR THE BRINGING IN OF THAT WHICH WAS BETTER.
VII. THE DIVINE WISDOM IN THE ECONOMY AND DISPOSAL OF THE REVELATION OF THE WAY INTO THE HOLIEST, OR OF GRACE AND ACCEPTANCE WITH HIMSELF, IS A BLESSED OBJECT OF OUR CONTEMPLATION.
VIII. THE CLEAR MANIFESTATION OF THE WAY OF REDEMPTION, OF THE EXPIATION OF SIN, AND PEACE WITH GOD THEREON, IS THE GREAT PRIVILEGE OF THE GOSPEL.
IX. THERE IS NO ACCESS INTO THE GRACIOUS PRESENCE OF GOD, BUT BY THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST ALONE. (John Owen, D. D.)
An intimation of nearer warship:
The idea is, that the exclusion from the inner part of the Jewish tabernacle, and the all but entire restriction of religious service to the outer part, signified “perfect intercourse with God not yet granted, the highest and therefore abiding form of religion a thing yet to come.” The writer would have his readers see, in the mere fact of such a division of the tabernacle into a first and second chamber, a Divine intimation that there was a higher boon, a nearer approach to, a more intimate fellowship with God in store for men, which for the present was denied. The first part of the tabernacle, he would say, is yours; the second in its spiritual significance belongs to the future, to the time of Messiah, when all things are to undergo renovation. To cling to legal worship then as something that must last for ever is to shut your ear to the voice of the sanctuary itself, by its very structure bearing witness to its own insufficiency, and saying to all who have ears to hear: “I am not for aye. I have a first and a second chamber, a near and a nearer to God. The first and the near is yours, oh, people of Israel, for daily use; the second and the nearer is as good as shut against you. When that which is perfect is come, the nearer will be accessible to all, and the veil and the place outside and all the services that now go on there will cease toy exist.” (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
Which was a figure
Prophecy is the prediction of the coming of the Redeemer in word; type is the prediction in act.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
The types are, indeed, pictures, but to understand the pictures it is necessary we should know something of the reality. The most perfect representation of a steam-engine to a South Sea savage would be wholly and hopelessly unintelligible to him simply because the reality, the outline of which was presented to him, was something hitherto unknown. But let the same drawing be shown to those who have seen the reality, such will have no difficulty in explaining the representation. And the greater the acquaintance with the reality, the greater will be the ability to explain the picture. (Andrew Jukes.)
Love in the ordinance of sacrifice
I. If we look over the religious practice of all men in all ages, unquestionably the most remarkable fact, common to them all, is the practice of SACRIFICE. “What is its meaning? I find answer thus. Man’s Fall was from love into selfishness. All sacrifice is an abnegation of selfishness; a devoting something to God, which otherwise would belong to self. ‘All sacrifice is offering--bringing as a gift. Whether sin-offering, or thank-offering, or prayer, or thanksgiving, the essence of all these, which are equally sacrifices, is, the rendering up of ourselves or of that which is or seems to be ours, to God. And sacrifice is a direct recognition of One above us whom we wish thus to approach, and in approaching whom we must deny and go out of ourselves. The creature offered represents the person offering. From this, the transition is the simplest possible, if indeed it be strictly any transition at all, to regarding the death of that animal as representing the death which the offerer’s sin has merited; and the infliction of that death as representing the expiation of that sin. And throughout the nations unenlightened by a written revelation, these things were regarded as not only representing, but as actually being, the expiation required.
II. In order to be acceptable to God, the self-sacrifice must be UNRESERVED and COMPLETE. It must be the perfect rendering up of the will to His will, of the being to His disposal, of the energies to His obedience. Now it must be obvious to us, that such full and entire rendering up to God is impossible on the part of man, whose will is corrupted by sin. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Who can bring entire and perfect obedience out of one whose very leading principle is that of disobedience--whose thoughts and desires are, however his outward conduct may beordered, in a continual state of rebellion against God? And accordingly the Law, in its typical enactments, set this plainly before the ancient Church.
III. Every victim was to be WITHOUT BLEMISH. God would accept nothing which was corrupted, or imperfect, or contaminated.
IV. Then again, if each man could not for himself fulfil this spiritual meaning of sacrifice--that sacrifice itself taught him something of a SUBSTITUTE for himself, who in his stead might be offered to God. And the Law, working on this, further continually familiarised the people with the idea of one such substitute for all. The lamb of the passover was chosen, one for each household. The daily morning and evening sacrifice was one lamb for the whole people of Israel. The great annual day of atonement witnessed one goat slain for a sin-offering for all the people.
V. But there is plainly more than this--one important element in the meaning of sacrifice is yet unconsidered. Man, as sinful, rests under the just judgment of God. And the conflict of God’s will and his own will within him, if it end in his becoming united again to God, must obviously include the entire subjection of his own will, as in all other points so in this--the SUBMITTING TO THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN as part of God’s holy will. The animals offered in sacrifice were almost uniformly slain, and the remnants of them consumed by fire, which fire was the well-known symbol of the Divine wrath; which as uniformly, as we observed, were required to be without spot or blemish.
VI. Again, in the substitution indicated by the sacrifice, if any adequate idea of reconciliation to God is to be conveyed, there must be represented a TRANSFERENCE OF GUILT from the offerer to the substitute. For this the Law also took especial care. To mention only one instance: in the ceremonies of the day of atonement two goats are to be offered, typifying the double result of the Redeemer’s sacrifice--His death for sin, and His life for righteousness; His dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification.
VII. The next point is this: that some METHOD OF COMMUNICATION of its virtue, and its acceptableness to the offerers, should be indicated. Suppose the one atoning sacrifice represented as Offered; suppose God to be set forth as well pleased with it, and as accepting it: how was the offerer to apply these things to himself? In cases of offering for sin, and uncleanness, the blood of the slain animal was sprinkled or placed on the person of the offender for whom the victim was offered, or on the tabernacle or vessels which represented, in their use for holy things, the instrumentality of the whole people of Israel. In the great sacrifice first ordained, viz., that of the passover, this reconciliation by the imputation of blood shed in the offering was even more plainly pointed out. The blood was ordered to be sprinkled on the lintel and side-posts of the house-door of the family which offered the sacrifice; seeing which blood the destroying angel would pass over the house and would not touch them.
VIII. But more than this participation was signified also by the ceremonial law. The offerers actually PARTOOK of the sacrifice. The substance of the victim actually passed into their bodies, and was assimilated into their substance, and thus the victim became identified with themselves--their flesh and their blood; and the union between the offerer and the offered became the closest possible.
IX. The great and real sacrifice, when offered, is not only to reconcile man to God by the removal of guilt, but to possess a RENOVATING VIRTUE, by means of which man, unable before, shall be first enabled to offer himself, body, soul, and spirit, an offering acceptable to God. In other words, he is not only to be justified by the application of the atonement thus wrought to his person, but he is to be put into a process of SANCTIFICATION, whereby his whole body, soul, and spirit are to be made holy to the Lord. Did the Law in any way sybolise this, the ultimate object, as regards us, of what Christ has done for us? We may trace it in more ordinances than one. In the repeated washings and cleansings with water, of the priests, and all that belonged to the tabernacle service; in the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord,” on the forehead of the high priest; but above all in the fact that every sacrifice was ordered to be seasoned with salt--that preservative and restoring power, representing the Spirit of holiness, by which the believers are renovated onto the life Of God.
X. The Law also set forth the Redeemer and His work by PERSONS as well as by ordinances. A more striking type of Him cannot be imagined than the
Levitical high priest. It is an interesting question for us, though not the main question, how far these things may be supposed to have been patent to the Jewish worshipper of old--how far he took in his mind the idea of spiritual reconciliation by the sacrifice of a spotless Redeemer. The only answer to such an inquiry must be found in their own ancient interpretations of those remarkable prophecies which relate to the sufferings and atonement of Christ. And it is well kown that in commentaries of theirs, written probably before the Christian era, those passages such as the fifty-third of Isaiah are interpreted as prophecies of their future Messiah. We may also surmise the answer to such a question from the fact that John the Baptist could make use, when speaking to Jesus, himself a Jew, of such words respecting our Lord as theses” Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” From such facts as these, we are certainly justified in assuming that the meaning of the types in the Law was not altogether unknown to the pious Jew; though whether it influenced, or was intended to influence, his thoughts and the nature of his faith to any great extent, rosy well be doubted. It was perhaps enough for him to be taught, in distinction from all heathen nations, the utter inadequacy of sacrifice or offering to please God; and to be kept shut up under the ceremonial system, in a covenant with God of obedience and fidelity, in the abnegation, if he felt and lived God’s law, of all self-righteousness--waiting for the consolation of Israel; looking for the prophetic promises to be fulfilled in God’s good time. For he had not only types of Christ, but the voices of the prophets all point onward to the future Redeemer. (Dean Alford.)
The time of reformation
The gospel a time of reformation:
Christ then reformed the Law for our sakes, and all things that were in the Old Testament; old things are passed away, and shall we ourselves remain unreformed?
As Christ hath reformed the Law for our salvation, so let us suffer Him to reform us There is a formation, a deformation, and a reformation. The formation was at the first Creation of the world; then God put all things into a good form and order: “He beheld all that He had made, and lo it was good, yea, exceeding good.” After that came a deformation by the Fall of man, and that put all out of order again: upon that a reformation was made.
1. By a general deluge that purged all the earth.
2. By the patriarchs after the Flood.
3. By Moses, when the Law was published in writing.
4. By our Saviour Christ, and that is double: the one at His first coming, the other at the second.
The Spirit of God here entreateth of the first. So that the time of the gospel is the time of reformation. Now especially ought Christians to endeavour a reformation. Every one will take on him to reform the Church: weavers and tailors will enterprise that. The Church is out of order; let that be reformed. But true reformation must begin at ourselves. He that will repair a house must begin at the foundation: so if ye will have a reformation, reform yourselves first: and in the reformation of yourselves begin with the heart: cast out the unclean lusts, the pride, envy, malice, covetousness; afterwards reform your eyes, tongues, hands, and all the members of your body: first wash the inside of the cup and platter, then the outside, else ye will be but whited tombs and painted sepulchres, as the Pharisees were: this is the best order in reforming. First let every man strive to reform himself, the vices whereunto himself is given. In the next place let him reform his family: after that, let every one in his place labour to reform the town wherein he dwells, to rid it of drunkards, of idle persons, to establish good orders in it for the credit of the gospel professed by us. This is the time of reformation, let us all in the fear of God reform ourselves: there shall not be a hair amiss on our head, but we will reform it: if we have a spotted coat or garment, we will reform it: and shall we ourselves remain unreformed? While the time of reformation lasts, let us reform ourselves: death may seize on us ere we be aware, and then it will be too late to reform. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Reformation upon the gospel scheme
I. STATE THE NOTION OF REFORMATION. All things were defective and out of order when our Saviour appeared to set up a new dispensation of grace. But Christ came to fulfil the ancient types, to throw off human impositions, to establish a more pure and spiritual worship and government, and to give a system of doctrines, which, by the power of His Spirit, should make a blessed alteration in the Church and in the world.
II. SHOW THE ADVANTAGES OF THE GOSPEL SCHEME TO PROMOTE A REFORMATION IN THE HEART AND LIFE.
1. It represents the atonement of Christ as the ground or basis of reformation.
2. If gives us the most excellent plan of righteousness as the rule of reformation.
3. It leads us to the best means and assistances for reformation.
4. It affords us the strongest motives and encouragements to a reformation. How inviting and engaging are gospel displays of the Divine philanthropy!
III. POINT OUT SOME PROPER METHODS OF IMPROVING THIS SCHEME FOR THE REFORMATION WE ARE AIMING AT.
1. We should be deeply affected with a sense of the great degeneracies of the age which need to be reformed, and of the rich advantages of the gospel scheme which encourage our hopes of a reformation.
2. We should be earnest in prayer to God for His Spirit to reform us.
3. Every one should be seriously concerned about personal reformation upon the foot of the gospel scheme.
4. We should take the best care and pains we are capable of, in our respective stations, to promote the reformation of others together with ourselves. (J. Guyse, D. D.)
Christ … an High Priest of good things to come
The Lord Jesus as a High Priest
God never destroys for the sake of destroying, nor pulls down the old to leave a void in its place.
The Divine method is to overcome evil by uplifting that which is good, and to remove the good, after it has served its purpose, by introducing that which is more excellent.
I. Jesus Christ as a High Priest much excels in the GREATNESS AND PERFECTNESS OF THE TABERNACLE. Jesus Christ entered “by a greater and more perfect tabernacle.” By the tabernacle here we are to understand, say some, the expanse above, the stellar firmament, through which Christ entered into the holy place. But the ablest commentators understand by it the body of Jesus Christ. And the author of this Epistle furnishes a strong ground for that interpretation in Hebrews 10:20. A hint to the same purport is to be found in the text, for it is averred of this tabernacle that “it is not of this building,” that is, not of this creation. The humanity of the Lord Jesus is the beginning of a new creation. But it is not the visible body in itself that is intended by the tabernacle, as it is not the visible blood in itself that is meant by the “blood”; but human nature in the person of the Son of God, in which the Word has “tabernacled” among us, and by which He is the “beginning of the creation of God.”
II. Jesus Christ as a High Priest much excels in the GREATNESS OF THE HOLY PLACE. There was no need for a special word in this place to denote the greatness of the holy place, as it follows naturally from the preceding words. “Christ, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, entered in once into the holy place”; and if the tabernacle were “greater and more perfect,” it follows of necessity that the holy place was so likewise. The same thought belongs to both. Christ entered through the tabernacle of His untainted humanity to a corresponding holy place; He went into the holy place of the eternal world; He entered into the holy of holies of the universe. But God never does anything hurriedly; so Christ, after receiving the keys of the invisible world, took forty days to appear to His disciples at different times, in order to assure their minds that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth, and that a clear way, which no one may block, is opened unto them from earth to heaven. Then He ascended, in quiet unruffled glory, to take His proper place as the minister of the sanctuary, and sat down on the right hand of Majesty on high. There is not a higher place in all heaven than where Jesus Christ is to-day in our nature. He is as high as God Himself could raise Him.
III. Christ as a high priest excels in the PRECIOUSNESS OF THE BLOOD. The worth of the blood was owing to the worth of the life, and the worth of the life to the greatness of the Person. When a man is martyred, the soul does not die; nevertheless, the soul imparts worth to the life of the body, and confers immeasurably more importance on the death of a man than the death of a beast. But notwithstanding the greatness of the difference between man and an animal, it is only a difference of degrees. Man is but a creature as well as the animal. But the difference between man and God is as great as that between a creature and the Creator. And yet, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Creator has come into closer union with humanity than that between our souls and our bodies. Though, perhaps, it be not proper to say that God died, yet the one who died was God. The infinite Person of the Son was in the obedience; the infinite Person was in the suffering; the infinite Person was in the death: imparting boundless worth and merit to all, so as to be a “propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” Because the Person is so great, the preciousness of the blood has filled all heaven, and has converted the throne of Majesty into a mercy-seat.
IV. Jesus Christ excels as High Priest in the PERFECTNESS OF HIS WORK. The Jewish high priest was obliged to go to the holy place every year, because there was no effectual reconciliation; only the surface was a little washed, only temporal forgiveness was administered. But the sacrifice of Christ effected a thorough reconciliation--there is no need for a second attempt.
V. Jesus Christ excels as High Priest in the NATURE AND EFFICACY OF THE REDEMPTION. He obtained eternal redemption or deliverance for us. This follows necessarily from the other part of the verse. As He went to the holy place in heaven, it must be that the redemption is eternal. There is not a higher court ever to reverse the verdict. The acquittal is from the throne of God Himself. (Lewis Edwards, D. D.)
The superiority of Christ’s priesthood:
The object of right worship has ever been the same, but its mode has undergone two great changes:
1. From no sacrifice to many sacrifices.
2. From many sacrifices to one--from the many mediations of
Moses to the one mediation of Christ.
I. CHRIST INTRODUCED HIGHER THINGS.
1. A higher system of teaching. More spiritual, clear, and diffusive.
2. A higher form of worship. More simple, personal, attractive, and free.
3. A higher state of union. Marked by broader views, higher aims, more expansive benevolence.
II. CHRIST OFFICIATES IN A HIGHER SANCTUARY.
1. Heaven is a more extensive sanctuary. “Greater.” For all kindreds, &c.
2. A more Divine sanctuary. “Not made with hands.”
III. CHRIST PRESENTED A HIGHER SACRIFICE. His own life--the most precious of all.
IV. CHRIST ACCOMPLISHED A HIGHER WORK. “Redemption” of forfeited rights and paralysed powers; redemption from guilt and spiritual influence of sin; impartation of pardon and purity to the condemned and corrupt; and all this eternal. (Homilist.)
The priesthood of Christ
I. CONSIDER THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PAST--AND THE RETROSPECTIVE EFFICACY OF HIS WORK IN BEHALF OF THE WORSHIPPERS OF A FORMER AGE. To this view we are led by the whole course of the apostle’s argument in this chapter, and the various allusions to sacrificial rites contained in the Old Testament. The doctrine of propitiation is the harmonising doctrine of the whole Bible. It makes the narrative of patriarchal, Levitical, and prophetical life one history. The men who lived under these dispensations all felt their need of mercy, and with certain differences of outward circumstances, all sought for mercy in the same way. The fundamental articles of religion have been the same in every age of the world. Such is the antiquity of Christ’s priesthood. It reaches far back through all the religious economies under which fallen man has ever lived. Christ is that true Melchisedec who has neither beginning of life nor end of days. “He has obtained for us,” says the apostle, “eternal redemption.” Rolling ages impair not the earnestness of His intercession, nor multitudinous offences the worth of the plea He brings. “He ever liveth.” “He abideth a priest continually.”
II. CONSIDER THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST AS FULFILLING AND ANSWERING THE INDISPENSABLE CONDITIONS IN ORDER TO THE COVENANT OF FORGIVENESS BEING PERFECT. The priest, in the Levitical sense, is a public person who deals with an offended God in the name of the guilty, by offering an appointed sacrifice for sin upon the altar.
1. According to this definition, we see that in order to the desired reconciliation three things are necessary--a priest, a sacrifice, and an altar.
(1) First, there must be a priest. There was no priest under the covenant with Adam upright, for this reason, there was no sacrifice. Man then was dealt with as innocent; he could come to God of himself. But the covenant with man fallen was altogether different; this was entered into with persons in a different moral state, and made for a totally different end. It was a covenant with sinners, with persons who had offended God and cast the words of the first covenant behind them. Hence the design of this new compact was to make peace, to reinstate man in the friendship of his Maker, and to repair the dishonour done to the Divine government. But to give effect to this covenant a mediating party was necessary. The prophet Zechariah expresses this necessity in that fine passage, “He shall be a priest upon His throne, and the council of peace shall be between them both.”
(2) But, secondly, there must in effecting this sublime negotiation be also a sacrifice. “Gather My sons together to Me,” says the Psalmist, “those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” The importance of this element of the priesthood will appear to you, if you consider that if a sinless mediator had been all that was required, there seems nothing to forbid that our high priest should have been an angel. But this appended condition of sacrifice, the irrevocable necessity of bloodshed in order to remitted guilt made the mediation of angels impossible; for are they not all spirits?--therefore, having no blood to shed. Hence, while there was blood to be shed which shut out angels, it must be sinless blood which shut out men. And yet the dictates of natural equity would suggest that the blood should be that of a man, and that he who should bear the penalties of a broken covenant should be of the same nature with the covenant breaker.
(3) And then, again, in order to a perfect priesthood there must of necessity be an altar--an altar too of such infinite worth and preciousness that it should both sanctify and enhance the gift. Now, considering that the sacrifice offered up was nothing else than the human nature of Christ, consisting of a body rent, broken, and a pure, holy soul, agonised, bruised, smitten of God and afflicted, the only thing there could be to sanctify a gift in itself so sanctified is the Divine nature with which this holy sacrifice was united,
2. Here, then, we have satisfactorily provided for the three pre-requisites for a perfect priesthood, namely, a priest, a sacrifice, and an altar. It should not lessen our confidence in this gospel priesthood, to find that all its constituent elements centre in the same glorious person--that the victim to be sacrificed is Christ, that the altar on which it is laid is Christ, that the priest who is to slay and offer and carry the blood into the most holy place is Christ; for if all these several parts be necessary to a perfect priesthood, how would it have vitiated the whole oblation to have encountered at any stage of its preparation a mixture of infirmity. If, for instance, a perfect sacrifice had been offered on a blemished altar, or if though the altar were unblemished, the offering must pass through the hands of a frail and erring priest. No, Christ will have none to lay hands on His work, none to join Him in it. The wine-press of humiliation shall be trodden by Himself alone. “By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
III. CONSIDER THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO ITS MORAL EFFICACY. The apostle, as you perceive, takes as the basis of his comparison the two principal functions of the priestly office under the old economy, namely, the oblation, or the offering of the sacrifice in a part outside the precincts of the temple, and the presentation, or the carrying of blood once a year into the holy of holies to he exhibited and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat. Our Lord suffering without the camp exactly corresponds to the first feature of this Levitical system, whilst His appearing for us continually in the presence of God as plainly answers to the second. And in both, argues the apostle, you cannot fail to discern the measureless superiority of the gospel priesthood. Look at the character of the sacrifice itself. “Not by the blood of goats, but by His own blood.” Two verses further he puts the contrast still more strongly--“If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling,” &c. The sacrifices of the law had a double use; the one real, and the other typical; the one ceremonial, and the other spiritual; the one actual, as conferring upon the worshipper certain church rights and privileges, the other contingent as requiring a definite act of faith in the promise of the Mediator. Well, the ceremonial efficiency of this it was no part of the apostle’s argument to disparage. While the ancient ritual remained it served useful ends. They did sanctify to the purifying of the flesh. They enabled the excommunicated to join in public worship again, reinstated the sinner into the privileges and immunities of church fellowship, and as types reminded the worshipper of that higher union and fellowship from which he had become excluded by sin, and restoration to which would evidently require a nobler sacrifice and better blood; for how could the blood of bulls and goats ever take away sin? Hence the force of the apostle’s distinction in the text just quoted, between purifying the flesh and purging the conscience. Temple blood may admit you to temple worship, and an outward cleansing may get you an outward interest in the covenant; but if you aspire to peace, to a realised fellowship with God, to anything of the tranquillity or joy of service--in a word, if you desire to get a cleansing and a peace within, any rest for the smitten troubled heart, you will feel that something better than blood of bulls and goats is needed, and with adoring thankfulness will look up to that great High Priest, who, carrying with Him His own all-cleansing blood, hath entered into the most holy place. And this is the second point of contrast on which the apostle insists--on Christ passed into the holy place, that is into heaven, as distinguished from that part of the tabernacle which was within the veil. As one of the patterns of things in the heavens, this inner part into which the priest went was guarded with zealous sacredness. The people were not allowed to follow even with their eyes whilst he was in the act of passing through the veil. Directly he had passed the curtains were drawn as close as possible that even the most curious might not see what was going on within; whilst enshrined in the most sacred part of the holy place itself were preserved time-honoured pledges of the presence and protecting power of God. But Christ, argues the apostle, has passed into a place far holier than your holiest. The curtain which separates Him from human sight is the cloud spread before the eternal throne. Ask we a pledge of the Divine protection--a pledge that He will not forget His holy covenant--a pledge that no penitent and believing sinners are ever to be turned away--we have it in the fact that our Melchisedec stands before the throne, that He combines in Himself all the functions of an everlasting priesthood, being Himself the tabernacle of witness, Himself the altar of sacrifice, Himself the Priest to offer, Himself the Lamb to die; and in the exercise of this priesthood He stands in the midst of the throne, exhibits the sacrificial blood openly that God may see it and pardon, that angels may see it and wonder, that redeemed ones may see it and adore, that the trembling sinner may see it and trust. Consider then, says the apostle, consider Him in all the dignity of His nature, in all the perfections of His sacrifice, in all the mightiness of His pleadings before the everlasting throne, and you will feel that you have, as you ought to have, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, you have, and should feel that you should have, a merciful and faithful High Priest over the house of God, so that if you will draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, in humble but joyous hope, in childlike and tranquil confidence, in and through the merits of the crucified, you shall both obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need: (D. Moore, M. A.)
The high priesthood of Christ
The high priesthood of our Lord is a matter full of important consequences to us relating to His sacred Person and His work in our redemption. Of course the term is one derived from the Jewish ceremonial worship: and it is to the books in which that worship is ordained, that we must look for its explanation. I find the first ordinances respecting the high priest’s office in Exodus 28:1-43. There Moses is ordered to take to him Aaron his brother, and with many prescribed ceremonies and adornments to consecrate him as priest; i.e., as afterwards abundantly appears, as chief, or high priest. We need not follow these prescribed ceremonies, further than to cull out from them the general character of each portion of them, as applying to the office of our blessed Lord. As they were to be without blemish or deformity, as they were to be clothed in holy garments for glory and beauty, as they were not to defile themselves with any uncleanness, so was He, as the very first condition of this His office, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. They, these priests of Israel, were like their brethren in outward form, but, unlike them, were not to be made unclean by things which rendered others unclean. And so Christ took on Him the likeness of sinful flesh, but did not become sinful: He partook of the infirmities of our nature to the full, but did not partake of its pollution. But, when the high priest is thus constituted and apparelled, what is the first matter of which we read, belonging to his special duty and office? Precious stones are to be taken, two sets: upon both the sets are to be graven the names of the tribes of the children of Israel: once, on two onyx stones, which are to be worn on the shoulders of the high priest: the other time, on twelve separate stones, whose names are specially detailed; and this last tablet is to be worn on his heart. We have here a double-feature of the office. The high priest is judge; the high priest is intercessor. And this too belongs to the reality of the high priesthood of Christ. All judgment is committed to Him. And thus judging, thus ordering His Church, He bears His people written on His heart. He can never forget them, for He represents them, and He loves them as Himself, and He bears them on Himself as a memorial before God continually. The next point which requires our notice is important, as introducing a whole class of duties which mainly constituted the high priest’s office (see Exodus 28:36-38). Here we have the high priest in a new character: that of one bearing the iniquity of others, who are made acceptable to God by that his hearing of their iniquity. The plate of pure gold--the “Holiness of the Lord” inscribed on it--must of course be taken as indicating, in connection with his bearing their iniquity, the acceptance before God, as holy, of the people of the Lord whom he represents. It will be enough at this part to say, that our blessed Redeemer here also fulfils the reality of which these high priests were a shadow. Not only does He carry His people engraven on His heart before God, but He presents them to God as holiness to Him, by virtue of His having Himself borne their iniquities.
Take the apostle’s testimony to this in Ephesians 5:25. Then come, in the book of Exodus, the rites and ceremonies of the consecration, or setting apart of the priests to minister before God. Concerning these, one remark before all is suggested to us by the writer of this Epistle to the Hebrews:--viz., that no man took the office unto himself, but only those who were selected and consecrated by God, as was Aaron. The very name of the Lord by which we call Him, Messiah or Christ, signifies the Anointed. But we now come to that which was by far the larger portion of the duty of the priests of old, and of which we shall have much to say as concerning our great High Priest Himself. “Every high priest,” says our Epistle, “is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices.” This was the priest’s especial office; to minister for the people in the things concerning God, and to offer sacrifices for sin. Now almost every particular is explained by the writer of this Epistle to have immediate reference to our Lord: and of those not so mentioned several are so obvious as to be unmistakable by any intelligent Christian.
1. First of all why all these ordinances of sacrifice at all? Why all this taking away of animal life, and this sprinkling of blood, ceremonies of a kind painful and revolting now to our minds and habits? All these sacrifices, thus divinely appointed, were ordained to signify greater and spiritual truths: “the Holy Ghost thus signifying,” as we have it written here: God having a matter to make known in His good time, which should be no type or shadow, but His own very truth: and that matter being, the death and satisfaction of our blessed Lord, His eternal Son. But let us follow this out, considering Him as our High Priest. “If He be a Priest,” says the writer of our epistle, “He must of necessity have something to offer.” And here we have God’s High Priest, whom He hath consecrated and sent into the world. By what offering shall He propitiate God towards those His people? Who shall shed the blood that may sprinkle our holy things and make them pure? Who shall go far, far away, bearing upon his head the iniquities of us all? Hear His answer--“Lo I come to do Thy will, O God.” He is spotless. He unites in Himself our whole nature: strike Him, and we are stricken: let His sacrifice be accepted, and we are cleared from guilt: let that blood of His be carried into the holy place of God’s presence in heaven, and an atonement is made for us. There are several ether, apparently minor, but really not less interesting points of comparison, between the high priests of old and our blessed High Priest and Redeemer. Their sacrifices were imperfect, and of no intrinsic value or avail. They therefore needed renewing continually, day by day. But His is perfect and all-sufficing. It needs only to be believed in, and applied by the obedience of living faith to the heart., Again: those high priests, by reason of their being mortal men, were continually renewed from time to time. None of them was permanent: they came as shadows, and so departed: theirs was no abiding priesthood, to which all men might look for atonement and acceptance. But the Son of God abideth for ever: “He dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him: in that He died, He died for sin once: in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” For ever does the virtue of His blood endure: for ever does His holy priesthood avail. There is with Him no wearing out, no forgetting, no failure of earnestness, no vacillating affection, no exhausted pleading. He is for all, He is over all, He is sufficient for all, He cares for all. So then, once more--inasmuch as they were human high priests, they were fellows with their brethren. Was then theirs any advantage over Him? In that land of Judaea, under the shade of those walls of Jerusalem, you might perchance see the high priest holding conference with the erring or the penitent: might see the venerable man of God, on whose brow was His anointing, with the hand of the young offender laid in his, pleading eye to eye till the tears chased one another down the cheek glowing with shame: and then might trace the judge of Israel watching, reminding, building up the returning sinner in holiness. Shall we envy them? Were they better off than we? Ah no! The sympathising high priest on earth, what is he to the sympathising High Priest in heaven? Few indeed, and interrupted could be such interviews: narrow indeed and partial such sympathies. But our High Priest is not one who lacks leisure or power to receive all who come to Him at any time. It is for us, for the least among us, that the eternal Son of God is thus constituted a High Priest: for our sins, for our wants, for our daily feeling, and obeying, and approaching to God. It is to purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God, that His holy blood was offered: to make us pure, upright, clear in purpose, and like to our God and Father. (Dean Alford.)
Good things brought by Christ:
Here we may see what they be that in truth deserve the name and title of good things, Not silver and gold, houses and lands. Christ at His coming brought none of these, yet He brought good things with Him, namely, remission of sins, faith and other graces of the Spirit. These indeed are worthy the name of good things. Forasmuch as our Priest bringeth such excellent things with Him, let Him be most welcome to us. David said of Ahimaaz, “he is a good man, and bringeth good tidings.” Much more let us say of Christ our High Priest, “He is a good man, He bringeth good tidings,” that by the blood of His Cross He hath reconciled us to God the Father, hath obtained a general pardon for all our sins, He hath prepared a place for us in His own kingdom; therefore let us receive Him with all joy. (W. Jones, D. D.)
The body likened to a tabernacle
As Christ’s body is a tabernacle, so is 2 Peter 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:1).
1. The name of a tent or tabernacle imports warfare. Soldiers have their tents.
2. There is a between a tabernacle and a house; for a house is made of solid matter, wood, stone, &c. A tent is made of old clothes patched together. So our bodies are not made of the sun, of the stars, of the firmament, but of the earth, which is a brittle thing.
3. A tent is weak, easily pierced through. So our body. A knife, a pin may prick it, a fly may choke it. A tent is quickly up and quickly down. So is our body. We come suddenly, and we are gone again in the turning of an hand, though it be the body of a wise Solomon, of a strong Samson, a fair Absolom, yet remember it is but a tent or tabernacle. The time is at hand, says St. Peter, when I must lay down this tabernacle. Now as the tabernacle in the time of the Law was kept neat, clean, and handsome, it might not be polluted with anything. So let us keep our bodies from all pollutions. (W. Jones, D. D.)
He entered in once
Our Lord’s entrance within the veil
I. THE SACRIFICE OF HIS ENTERING.
4. Of transcendent value.
II. THE MANNER OF HIS ENTRANCE.
2. Only once.
3. In the fullest and most complete manner.
III. THE OBJECTS OF HIS ENTRANCE.
1. He made atonement within the veil.
2. He enters there to appear for us.
3. He is there to perfect us.
4. He has entered in once that He may abide there.
5. He is there to admit us to the same nearness.
IV. THE GLORIES OF THIS ENTRANCE. “Having obtained eternal redemption.” When Aaron went in with the blood of bulls and goats, he had not obtained “eternal redemption”; he had only obtained a symbolic and temporary purification for the people, and that was all.
1. Our Lord enters in because His work is all done.
2. That which He had obtained was redemption. We do not fully know what the word “ redemption “ means, for we were born free; but if we could go back a few years, and mix with the negro slaves of America, they could have told us what redemption meant, if ever, by any good fortune, any one of them was able to buy his freedom. You that have groaned under the tyranny of sin, you know what redemption means in its spiritual sense, and you prize the ransom by which you have been made free. We are to-day redeemed from our far-off condition in reference to the Lord God: we do not now stand outside the veil. This is a great redemption. We are also delivered from guilt, for “He hath washed us from our sins in His own blood.” Also from the power of sin, its curse, its bondage, &c.
3. And now think of the nature of that redemption; for here is a grand point. He has obtained “eternal” redemption. If you carefully study the verses around the text, you will find the word “ eternal” three times: there is “eternal redemption,” the “eternal Spirit,” and an “eternal inheritance.” Why is redemption said to be eternal? He has obtained eternal redemption--a redemption which entered into eternal consideration. Redemption isthe drift of creation, and the hinge of providence.
4. When our Lord entered in, He had by His sacrifice also dealt with eternal things, and not with matters of merely passing importance. Sin, death, hell--these are not temporary things: the atonement deals with these, and hence it is an eternal redemption.
5. Now, look forward into eternity. Behold the vista which has no end! Eternal redemption covers all the peril of this mortal life, and every danger beyond, if such there be. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The entrance of Christ into heaven
I. The entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ as our High Priest into heaven, to appear in the presence of God for us, and to save us thereby unto the uttermost, was a thing so great and glorious, As COULD NOT BE ACCOMPLISHED BUT BY HIS OWN BLOOD. No other sacrifice was sufficient unto this end.
II. Whatever difficulties lay in the way of Christ, as unto the accomplishment and perfection of the work of our redemption, HE WOULD NOW DECLINE THEM, NOR DESIST FROM HIS UNDERTAKING, WHATEVER IT COST HIM.
III. THERE WAS A HOLY PLACE MEET TO RECEIVE THE LORD CHRIST, AFTER THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF; and a suitable reception for such a person, after so glorious a performance.
IV. If the Lord Christ entered not into the holy place until he had finished His work, WE MAY NOT EXPECT AN ENTRANCE THEREINTO UNTIL WE HAVE FINISHED OURS. He fainted not until all was finished; and it is our duty to arm ourselves with the same mind.
V. IT MUST BE A GLORIOUS EFFECT WHICH HAD SO GLORIOUS A CAUSE; and so it was, even “eternal redemption.”
VI. THE NATURE OF OUR REDEMPTION, THE WAY OF ITS PROCUREMENT, WITH THE DUTIES REQUIRED OF US WITH RESPECT THEREUNTO, ARE GREATLY TO RE CONSIDERED BY US. (John Owen, D. D.)
Christ’s work on earth and in heaven
I. HIS WORK ON EARTH. “He obtained eternal redemption for us.”
1. The blessing in question.
(1) Redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ, or deliverance from the sentence of condemnation.
(2) Redemption by power from the dominion of sin, from the vassalage of the world, and from the power of darkness.
2. The extensiveness of the attribute. “Eternal redemption.”
3. Eternal in its procuring.
4. Eternity of the benefit.
(1) For men, in distinction from angels.
(2) For believers.
II. His APPEARANCE IN HEAVEN.
1. Where did He enter? “Into the holy place”--heaven.
2. With what did He enter? “With His own blood.
3. How often did He enter? “Once.” (W. Jay.)
Having obtained eternal redemption for us
Redemption by Christ:
Calvary is the central point to which, as all former ages, with a vague expectancy, had looked onward, so all subsequent ages look back, with hearts filled to the full with gratitude and love. In the redemption there won for us there are various points for us to notice.
1. Firstly, it was by His own blood that Christ entered in once into the holy place. It was a sacrifice centring absolutely in Himself. Christ trod the winepress alone. His own blood was shed for the salvation of the world; none other could mingle with it.
2. And Christ entered once into the holy place. We should mark this well. His death was the single act of One who need never repeat it.
3. And the redemption thus won is as eternal for us as it is for Him who won it. This side of the grave we have to struggle, to do battle as soldiers of the Cross, “not as though we had already attained, either were already perfect” (Philippians 3:12). But we may have sure and certain hope of eternal life, and in this confidence may go forth conquering and to conquer. The redemption, as far as Christ’s work is concerned, has been made; and if we will but take the crown from Him who offers it to us, no power of earth, nor of hell, shall be able to wrest it from our keeping without our consent.
4. And, lastly, Christ has obtained this eternal redemption for us. Without boastfulness or self-assertion, we may lay stress on that word, and remember that in it Christ associates with Himself the whole human family. We look back down the stream of time which has flowed on to the present. We think of all the lives that have been for a longer or shorter period borne upon that mighty river--lives known and unknown, a blessing or a curse to their generation. In all of these redemption has played its part. It has had an influence and a power on those lives, whether it has been accepted or not. It has been either their hope and encouragement, or it has been a solemn witness rising up to protest against every deed of sin and shame. Man cannot live in the knowledge and light of immortality won for him by Christ, and be the same as if he knew it not. For that knowledge he must be either infinitely the better or infinitely the worse. And, for our great and endless comfort, let us never forget that the redemption is offered to each individual soul; for Christ by His death made each one of us His own, having paid the price which our salvation costs. And that act of surpassing love has been performed as though no other soul but thine required this tremendous sacrifice. Will you, then, reject so great salvation? will you refuse the eternal redemption Christ has obtained for you? (C. W. H. Kenrick, M. A.)
I. Our redemption from captivity is effected by our Lord in two ways: BY PRICE AND BY POWER. By price paid into the hand of God as the moral Governor; by power exercised on Satan, sin, the world, and death.
II. Our Lord obtained eternal redemption for us BY SACRIFICE. This implies reconciliation (Colossians 1:20-22; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
III. Our Lord obtained eternal redemption for us BY SUFFERING PUNISHMENT. This refers to law and justice. (James Kidd, D. D.)
Once when I was revisiting my native village, I was going to a neighbouring town to preach, and saw a young man coming from a house with a waggon, in which was seated an old woman. I felt interested in them, and asked my companion who they were. I was told to look at the adjoining meadow and pasture, and at the great barns that were on the farm, as well as a good house. “Well,” said my companion, “that young man’s father drank that all up, and left his wife in the poorhouse. The young man went away and worked until he had got money enough to redeem that farm, and now it is his own, and he is taking his mother to church.” That is an illustration of redemption. In the first Adam we have lost all, but the second Adam has redeemed everything by His death. (D. L. Moody.)
In the debtors’ prison at Sheffield, Howard found a cutler plying his trade who was in jail for thirty cents. The fees of the court amounted to over a pound, and this sum he had been for several years trying to earn. In another jail there was a man with a wife and five children, confined for court-fees of about five shillings, and jailer’s fees of about eightpence. This man was confined in the same apartment as robbers. All such debtors--and they were numerous in England--Howard released by paying their debts. (Cycloaedia of Biography.)
How much more shall the blood of Christ?
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ
The sacrifice of our Lord admits of being considered from many different points of view. We may consider it as making atonement for our sins, and ask how any such transference and application of His merits to us, as is involved in this thought, is possible; or we may consider why any such atonement should have been necessary at all to satisfy the requirements of the Divine Righteousness in the moral government of the world. Both of these questions are legitimate, and the New Testament does in fact suggest answers to them. But there is another consideration, simpler perhaps than either of these, which is yet full of importance, and comes first in the order of thought; and that is, the nature of Christ’s sacrifice, considered not in its effect on us, but simply in itself: of what sort was Christ’s sacrifice, and wherein lay its acceptableness?
I. HE OFFERED HIS SELF, HIS PERSON, HIS HUMAN LIFE TO GOD. This human life of ours is meant to move in various directions. It moves out to the interpretation and appropriation of nature; and so man gains in natural knowledge, and develops the resources of civilisation. It moves out again from each man towards his fellows, and so the bonds of humanity are knit, and society advances. It moves out also towards God, to present itself before Him, and enter into communion with Him. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” All the faculties of man are thus to be directed not only towards nature, towards his fellow men, but also deliberately Godward, and that first of all. It is “ the first and great commandment.” This was the original law of man’s being. This is his ultimate goal in Christianity (Romans 12:1). This “reasonable service,” which St. Paul calls a “sacrifice,” though there be no death involved in it, is what is supremely exemplified in the human life of Jesus. It looked manward in love and ministry. “He went about doing good.” But first of all it looked Godward in self-oblation. “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” Aye, even before “Thy will be done “ comes “ Thy name be hallowed.” For to please God, to present himself before God, to know God, this is the highest privilege and the primary duty of man.
II. HE OFFERED HIMSELF “WITHOUT SPOT” OR “BLEMISH.” The metaphor is from the inspection of the victims prepared for sacrifice. In the Lamb of God the scrutiny of the all-seeing eye can detect no disqualifying flaw. A will always vigorous, single, unflagging; an intellect wholly unclouded and unsophisticated, of perfect receptivity and exquisite penetration; a heart of incomparable tenderness and force, which yet never moved out in uncontrolled passion; a perfect humanity which yet showed its perfection in unresisting dependence upon the movement of the Divine Spirit which filled it and directed it; a humanity rich and full in experiences, passing through all sorts of vicissitudes of circumstance, yet found as perfect in one situation as in another, in failure as in success; a humanity in which nothing approaching to moral decadence is to be detected, glorious in its issue as in its inception. He offered Himself to God without blemish. He fulfilled the ideal of humanity. He was the beloved Son in whom the Father--the great Scrutiniser of human oblations--was well pleased.
III. THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS WAS A FULL, PERFECT, AND ADEQUATE SELF-OBLATION OF MAN TO GOD. It was perfectly “spiritual.” He, the pattern Man, gave to God an undivided allegiance, an absolute homage. When His mission on behalf of truth, and meekness, and righteousness involved the martyr’s death--He accepted the condition, and offered the shedding of His blood. But in God’s sight the shedding of the blood had no value except as the symbol of obedience carried to an extreme. It is a great, a strange mistake to suppose that the death of Christ was, as it were, the act of God. It was the act in which (on the contrary) rebellion against God, the sin of man, showed itself in its true and horrible colours. What God does is to bear with this, as He has foreseen it, to spare not His only Son, to exempt Him by no miracle from the consequences of His loyalty to truth and meekness and righteousness--under the conditions of a sinful world, as things were, its inevitable consequences. God foresees, God bears with this, and He overrules it to the purposes of our redemption. But throughout, as St. Auselm says, in the greatest Christian treatise on the Atonement, what God the Father enjoined upon the Incarnate Son was, primarily simple obedience; only as obedience in fact involved death, then, secondarily, did He enjoin upon Him to die. There are splendid instances in actual history, or imaginative history, of acts in which men have poured out their blood as a sacrifice for their fellow men. It is the deep moral feeling of Euripides which converts the unwilling sacrifice of Iphigenia in Aulis into a freewill offering for her country. “The whole of Greece, the truly great, is looking to me now,” she cries to her mother,… “for all the Greeks and not for thyself alone, didst thou bear me; therefore for Greece I offer my body.” So she gives herself to be sacrificed by the priest’s knife, and the goddess Artemis accepts the freewill offering--but not the actual life; for as the knife is falling, the place of the maiden is, by the intervention of the goddess, taken by a doe. And of the maiden it is said that the same day beheld her dead and alive again. This is a splendid thought. But it is the nobility of the victim which is supposed to move the compassion of the goddess rather than the simple worth of a human life, and the atmosphere of religious conception as to the Divine nature is still far cloudier than among the Jews. On the Jewish stage a cognate but more truly historical scene is described in Maccabees, where the heroic martyrs for the honour and liberty of the chosen people offer up their lives to God. “And I,” cries the youngest of the seven martyred brothers, “as nay brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that He would speedily be merciful unto our nation,… and that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty which is justly brought upon all our nation may cease.” This is a self-sacrifice which comes very near to Isaiah’s conception of the vicarious self-oblation of Jehovah’s righteous servant. But it has still accompanying it some ring of the false thought of God as demanding for sin some positive quantity of expiatory death. Now when we describe the sacrifice of our Lord as perfectly spiritual, we mean that it carries with it, in all its silent implications and in the spoken words in which it found expression, the perfect truth about God and about man, as the flawless homage of the self-surrendering will. Jesus taught the perfect truth in words--the truth about God’s pure Fatherhood; the truth that what God asks of man, who is made for sonship, is not mere isolated acts of obedience or sacrifice, but simply and altogether the homage of an unqualified submission and dependence. He taught the truth about man’s sin, about his rebellion, about his need of conversion. He taught the truth about the unity of the human race--bidding men see that they may not live each for himself, but are bound to live each for all. He taught all this in words; He taught it in deeds, in His own human relation to the Father; in His own relation to mankind. He taught it most of all in His sacrifice. For when obedience was shown to involve death, tie spared not Himself, even as the Father spared Him not: He used no miraculous power to exempt Himself, though He declared that He possessed it. For us, in our manhood, before God He shed His blood. And this blood-shedding has, in God’s sight, a perfect value, because it is the expression of a flawless will, of truth unqualified--the truth about God’s claim on man, the truth about humanity’s proper homage, the truth about sin. And the self sacrifice of Jesus lives for evermore, over against all our lawlessness, our wilfulness, our slackness, our blindness, our self-sparing, as the perfect recognition in man’s name and nature of the righteous claim of God, and of the responsibility of man for man.
IV. As THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS WAS PERFECTLY SPIRITUAL SO IT WAS OFFERED, NOT ONLY IN THE POWER OF THE PERFECT HUMANITY, BUT IN THE POWER ALSO OF THE ETERNAL SPIRIT. Truly was He acting in manhood, really under conditions of manhood: the sacrifice was genuinely human in its moral effort, in its moral and physical pain, in its genuine human faith. It was the Son of Man who offered Himself. But the mind and will expressed was also God’s mind, God’s will, and therefore the meaning and value of the act is unchangeable. It is true of all human action at its best that it has an eternal element. “The truly great have all one age.” But the eternal element, the movement of God which lies hid at all times at the roots of humanity, is obscured and clouded by human independence of God, that is, human sin. In Jesus every human act is also the act of God. He who was acting under human conditions was very God; and the Divine Spirit which indwelt His humanity, indwelt Him perfectly, and found in Him a faultless organ in which His will could be done. Nothing, then, in the acts or sacrifice of Jesus is merely temporary, or imperfect, or inadequate. It belongs to all ages. It is eternal. (Chas. Gore, M. A.)
I. THE GOD OF THE GOSPEL IS A LIVING PERSONALITY. This revelation of God as “living” stands opposed to
1. Heathen idolatry.
2. Secular philosophy.
3. Mere logical divinity.
II. THE CHIEF END OF MAN’S EXISTENCE IS TO SERVE THE LIVING GOD.
1. This implies
(1) That He has a will concerning our activities.
(2) A capacity on man’s part to understand and obey the will of
God concerning him.
2. There are three facts in relation to the service of God which we should always bear in mind, and which marks it off from all other service.
(1) That acceptability does not depend either upon the kind, or the amount, or the results of our activity, but upon its principles.
(2) That to serve God does not require that we should confine ourselves to any particular department of action.
(3) That to serve God is the only way either to serve ourselves or others.
III. MAN’S MORAL NATURE IS GENERALLY IN A STATE WHICH DISQUALIFIES HIM FOR THIS SERVICE.
1. The conscience is polluted.
2. The conscience is polluted through dead works.
IV. THE GREAT END OF CHRIST’S MEDIATION IS TO REMOVE THIS MORAL DISQUALIFICATION FOR THE SERVICE OF THE LIVING GOD.
1. By furnishing man with the most complete exhibition of what the service of the living God is.
(1) A personal consecration.
(2) A voluntary consecration.
(3) A virtuous consecration.
(4) A consecration Divinely inspired.
2. By supplying the most effective means to generate in the heart the principle of true service--supreme love to God.
3. By providing a medium which renders the service approvable to God.
V. CHRIST’S MEDIATION FOR THIS PURPOSE IS MOST UNQUESTIONABLY EFFICACIOUS. “If the blood,” etc.
1. The object in the one case to be realised is of unspeakably greater importance than the other.
2. The means employed in the one case are immeasurably more costly than the other.
3. The agent employed in the one case to apply the means is infinitely greater than in the other. (Homilist.)
Christ the purifier of religion
I. MAN’S CONSCIENCE NEEDS PURIFYING. TO perceive this, contemplate the Jewish ceremonial, and that will shadow forth the spiritual truth. The man who had touched a corpse, or the grave dust, was regarded as defiled--he felt defiled, he trembled to enter the presence of God. Paul says thisis the symbol of an eternal fact. The conscience feels the touch of death. It trembles in worship. Therefore it needs purifying from its dead works to serve the living God. The more bright and keen the conscience, the deeper and more awful is the feeling of death that cleaves to us.
II. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST THE PURIFYING POWER.
1. A perfect and holy sacrifice. That awful expenditure of sinless agony is the only purification. The voice of condemnation pursues us through every path of life until it is hushed before the Cross. Then the death-stains of past sin are cleansed away. Then the spectral forms of the past are laid for ever. Then prayer loses its tremor, aspiration its sadness, praise its undertone of fear. We no more wish to escape from God, for we are made pure by the blood of Christ.
2. A new spirit of devotion; for we need not only absolution but inspiration before we can serve God freely, lovingly, joyously. “He offered Himself”--not in fear, but voluntarily. Suffering, shame, death, stood in His path.He might have refused to endure them, and from the first turned aside: but daily He chose to bear the daily cross. “Through the Eternal Spirit.” His was not an offering from the human to avert the Divine anger, but an offering from Himself. There was the true spirit of worship when the Eternal Spirit became enshrined in Jesus. And through that Spirit He offered Himself.
III. THE PURIFIED CONSCIENCE RISES TO LIVING WORSHIP.
1. Living--in the reality of its spiritual emotions. The unpurged conscience is tempted to forget, to doubt, to deny God, or regard Him simply as some awful and mysterious power. The purified spirit feels Him near and can bear the glance of the Eternal without shrinking; for the dead past has been cleansed away by the blood of the Saviour. Thus prayer becomes real; it is no longer a vain cry breathed into the air; for the Spirit through which He offered Himself abides in us, constraining our devotion.
2. Living--for it pervades the whole life. The worship of fear is limited to time and place. But cleansed and inspired by Christ we feel He is everywhere. In suffering we bear His will, and our sighs become prayers. In sorrow, when the heart is weary, we feel ourselves near to the heavenly Friend who is leading us to find in Him rest for the restless and sad. In joys, He who hallowed social gladness by His first miracle--and amid the friendships of life, He who made friendship holy is close to our hearts. In our falls and failures we hear His voice in the hope of rising out of the gloom to a higher and purer slate beyond it. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)
The sacrifice of Christ
I. THE SPECIAL CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN SACRIFICE, the grand atonement on which we all rest, is, that it is not the blood of the inferior animals, as in the former dispensation; but the blood of Christ.
1. It was the offering of a human being. The death of Christ, considering Him simply as a man, shows a justice in the visitation of sin, as much greater as human life is above the life of irrational animals.
2. He was an innocent and spotless man. Here the value is heightened. It was not the case of one offender selected from many to be an example. He had no part in the offence.
3. But that which carries the value of the offering to its true height, is, that it was “the blood of Christ”; of the whole and undivided Christ, who was both God and man. For, though a Divine nature could not bleed and die, a Divine person could.
II. ITS SPECIAL EFFICACY. It cleanses not the flesh, but “purges the conscience from dead works, that we may serve the living God.” Two benefits are here marked as the foundation of, and leading to, all others.
1. The purification of the conscience. The “ dead works,” here mentioned, are sins; and the guilt from which we are purified is in another place termed “the conscience of sins.” Sins are “dead works,” because they expose us to present condemnation, and finally to eternal death. By “ conscience” here is meant inward perception of such works as are chargeable upon us, with fearful apprehensions of the death they bring. But on this sacrifice you are to trust in order to salvation. To encourage you to this, think of the Father’s love. Think of the love of the Son. Can you doubt of that love while He is evidently set forth crucified before your eyes? Think of the value of this sacrifice. If you can conceive of anything more valuable, then doubt the efficacy of this, and fear to trust. Then trust in it. Venture in the same vessel which has carried so many over the stormy waves which now surround you, and who shout to you from the shore beyond, and bid you trust, and not be afraid.
2. The second blessed consequence is, that we may “serve the living God.” There is the service of worship. We have free access to God, and our services are acceptable. There is the service of obedience. We are delivered from the bondage of sin, and all our powers are consecrated to God.
1. The infinite evil of sin. It could not be forgiven without a Divine atonement.
2. The awful character of Divine justice.
3. The fulness of the blessings purchased by this sacrifice. The salvation corresponds with the sacrifice by which it was purchased, and comprehends every spiritual blessing, both in time and eternity. (R. Watson.)
The character, agency, and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice
I. THE AGENCY THROUGH WHICH CHRIST’S SACRIFICE WAS PRESENTED, AND THE CHARACTER OF THAT SACRIFICE. Christ offered Himself to God, both in obedience and in suffering. His whole life was one season of oblation.
II. THE EFFECTS OF THIS SACRIFICE. St. Paul’s representation rather embraces a point than extends itself to the whole of the effects of the atonement: the expression “ dead works,” denotes sinfulness in general, by which all our consciences are polluted, in opposition to those things by which spiritual uncleanness was removed. We have, then, simply to inquire into the truth and meaning of the assertion, that the blood of Jesus cleanseth the soul of the believer from sin, and thus qualifies him for the service of the living God. And, first of all, we have full warrant for affirming that so soon as there is faith in the heart, binding a man to Christ as a member of the head, the sins of all men are swept completely away, being not only forgiven, but actually forgotten by God. It is membership with Christ which gives its might and its majesty to the gospel. Faith admits me into the invisible Church of Christ, and the members of the invisible Church make up one sinless body in the sight of the Father--the perfect righteousness of the Head being considered as belonging equally to the meanest of the members. So that when I have faith in Christ, I am literally one with Christ, and then where are my sins? The countless iniquities of my youth I the multiform transgressions of my riper years! where are they? “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgression, for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Oh! how unlike is His forgiveness to that of men, who may forgive but cannot forget! Oh! the word of the Lord is--“the blood of Jesus Christ shall purge your conscience from dead works.”
III. THIS “PURGING OF THE CONSCIENCE” IS PREPARATORY TO “SERVING THE LORD.” The man of whom much has been forgiven will love much, and loving without obeying is a paradox which never yet deformed practical Christianity. Like as Christ offered Himself through the Eternal Spirit unto God, so also must we through the same Spirit present ourselves as living sacrifices to the Most High. This is the service to which we are pledged; this is the consecration bound upon us by all that is most solemn in duty and glorious in hope. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The red heifer
I. LET US DESCRIBE THE TYPE (see Numbers 19:1-22.). First, the type mentions ceremonial defilements, which were the symbols of the uncleanness caused by sin. The Israelites could very readily render themselves unclean, so as to be unfit to go up to the tabernacle of God. There were uncleannesses connected both with birth and with death, with meats and with drinks, with garments and with houses. A man might become unclean even in his sleep; so closely did the law track him into his most secret places, and surround his most unguarded hours. Even thus doth sin beset us. Like a dog at one’s heels, it is always with us! Like our shadow, it follows us, go where we may. Yea, and when the sun shines not, and shadows are gone, sin is still there. Whither shall we flee from its presence, and where shall we hide from its power? When we would do good, evil is present with us. How humbled we ought to be at the recollection of this! The Israelite became unclean even in the act of doing good; for assuredly it was a good deed to bury the dead. Alas, there is sin even in our holy things. The evil of our nature clingeth to all that we do. The touching of the dead not only made the man unclean, but he became a fountain of defilement. Pollution went forth from the polluted. Do you and I sufficiently remember how much of evil we are spreading when we are out of communion with God? Every ungenerous temper creates the like in others. We never cast a proud look without exciting resentment and bad feelings in others. Somebody or other will follow our example if we be slothful; and thus we may be doing great mischief even when we are doing nothing. This uncleanness prevented the man from going up to the worship of God, and it separated him from that great, permanent congregation which was called to dwell in God’s house by residing all around the holy place. He was, so to speak, excommunicated, suspended, at any rate, in his communion: he could bring no offering, he could not stand among the multitude and view the solemn worship, he was unclean, and must regard himself so. Do the children of God ever get here? Ah, so far as our consciences are concerned we too often come among the unclean. Until the pardoning blood speaks peace within your spirit, you cannot draw near unto God. We tremble, we find communion impossible until we are made clean. This much about the defilements described in the chapter; now concerning the cleansing which it mentions. The defilement was frequent, but the cleansing was always ready.. At a certain time all the people of Israel brought a red heifer to be used in the expiation. It was not at the expense of one person, or tribe, but the whole congregation brought the red cow to be slain. It was to be their sacrifice, and it was brought for them all. It was not led, however, up to the holy place for sacrifice, but it was brought forth without the camp, and there it was slaughtered in the presence of the priest, and wholly burnt with fire, not as a sacrifice upon the altar, but as a polluted thing which was to be made an end of outside the camp. Even as our Lord, though in Himself without spot, was made sin for us, and suffered without the camp, feeling the withdrawings of God, while He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Then the ashes were collected and laid in a clean place accessible to the camp. Everybody knew where the ashes were, and whenever there was any uncleanness they went to this ash-heap and took away a small portion. Whenever the ashes were spent they brought another red heifer, and did the same as they had done before, that always there might be this purification for the unclean, There was no other method of purification from uncleanness but this. It is so with us. To-day the living water of the Divine Spirit’s sacred influences must take up the result of our Lord’s substitution, and this must be applied to our consciences. That which remaineth of Christ after the fire hath passed upon Him, ever the eternal merits, the enduring virtue of our great sacrifice, must be sprinkled upon us through the Spirit of our God. Then are we clean in conscience, but not till then.
II. LET US MAGNIFY THE GREAT ANTITYPE. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ?” How much more? He doth not give us the measure, but leaves it with a note of interrogation. We shall never be able to tell how much more, for the difference between the blood of bulls and of goats and the blood of Christ, the difference between the ashes of a red cow and the eternal merits of the Lord Jesus, must be infinite. Let us help your judgments while we set forth the exceeding greatness of our mighty Expiator, by whom we are reconciled to God.
1. First, then, our defilement is much greater, for the defilement spoken of in the text is on the conscience, We cannot have fellowship with God while there is a sense of unconfessed and unforgiven sin upon us. “Be ye reconciled to God” is a text for saints as well as for sinners: children may quarrel with a father as well as rebels with a king. There must be oneness of heart with God, or there is an end to communion, and therefore must the conscience be purged. The man who was unclean could have come up to the tabernacle if there had been no law to prevent it, and it is possible that he could have worshipped God in spirit, notwithstanding his ceremonial disqualification. The defilement was no barrier in itself except so far as it was typical; but sin on the conscience is a natural wall between God and the soul. You cannot get into loving communion until the conscience is at ease; therefore, I charge you, fly at once to Jesus for peace.
2. Secondly, our sacrifice is greater in itself. I will not dwell upon each point of its greatness, but just notice that in the slaughter of the heifer blood was presented and sprinkled towards the holy place seven times, though it came not actually into it; so in the atonement through which we find peace of conscience there is blood, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” Death was our doom, and death for death did Christ render unto the eternal God. It is by a sense of our Lord’s substitutionary death that the conscience becomes purged from dead works. Furthermore, the heifer itself was offered. After the blood was sprinkled towards the tabernacle by the priestly hand, the victim itself was utterly consumed. Read now our text: “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered up Himself without spot unto God.” Our Lord Jesus Christ gave not merely His death, but His whole person, with all that appertained unto it, to be our substitutionary sacrifice. Oh, what a sacrifice is this! It is added that our Lord did this “by the eternal Spirit.” The heifer was not a spiritual but a carnal offering. The creature knew nothing of what was being done, it was the involuntary victim; but Christ was under the impulses of the Holy Ghost, which was poured upon Him, and He was moved by Him to render up Himself a sacrifice for sin. Hence somewhat of the greater efficacy of His death, for the willinghood of the sacrifice greatly enhanced its value. To give you another, and probably a better, interpretation of the words, there was an eternal spirit linked with the manhood of Christ our Lord, and by it He gave Himself unto God. He was God as well as man, and that eternal Godhead of His lent an infinite value to the sufferings of His human frame, so that He offered Himself as a whole Christ, in the energy of His eternal power and Godhead. One who is both God and man has given Himself as a sacrifice for us. Is not the sacrifice inconceivably greater in the fact than it is in the type? Ought it not most effectually to purge our conscience? After they had burnt the heifer they swept up the ashes. All that could be burnt had been consumed. Our Lord was made a sacrifice for sin, what remains of Him? Not a few ashes, but the whole Christ, which still remaineth, to die no more, but to abide for ever unchanged. He came uninjured through the fires, and now He ever liveth to make intercession for us. It is the application of His eternal merit which makes us clean, and is not that eternal merit inconceivably greater than the ashes of an heifer ever can be?
3. As the defilement and the sacrifice were greater, so the purging is much greater. The purifying power of the blood of Christ must be much greater than the purging power of the water mixed with the ashes of the heifer. For that could not purge conscience from sin, but the application of the atonement can do it, and does do it. Now, what is all this business about? This slain heifer--I understand that, for it admitted the unclean Israelites to the courts of the Lord--but this Christ of God offering Himself without spot by the eternal Spirit--what is that for? The object of it is a service far higher: it is that we may be purged from dead works to serve the living God. The dead works are gone, God absolves you, you are clean, and you feel it. What then? Will you not abhor dead works for the future? Sin is death. Labour to keep from it. Inasmuch as you are delivered from the yoke of sin, go forth and serve God. Since He is the living God, and evidently hates death, and makes it to be an uncleanness to Him, get you to living things. Offer to God living prayers, and living tears, love Him with living love, trust Him with living faith, serve Him with living obedience. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Self-oblation the true idea of obedience:
Christ offered up Himself. He was both Priest and Sacrifice. The atoning oblation was His perfect obedience, both in life and death, to the will of His Father. From Hebrews 10:5-7 we learn that the mystery of atonement began from the first act of humiliation, when He laid aside His glory, and was made in the likeness of men. It contains, therefore, His incarnation, His hope of earthly obedience, His spiritual and bodily sufferings, His death and resurrection. He overcame sin by His holiness, by perfect and perpetual obedience, by a spotless life, by His mastery in the wilderness, by His agony in the garden. His whole life was a part of the one sacrifice which, through the eternal Spirit, He offered to His Father; namely, the reasonable and spiritual sacrifice of a crucified will.
I. First we may learn INTO WHAT RELATION TOWARDS GOD THE CHURCH HAS BEEN BROUGHT BY THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST. The whole mystical body is offered up to the Father, as “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” Whatsoever was fulfilled by the Head is partaken of by the body. He was an oblation, and the Church is offered up in Him. Even now the Church is crucified, buried, raised and exalted to sit with Christ in heavenly places. In the same act of self-oblation He comprehended us, and offered us in Himself. And in this is our justification; namely, in our relation, as “a living sacrifice,” to God through Christ, for whose sake we, all fallen though we be, are accounted righteous in the court of heaven.
II. The next truth we may learn is, THE NATURE OF THE HOLY SACRAMENTS. Under one aspect they are gifts of spiritual grace from God to us; under another they are acts of self-oblation on our part to God. They are the emphatic expressions and the efficient means of realising the great mystery of atonement in us. The faithful in early times, in the very act of offering up the living sacrifice of themselves, saw in the bread and wine of the eucharist an expressive symbol of self-oblation, and a fulfilment of the prophet’s words (Malachi 1:11). PRACTICAL INFERENCES:
1. We may learn from this view of the great act of atonement, what is the nature of the faith by which we become partakers of it, or, in other words, by which we are justified. Plainly it is not a faith which indolently terminates in a belief that Christ died for us; or which intrusively assumes to itself the office of applying to its own needs the justifying grace of the atonement. “It is God that justifieth.” All that faith does at the outset, in man’s justification, is to receive God’s sovereign gift.
2. We may thus learn what is the true point of sight from which to look at all the trials of life. We hear people perpetually lamenting, uttering passionate expressions of grief at visitations which, they say, have come on them unlooked for, and stunned them by their suddenness: one has lost his possessions, another his health, another his powers of sight or hearing, another “the desire of his eyes,” parents, children, husbands, wives, friends; each sorrowing for their own, and all alike viewing their affliction from the narrow point of their own isolated being: they seem to be hostile invasions of their peace; mutilations of the integrity of their lot; untimely disruptions of their fondest ties, and the like. Now all this loose and faithless language arises from our not recognising the great law to which all these are to be referred. It is no more than this: that God is disposing of what has been offered up to Him in sacrifice: as, for instance, when a father or mother bewails the taking away of a child, have they not forgotten he was ,not their own? Did they not offer him at the font? Did not God promise to receive their oblation? What has He done more than take them at their word? And so likewise, when any true servants of Christ are taken away, what is it but a token of His favourable acceptance of their self-oblation? While they were with us they were not ours, but His: they were permitted to abide with us, and to gladden our hearts awhile; but they were living sacrifices, and ever at the point of being caught up to heaven. And so, lastly, in all that befalls ourselves, we too are not our own, but His; all that we call ours is His; and when He takes it from us--first one loved treasure, then another, till He makes us poor, and naked, and solitary--let us not sorrow that we are stripped of all we love, but rather rejoice for that God accepts us: let us not think that we are left here, as it were, unreasonably alone, but remember that, by our bereavements, we are in part translated to the world unseen. He is calling us away, and sending on our treasures. The great law of sacrifice is embracing us, and must have its perfect work. Let us pray Him, therefore, to shed abroad in us the mind that was in Christ; that, our will being crucified, we may offer up ourselves to be disposed of as He sees best. (Archdeacon H. E. Manning.)
The more excellent ministry:
Stress must be laid on each of three particulars: Christ offered Himself; in offering Himself He presented a spotless offering; He offered Himself through an eternal spirit.
I. First, then, Christ’s sacrifice possesses incomparable worth and virtue because the victim was HIMSELF. In this one fact is involved that Christ’s sacrifice possessed certain moral attributes altogether lacking in the Levitical sacrifices: voluntariness and beneficent intention, the freedom of a rational being with a mind of his own and capable of self-determination, the love of a gracious personality in whom the soul of goodness dwells. Christ’s sacrifice was an affair of mind and heart--in one word, of spirit.
II. Christ’s sacrifice possesses incomparable worth and virtue, secondly, because in Himself He presented to God a SPOTLESS sacrifice--spotless in the moral sense. He was a perfectly holy, righteous Man, and He showed His moral purity precisely by being loyal and obedient even to the point of enduring death for righteousness’ sake. The victims under the law were spotless also, but merely in a physical sense. Christ’s spotlessness, on the contrary, was ethical, a quality belonging not to His body, but to His spirit.
III. We are now prepared in some measure to understand the third ground of the value attached to Christ’s sacrifice; viz., that He offered Himself THROUGH AN ETERNAL SPIRIT. Putting aside for a moment the epithet “eternal,” we see that Christ’s sacrifice was one in which spirit was concerned, as opposed to the legal sacrifices in which flesh and blood only were concerned. It was a free, loving, holy spirit. But the writer, it is observable, omits mention of these moral qualities, and employs instead another epithet, which in the connection of thought it was more important to specify, and which there was little chance of his readers supplying for themselves. The epithet “ eternal” suggests the thought: the act performed by Jesus in offering Himself may, as a historical event, become old with the lapse of ages; but the spirit in which the act was done can never become a thing of the past. The blood shed was corruptible; but the spirit which found expression in Christ’s self-sacrifice is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and in its eternal self-identity lends to the priestly deed imperishable merit and significance. This fitly chosen phrase thus makes the one sacrifice of Christ cover with its efficacy all prospective sin. But it does more than that. It is retrospective as well as prospective, and makes the sacrifice valid for the ages going before. For an eternal spirit is independent of time, and gives to acts done through its inspiration validity for all time. One virtue more must be ascribed to this magic phrase, “through an eternal spirit.” It helps us over the difficulty created by the fact that Christ’s real self-sacrifice took place on earth, and yet ideally belongs to the heavenly sanctuary. When we think of Christ’s sacrifice as offered through an eternal spirit, we see that we may place it where we please, in earth or in heaven, on Calvary or on high, as suits our purpose. Do you insist that Christ’s proper offering of Himself took place in the celestial sanctuary after the ascension, even as Aaron’s proper offering was the blood-sprinkling within the most holy place? I reply, Be it so; but it took place there through an eternal spirit which gave to it its value; and if we want to know what that spirit was, we must look to the earthly life of obedience and love culminating in the crucifixion, wherein it found its perfect manifestation. Through this eternal spirit Christ offered Himself before He came into the world, when He was in the world, after He left the world. It was as a spirit He offered Himself, as a self-conscious, free, moral personality; and His offering was a spirit revealed through a never-to-be-forgotten act of self-surrender, not the literal blood shed on Calvary, which in itself possessed no more intrinsic value than the blood of Levitical victims. Thus interpreted, the term “ spirit” unfolds the implicit significance of “Himself,” and gives us the rationale of all real value in sacrifice. It can have no value, we learn therefrom, unless mind, spirit be revealed in it. Death, blood, in its own place, may have theological significance, but not apart from spirit. It goes without saying that the idea of spirit is essentially ethical in its import. Voluntariness and beneficent intention enter into the very substance of Christ’s sacrifice. Another remark still may be added. In the light of the foregoing discussion we can see the vital significance of the death of Christ in connection with His priestly work. The least priestly act of the Levitical system becomes here the most important, the humble, non-sacerdotal first step the essence of the whole matter. Through the death of the Victim His spirit finds its culminating expression, and it is that spirit which constitutes the acceptableness of His sacrifice in the sight of God. On the epithet “eternal” attached to “spirit” it is not necessary further to enlarge. As the term “spirit” guarantees the real worth of Christ’s offering as opposed to the putative value of Levitical sacrifices, so the term “eternal” vindicates for it absolute worth. It lifts that offering above all limiting conditions of space and time, so that viewed sub specie asternitatis it may, as to its efficacy, be located at will at any point of time, and either in earth or in heaven. “Eternal” expresses the speculative element in the writer’s system of thought, as “ spirit” expresses the ethical. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
Purge your conscience
The purging of the conscience
I. First, consider THE SAD HINDRANCE WHICH LIES IN THE WAY OF THE SERVICE OF GOD. The apostle does not say, purge your conscience from evil works, because he wanted to turn our minds to the type of defilement by death, and therefore he said, “dead works.” I think he had a further motive; for he was not altogether indicating wilful transgressions of the law, but those acts which are faulty because they are not performed as the result of spiritual life. I see a difference between sinful works and dead works which we may perhaps be able to bring into light as we go on. Suffice it to say for the moment, that sin is the corruption which follows necessarily upon spiritual death. First, the work is dead, and soon it rots into actual sin.
1. Upon our consciences there rests, first of all, a sense of past sin. Even if a man wishes to serve God, yet until his conscience is purged, he feels a dread of God which prevents his doing so. He has sinned, and God is just, and therefore he is ill at ease.
2. On the back of this comes the consciousness that we ourselves are sinful, and inclined to evil. We say rightly, “Who shall bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” We feel that we have not that perfect purity of heart and cleanness of hands which would fit us for the holy place; nor can we ever be saved from this fear, so as to take up our heavenly priesthood and serve God, till the precious blood of Christ shall be applied to the conscience, nor until we feel that in Christ we are accounted righteous.
3. But, besides this consciousness of sin and sinfulness, we are conscious of a measure of deficient life. About us there is a body of death. Dead works are the things we most require to be purged from. Without going into what the world calls actual sin, we carry death about us, from which we daily cry to be delivered. For instance, our prayer in its form and fashion may be right enough, bat if it lacks earnestness, it will be a dead work. An alms given to the poor is good as a work of humanity, but it will be only a dead work if a desire to be seen of men is found at the bottom of it. Are not the sins of our holy things glaring before our consciences this day? Unless we are purged therefrom by the blood of Christ, who offered up Himself without spot to God, how can we serve this living God, and be as priests and kings unto Him? Once more: I told you that the Israelites were defiled by even touching a dead bone, and this teaches us the easiness of being polluted. We have to come into contact with evil in our daily dealings with ungodly men. Can we think of them, can we speak to them, can we trade with them, without incurring defilement? Nay, I go further: do we, as Christian men washed by Christ, ever associate with one another without a measure of defilement? Can we meet together at our homes and feel, when we separate, that everything we have said was seasoned with salt and ministered to edification? Is there not some taint about our purest friends; and does not the touch of that corruption which still remaineth, even in the regenerate, tend to, defile us?
II. Now, I want to show, in the second place, WHAT IS THE TRUE PURGATION FROM THIS EVIL Under the law there were several methods of purification. These things did purify the flesh, so that the man who had formerly contracted impurity might mix with his fellow-men in the congregation of the Lord. Now, if these matters were so effectual for the purifying of the flesh, well does the apostle ask, “How much more shall the blood of Christ purge our conscience from dead works?” Why does he say, “How much more?”
1. First, because it is more truly purifying. There was not truly anything of purification about the blood of bulls and of goats. When the Lord Jesus gave His body, soul, and spirit a sacrifice for sin, then in that deed there was a real atonement made, a true and effectual expiation was offered. Therefore he says “How much more?” if the shadow cleansed the flesh, how much more shall the substance cleanse the spirit?
2. Moreover, our Lord Christ offered a much greater sacrifice. One reason why the precious blood has such power to put away sin is because it is the blood of Christ, that is, of God’s Anointed, God’s Messiah, the Sent One of the Most High. Notice, it is not put concerning Christ that His life is purifying, though it had a wonderful relation thereto; nor is it said that His prayers are purifying, albeit everything is ascribable unto the intercession of our risen Lord; nor is it said that His resurrection is purifying; but the whole stress is laid upon “the blood of Christ,” signifying thereby death, death as a victim, death with reference to sin. See in His agony and His death your joy and life. It is the blood of Christ that alone can make you fit to serve the living and true God. Note what it was that Christ offered, and be sure that you lay great stress upon it. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself?” “What a, splendid word that is! Did He offer His blood? yes, but He offered “Himself. Did He offer His life? yes, but He specially offered “Himself.” Now, what is “Christ”? The “anointed of God.” In His wondrous complex nature He is God and man. He is Prophet, Priest, and King. He is--but time would fail me to tell you what He is; but whatever He is He offered Himself. The entire Christ was offered by Christ.
3. It is said in our text that this offering of Himself was “without spot.” The sacrificial act by which He presented Himself was a faultless cue, without spot. There was nothing in what Christ was Himself, and nothing in the way in which He offered Himself, that could be objected to of God: it was “without spot.”
4. Further, it is added that He did this “by the eternal Spirit.” His eternal Godhead gave to His offering of Himself an extreme value which otherwise could not have been attached to it. Observe, then, the sacrifice was a spiritual one. He entered with His whole heart into the substitution which involved obedience unto death. “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross.” It was by His Spirit that He offered up a true and real sacrifice; for He says, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart.” But then you must not forget that this Spirit was Divine--“by the eternal Spirit.” The Spirit of Christ was an eternal Spirit, for itwas the Godhead. There was conjoined with His deity the natural life of a perfect Man; but the eternal Spirit was His highest Self. What limit can you set to the merit of One who by the eternal Spirit offered up Himself? What bound can there be to a sacrifice Divine? You can no more set a limit to our Lord’s sacrifice than to Godhead itself. Once more, I must call to your notice the use of that word “eternal,”--“who by the eternal Spirit”--for it gives to the offering of Christ an endless value. Now, all this tends to make us feel how clean are they who are purged by this sacrifice which our Lord offered once for all to God.
5. Once more upon this point: as I have shown you that the sacrifice of Christ was more real and greater, so I want you to notice that it was better applied; for the ashes of an heifer mixed with water were sprinkled on the bodies of the unclean; the blood of bulls and of goats was sprinkled upon the flesh, but neither of them could reach the heart. It is not possible for a material thing to touch that which is immaterial; but the sufferings of Christ, offered up through His eternal Spirit, were not only of a corporeal but of a spiritual kind, and they reach, therefore, to the cleansing of our spirit. That precious blood comes home to us in this way: first, we understand somewhat of it. The Israelite, when he was purged by the ashes of the red cow, could only say to himself, “I am made clean by these ashes, because God has appointed that I shall be, but I do not know why.” But you and I can say that we are made clean through the blood of Christ, because there is in that blood an inherent efficacy; there is in the vicarious suffering of Christ on our behalf an inherent power to honour the law of God, and to put away sin. Then again, we appreciate and approve of this way of cleansing. The Israelite could not tell why the ashes of a red heifer -purified him; he did not object to it, but he could not express any great appreciation of the method. We, as we see our Lord suffering in our stead, fall at His feet in reverent wonder. We love the method of salvation by substitution; we approve of expiation by the Mediator. Further, it comes home to us in this way: we read in the Word of God that “he that believeth in Him hath everlasting life,” and we say to ourselves, “Then we have everlasting life, for we have believed in Him.” We read, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” and our conscience whispers, “We are cleansed from all sin.” Conscience finds rest and peace, and our whole consciousness becomes that of a forgiven and accepted person, with whom God is well pleased.
III. Consider THE KIND OF SERVICE WHICH WE NOW RENDER. After so much preparing, how shall we behave ourselves in the house of God? You should present unto the Lord the constant worship of living men. You see it is written, “Purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Are you not under bonds to serve Him? From this time forth you should not have a pulse that does not beat to His praise, nor a hair on your head that is unconsecrated to His name, nor a single moment of your time which is not used for His glory. Should not our service be rendered in the full strength of our new life? Let us have no more dead works, no more dead singing, no more dead praying, no more dead preaching, no more dead hearing. Let our religion be as warm, and constant, and natural as the flow of the blood in our veins. A living God must be served in a living way. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The purification of the conscience:
The offerings in the temple could not have satisfied the conscience; the offerings of Christ do. There are two aspects of sin which trouble the conscience. Sin by religious teachers is thought of as disturbing our relations with God. It stops our convictions, and prevents His Fatherly grace from coming to us. Another aspect of sin takes a place among the forces in the life of man to swell the sum of evil examples, to make virtue more difficult, and vice more natural. No repentance can ever recall what we have done, or make it cease to be a source of evil in the world. There is danger in the other extreme, but Christ is able to deal with the conscience, and set us right in our relations with God. There are principally three proposals for setting the relation right. They are--by man’s contribution, by God’s acceptance, and by Christ’s transforming power. In the early ages of religion, when outward circumstances were held to be an indication of the favour or disfavour of God, the idea of propitiation took shape. They brought Him what they prized most, and supposed that He would prize it the same, and continued in this until the return of sunshine assured them that the Deity’s wrath was assuaged. On the other side, some imagine that sin lapses after a term of years, or that by a certain system disorder in some things is balanced by the order in others. It is not that twenty years ago a certain deed was done: it is that in your sin you disclosed something in you which remains in you still. Let the same circumstances recur and your weakness reappears. In a very different age there grew up another theory of setting man right with God. Man had received life and power from God, and had used them against Him, and so they thought on the principle of displaying compensation against that which has to be compensated for. Thus there grew up acceptation, a sort of diminutive of acceptation. God takes it as the best that can be given, and declares the account clear. But conscience will not accept such assurance. It still recognises sin clinging to it, and so long as that sin is there, conscience is not cleansed. The third proposal is in the transforming power of Christ. The blood of Christ cleanses the conscience. “If any man be in Christ,” says Paul, “he is a new creature.” Paul’s writings are full of similar verses, in which he expresses the reasonable and joyful satisfaction of conscience. He says that sin is forgiven to all men in Christ Jesus. The relation that ought to exist between God and the soul is then restored. (W. M. Macgregor, M. A.)
1. Dead things stink. If we meet with a dead carcase by the way, we hold our noses: even so sins, blasphemy, profanations, pride, envy, hatred, malice, covetousness; these stink in the nostrils of God Almighty: therefore let them be detested by us.
2. Dead men are forgotten. “I am as a dead man out of mind.” So let not our minds run on these dead works, on the profits of the world, the pleasures of the flesh: let these dead things be no more remembered.
3. That which is dead must be buried: “Give me a place to bury my dead out of my sight,” as Abraham said to the sons of Heth (Genesis 23:4). Idolatry, blasphemy, all sins, are dead things, therefore let them be buried.
4. Dead things are abhorred of us. We shun dead things by the way, we will not come near them: so let these dead works be abhorred of us.
5. Dead things are heavy: a dead man. So these lie heavy on our consciences. Cain, Judas: they were not able to bear that intolerable burden. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Mediator of the new testament
The two mediators:
Is WHAT RESPECTS JESUS AND MOSES ARE MEDIATORIALLY ALIKE.
1. Both of Divine appointment.
2. Both give to the world the notion of a covenant with God.
3. Both proposed a covenant that was fundamentally the same.
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS JESUS AND MOSES ARE MEDIATORIALLY DIFFERENT.
1. There is a difference of natures.
2. Jesus is a Mediator with individuals.
3. Jesus is a Mediator giving to man the fullest possible knowledge of God.
4. Jesus is a Mediator giving to man sufficiency of power. (D. Young, B. A.)
The old and the new
It was a part of the mission of the apostles not to transfer the allegiance of the Jews from one God to another, but to teach them how to serve the same God in a higher dispensation, under a noble disclosure of His character, and by new and better methods. It was to be the same heart and the same God; but there was a new and living way opened. The old was good, the new was better. The new was not an antagonism of the old, but only its outgrowth, related to it as the blossom and the fruit are to the root and the stalk. The old was local and national in its prime intents, and in its results. The new was for all ages. The old was a system of practices. It aimed at conduct--of course implying a good cause for conduct. The new is a system of principles, and yet not principles in a rigid philosphical sense, but principles that are great moral impulses or tendencies of the heart. The old built men for this world. Therefore it hardly looked beyond this world. The whole force of the new dispensation is derived from that which scarcely appeared at all in the old--its supereminent doctrine of the future. That is its very enginery. The aims of Christianity are supramundane. The motives are drawn from immortality-its joys, honours, promises, rewards. The old addressed the conscience through fear, and soon overreached its aim, losing some by under-action, and others--and the better natures--by over-action. What the law could not do, in that it was weak, it is declared, God sent His own Son to do. The new aims at the very springs of moral power in the soul, and that through love. It is a total change, it is an absolute difference, in this regard. The old was a dispensation of secular morals. It lived in the past. The new is a system of aspirations. It lives in the future. We are the children of the new testament, and not of the old. Woe be to us if, living in these later days, we find ourselves groping in the imperfections of the old testament, instead of springing up with all the vitality and supereminent manhood which belongs to the new testament. We are the children of a living Saviour. We are a brood over which He stretches His wings. We ought to have more than a creed which is only a modern representation of an old ordinance or institution. We ought to have something more than an ordinance. To be a disciple of the new testament is to have a living Head. It is to have a vital connection with that Head. It is to be conscious, while all nature speaks of God, and while all the exercises of religion assist indirectly, that the main power of a true religion in the soul is the soul’s connection with a living God. Ye are the children of the new and not of the old. Let your life mount up toward God. (H. W. Beecher.)
They which are called
To every one of you I say, you are called. You are called because you were baptized as infants, dedicated to the service of the gospel, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. You are called because you have been instructed from the days of childhood to the present hour to believe in the Lord Jesus. You are called because you are in a Christian land, surrounded by those who own that the gospel is the word of God, and having also many within your sight or hearing, who live according to the will of Christ. You are called by the ordinances of the Christian Church, by the voice of the Christian ministry; by the word and sacraments of Christ, and by the preaching of those pastors who address you by His commission, and in His name. This day, this hour I call you in His behalf; therefore you are called. This is your calling. May God give you grace to hear! May God help you to believe His promise! May God make you to enjoy His glory. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
God draws His people, not with force, as mere machines, but “with the cords of a man and with the bands of love.” The subject may be best unfolded by a familiar illustration. How was it that Jacob was drawn into Egypt? He was made to feel the pressure of a grievous famine; he was informed that there was plenty of corn in Egypt, and that his dearly-beloved Joseph was the lord of all that land, and that he disposed of the good things to whomsoever he would. He was told, moreover, that Joseph had expressly invited him, and had sent waggons for the conveyance of his family, together with abundant provisions for the way; and, finally, he was assured that, at the end of this journey, all the good of the land of Egypt should be his. Did he need, after this, to have a chain fastened round him m be dragged into Egypt? No; all that he needed was faith to believe the tidings; and when once he was persuaded of the truth of these things he was willing of himself to go into that good land. Thus God draws sinners. He causes them to feel their need of mercy; He informs them that Jesus Christ has all heaven at His disposal; that He has sent to invite them, assuring them of all that is needful by the way, and all the glory of heaven at the end. Thus a thorough belief of these truths bends the most stubborn heart, and overcomes the most reluctant mind. (C. Simeon.)
A testament is of force after men are dead
I. CHRIST’S WILL IS EMBODIED IN A WRITTEN RECORD.
1. The record gives a definite meaning and fixed character to the mind of Christ.
2. The record gives to the mind of Christ an abiding existence among us.
3. The written Word renders the will of Christ accessible to all.
II. CHRIST’S WILL IS EMBODIED IN AN AUTHENTIC RECORD.
III. CHRIST’S TESTAMENT IS A WRITTEN AND AUTHENTIC RECORD OF WHAT HE HAS BEQUEATHED TO MEN. There are great bequests for each of us. We are guilty--Christ has willed our forgiveness. We are enslaved--Christ has willed our freedom. We are sorrowful--Christ has willed our peace. We are dying--Christ has willed us life for ever.
IV. CHRIST’S TESTAMENT HAS BEEN RATIFIED AND BROUGHT INTO FULL AND EVERLASTING OPERATION BY HIS OWN DEATH. (John Davies.)
Christ’s testamentary covenant:
It seems to us that St. Paul took advantage of the double meaning of the Greek word which he uses, and illustrates his subject the more copiously by employing it in one place for a “covenant,” and in another for a “testament”; and we shall possibly, as we advance, find reason to conclude, that the full sense of the passage is only to be evolved by our attaching to the word its double signification--by bearing in mind that a “covenant” and “testament” are alike designated by the word which the apostle employs. After all, there is not the wide difference which, at the first sight, we may suppose between a covenant and a testament. If I make a will, I may, in one sense, be said to covenant and agree to give certain things to certain parties upon the condition of my death; so that a testament is virtually a species of covenant. And if, on the other hand, two parties enter into a covenant, and the terms of this covenant require that one of them should die, you all see that, without any great forcing of language, the covenant may be considered as the testament or will of the sacrificed individual. God made a covenant with the Israelites, but then this covenant was ratified by the shedding of blood; in other words, there must be death to give the covenant its validity; and the covenant which required death in order to its completeness, might, as we have shown you, without anything overstrained in language, be designated a “testament.” So that under these limitations, and under these conditions, we can attach the name of a “testament” to that covenant which God made with Israel at Sinai. The exhibition which we are called upon to survey is that of our Saviour under the character of a testator; as the maker, that is, of a will, which could only become valid by the death of the party who made it. Now you will see at once that there is a peculiarity in this exhibition which marks it off from other representations of the scheme of human salvation. If Christ Jesus is displayed as bequeathing to the world legacies, which legacies could not be paid except after His death, then it may be said that it was the fact, the simple historical fact of His death, and not any merit which there was in that death, which entailed the large blessings on the race of mankind. And if by parity of reasoning the Redeemer is to be considered as a testator, or will-maker, does not the representation take away from the meritoriousness of His death, and, at least, show that it was not because His sufferings were expiatory and precious that such and such blessings have been obtained for us? A few words will suffice for the removal of this objection. If a man is worth £1,000 he may bequeath me that £1,000; and thus his death, considered as the mere separation of his soul from his body, will make me the owner of the money. But take the following case which is perfectly supposable: a criminal is sentenced to die, but is allowed, if he can, to find a substitute. He offers £1,000 for a substitute, and an individual comes forward and agrees on these terms to die in his stead. Now certainly this substitute may will away the £1,000, and yet nothing but his death entitles him to the £1,000. He might, for example, have long striven in vain to earn a livelihood for his family; he might then, calculating that his family would be more benefited by his death than his life, determine to sacrifice himself in order to procure for them the proper remuneration; and, without question, he might make a will which would secure to his children the property to which the value o! his death would alone give him right. He would thus unite the character of a testator and of a man who purchases, by dying, the goods which he bequeathes. Now this supposed case finds its precise counterpart in the matter of our redemption. “The blessings of the gospel could only be procured by the sufferings and death of the Mediator. Hence, unquestionably, the blessings which Christ bequeathed were blessings which His death, and nothing but His death, could give Him right to bestow; but, nevertheless, He might still be a testator, or still make a will. In dying He might bequeath what He was to obtain by dying; and thus real inconsistency, after all, there is none, between regarding Christ as the maker of the will, and at the same time as procuring by His death the blessings which He made over to His people. In what sense, then, did Christ make a testament or will, or what fidelity is there in such an account of the scheme of our redemption? Now we would, first of all, remark that there is nothing more frequent in Scripture than the speaking of true believers “as heirs of God,” or as brought into such a relationship to the Almighty that heaven becomes theirs by the rights of inheritance. Yon cannot fall immediately to observe that the correspondence is most exact between this account of the believer as an heir and the representation of Christ as a testator. In dying Christ made us heirs. But this is exactly what would have been done by a testament; and, therefore, it is not possible that the effects of Christ’s death should be more clearly represented than by the figure of Christ as a testator. But is there then, indeed, no registered will, no document to which we can refer as the testament of the Mediator? We shall not hesitate to say that there is not a single promise in the New Testament which ought not to be regarded as a line or codicil in the will of the Redeemer. If you ask us for a written testament we carry you along with us to the archives of the Bible, and we take cut of it declarations which ensure to the faithful the crown and the rapture, and we join them into one continuous discourse, and we say to you, Behold the last will of the Saviour. What, we further ask, is this but an exact parallel to that which would take place in the case of a testament? Suppose you were permitted to read a will made in your own favour; there might be the bequeathment of a rich and noble estate, there might be the coffers of wealth and the caskets of jewellery consigned to your possession; but you would never think that you had a right to the domain, and you would never be bold enough to put forward a claim to the gold and the pearl, unless you knew that the testator was dead, and that thereby a force had been given to the testament. So that the correspondence is most accurate between the promises of Scripture and the consignments of a will. Had Christ (if we may bring forward such an idea) while suspended on the Cross, and exhausting the wrath which had gone forth against a disloyal creation, dictated a testamentary document enumerating the blessings which He bequeathed to all who believe on His name, not until He had bowed the head, and yielded up the ghost, would this register of the legacy have lived, overpassing in its wealth all the thoughts of created intelligences, and given right to a single child of our race to look and hope for the heritage of the redeemed. A testament is but a combination of promises becoming valid by the death of the promiser, we give the truest description of the promises of the Bible when we define them as “the last will and testament of Christ our Lord.” Now we would refer for a moment to that connection which we show to subsist between a covenant and testament. The Father and the Son had, from all eternity, entered into a covenant; the Father engaging, on the performance of certain conditions, that blessings should be placed at the disposal of the Son for the seed of the apostate. The covenant between the persons of the Trinity engaged for the pardon and acceptance of all who, in every age, should believe on the Son. Hence, you must all perceive, that what was the covenant between the Father and Son was also a document in favour of man; but, certainly, the covenant could only become valid by death; that in the fulness of time the Son should die, being its grand and fundamental article. And if as a covenant it could only become valid by death, then as a document in favour of man it could only become valid by death; but that document in favour of a party, which only becomes valid by death, is, most strictly, a will or testament. So that by one and the same act Christ Jesus performed His covenant with the Father, and made His testament in favour of man; that, in short, which was a covenant considered relatively to God, was a testament considered relatively to man. It obtained blessings from God; it consigned blessings to man, and both equally through death. You cannot, therefore, view Christ as executing a covenant without also viewing Him as executing a testament. What tie gained as a covenanter He disposed of as a testator; and whilst we say of Him, as making an agreement with God, “Where a covenant is, there must be the death of the covenanter,” we say of Him, as bestowing gifts on men, “where a testament is, there must be the death of the testator.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Christ’s last will and testament
I. We have to inquire IN WHAT SENSE OR SENSES MAY WE SPEAK OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS A TESTATOR. What is involved in this idea? If a will is made, two things are implied--that there is something to leave: that there is some measure of interest felt in those who are mentioned as legatees.
1. Now in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see one who has large and royal possessions, and who has these absolutely at His own disposal. All things are described as the property of Christ. All things were made by Him and for Him. Jesus Christ has power and authority to bestow all gospel blessings and privileges upon His people. He gives them grace here; He will crown them with glory hereafter.
2. And then, in making His will, Christ has distinctly in view those who are interested in its provisions--His friends, His relations those for whom, though they had no natural claim upon Him, the Saviour has bound Himself to provide. And we have the means of determining very exactly who these are. His friends are those who love Him, and who show their love by keeping His commandments.
3. A testator, in making his last will and testament, so far as there is in it any different disposition of property, supersedes, renders null and void, any will that may have been previously made. So Jesus Christ disannulled the law of the old covenant by establishing the new. Let us see to it that we put in our claim under the last will and testament of Christ. Let us not expect to receive under the law what can only come to us as a matter of free grace, under the gospel.
4. As in the case of a merely human testator, so in the case of Jesus Christ--where a testament is, for it to have force, for it to take effect, theremust needs be the death of the testator; “otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” In this particular instance there was need for the death of the testator on several different accounts. Among men it is the death of the testator which renders a testament effectual. And so this testament was confirmed and ratified by the death of Jesus Christ, and but for that death it could have had no force at all. And as after death a will may not be altered or revoked by the testator, but remains the expression of his mind to be carried out as exactly as possible, so it may not be interfered with by others. You may question its meaning, you may question whether it be the will of him who is declared to have drawn it up, you may question his right to make it, or make it in that precise form, yet, admitting it as a will, though it be only a human will, “no man disannulleth or addeth thereunto.” How much more truly is this the case with the testament, the will of Christ! And we must bear in mind, in the case of this testament, that there was a necessity for the death of Christ, which does not exist in the case of any ordinary testament. The death of Christ not merely rendered His will irrevocable, and afforded the heirs of promise a way of entering upon the enjoyment of their inheritance, as the death of every testator does, but there was this peculiarity--the very blessings which were disposed of by the will of Christ were secured and purchased by His death. A testator appoints executors in trust, who undertake, according to their ability, to see that all the provisions of his will are faithfully carried out. The Father and the Holy Ghost engage to carry out the will of Christ, and are ever actually doing so. But there is a high and important sense in which Christ is His own executor. “He ever liveth” to carry out those gracious designs which find changeless expression in His last will and testament. In the record of our Saviour’s visible residence among men, we are told only “ of all that Jesus began, both to do and to teach.”
II. Having considered Christ as the testator, let US NOW LOOK AT THE GOSPEL AS THE “LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF CHRIST, We are presented with the will of Christ, not as so much mere hearsay--not as a vague and floating tradition--not as the “lingering echo” of His much-loved voice--not as a general and unaccredited expression of His intention: we haveit in a written record, an authentic document. It is necessary that a human will should be written. And though it has been determined that an oral will, under certain circumstances (as in the case of soldiers on actual service, or mariners at sea), is valid, if properly attested, yet that even must be reduced to a written form. And so have we the will of Christ embodied in words of human speech. Nor can we be too thankful that it has been so handed down to us. It is not enough that a will and testament be written, it must be attested; it must be proved to be authentic and genuine. It must be shown to be the will of that very person whose will it purports to be. This last will and testament of Christ is proved by much concurrent testimony. The gospel of the great salvation, “which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both by signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.” I feel that I am safe in affirming that the proof which sustains the testament of Christ is immeasurably stronger and more convincing than that which sustains any human and earthly will. There has been a practical proof of a twofold kind. For eighteen hundred years and more this will has been repeatedly disputed by the enemies of Christ. The wit and wisdom and science of the world have done all that they could do to invalidate it, but all these attempts have been in vain. For the same period the will has been proved by Christ’s friends. We might summon a great cloud of witnesses, all of whom could bear the testimony of personal experience. There is, in every testament, provision implied or expressed that it should, with all convenient speed, be published and made known. This is necessary, that the legatees may become aware of that which has been bequeathed to them, and be in a position to put in their claim. Christ has ordained and provided that His disciples should publish His will and testament to all the children of men. We are “put in trust with the gospel.” We are bound to publish the glad tidings in every direction. And we ought to ask ourselves how far we are discharging this obligation. This will and testament of Christ informs us of all that is provided for us. All that we enjoy, we enjoy under this will; all spiritual blessings and privileges come to us as they are bequeathed by the Lord Jesus Christ. This will of Christ is our sure and sufficient title to all that we possess as Christian believers. The provisions of a will constitute an absolute title as far as it goes. If you would invalidate my right to what is bequeathed, you must go back and question the right of him who bequeathed it. And so, does any one question us as to our right to the spiritual privileges and possessions we enjoy, we reply by pointing to the last will and testament of Christ, and any further question must be raised with Christ Himself. We must not look for our title to our own merit--to anything we are, or have done--but to the will trod testament of the Saviour. (T. M. Morris.)
I. THE ESTATE WHICH HE HAS LEFT BY IT.
1. The pardon of all sin.
2. The merit of His own most glorious righteousness.
3. His own most Holy Spirit.
4. But the most glorious part of the property bequeathed by Jesus to His people is that “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,” which is “reserved for them in heaven.”
II. THE EVENT BY WHICH IT IS MADE OF FORCE. Because He hath “poured out His soul unto death,” that His heirs enter into possession of the property which He hath left them. Indeed, the death of Christ has a bearing on the privileges He has bequeathed among His people beyond what can be said with reference to man’s bequests. Man’s death must happen before his will can fake effect because, whilst he lives, he enjoys his property himself. But Christ’s death is, as it were, the purchase-money of the estate which He bequeaths. His death therefore was as essential to their enjoyment of these blessings as the payment of the sum demanded is to the possession of a piece of land.
III. THE PERSONS INTERESTED IN ITS PROVISIONS.
1. Convinced of sin.
2. Men of faith.
3. Men of grace. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
The testament of Christ
I. WHO IS THE TESTATOR? God’s everlasting Son, of the same essence, perfections, and glory with the Father.
II. WHAT ARE THE LEGACIES CONVEYED BY THIS COVENANT? In their nature and number they are very great. The sum of them is expressed thus Revelation 21:7). They have the noblest spring and fountain with all its refreshing streams. In few words, the particular bequests in this great will of the Divine Testator, are complete deliverance from the legal consequences of sin--redemption from the curse of the law--the regeneration of our moral nature, and adoption into the household of faith--support under the trials of life--foretastes of eternal glory--and agood hope through grace which shall issue at length in the full possession of the heavenly kingdom, where every Divine and moral excellence will be perfected in the soul, and the rejoicing spirit for ever supremely happy before the throne of God.
III. WHAT ARE THE TERMS ON WHICH THIS DIVINE TESTAMENT BESTOWS ITS BEQUESTS? In all deeds disposing of property among men, there are certain conditions to be observed, in order to establish the validity of the claim. In some cases, the estate is conveyed charged with various encumbrances; in others, the observance of sundry specified acts is necessary to the legal holding of the property. Some inherit by descent, others by favouritism of the testator. In the case before us all is of pure mercy and love. There are terms, but they are not hard. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole condition of eternal life; but that faith is productive of holiness, of love, of obedience, and of all good works.
IV. WHERE IS THE PROOF OF THE VALIDITY OF THIS TESTAMENT OF LOVE? There must be attestation in every case of a human will. In the conveyance of property there must be the seal. If we were to set up a claim to the right of any possession in a court of law, the case would break down if the seal of the party from whom we plead our title was not appended to the deed of conveyance. So, likewise, a will is of no effect, till proof be given of the decease of the testator. Our blessed Lord has made His death, resurrection, and ascension to glory, the seal of His will. To conclude, Have you any part or portion in this testament? Many are anxious to know if some aged and wealthy relative has remembered them in his will. In this will all are remembered, save those who wilfully exclude themselves. (Am. Nat. Preacher.)
The dying will of Jesus Christ:
Perhaps a consideration of the legal ideas of the time when the. Epistle to the Hebrews was written may help to explain this difficult passage. The idea of a will was derived by the Jews from the Romans, and they probably associated with it the various ideas which had grown up around the Roman will. Let us see what these were. The origin of the ordinary form of a Roman will, was the old testament per ms et libram, by which the father of the family (generally when on his death bed) sold his whole family and estate to some friend in whom he had confidence (called the heres), on trust to carry out his wishes (an obligation which apparently was not originally legally enforceable, though afterwards it was recognised by law). This form was still kept up, though probably at the time when the Epistle was written, the familiae emptor was not generally the same person as the heres. Still the familiae emptor represented the heres, and served to keep the theoretical nature of the transaction before all parties concerned, and the heres was looked upon not merely as a distributor of goods, but as the purchaser and master of the family. It is therefore suggested that the argument is somewhat as follows. By the first διαθήκη the Hebrews were purchased and became the bondsmen of the Law (an idea already rendered familiar to them by Exodus 15:16 and Psalms 74:2); but by a new διαθήκη our Lord purchased them with His blood (Acts 20:28), as the heres or familiae emptor purchased the inheritance, and having thus purchased the inheritance of the Law, became the new master of the bondsmen of the Law, and the mediator, or executor, of a new dispensation. But inasmuch as the right of the heres can only come into operation after the death of the testator (the Law), it is evident that, if the new dispensation has begun, the Law is dead and is no longer their master. In fact, the line of argument seems similar to that in Romans 7:1-4. (H. S. Keating.)
The blood of the testament.
The blood of Christ is the ruby gem of the ring of love. Infinite goodness finds its crown in the gift of Jesus for sinners. All God’s mercies shine like stars, but the coming of His own Son to bleed and die for rebel men is as the sun in the heavens of Divine grace, outshining and illuminating all.
I. Of that death and of that blood we shall speak in a fourfold way; and first, we shall take the verse as it would most accurately be translated--the blood of Jesus Christ is THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT. There cannot be much doubt that the word rendered “ testament “ should be translated “covenant.” It is the word used for covenant in other passages, and though our translators have used the word “ testament,” many critics go the length of questioning whether the word can bear that meaning at all. I think they are too rigid in their criticism, and that it does bear that meaning in this very chapter; but, still, all must admit that the first, and most usual meaning of the word, is “covenant.” Therefore, we will begin with that reading, and consider the blood of Jesus as the blood of the covenant.
1. The blood proves the intense earnestness of God in entering into covenant with man in a way of grace.
2. It displayed the supreme love of God to man. Seeing that He entered into a contract of grace with man, He would let man see how His very heart went forth with every word of promise; and, therefore, He gave up that which was the centre of His heart, namely, Jesus Christ.
3. The blood of the covenant, next, speaks to us and confirms the Divine faithfulness. The main object of thus sealing the covenant with blood is to cause it to be “ordered in all things and sure.”
4. The blood of the everlasting covenant is a guarantee to us of its infinite provision. There can be nothing lacking for a soul redeemed by Christ between here and heaven; for He that spared not His own Son, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
5. This blood manifests the depth of the need which the covenant was meant to meet.
II. Now, I take our translators’ own words--“THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE TESTAMENT.”
1. Jesus Christ has made a will, and He has left to His people large legacies by that will. Now, wills do not need to be sprinkled with blood, but wills do need that the testator should be dead, otherwise they are not of force. And so, first of all, the blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary is the blood of the testament, because it is a proof that He is dead, and therefore the testament is in force. If Jesus did not die, then the gospel is null and void not without the sprinkled blood does the promise of salvation become yea and amen.
2. It is the blood of the testament, again, because it is the seal of His being seized and possessed of those goods which He has bequeathed to us: for, apart from His sacrifice, our Lord had no spiritual blessings to present to us. His death has filled the treasury of His grace.
3. The blood of the testament, again, is a direction as to His legatees. We see who are benefited under His will. He must have left them to the guilty because He has left a will that is signed and sealed in blood, and blood is for the remission of sin.
III. But now I must speak upon that blood from another point of view. IT WAS THE BLOOD OF CLEANSING. This blood of the covenant and of the testament is a blood of purification to us. Wherever it is accepted by faith it takes away all past guilt. And this is but the beginning of our purification, for that same blood applied by faith takes away from the pardoned sinner the impurity which had been generated in his nature by habit. He ceases to love the sin which ,once he delighted in: he begins to loathe that which was formerly his choice joy. A love of purity is born within his nature; he sighs to be perfect, and he groans to think there should be about him tendencies towards evil. Temptations which once were welcomed are now resisted; baits which were once most fascinating are an annoyance to his spirit. The precious blood when it touches the conscience removes all sense of guilt, and when it touches the heart it kills the ruling power of sin. The more fully the power of the blood is felt, the more does it kill the power of sin within the soul.
IV. And then it is THE BLOOD OF DEDICATION. On the day when Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant on the people, and on the book, it was meant to signify that they were a chosen people set apart unto God’s service. The blood made them holiness unto the Lord. Now, unless the blood is upon you, you are not saved; but if you are saved you are by that very fact set apart to be God’s servant. “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.” “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” A saved man is a bought man; the property of Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The blood of sprinkling:
This blood sprinkled on the people was a significant type and figure of the blood of our Saviour Christ, whereby the new testament is confirmed to us.
1. That was the blood of goats and heifers; this of Christ the immaculate Lamb of God.
2. Moses was the sprinkler of that blood: the Holy Ghost is the sprinkler of this.
3. That was sprinkled on the face or garments of the people: this on our hearts and consciences.
4. The aspertorium, the sprinkling stick, there was made of purple wool and hyssop: the aspertorium here is faith. With that doth the Spirit of God sprinkle on us the blood of Christ.
5. That sprinkling did but sanctify the outward man: this the hid man of the heart.
6. The force and power of that sprinkling lasted but a while: the efficacy of this sprinkling continueth for ever. Therefore let us all be desirous of this sprinkling. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Without shedding of blood is no remission
No remission without blood
ESTABLISH THE FACT.
1. The observances of the ceremonial law show that men were saved by blood under the Mosaic dispensation.
2. The same way of salvation still obtains under the gospel. The typical sacrifices are indeed superseded by the one sacrifice of Christ. But it is through His sacrifice, and through it alone, that any man is saved.
(1) This is capable of direct proof from Scripture (1Sa 2:17; 1 Samuel 2:25; Hebrews 10:26-27).
(2) It may be yet further proved by arguments, which, though of an indirect nature, are not the less satisfactory than the foregoing, a. If salvation be not by blood the whole Mosaic ritual was absurd, b. If salvation be not by blood, the prophets grossly misrepresented their Messiah (Isaiah 53:1-12.; Daniel 9:24; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 13:1; John 1:29).
3. If salvation be not by blood, the declarations of the apostles, yea, and of Christ Himself, are fax more likely to mislead than to instruct the world. Christ expressly told His disciples that His “blood was shed for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). And the apostles uniformly declare that God purchased the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28); that our reconciliation to God (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20), and our justification before Him (Romans 5:9), together with our complete redemption (Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 5:9), are by blood, even by the blood of Christ, that spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:19).
1. The evil of sin.
2. The folly of self-righteousness.
3. The encouragement which the gospel affords to sinners.
4. The wonderful love of Christ. (Theological Sketch-Book.)
On the atonement
I. The mercy of God, however dispensed to sinners, ARISES SOLELY FROM THE BENIGNITY OF HIS OWN NATURE. It is not to be considered as moved and excited by the means which they must use to obtain it. These are only the channel of its communication.
II. GOD HAVING PROVIDED A PARTICULAR WAY IN WHICH HE WILL MANIFEST HIS GRACE, THAT WAY DERIVES ITS EFFICACY FROM HIS APPOINTMENT.
III. We may remark, THAT THE METHOD IN WHICH GOD DISPENSES HIS MERCY DOES NOT SUPERSEDE THE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE.
IV. ON THE OTHER HAND, WE MUST ALSO OBSERVE, THAT OUR REPENTANCE DOES NOT SUPERSEDE THE NECESSITY OF FAITH.
V. I PRESUME NOT EVEN TO ATTEMPT ANY EXPLANATION OF THE REASONS WHICH INDUCED THE ALMIGHTY TO CHOOSE THIS PARTICULAR MODE FOR THE DISPENSATION OF HIS MERCY TO SINNERS. It becomes us rather humbly to acknowledge our ignorance, and adore the depth both of the wisdom and goodness of God. He has ordained it, and let us be satisfied and thankful. We are permitted, however, to discover some reasons which prove the propriety of such a mode of dispensing mercy. It manifests exceedingly the grace of God, by showing that our salvation is wholly owing to it. Boasting is thus entirely excluded. And who can say whether it may not be suited to the Divine purity and justice, to confer salvation on man, only by subjecting him to the deepest humiliation, by constraining him to feel his own entire inability to save himself, and thus compelling him to ascribe his salvation solely to the Divine mercy? (J. Venn, M. A.)
I. ITS NECESSITY arises
1. From man’s sin, and its necessary consequences.
2. Man’s utter incapability to atone for himself.
3. The demands of the law cannot be relaxed with honour to the lawgiver.
II. THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT. The person atoning must
1. Be of superior dignity to the persons for whom the atonement is made.
2. He must possess the same nature as the offender.
3. He must have a right to dispose of his own life, and freely offer himself to this end.
4. He must approve of the law, and recognise the justice of its claim.
5. He must be free from all charges of personal guilt.
6. He must answer all the demands of the law, and endure its curse.
III. THE EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT.
1. All the perfections of Jehovah have been illustriously displayed.
2. The atonement leaves the impenitent without excuse.
3. The atonement has rendered man’s salvation possible.
1. Let the subject of the atonement be Scripturally investigated, that it may be rightly understood.
2. Let it be cordially received, by a hearty faith (Romans 10:9).
3. Let a Scriptural knowledge, and a cordial reception of it, fill the soul with hope and joy.
4. Let not the dying sinner reject the only way of salvation. (J. Burns, D. D.)
On the atonement
I. THE FACT OF HUMAN GUILT, AND MAN’S NEED OF MERCY. Remission signifies the forgiveness of a debt, or the withdrawal of the sentence of punishment, which has been pronounced upon a convicted offender.
II. SIN IS REMISSABLE. It may be pardoned. Forgiveness is attainable. The guilt of sin can be cancelled, and the sentence of condemnation may be repealed.
1. Upon this ground the sacrifices of the law were instituted. Every victim that bled, every sacrifice of blood upon the altar of the tabernacle and temple, was a conclusive testimony to the pardoning grace of God.
2. The language of Scripture is quite decisive on this great question. It tells us that with the Lord there is mercy--that He is ready to forgive--slow to anger--plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Him,
3. Scripture facts prove the doctrine which our text includes. If there were no collateral proof, the mission of Christ into the world as the Prophet and Priest of the Church would be quite enough. He came to save sinners.
4. We may also look at examples. Sin had been remitted, or forgiven. Paul says, “I obtained mercy.” The penitent thief was pardoned and taken to paradise the same day,
III. WHILE SIN MAY BE PARDONED IT IS ONLY THROUGH THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD. Some impurities might, under the law, be removed by water and fire, but the stain of sin could be removed only by blood. It is on this principle that the plan of salvation by the death of Christ is placed, and on this that God, in fact, bestows remission of sins. (J. E. Everitt.)
Remission of sins by substitution
I. REMISSION OF SINS IS NECESSARY FOR THE RECONCILIATION OF MAN WITH GOD. It is the first necessity. Till sin is totally removed there can be no agreement between God, the Holy One, and man, His creature. Sin first separated them, and the alienation has grown with every generation where sin has reigned. And so long as sin is present, they must remain separate, both in purpose and action. You will see then, further, it is not a question of only forgiveness. God, in His sovereign mercy, might forgive the sin of our life--He does forgive it--but that does not take the sin away. The heart is still a sinful heart; it has forfeited its rights, and though God forgives, these rights are not restored. If, then, we are at any time to be reconciled with God, and be the recipients of His favour, it must be on the one condition that our consciences are purged from evil. Sin in its action will be removed only as sin in its source is taken away; and only as that is done can the soul have peace with God, or can God return to the soul. When sin is taken right away, there remains no barrier between the creature and his God. The soul, desiring to do right, loving the truth, desires to do what God would have it. The will of the creature, however feeble its action may be, is one with the will of God. Nothing remains, therefore, to prevent Him rendering the help of His favour and strength. And this, we are told, He will do.
II. REMISSION OF SINS IS ONLY POSSIBLE BY SUBSTITUTION; THAT IS, ONE LIFE PAYING PENALTY FOR ANOTHER LIFE. This is the declaration of the sacrifices and services of the temple. It is not our province to explain, it is simply our duty to describe and tell, as well as we are able, God’s plan for removing sin away from us, so that we might receive His Divine gifts. The animal thus sacrificed was the substitution for the life of the offerer. He died, as it were, for sin, in the beast who had been put into his place. The penalty being thus paid, he was free from sin, and now could stand before God as one who had become reconciled to Him. But of course you will observe, in thus acting, the sinner acknowledges the authority and power of God. He has put aside his own thoughts and purposes, and has done God’s, thus indicating in the very act of sacrifice that there is a change of his heart. This finds its entire fulfilment in Jesus Christ. The fact was shadowed as a principle of the Divine purpose in redemption--without the shedding of blood, the substitution of life for sin, there could be no remission. We may and must look at His death on the Cross as the substitution of His life for the life of each one for whom He died. That death can have no other meaning, and when we put it side by side, as the apostle does here, with the Old Testament teaching, I don’t see how we can doubt God’s intention and method in the death of His Son. God’s purpose is thus revealed. Sin is not simply forgiven, but it is taken away. The soul is cleansed from its guilt; the conscience is cleared. When the time comes for it to stand stripped of the material and mortal nature of the present, in presence of the seen and known Eternal One, it will be purified, and fit in its sympathies, thoughts, and feelings for companionship with the absolutely holy God. Thus freed from sin, it will for ever be pure, no sin ever again finding place in it, because it will be with God and like God.
III. Having stated the principle, WE SAY A WORD AS TO ITS APPLICATION. This substitution appropriated by faith secures our acceptance with God. Jesus died for and in the place of sinners; then are sinners freed from sin? Is there nothing more for us than to eat and drink and go on our way? It is not so. He died for sinners, it is true, but only for sinners who have, so to speak, presented Him to God as their sacrifice. (H. W. Beecher.)
I. SPIRITUAL BLOOD-SHEDDING OR SELF-SACRIFICE IS ESSENTIAL TO DELIVER OUR OWN SOULS FROM SIN.
II. SPIRITUAL BLOOD-SHEDDING IS ESSENTIAL TO DELIVER THE SOULS OF OTHERS FROM SIN.
1. The necessary qualification of a spiritual reformer.
2. The spirit which has governed all genuine reformers.
3. The power of Christ in prosecuting His mission. (Homilist.)
The necessity of atonement
Atonement always supposes a party offending and a party offended. It supposes that the offended holds the offender justly bound to suffer penal consequences as merited by the offence. The question proposed for present discussion regards the necessity of the atonement of Jesus Christ, in order to God’s remitting the sins of men. As a preliminary, we are constrained to protest against the adducing of any facts as bearing upon this question, which belong to the present gracious methods of God’s dealing with the human race. The question is, whether, in order to the adoption of those gracious methods, an atonement was not necessary? The evangelical doctrine of atonement is founded in the independent, essential mercy of God. It originated in His infinite mercy. It was an expedient, devised by boundless wisdom, and furnished by boundless love, to supersede the rigorous execution of justice. The forgiveness of sin essentially depends on the whole character of God, on His moral views and feelings respecting sin, and on the reasons which render its punishment necessary. It is here that we should look for all the obstacles, if there be any, which obstruct the exercise of grace, and oppose the remission of sin, and for all the reasons which render an atonement in behalf of sinful men, with a view to their receiving that blessed benefit, indispensable. Here, then, let us commence the discussion. The doctrine which I propose to illustrate and establish is contained in the following proposition: The great moral reasons which require the punishment of sin render the atonement necessary in order to its forgiveness.
I. I am to show that there are GREAT MORAL REASONS WHICH REQUIRE THAT SIN SHOULD RE PUNISHED.
1. God’s holiness and justice form the first moral reason. This is the “ground pillar and chief buttress” of my argument. If He is a holy and a righteous God, it is impossible that sin should pass unpunished. You ask me what is God’s holiness; what is His rectitude? His holiness is an essential part of His eternal character. It is His immutable disposition toward all points that involve morality. I would say it is His most perfect perception of right and wrong: it is His most perfect approbation of right; it is His most perfect abhorrence of wrong. And His justice is also inherent and essential. It is the disposition of His nature to act, in all worlds, on all occasions, in the most exact conformity to His moral sense. In heaven, earth, or hell, no being shall ever have ground of complaint, that in His treatment of him, God has forgotten His own holiness and justice.
2. I proceed to state a second moral reason, intimately connected with the preceding, why sin should not be permitted to pass unpunished. It is necessary, as the means of leading intelligent beings to reverence and honour God as a Being essentially holy and righteous. We contend that even the benevolence of God demands that sin should not be permitted to pass unpunished. To Him the created universe looks up as the Parent of eternal holiness, order, and well being. These are to be found and enjoyed only in subjection to God, and in perfect, undeviating obedience to His laws. That He should enforce such subjection and obedience by holding the transgressor responsible for his misdeeds, and so administering His government as that sin shall not pass unpunished, is required by the best interests of the created system.
II. THESE MORAL REASONS WINCH REQUIRE THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN, RENDER THE ATONEMENT NECESSARY IN ORDER TO ITS FORGIVENESS. NO substantial reason can be given why a Being infinitely benevolent as well as just, who has been pleased to ordain the redemption of guilty men, should not, when the ends of justice are satisfied, remit their doom. And these ends are most fully secured in the atonement. With an efficacy which to that heart which contemplates it in its just light must prove irresistible, the atonement exhibits God as a Being infinitely holy and righteous, regarding Himself as supremely worthy of the entire homage, love, and obedience of all moral existences, whose rectitude is such that He can give no other laws than those which are founded in eternal and immutable right, can administer no other government but that which is conducted on principles of justice and judgment, can hold no communion with rational beings who are unholy, cannot mark sin but to abhor it, and as the Sovereign Ruler, to manifest towards it His abhorrence, cannot pardon it without bearing testimony, heard with astonishment by heaven, earth, and hell, that it is an endless evil. And what inducements does the atonement hold out to moral agents to esteem, admire, adore, and obey, the Most High and Holy God, and to persevere in this exalted and exalting course? As the attainment of a supreme regard for holiness and an entire detestation of sin must produce the most pure and enduring happiness, what measure could so directly and so powerfully tend to promote and extend the highest happiness of the created system as the atonement? (John De Witt, D. D.)
Atonement by blood
It is asserted by historians that there is not a nation mentioned in history, the blood of whose citizens has not been poured out on its altars as an atonement for their sins, or to propitiate their deities. Even in this nineteenth century, it is said that there is a custom, carefully kept secret by Mussulmen, which shows they believe that “without shedding of blood is no remission of sin.” In time of great trouble and sorrow, when dreading the death of a favourite child, it is their custom to secretly kill a lamb and sacrifice it, crying, “Allah, take the life of this lamb for the life of my child.” The flesh of the lamb is then carefully removed, and given to religious beggars, while the skeleton is buried without breaking a bone. (C. W. Bibb.)
The collector of railway tickets did not look to the character or education of the holder of the ticket, but to the ticket itself. In like manner the blood was a token which typically indicated the way they were to be saved. (D. L. Moody.)
The doctrine of blood:
Some people said they did not understand the doctrine of blood. It was very offensive to the natural man. He knew a man to say that whenever he heard a minister speak of the blood in his sermon, he took up his hat and quietly walked out. But just as the bitterest medicine cured, so the doctrine of blood found that man and he was saved. (D. L. Moody.)
Without shedding of blood there is no remission:
An aged Jew said: “I have fasted for seven and twenty hours, praying with all possible earnestness, and trembling too, and after all I feel that my sins have not been atoned for.” No; without shedding of blood there is no remission. “The only plank between the believer and destruction is the blood of the incarnate God.” To make light of the blood, therefore, is to make light of salvation, and miss it for ever. The patterns of things in the heavens
Drama of heaven:
The life of Jesus Christ was a celestial drama which has revealed to mankind the nature of heaven.
1. The heavenly life is spoken of as a transparency. The densest thing we know is the pavement on which we walk. In heaven it is “transparent”; it is a pavement, but you can see through it like glass. You may recollect reading that a celebrated Roman once came before his fellow-citizens for their votes, saying that he Wished there was a window in his breast, so that they might see the purity of his motive and the goodness of his heart. An old Puritan minister, on recording this incident, adds, “Poor creature, were he to have had such a window, he would at once have prayed God to give him a shutter to hide his nature from his fellow-men.” Now, if you would take a part in heaven’s drama, you are to learn to be transparent, that is sincere. Your daily life is to be so much “above the board,” as we understand those words, that everybody can see, if they will but look with unprejudiced eye, that your words and actions are inspired by pure and honest motives.
2. We are told that the pavement of heaven is of the most valuable material, of “pure gold.” if, therefore, we take part in the drama of heaven, let us see that our life rests on the purest foundation; let our character be as genuine as the purest gold. Though your outward dress be of the poorest material, see that your inward character is of pure gold. Cultivate within yourself a love for the good and the true, and become a man whose thoughts and feelings are inspirations of God. How beautiful is this peach, with its silken and crimson colour! yet is there not a hard bitter stone at the core? The world spends too much time now-a-days in seeking to be beautiful outside. Let us, who show the drama of heaven on the stage of the earth, seek to be beautiful within.
3. From the description given by John we learn that the light of heaven is superb and effulgent. It is not the blaze of the sun, nor the brilliant flash of electricity; it is the light of the Lamb. By what rule do you walk? Is it by the maxims of society? The light which guides the inhabitants of heaven is -the spirit of the life of Jesus Christ; that sacred nature illumines heaven. The more men know the holy, loving God, whose human body was given for their redemption, the more will they abhor and forsake sin. The drama, therefore, which you and I have to play is to show men the character of God.
4. Notice, next, the clothing of the inhabitants of the land of light and love. It is said that they wear white robes. White is the emblem of purity and innocence. In order to exhibit heaven’s drama on earth, we have to put on the white robes of Christian charity and self-denial. We are to wear the crown of a king, not the shackles of a slave. We should regulate our passions as a king is supposed to govern his kingdom--for the good of the whole. We have to dare to do pure deeds and to venture on humane exploits.
5. Then remember that in the drama of heaven, you are to show the palms of victory which are waved in the hands of the white-robed in paradise. Let it be seen that you can fight on until you conquer. You may have fallen in past conflicts, but in this drama of heaven you are to show that while we live on earth, God can save us from our sins. I have not time to tell you all the other glorious characteristics of heaven, how we shall hunger no more and thirst no more. Heaven is a state of satisfaction; nothing will be wanting. This life is full of wants, real or imaginary. (W. Birch.)
Into heaven itself
On the ascension of Christ
I. It is remarkable that the Jews, as we learn from Josephus and the writings of the Hebrew doctors, considered THE OUTER COURTS OF THE TABERNACLE AS SYMBOLICAL OF THE EARTH, AND THE HOLY OF HOLIES AS AN EMBLEM OF HEAVEN. When, therefore, our Lord had by the sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross made expiation “for the sins of the whole world,” it became Him, as the great High Priest of mankind, to enter into the holy of holies, not made with hands, even “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
II. It appears from many accounts, that while the high priest was making intercession in the most holy place, THE PEOPLE WERE WITHOUT, CONFESSING THEIR SINS, AND PROFESSING THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO THE ALMIGHTY. Among the uses which have been assigned to the golden bells, which were ordered to be suspended around the bottom of the pontifical robe, it has been supposed, with much probability, that they were to give notice when the high priest entered within the veil on this solemn business, that the people might behave with correspondent sobriety. In like manner, while our Master is in heaven, we in this earth, this outer court of God’s universal tabernacle, have our work to do. There are conditions of the covenant on our part to be fulfilled. Christ hath instructed His Church to live here, in the exercise of faith and repentance, of patience, devotion, and charity, while He is interceding for them with the Everlasting Father.
III. It belonged exclusively to the priests, under the Mosaic dispensation, TO BLESS THE PEOPLE IN BEHALF OF GOD. In like manner, our High Priest hath received of the Father all gifts and blessings for His Church. With the voice of His ministers, He dispenses to the penitent assurances of the pardon of their sins. (Bp. Dehon.)
The ancient holy of holies, a type of heaven
1. The holy of holies was the dwelling-place of Jehovah, where He manifested Himself in visible glory. Even so in the upper sanctuary does Jehovah manifest the brightness of His glory to the innumerable hosts of holy angels and blessed spirits, by whom He is unceasingly worshipped.
2. The ancient holy of holies was the most splendid and magnificent part of the tabernacle and temple. In this respect also it was but the type and shadow of heaven. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God! “ It is represented as the paradise of God, where grows the tree of life. It is spoken of as Mount Zion, the antitype of the earthly hill on which were erected the temple of Jehovah and the palace of Judah’s kings, and which David celebrated as “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.” It is described as a city, the New Jerusalem, the city of the great King, whose foundations are garnished with all manner of precious stones. A still more impressive idea of the unrivalled magnificence of heaven is given us when it is described as the peculiar workmanship of the Almighty--as a place which His infinite power has been exerted to beautify, and which His boundless beneficence has been called forth to gladden and bless. Unlike the holy places in the ancient tabernacle and temple, this sanctuary has not been “made with hands”; it was not erected by any creature, neither was it formed out of any pre-existent matter, but created immediately by God Himself. It is the “ true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man”; the sanctuary, “not of this building”; the “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
3. The ancient holy of holies was, by Divine appointment, entirely concealed from the view of those who worshipped in the outer courts. With the most vigilant care it was kept sacred from all intrusion. Even from the holy place where the priests were wont to minister, it was separated by a thick curtain or veil of curiously embroidered tapestry, while the holy place itself was hidden from the people at large, who worshipped in the courts without, by means of a second veil of a similar description. There can be no question that all these arrangements were primarily designed to be emblematic of the particular character of that dispensation with which they were directly connected, as “signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.” At the same time, however, they present us with a beautiful type of the physical concealment which invests the heaven of heavens. For “no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came clown from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Between these, the outer courts of the temple, and that loftiest shrine of this vast universe, God has been pleased to stretch an impervious and impenetrable veil. It is a great and glorious reality; but it is only by the eye of faith that it can be described on “ this dim spot which men call earth.” Even with all the light which the gospel has shed upon it, it is a glory that yet remains to be revealed.
4. In pursuing the analogy subsisting between the holy of holies and the heaven of heavens, it may be added that the office performed by the Jewish high priest in the former was a most significant emblem of the function to be discharged in the latter by Jesus, the anointed High Priest of our profession. (Peter Grant.)
Encouragement from Christ glorified
The ascension of our Lord into heaven is a subject not only of admiration, but also of infinite importance to us. Its consequences are countless in number, immeasurable in extent, and endless in duration. Man is actually in the highest glory of the divine majesty at the right hand of God, the same glory in which the blessed Son of God dwelt before He came into the world. It cannot but excite our admiring wonder to contemplate human nature so highly exalted. For “where He is, there shall we be also,” if we are His true disciples, and shall “behold His glory,” and be ourselves clothed with a body of resplendent light like that of the Lord. But when we compare what we ought to be, and what we really must become in order to our being permitted to follow Christ into His glorious kingdom, with what we actually are, we may be disposed to say, “Who then can be saved?” The great subject now before us comes to our relief in this awful question, cheering our anxious hearts with hope. “Christ,” saith the apostle, “entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” “For us” means in our behalf, in order to take our part, to stand on our side. But who is this our Advocate? Is He likely to act in our favour with any effect? Is He likely to have influence with the Father? Has He any power of His own? Hath He yet done anything for us? That the influence of Christ with the Father is all-prevailing we cannot doubt, when we consider that He is the only, the beloved Son of God. We shall be strengthened in this confidence if we call to mind that the blessed God gave Him for the very purpose of saving us John 3:16). And not only this, but also He hath made a covenant engagement, wherein He has graciously promised to receive all those for whom His Son pleads. The desire then of accomplishing His own benevolent purpose, the gracious love which He has for us, and His unfailing truth and faithfulness, all combine to strengthen our assurance that He will favourably hear the intercession of His beloved Son in our behalf (John 16:26-27). Will not the consideration of this blessed truth encourage us to return to God, to “humble ourselves under His mighty hand,” to implore that mercy promised to us through Christ, and render His Father favourable to us? Yes, if we seem as far from God as earth is from heaven, sunk as low in sin as the utmost depths of the ocean, yet when we look up and see One at the right hand of God ready to take our part, we may feel a cheering hope (Hebrews 6:19-20; Hebrews 7:25). But has this our blessed Saviour any power of His own? (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:18; 1 Chronicles 2:9-10; 1 Chronicles 2:9-10; Hebrews 7:25; Philippians 2:12). Most important is this view of the Saviour’s almighty power to the anxious Christian, who is “ working out his own salvation with fear and trembling.” Thoughtless people, who are not engaged in the struggle against sin, may not perceive its importance. They do not feel deeply concerned about their salvation. They allow their enemies undisputed possession of their heart. Wherefore passively acquiescing in their dominion, they do not feel their claims. But let a man endeavor to “rule himself after God’s Word,” and he will immediately find that he has powerful enemies to resist (Romans 7:15; Romans 7:21-23). He finds strong tendencies to sin, dispositions, tempers, passions, disposing and urging him to unchristian language and ungodly practices, and withholding him from the due and faithful discharge of his duty. But looking to Christ, he finds that he has reason to thank God that “sin shall not have dominion over him.” And thus having felt that of himself he could do nothing, he finds himself enabled to say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” But we shall feel greater confidence that the glorified Jesus will act in our behalf, if we’ can find that He hath already done anything for us. Now surely “the Lord hath done great things for us already.” He has come clown from heaven to earth for us men and for our salvation. He has endured the miseries of this sinful world for our sake. He has laid down His life for us. When we know that the blessed Son of God has clone and suffered so much for us, what can there be which He will not do for our sake? St. Paul puts this argument very strongly (Romans 5:6-9). Great therefore may be our hope when we think that we have One in heaven on cur side, whose peculiar care we are, who has taken upon Himself our nature, and dwells in our form; who has made our cause His own; One of all-prevailing influence with our heavenly Father, who graciously desires to listen to His intercession in our favour; One of infinite might and dominion; One who has already done and suffered great things for us, exercised mighty power, wisdom, and love for our protection, guidance, and salvation. As each person is able to see what this blessed Saviour has done for his soul, he will experience proportionate encouragement. (R. L. Cotton, D. D.)
Presence of Christ incarnate in heaven
The presence in heaven of Christ incarnate is perhaps the sublimest doctrine to which a rational faith can reach. It is an extension of His atoning life and death on earth, and the renewal of the eternal glory (once briefly suspended) with the Father in heaven. Considering also how it affects us in the present time by its immediate influence, as distinct, I mean, from His acts in the past and future, it is strange that it does not more often fill our thoughts. There is in the human breast an inextinguishable longing for present sympathy. Love cannot bear separation: it is not content with memory, or expectation! As the heart feels the burden of the passing hour, so does it for every hour want its portion of sympathy and love. Thus the presence in heaven of Christ in the glorified Body is a truth most fruitful in thoughts of the dignity of human life, and in ministries of comfort to those who walk upon the earth. I shall recall some passages in Scripture which throw light on the question of a body possibly existing in heaven, then of Christ’s Body in particular; and secondly, remark on the influence of His incarnate presence upon us:
I. To BEGIN WITH THE FIRST CREATED BODY. If Adam had kept his estate of innocence, he would not have died, nor would he, we imagine, have continued for ever in Paradise, among the trees and beasts of the earth. We believe that he would have been translated in his body, glorified, to heaven. Enoch was thus removed, and afterwards Elijah. Next, coming to the Person of our blessed Lord. His Body after the resurrection was the same which had died, though the life to which He rose was not a return to that which had expired on the Cross. His Body was the same, but endued with new powers and living under other conditions. Again, angels declared that as He was taken up into heaven, so in like manner should He come. If so, in what state does He pass the interval between the ascension and the judgment, that is, the present time? Surely in the same spiritual, glorified Body. Moreover, He has been seen once, and heard once, since His ascension. Is it not too often the case, that Christ is regarded as existing in heaven only as God, in a certain omnipresent nature, as He was from all eternity? Do not men argue, that as a day will come when He shall put aside His mediation that is “when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father,” so also He will then escape from the confines of His humanity, and return to simple God? Is it sufficiently taken into account that His condition there is altered by His Incarnation, and if His condition, then His influence over us?
II. To the evidence of Scripture and our Church formularies, I WILL ADD A FEW REMARKS ON SELF-EVIDENT SEASONS, WHY IT SHOULD BE SO. “The Word was made flesh”; the manhood of Christ was made perfect. He took not on Him the form of angels, but the seed of Abraham. It is a characteristic of human nature, that once man is man for ever. If then Christ is perfect Man, He is Man for ever. Not only that, but re, elation informs us that man will rise in the body, and live in his body for ever. If Christ has risen according to the laws which govern our resurrection (and this Scripture declares), He now lives, and will live for ever, in the Body with which He rose. What else is meant by Christ being the “first-fruits of them that slept,” “the first-Begotten of the dead,” and, in contradistinction from Adam, “The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit,” unless it be that Christ in His resurrection is the cause of our resurrection, and gives the law by which ours is determined? Once more, He is our Mediator. A mediator is one who represents both parties. In this case one party is God, the other is man. None can represent God but God, and Jesus is God; none can represent man but man, and Jesus is Man. If therefore we have need of a mediator in heaven now, He must be now, as heretofore, God and Man.
III. I have now to speak of THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST INCARNATE IN HEAVEN HAS UPON MAN BELOW; AND OF THE PRACTICAL DIFFERENCE WHICH THIS DOCTRINE CAUSES IN OUR ESTIMATE OF HIS WORK FOR US. IS Christ omnipresent? Some persons will answer broadly, “Yes,” and go on to say that it is a man’s faith which makes Him present everywhere--that no possible thing is needed but faith; therefore, that all attempts to give the Saviour’s grace a local habitation is wrong; that particular ordinances and outward means of grace are superfluous, therefore superstitious. On the other hand, it is the creed of the Church that Christ has ordained that virtue shall go forth from Him in special and particular channels; and these we call outward means of grace. The sacred enclosure, within which these streams of grace are dispersed, is the Church. Now there is of course great diversity between these two views; but does not the difference arise chiefly from the advocates of the former view losing sight of the continuous agency of the Man Jesus Christ, and thinking that His manhood is now absorbed in His divinity. Would it not clear away doubts and misgivings from many, who sincerely love Christ, if they considered this point; viz., our blessed Lord is still in His Body, and many of His blessings He dispenses through the Body, being the fruits of the great things which He did and suffered in the Body. So far as He dispenses these through the Body, His dispensation of grace is not omnipresent, but regulated by orders of time, place, and conditions, as His will ordains. The participation of Christ through faith and obedience is not diminished by the act, which has attached to a particular ordinance a special grace of intimate communion with Him in the Lord’s Supper. These particular ordinances are the mysterious pathways, down which the several rays, which issue from His glorified Body, travel to earth. Nor is it any objection to this view that the influence of His Body is spiritual. In ordinary language “body” means matter, and an immaterial body seems to be a contradiction of terms. We cannot explain it; but to some extent it is intelligible that a body should be present only spiritually. For instance, when our Saviour said to the nobleman, “Thy son liveth,” was He not present by that sick-bed, though His natural Body was elsewhere? And remember, while Christ acts by virtue of His Incarnation, and is to some extent guided in His operations by the laws of His human nature, yet the Body which acts, acts more mightily because of the Godhead which possesses it. Lastly, if Christ be not really and spiritually present in the ordinances which He has instituted, in a sense of more close and intimate communion than can be applied to the generally diffused mercy and power of God, then the idea of any Church is a fiction; then the very acts in which we have been engaged to-day are vain; the gifts of bread and wine, which Christ has bidden us prepare for His consecration of them, convey no grace, but are merely stimulants, by outward signs of the feelings of our hearts; then all means of grace whatever are solely our acts to God, not His acts towards us. How different is the truth! Angels in heaven see in His dispensations of grace within the Church signs of the power of Christ unto salvation, of which without the Church they would not be aware, “that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” Thus our acts of worship are not fictions, our sacraments are not representations. There is an electric current ever circulating from Christ Incarnate through the members of His Body, which is the Church. (C. W. Furse, M. A.)
Christ the intercessor
I. THE THINGS SUPPOSED BY THE ENTRANCE OF CHRIST INTO HEAVEN ARE THE SAME AS THOSE SUPPOSED BY THE ENTRANCE OF THE HIGH PRIEST INTO THE MOST HOLY PLACE; namely, that heaven and earth are at variance, that sin has occasioned the feud, that blood is the alone price of expiation, and that this price must be laid upon the altar of the Holy One before He will ever look kindly upon man again. The difference in the case of the two dispensations lies in the application of any permanent and satisfactory relief to the sinner’s conscience. And this higher form of mediation, argues the apostle, we have in Christ, whose blood is no more to be compared to the blood of bulls and goats than is the heaven into which He has carried that blood to be compared with the holy place of the tabernacle. Christ is gone, therefore, to appear in the presence of God for us; gone to display a memorial of that sacrifice by which He has obtained eternal redemption for us; gone to exhibit the living virtue of His own blood, and to claim the crowns of immortality for those for whom it was shed.
II. Christ has gone to appear in the presence of God for us, says the text; that is, AS THE INTERCESSOR, THE ADVOCATE, THE GREAT UNDERTAKER OF HUMAN CAUSES IN THE COURT OF HEAVEN. Let us consider some of His special qualifications for so great a work.
1. As, first, it is an intercession founded on right. Christ appearing as the slain man is a direct appeal to the righteousness of God. It is the pledge of a price paid, a ransom accepted, a claim substantiated, a covenant signed and sealed. Christ pleads His sufferings no doubt, but this He does not to move pity nor to ask favour, but just to assert His right over all the dispensations of mercy, His boundless and eternal prerogative to forgive.
2. But, secondly, we should have comfort in this mediation of the ascended Saviour, from knowing that He orders all our spiritual affairs with consummate prudence. We often ask and have not, but we little think why. Our Intercessor has been asking for us the direct contrary of that which we have asked for ourselves. He saw that which we did not see, namely, that in the then temper of our minds and spirit the good sought would be no longer good.
3. Further, there is that in the appearance of Christ in heaven which should suggest to His believing people the thought of an individual and personal remembrance. If any man sin--any one man--he has an advocate with the Father. That which I desire to realise, is that the eye, the thoughts, the solicitudes of Jesus are concentrated and fixed on me; my needs to supply, my infirmities to help, my cause to order, my decaying members to revive, my rising corruptions to subdue.
4. But, once more, this appearance of Christ in heaven is an affectionate, earnest, deeply interested appearance. His heart is in the cause. He is a merciful High Priest as well as faithful. In undertaking the cause of believers He is not content to have an eye to see their afflictions, or an ear to listen to their complaints, or a tongue to promote their suit; but casts His lot in with them. He is afflicted in all their afflictions.
5. He has gone to appear in the presence of God for us as the Conqueror. “Thou hast ascended on high; Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for men.” He who died as a Lamb rose as a Lion. With the head of the spiritual Goliath in His hand, the Son of David entered the streets of the New Jerusalem, there to appear in the presence of God for us.
6. Again, as a pledge and assurance that He both can and will order all things for the good of His Church, He appears in the presence of God for us. In describing His own session to the high priest, He tells him, “Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power”; power to execute wrath, power to cast down every high thing and every strong thing and every opposing thing that could exalt itself against the knowledge of Himself; power to direct and save; power to reward and bless. Let me note one or two practical thoughts, in conclusion, with which to associate the entrance of our Forerunner into the most holy place, there to appear in the presence of God for us. Thus we cannot but be impressed with a sense of the exceeding great honour which is put upon our human nature, in that one, in our likeness, should be the object of highest adoration to all the heavenly world. We are made more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, because Christ Himself was more than conqueror over all the misery He came to remedy, and all the enemies He came to subdue. And this suggests a kindred thought--the honour reserved for ourselves in that future world. We have a portion in that flesh and blood which is so highly exalted, and which now appears in the presence of God for us. Our interest with our Divine Head is one. If Christ reign, we shall reign; if He be taken up into glory, we shall not be beyond the circle of its diffused and effulgent rays. Lastly, how should our Lord’s leaving us, to enter into the most holy place, remind us that we have no continuing city here. Christ did not sit down in heaven until He had finished His work on earth: and we must finish our work as Christ did His. He who now appears in the presence of God for us knew no rest, does not know it even now. He ever liveth to make intercession, to sprinkle consciences, to send down grace, to restrain the power of the evil one, to keep the feet of His saints, to suffer no weapon formed against them to prosper. This is Christ’s work in heaven now, and will be for a time, and times, and a half a time, till the end of redemption is come. Then will come the great Sabbath; the Sabbath that shall sanctify the risen natures, the Sabbath that shall release our Great High Priest from all further appearance for us in the holy place, even the everlasting rest that remaineth for the people of God. (D. Moore, M. A.)
Christ the only Mediator:
I. THE TEMPLE IN WHICH HE MINISTERS.
II. THE MINISTRY WHICH IN THAT TEMPLE HE CONTINUES TO EXERCISE.
1. The ministry of a sympathising friend.
2. Rendering acceptable to God all our worship and service.
III. THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THESE TRUTHS OUGHT TO EXERCISE ON OUR FAITH AND CONDUCT, “Let us hold fast our profession.”
1. As respects the writing on which it is based.
2. As regards the consolations which it affords.
3. As regards the hopes which it naturally encourages. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
The sacrifice, intercession, and sympathy of Christ in heaven
The sacrifice and intercession of Christ are of course distinct in idea, but in fact are so united, that it is more convenient to consider them together. Sacrifice is intercession, not in word, but in act. It makes atonement for man to God; that is, sets God and man at-one. It comes between; that is, in the literal sense of the word, intercedes, mediates between the two, reconciles them; all of which terms apply with equal propriety to the one office as to the other, sacrifice and intercession. Minds unused to meditation on the continuance of these offices in heaven are inclined to the opinion that the whole work of the Atonement was concluded in the sacrifice of the Cross, and to so complete an extent that nothing remains for Christ to do till He returns to gather in His elect. Their thoughts linger around such texts as these, which at first sight seem to imply that at the moment in which the Saviour said, “It is finished,” His work was ended till the Judgment Day (Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:18). And all the passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews which draw out the contrast between the repeated sacrifices offered by the Jewish priests and the one oblation once made by Christ, favour the same opinion. The question is, do such words oppose the view that our great Mediator is ever working on behalf of men’s souls in heaven --My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Do they contradict the doctrine that Christ Jesus in His glorified body continues to exercise the virtue of His holy incarnation? Not in the least. The sacrifice once for all offered on the Cross is being perpetually represented and exhibited in heaven. This indeed is the meaning of the word in the text, inadequately translated “appear.” It is not merely that Christ stands and is seen before the Father’s throne; but He is arrayed in the vesture belonging to the Mediator, invested with all the symbols of His office as the Saviour of man, continually presenting to the eternal Father the sacrifice once for all made, interceding, pleading, advocating our cause. Hence it is, that in the Book of Revelation He is described as a “Lamb as it had been slain;” with the marks of death, the scars of the sacrifice upon Him, though His wounds are healed, and His body raised in glory. And it may be observed, once for all, that every description of His high-priesthood establishes the truth that it is exercised now continually in heaven. The great difference in this respect between the continual sacrifice offered day by day and year by year by the Jewish priests, and that offered by Christ, is that theirs was repeated, His is represented; theirs was begun afresh, as if nothing had yet been done; His is the oblation of the Body sacrificed once for all. There are some who say, and profess to believe, that it is enough to know that Christ once died for sinners; but they do not speak the language of the human heart. Does not the sense of sin pierce them even now? Does not the shame and dread of sin overwhelm at times even those for whom Christ died? Do they not spread their hands abroad in vain, and look out for help against themselves, and seek for some place where they may hide themselves from the confusion and reproach which their own hearts cast upon them?--that is, they need a present Mediator and Advocate. Again, the effect which the continued intercession of Christ must exercise over our destiny cannot be measured by any estimate of ours. His prayers are uttered night and day, hour by hour, whether men pray or whether they sleep. And then, as to their secondary effect, that is, their influence upon us--conceive how great a motive it is for men to pray, that their prayers may vibrate along the chords of His! Lastly, consider what comfort exists in the possession of the sympathy of Christ; and in the knowledge that He exists in the body of man, alive to all the human wants and natural infirmities of the heart. Has not the disciple to bear his cross; to rejoice in suffering; “to fill up what is behind of the afflictions of Christ in His flesh for His body’s sake which is the Church”; “‘to bear the marks of the Lord Jesus”; “to be crucified” with Him; to be “buried with Him”; “to be raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places” in Him; to have “our vile body changed that it may be like unto His glorious body”? And all this while there is His painless sympathy with pain in the least as in the greatest things. Many a thought of trouble, too slight or too. Lender to be worth exposure to the nearest friends, is, we may believe, marked by Him and remembered in His prayer, especially if it be one (as all the most inexplicable troubles are) entangled with our own folly or sin. “For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” But sympathy alone and in excess induces softness. Self-control and hardihood, a lofty carriage as of one born to great dignity, a resolute temper that will neither bend or break--these are as much the Christian’s attributes as a childlike reliance and a looking out for love. How greatly does it add to the dignity of our life to see its perfection in the glorious body of Him who is the Head of the human race! (C. W.Furse, M. A.)
To put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself
The sacrificial work of Christ
I. THE SACRIFICE OF THE SAVIOUR, WHICH WE COMMEMORATE, WAS THE OFFERING OF HIMSELF. “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” Not the Sanhedrim, not Annas, not Caiaphas, not Pilate, not Judas, not the Roman Guard, not the excited mob took away the Redeemer’s life; had they done so, Christ’s would have been only a martyr’s death. “For this cause came I into the world.”
II. THE SACRIFICE OF THE SAVIOUR WAS NOT ONLY THE OFFERING OF HIMSELF, BUT THE ONE OFFERING OF HIMSELF. The earth can see no second
Gethsemane or Calvary! Never in the history of the human race can such another event be recorded, it stands alone as a monument of the august majesty of Divine law and the pitiful depth of Divine love.
III. THE SACRIFICE OF THE SAVIOUR, WHICH WE COMMEMORATE, CONTRASTS WITH THE JEWISH LAW. They had the ceremonial and symbolical: we have the spiritual and the substantial.
IV. THE SACRIFICE WE COMMEMORATE TEACHES US THAT NOT ONLY COULD THE SAVIOUR BE OFFERED BUT ONCE, BUT THAT HE COULD “SUFFER” BUT ONCE.
V. THE SACRIFICE WE COMMEMORATE TEACHES US THAT CHRIST “APPEARED” TO PUT AWAY SIN. Ponder well the words--“He appeared.” Salvation was accomplished in connection with Christ’s incarnation. There could be no doubt of the actuality of the atonement: it was in the body that He assumed that He died for our sins, and we can test the validity of the sacrifice by the reality of the incarnation. (W. M. Statham, M. A.)
The one perfect offering
I. Such is THE ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OF THE ONE OFFERING OF CHRIST, THAT IT STANDS IN NEED OF, THAT IT WILL ADMIT OF, NO REPETITION IN ANY KIND. Hence the apostle affirms that if it be despised or neglected there remains no more sacrifice for sin. And this absolute perfection of the one offering of Christ ariseth
1. From the dignity of His person (Acts 20:28).
2. From the nature of the sacrifice itself.
(1) In the gracious actings of His soul; He offered Himself unto God through the Eternal Spirit. Grace and obedience could never be more glorified.
(2) In the punishment He underwent, answering and taking away the whole curse of the law; and further offering for atonement is highly blasphemous.
(3) From the love of the Father unto Him and delight in Him. As in His person, so in His one offering, the soul of God resteth and is well pleased.
(4) From His efficacy unto all ends of a sacrifice. Nothing was ever designed therein, but was at once accomplished by this one offering of Christ.
II. This one offering of Christ is ALWAYS EFFECTUAL UNTO ALL THE ENDS OF IT, EVEN NO LESS THAN IT WAS IN THE DAY AND HOUR WHEN IT WAS ACTUALLY OFFERED. Therefore it needs no repetition, like those of old, which could affect the conscience of a sinner only for a season. This is always fresh in the virtue of it, and needs nothing but renewed application by faith for the communication of its effects and fruits unto us.
III. THE GREAT CALL AND DIRECTION OF THE GOSPEL IS TO GUIDE FAITH AND KEEP IT UP UNTO THIS ONE OFFERING OF CHRIST, AS THE SPRING OF ALL GRACE AND MERCY. In the preaching of the Word, the Lord Christ is set forth as evidently crucified before our eyes; and in the ordinance of the Supper especially is it represented unto the peculiar exercise of faith.
IV. WHATEVER HAD THE GREATEST GLORY IN THE OLD LEGAL INSTITUTIONS CARRIED ALONG WITH IT THE EVIDENCE OF ITS OWN IMPERFECTION, COMPARED WITH THE THING SIGNIFIED IN CHRIST AND HIS OFFICE. The entrance of the high priest into the holy place was the most glorious solemnity of the law. Howbeit, the annual repetitioin of it was a sufficient evidence of its imperfection, as the apostle disputes in the beginning of the next chapter. (John Owen, D. D.)
The all-sufficient sacrifice
I. THE PERIOD WHEN “In the end of the world,” or, rather, “the ages.” It refers to the several dispensations which have gone before, and which were brought to a close by Christ’s appearing in the flesh.
II. THE PURPOSE. “To put away sin,” to render sin a legal nullity, so that in respect of condemnatory power it should be as though nonexistent, and the law should cease to recognise its claims or inflict its penalties.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS END HAS BEEN ATTAINED. “By the sacrifice of Himself.”
1. It was not accomplished without means; it was not at once and offhand that this result was attained.
2. The means employed had reference to the thing necessary to be done.
(1) It had to be done by sacrifice--the substitution of one life for another.
(2) The sacrifice was Christ Himself. The penalty once borne can never again be inflicted. The curse was not causeless when it came, for guilt had entailed it; but neither is the taking it away causeless, for” Christ hath redeemed us,” &c. The reason is as valid in the one case as in the other; the removal of the wrath is as righteous as the manifestation of the wrath, and the whole universe is the witness to the reality and vitality of the stupendous deed. (Thos. Main, D. D.)
The Christian era
I. THE CHRISTIAN ERA IS GOD’S LAST DISPENSATION WITH MEN ON EARTH.
II. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST IS THE GREAT FACT OF THIS ERA.
2. Self-immolation for all ages.
3. Never to be repeated.
III. THE GREAT END OF CHRIST’S SACRIFICE WAS THE PUTTING AWAY OF SIN. This fact serves
1. To correct theological errors.
2. To determine the value of our religion.
3. To show the true aim of philanthropy.
4. To foreshadow the happy state of the world when Christianity shall have accomplished its work. (Homilist.)
The one sacrifice of Christ sufficient:
I. IT WAS INCONSISTENT WITH THE WISDOM, GOODNESS, GRACE, AND LOVE OF GOD THAT CHRIST SHOULD OFTEN SUFFER IN THAT WAY WHICH WAS NECESSARY UNTO THE OFFERING OF HIMSELF, NAMELY, BY HIS DEATH AND BLOODSHEDDING. It was not consistent with the wisdom of God to provide that as the ultimate means of the expiation of sin which was insufficient for it; for so it would have been if the repetition of it had been necessary. Nor was it consistent with His unspeakable love unto His Son that He should frequently suffer an ignominious death. And, moreover, it would have been highly dishonourable unto the Son of God, giving an appearance that His blood was of no more value than the blood of beasts, the sacrifice whereof was often repeated.
II. IT WAS NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE GLORY OF HIS PERSON, ESPECIALLY AS IT WAS NECESSARY TO BE DEMONSTRATED UNTO THE SALVATION OF THE CHURCH. That He once emptied Himself that He might be obedient unto the death of the Cross, proved a stumbling-block unto the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. The faith of the Church was secured by the evident demonstration of His Divine glory which immediately ensued thereon. But as the frequent repetition hereof would have been utterly inconsistent with the dignity of His Divine person, so the most raised faith could never have attained a prospect of His glory.
III. IT IS ALTOGETHER NEEDLESS, AND WOULD HAVE BEEN USELESS. For, as the apostle demonstrates, by one offering of Himself, and that once offered, He took away sin, and for ever perfected them that are sanctified.
V. THE ASSURED SALVATION OF THE CHURCH OF OLD, FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, BY VIRTUE OF THE ONE OFFERING OF CHRIST, IS A STRONG CONFIRMATION OF THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH AT PRESENT TO LOOK FOR AND EXPECT EVERLASTING SALVATION THEREBY.
VI. IT IS THE PREROGATIVE OF GOD AND THE EFFECT OF HIS WISDOM TO DETERMINE THE TIMES AND SEASONS OF THE DISPENSATION OF HIMSELF AND HIS GRACE TO THE CHURCH. Hereon it depends alone that Christ appeared in the end of the world, not sooner nor later, as to the parts of that season. Many things do evidence a condecency to Divine wisdom in the determination of that season.
1. He testified His displeasure against sin in suffering the generality of mankind to lie so long under the fatal effects of their apostasy without relief or remedy (Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30; Romans 1:21; Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26).
2. He did it to exercise the faith of the Church, called by virtue of the promise, in the expectation of its accomplishment. And by the various ways whereby God cherisheth their faith and hope was He glorified in all ages Luke 1:70; Matthew 13:16; Luke 10:24; 1 Peter 1:10-11; Haggai 2:7).
3. To prepare the Church for the reception of Him, partly by the glorious representation made of Him in the tabernacle and temple with their worship; partly by the burden of legal institutions laid on them till His coming (Galatians 3:24).
4. To give the world a full and sufficient trial of what might be attained towards happiness and blessedness by the excellency of all things here below.
5. To give time to Satan to fix and establish his kingdom in the world that the destruction of him and it might be the more conspicuous and glorious.
VII. GOD HAD A DESIGN OF INFINITE WISDOM AND GRACE IN HIS SENDING OF CHRIST AND HIS APPEARANCE IN THE WORLD THEREON, WHICH COULD NOT BE FRUSTRATED. “He appeared to put away sin.”
VIII. SIN HAD ERECTED A DOMINION, A TYRANNY OVER ALL MEN AS BY A LAW. Unless this law be abrogated and abolished we can have neither deliverance nor liberty.
IX. NO POWER OF MAN, OF ANY MERE CREATURE, WAS ABLE TO EVACUATE, DISANNUL, OR ABOLISH THIS LAW OF SIN.
X. THE DESTRUCTION AND DISSOLUTION OF THIS LAW AND POWER OF SIN WAS THE GREAT END OF THE COMING OF CHRIST FOR THE DISCHARGE OF HIS PRIESTLY OFFICE IN THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF. No other way could it be effected.
XI. IT IS THE GLORY OF CHRIST, IT IS THE SAFETY OF THE CHURCH, THAT BY HIS ONE OFFERING, BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF ONCE FOR ALL, HE HATH ABOLISHED SIN AS TO THE LAW AND CONDEMNING POWER OF IT. (John Owen, D. D.)
The manner, time, and end of Christ’s appearance
I. CHRIST’S APPEARANCE IS
1. His incarnation.
2. The manifestation of Him incarnate.
3. The presenting of Himself as a Priest, having sacrificed Himself and His Heavenly Father, without which His incarnation and manifestation had been to no purpose.
He appeared from the foundation of the world, in the word of the promise, and in types and figures; yet this was but obscure. At length He appeared really, when the Word was made flesh, died, and, as a Priest, offered Himself unto God the Supreme Judge for the sin of man.
II. THE TIME of His appearance was the end of the world, which is opposed to the foundation of the world. This end of the worm is called the fulness of the time (Galatians 4:4), because, as some tell us, the time appointed by God was fully come; all things, which were decreed to be before His coming, were fully accomplished. And though we understand not the reasons, yet the end of the world was the fittest of all others for this appearance; and though the last times seem to have the greatest benefit of His exhibition, yet the first times were not without it, for the virtue of this sacrifice extended to all times.
III. THE END OF this appearance was to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Where we have two ends, the one subordinate to the other: the first was the sacrificing of Himself, the second by this sacrifice to put away sin. This putting away was not the abrogation of the law transgressed, but a taking away the moral effects and consequents of sin committed against that law, and principally of guilt. The effect of sin is to Tender the party sinning obnoxious and liable to punishment and God’s vindicative justice, and by this virtue of the commination of the law. God, to make way for pardon, by a transcendent extraordinary power, makes Christ man’s surety, and Christ voluntarily submits Himself, out of love to His brethren, to God’s will, so far as to suffer death for man’s sin, and offers Himself as being slain to the Supreme Judge. Upon His submission He becomes one person with sinful man, as a surety with the principal, and so is liable to that punishment which sinful man should have suffered, as a surety becomes liable to pay the debt of the principal. (G. Lawson.)
Jesus putting away sin
I. THE TIME OF THIS GREAT PUTTING AWAY OF SIN, in the end of the world, or the age--“in these last days,” as one of the apostles words it. Why was that time selected?
1. Was it not in order to exercise the faith of ancient saints, who, like Abraham, saw Christ’s day in vision--saw Him and were glad? They rested in confidence in the Messiah’ that was to come, and their faith received its reward.
2. Did not God place the putting away of sin at the close of the age, in order to glorify His Son, by letting us see that the very anticipation of His death was sufficient for the salvation of men?
3. Was not this sacrifice placed at the end of the world to be, as it were, the crown of all Jehovah’s works? The great Master of the feast hath kept the best wine until now.
II. THE PERSON ACCOMPLISHING THE WORK. Once, in the end of the world, hath He appeared. Recollect who it was that came to take away sin, that you may find solid ground for comfort. He who came to take away sin did not come unsent. He was appointed and delegated by God. He came in His Father’s name, clothed with His Father’s authority: “I do not Mine own will,” said He, “but the will of Him that sent Me.” This ought to give us richest consolation. Attentively observe the constitution of His person. He who came to save men is no other than God; therefore capable of viewing sin from God’s point of view, capable of understanding what was due to God: by bracing His Godhead to His manhood He was capable, in His twofold nature, of sustaining pangs which humanity could not have endured apart from Godhead. Can you not trust Him? I have felt like John Hyatt who, when dying, said he could not only trust Christ with one soul, but he could trust Him with a million souls if he had them.
III. THE APPEARANCE MENTIONED. “Now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin.” The way by which God has put away sin is one which is not obscure, concealed, recondite, inexplicable, but one which is eminently plain and manifest.
IV. THE SACRIFICE ITSELF. “Once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin”--how? “By the sacrifice of Himself” Christ did not come into the world merely to put away sin by His example. Jesus did not come into the world merely to put away sin by His teaching; but we are told in the text that He came to put away sin by sacrifice. God comes into the world as Man--the Mediator dies. Now, what merit there must be in the blood of Him who, while He is Man, is nevertheless God!
V. THE THOROUGHNESS OF THE WORK WHICH WAS CONTEMPLATED. In the end of the world Christ was revealed to put away sin. He did not come into the world to palliate it, but to put it away. Observe, He not only came to put away some of the attributes of sin, such as the filth of it, the guilt of it, the penalty of it, the degradation of it; He came to put away sin itself, for sin is the fountain of all the mischief. He did net come to empty out the streams, but to clear away the fatal source of the pollution. He appeared to put away sin itself, sin in its essence and being.
VI. THE EVIDENT COMPLETION of this work demands a word because of its being rendered conspicuous by the word “once.” “Once in the end of the world He hath appeared to put away sin.” If He had not put away sin, He would have Come again to do it, for Jesus Christ never leaves His work unfinished. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The putting away of sin
I. IT IS A VERY HARD THING TO PUT AWAY SIN.
1. All the Jewish sacrifices could not do it.
2. Repentance itself cannot do it.
3. No form of suffering in this world can do it.
4. Nor any form of self-denial.
5. Nor holy living.
6. Nor death.
7. Nor hell.
II. CHRIST HAS PUT AWAY THE SIN OF ALL HIS PEOPLE. By what image shall I set forth the abolishing of sin! I do not know what metaphor to use about it, but one suggests itself which is far from complete. When Pompey was killed, Julius Caesar obtained possession of a large casket, which contained a vast amount of correspondence which had been carried on with Pompey. There is no doubt, whatever, that in that casket there were many letters from certain of Caesar’s followers making overtures to Pompey, and had Caesar read those letters it is probable that he would have been so angry with many of his friends that he would have put them to death for playing him false. Fearing this, he magnanimously took the casket and destroyed it without reading a single line. What a splendid way of putting away and annihilating all their offences against him! Why, he did not even know them, he could not be angry, for he did not know that they had offended. He consumed all their offences and destroyed their iniquities, so that he could treat them all as if they were innocent and faithful. The Lord Jesus Christ has made just such an end of your sins and mine.
III. How SIN WAS PUT AWAY.
1. The text tells us that our Lord put it away by a sacrifice. Substitution is the very pith and marrow of the revelation of God.
2. Notice that the text tells us what His sacrifice was, it was Himself. Sin was not put away by the offering of His living works, nor by the incense of His prayer, nor by the oblation of His tears, nor even by the presentation of His pains before God, but by the sacrifice of Himself. The Lord Christ gave up for you His human body and soul and spirit, all that constituted “ Himself” was given up freely to the death that the punishment due to our sin might be borne. This leads you to remember who He was. He was God over all, blessed for ever; the Maker of all worlds, but He gave Himself. See the majesty of His sacrifice, He gave Himself; and then behold the infinite merit that there must be in that sacrifice. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Will evil be everlasting?
I. EVIL NEED NOT BE EVERLASTING IN THE INDIVIDUAL.
II. EVIL WILL NOT BE EVERLASTING IN THE WORLD.
III. EVIL MAY NOT BE THERE IS THE HIGHEST PROBABILITY THAT IT WILL NOT BE--EVERLASTING IN THE UNIVERSE.
1. Because of the infinite forces of which our text speaks.
(1) The infinite force in the Being who is putting away sin. There is no limit to His resources.
(2) The infinite force in His case for the work He has undertaken.
2. Because of the very nature of evil.
3. Because of the character of God. (Homilist.)
The sacrifice and satisfaction of Christ:
I. I SHALL PRODUCE SOME PLAIN TESTIMONIES OF HOLY SCRIPTURE, WHICH DECLARE THAT THE SON OF GOD, IN ORDER TO THE EFFECTUAL EXPIATION OF SIN, SUFFERED IN OUR STEAD, AND BORE THE WRATH OF GOD FOR US, AND MADE A PERFECT ATONEMENT FOR SIN, AND OBTAINED ETERNAL REDEMPTION FOR US. This the Scripture declares to us in great variety of expressions; as, that “Christ died for us, and for our sins”; that He was “a sacrifice for us, and a propitiation for the sins of the whole world”; that “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” and “appeared to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”; that “we are justified in His blood,” and “redeemed by the price of it.” It is evident then from Scripture, that Christ died not only for our advantage but in our stead; as truly as any man ever did or can die for another, who lays down his own life to save another from death. For if Christ had not died, we had perished everlastingly; and because tie died, we are saved from eternal death and misery. And though this be nowhere ill Scripture spoken of by the name or term of satisfaction, yet it is said to be the price of our redemption; which surely is the same in effect with satisfaction.
II. SHOW THAT THE EXPIATION OF OUR SINS WAS MADE BY THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, FROM THE NATURE AND INTENTION OF EXPIATORY SACRIFICES, BOTH AMONG THE JEWS AND HEATHENS, to which the death of Christ is in the New Testament so frequently compared, and in point of virtue and efficacy to take away sin infinitely preferred to it.
III. VINDICATE THIS METHOD AND DISPENSATION OF THE DIVINE WISDOM FROM THE OBJECTIONS WHICH ARE BROUGHT AGAINST IT, and to show that there is nothing in it that is unreasonable or anywise unworthy of God. I shall mention four objections which are commonly urged in this matter, and I think they are all that are considerable.
1. That this method of the expiation of sin by the sufferings of Christ seems to argue some defect and want of goodness in God, as if He needed some external motive, and were not of Himself disposed to forgive sinners. To which I think the answer is not difficult; namely, that God did not want goodness to have forgiven sin freely and without any satisfaction, but His wisdom did not think it meet to give encouragement to sin by too easy a forgiveness, and without some remarkable testimony of His severe displeasure against it; and therefore His greater goodness and compassion to mankind devised this way to save the sinner, without giving the least countenance and encouragement to sin.
2. How can our sins be said to have been forgiven freely, if the pardon of them was purchased at so dear a rate, and so mighty a price was paid for it? In answer to this I desire these two things may be considered
(1) That it is a wonderful grace and favour of God to admit of this translation of the punishment which was due to us, and to accept of the sufferings of another in our stead, and for our benefit, when He might justly have exacted it from us in our own persons.
(2) It was in effect freely, too, notwithstanding the mighty price which was paid for our redemption. Because this price was not of our own procuring, but of God’s providing.
3. It is yet further objected that this seems to be more unreasonable than the sacrificing of beasts among the Jews, nay, than the sacrificing of men among the heathen, and even of their own sons and daughters, because this is the offering up of the Son of God, the most innocent and the most excellent person that ever was. To which I answer, that if we consider the manner and the design of it the thing will appear to be quite otherwise.
(1) As to the manner of it, God did not command His Son to be sacrificed, but His providence permitted the wickedness and violence of men to put Him to death. And then His goodness and wisdom did overrule this worst of actions to the best of ends.
(2) And then if we consider the end of this permission of Christ’s death, and the application of it to the purpose of a general expiation, we cannot but acknowledge and even adore, the gracious and merciful design of it. For by this means God did at once put an end to that unreasonable and bloody way of worship which had been so long practised in the world; and after this one sacrifice, which was so infinitely dear to God, the benefit of expiation was not to be expected in any other way, all other sacrifices being worthless and vain in comparison of this; and it hath ever since obtained this effect of making all other sacrifices to cease in all parts of the world where Christianity hath prevailed.
4. The last objection is the injustice and cruelty of an innocent person suffering instead of the offender. To this I answer, that they who make so great a noise with this objection do seem to me to give a full and clear answer to it themselves, by acknowledging, as they constantly and expressly do, that our Saviour suffered all this for our benefit and advantage, though not in our place and stead. For this, to my apprehension, is plainly to give up the cause, unless they can show a good reason why there is not as much injustice and cruelty in an innocent person’s suffering for the benefit and advantage of a malefactor, as in his suffering in his stead. (Abp. Tillotson.)
I. I wish to fix your thoughts on THE EXAMPLE INVOLVED IN THE SACRIFICE WHEREBY CHRIST REDEEMED THE WORLD. I would press on you the duty, the blessedness, the happiness of self-sacrifice, and the present and urgent need for it. I would ask you to consider whether God does not summon all of you to the sacrifice of self to help the world, and some of you to such self-sacrifice in its fullest forms, as the very law of your highest life.
II. You know well HOW THOROUGHLY HIS GREAT SAINTS AND SERVANTS HAVE LEARNED THIS LESSON. They have not been satisfied with the easy compromise and full-fed prosperity of a worldly, popular, and successful religionism. Instead of being content to swim with the easy streams of fashionable orthodoxy, they struck out vehemently against them. Instead of trimming their sails to the veering wind, they were ready to drive their frail shallops into the very teeth of the storm. Instead of answering the world or the Church according to their idols, they smote those idols in the face. Like the apostles, they held not their lives dear unto themselves; they left father and mother and lands and ease; they counted all things but dross, in comparison with the love of Christ their Lord.
III. DOES CHRIST, THEN, CALL US TO AGONY AND RUIN, AND TO ALL THAT WE LEAST LOVE? Yea, and nay. “Yea,” in so far as brief agony and apparent ruin may lie in the path of duty and holiness; and “yea,” in so far as that which we least love ought rather to be what is dearest to us; but “ nay,” inasmuch as the cross borne gladly is itself the secret of blessedness. You pity the hated prophet, the burning martyr, the persecuted saint? And do you think that he needs your pity, rather than the man who, rich and successful, is torn, day and night, by the many-headed monster of unruly passions, which, the more they are gratified, ravin the more clamorously for gratification? Do you pity God’s martyrs, and do you not rather pity those who, living to indulge their own vilest impulses, have, as the devil’s martyrs, made their own bodies and minds a very curse to themselves and to all the world? Nay, you are wrong. It is Nero on his gilded chair who is to be pitied, not St. Paul in his rags and wretchedness. That man is blessed, blessed even in the dungeon or at the stake, who is pure, and just, and loving, and innocent.
IV. BLESSEDNESS IS A LOFTIER AND A DEEPER THING THAN HAPPINESS; but I go further, and say that in self-sacrifice you will not only find blessedness, but even a joy, a happiness, a gladness such as the world can neither give nor take away. Disenchantment in success, weariness in riches, satiety in self-indulgence, inward wretchedness amid outward prosperity, are the heritage of the world. Tiberius is “tristissimus, ut constant hominum”; and Severus cries, “Omnia fui, et nihil expedit”; but joy in the Lord, joy in the Holy Ghost, joy in believing, joy unspeakable and full of glory, joy even amid much affliction, has ever been the unique and miraculous paradox of Christianity. Read the Epistle to the Philippians, written by a hunted fugitive in prison with weak eyes, in wretched health, a spectacle of shame; his name a hissing, the chain which coupled him to the rude soldier clanking with every motion of his hand: then read the “Tristia” of Ovid, or the letters of Cicero, or the “Consolation ad Polybium” of Seneca, written in an exile incomparably less trying, and you will see that while the poet, and the orator, and the stoic are full of base adulation and womanish complaints, the letter of this poor, sick, deserted Jewish prisoner bursts again and again into irrepressible music, flashes from line to line with gleams of indomitable joy.
V. So THEN, WHEN CHRIST CALLS YOU TO SELF-SACRIFICE, HE CALLS YOU TO JOY AS WELL AS TO BLESSEDNESS. He takes from you no single element of natural and innocent joy: neither the joy of nature, nor of art, nor of youth, nor of healthy life; nay, He would illuminate, He would intensify ever)” one of these by expanding them to infinitude: or, if indeed He love you so much as to ask you for His sake to sacrifice them all, even then He gives you in the place of them a beatitude which no one can conceive save he who possesseth it. And yet, alas! how few accept this call; how many prefer the sin, which can only be got rid of by the sacrifice of self. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
Putting away sin
How is it possible for any ordinary man to grasp this whole question of sin--what it is in its essence as well as in its consequence -and to show how the death of Christ puts away sin? I cannot tell you everything contained in the word “sin”; but I can tell you enough to make it criminal for you to be a persistently wilful sinner. I cannot explore the deepest depths of redemption, but I can make it appear that redemption is an act in accord with our highest intuitions of what the Divine character should be; that assuming the Bible revelation that “God is love,” redemption will be to that fact as consequence to cause. Now, it has been said, and with very good reason, that our views in regard to the fact of sin will affect everything else in our theology. In men generally we find two opposite conditions of feeling on this matter of sin. With one class the world is so full of sin that they can see nothing else greater than it. It fills their whole sphere of vision. Man is a sinner--more a sinner than a man. The world is black with sin, and this is the one overwhelming impression which the world makes upon them. At the opposite extreme we find a large class of men who make next to nothing of sin. The article of their creed most frequently proclaimed is, that there is a soul of goodness in all things evil. They try philosophically to evaporate the fact of sin in some such way as this. The body, being body, cannot sin, and the spirit, being an incorruptible essence, cannot sin, and, therefore, we have made a grand mistake. We are already in a sinless world. One cannot well believe that this kind of theological jugglery is very satisfactory even to those who practise it. Now they who see nothing greater than sin in the world must live lives of perpetual gloom bordering on despair. And they who make sin to be to the race as measles to the child can have no very adequate view of anything to which the word redemption can be properly applied. Sin is not by any means the greatest fact in this world’s history, but it is a fact momentous and terrible, whether we regard it in relation to the individual, or to the race. If it were what the first class of whom I have spoken make it, would it not be a sufficient reason for arresting the further propagation and development of this race of man? But what I believe the providence of God teaches us, and what Scripture suggests, is this--that in every one born into this world there is more of man than of sin. No man is all sinner. It is not a convertible term, and, therefore, it seems to my own mind that the gloomiest views of man in his relation to sin are just as unrighteous, just as far astray from the truth, as those lax and shallow views which make sin to be as involuntary in its character as is physical disease. The men whose individuality God’s Spirit specially prepared, that through it the voice of God might be heard in human tones, often speak of “ sin” and “the sinner”--but how? Even in this wise--“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”; “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”; “I find a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into subjection to the law of sin which is in my members.” These, and many other passages that we might quote, all tend to show this--that sin is as much a spiritual fact as disease is a physical fact--a fact dark and dismal--not to be set aside as of little account, not to be explained away asthough it were a mere figure of speech; but in Scripture there are other facts put alongside of sin, facts greater than sin, facts of man’s relation to God, and God’s relation to man, which make it impossible for the careful Bible student to despond, much less despair. Man is never identified with his sin as though it were a part of his very life. Man is a composite being, and sin is referred to as being an element that has entered into his nature altogether foreign to it--with which man’s nature is, in some form or other, always at war--a poisonous element which his nature seeks to cast out, which it cannot assimilate. St. Paul was the spokesman for them all when he cried out, “Oh, wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me?” To him sin was a state of captivity from which man could not deliver himself. Therefore the cry for a deliverer. Therefore the assurance in his own soul that Jesus Christ was such a deliverer as he and all men needed. Theologians have been accustomed to speak of sin under two divisions, ,’ original” and “actual.” I will not trouble you with any such exposition of those terms as might be agreeable to speculators. I don’t know that we can improve upon them. By “original sin” we mean that which belongs to us as being joined to a past sinful parentage--for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing? Actual sin is that which belongs to us personally--which is our own. The tendency to sin was born in us; there can be nodenial of that fact. That we have indulged the tendency is undeniable, too. Whence did we get this propulsion? From past generations. Some ancestor stood behind us with his vices, and pushed us forward. It seems unfair that we should be linked to the vices of the past, and we complain of it--perhaps try to shift our responsibility on to the fathers who are dead, perhaps excuse ourselves to ourselves by the consideration that the evil we recognise is not of our own origination. Let us remember that the channel down which the vice which plagues us has come was originally constructed for the transmission of virtue. The pipes laid from a great reservoir to a large city for the purposes of health may, by neglect, become the channel of disease; but who shall say that the original conduits were not constructed on principles of beneficence, and for purposes which justified themselves? No faculty of man was so made that it could sin and not suffer. The suffering that sooner or later follows sin, that suffering proclaims that some law of God has been broken. The more earnestly we penetrate into them, the more thoroughly are we convinced that God’s ways justify themselves. The Creator has made this race of ours so much a unit, that if one member suffer all the members suffer with it, and if one member rejoice all the members rejoice with it. That separateness of man from man, that absolute individualism which is at the base of much practical religious error, is more an imagination than a fact. As one has well put the matter, “No creature is, so to speak, merely itself in the world. It is where it is, or what it is, as the result of an indefinite advance and appropriation of preceding forms of existence.” We cannot throw the blame of our actual transgressions on any ancestor. It is our own. We feel it to be our own. This linking of man with man, of father with child, of one generation with another, is God’s grand provision and protest against that selfish individualism which is ever trying to assert and justify itself at the expense of all our social affections. The philanthropies of society are set going by the presence of pain and woe. And thus a new and higher life is manifested as operative in society--a spirit not legal, not of the nature of naked justice, not an exacting, but a self-sacrificing, spirit. And mark, this philanthropic spirit is evoked outside, as well as inside, the areas of religious profession. Let us be thankful that in this, as in other ways, pain is a sort of unlicensed evangelist in the world inducing men to act Christianly who are averse to thinking Christianly. I always cherish the most sanguine hopes in respect to philanthropic men. Those who go with us a mile have always a slumbering disposition to go with us twain. Such persons cannot do the good they do without getting good. Neither can they go into the battle with pain and suffering without having the inquiry started in their own minds as to what all this suffering means. And surely at times the truth about its origin must flash across their spirits.” A man or woman who goes about doing good must, all the time, be approaching nearer and nearer to those central truths which lie at the heart of things. We are thrown back upon the fact of sin in us, of a disorder not curable by the patient, not curable by any man or any body of men--curable, if at all, only by God. When it is put away as sin, it still remains in its consequences as disease. God has forgiven it as sin, for “Jesus hath put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Accepting Christ Jesus as our Lord and Redeemer, we begin to realise that sin, as sin, is forgiven. But we still feel its power; it is a disorder within. But a disorder in the Great Physician’s hands, who has forgiven it, will deliver us from it. So that the very hopelessness of our case is the source of our confidence. We cannot forgive our own sin; therefore God our Father, out of His own nature, for His own sake, is sure to forgive when we apply for forgiveness. We cannot cure sin, and, therefore, He who always delights to help the helpless is sure to take the cure into His own hands. (Reuen Thomas.)
I. THE PERSON WHO APPEARED, AND THE MANNER OF HIS MANIFESTATION TO THE WORLD. The original dignity of His nature we cannot fitly express but in the language of the sacred Scriptures, which testify concerning Him. There He is declared as the only begotten Son of God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person, the Word, that was God, by and for whom all things were created. This is that glorious Person whose manifestation in the world is celebrated in all the churches. When this Person condescends to visit the earth, He comes not apparelled in the majesty of Jehovah; no voice of thunder proclaims His descent from heaven, no clouds form themselves into chariots, no lightnings flash around Him; the hills melt not at His presence--all His glory is laid aside. Fulfilling the most gracious and friendly design for man, He appears in the likeness of man, that He may converse familiarly with his brethren, and with a most winning grace accomplish the generous ends of His mission.
II. THE DESIGN OF THE SACRIFICE--“to put away sin.” For the redemption of a sinful world did the Son of God appear and suffer. There is no other way that we can fully account for our Lord’s humiliation and death but the Scriptural fact that He appeared to put away sin by His sacrifice. What mean the presentiments of approaching evil which were expressed in the mournful complaint, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death”? What the exclamation on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” These violent agitations and horrors, in a mind so pure, so firm, so devout, and so magnanimous, must be ascribed to some awful cause; and to what other cause can we trace them, consistently with His character, than this, that He bore the sins of many, and that it pleased the Father to bruise Him with that anguish of soul which the guilt of a rebellious world deserved?” Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” The just, being made sin for us, suffered the penalty which the unjust might have been called to pay. It remains to be observed that Christ appeared to put away sin not only in its punishment, but in its guilt and dominion, that He might be a complete Saviour, and recover mankind from all their degeneracy, their corruption, their vice, that they might become worthy of the Divine favour, might enjoy all the felicity of which their nature is made capable, and be fit for the fellowship of the glorious spirits, who, as they excel in strength, excel in faithful obedience to the will of their Father, who loveth righteousness, and whose command is holy, just, and good.
III. THE TIME OF THIS DISPENSATION. “Now once in the end of the world.” It pleased the wisdom and mercy of the Almighty, by various and progressive discipline, and dispensations of religion, to prepare the world for the appearance of the Messiah. This is called “the last days, the fulness of the time, the end of the world,” literally, the end or perfection of the ages. The condition of the Church under the personal administration of the Son of man is the last of all, the most glorious and perfect, and is therefore called the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. No propitiation shall supersede that of Jesus. No advocate rises after Him to plead our cause. There is no refuge for the unbelieving, who obey not the truth; the wrath of God abideth in them. Their obstinacy cannot set aside the statute of heaven, whereby Jesus is ordained to be both Lord and Christ. Their rejection of Him as a Redeemer cannot save them from appearing before Him as a Judge. Were the gospel but the beginning of a system, the opening of a plan; were it in anything imperfect; did its language indicate alteration and improvement at a subsequent period, then there might be reason to fear that if ever this alteration did take place, when the improvement was engrafted on the original design, some change might be necessary in your conduct; much, perhaps, to unlearn; something new to acquire, after your habits were fixed and your powers decayed; that your faith might be vain; that the principles of your conduct, and the life formed on them, might be unavailing to your spiritual comfort and eternal welfare. No such cause of uneasiness can ever agitate the Christian’s mind. The gospel comes to wind up the gracious plan of heaven. Through many intermediate parts it has advanced to indestructible perfection. From the faint light dawning without the gates of paradise it has brightened to the splendour of noonday, whose sun shall never set; even the Sun of Righteousness, whose beams are the healing of the nations. (L. Adamson, D. D.)
“Do” and “done”:
Said a lady to an unhappy man, “There is a great difference between your religion and mine; yours consists of two letters, D-O, and mine consists of four, D-O-N-E.” (J. H. Brooks, D. D.)
Appointed unto men once to die
The two crises:
There is a very cheerful emphasis on that word “once.
” I know people who have so much grace that death seems to be attractive to them, and they really talk as though they would be willing to die half a dozen times. It is not so with me. I submit to the idea only because I have to. But, thank God, we die but once. We take seventeen thousand breaths in a day, but there will be only one last breath.
1. I remark, in regard to the first crisis, that it will be the ending of all our earthly plans. If Napoleon wants to fight Austerlitz, he must do it before that, or never fight it at all. If John Howard wants to burn out the dampness of the dungeon, he must do it before that, or never do it at all. The last moments will snap off all our earthly schemes. If our work at that time be rounded, it will stay rounded. If it be incomplete, it will stay incomplete, like the national monument on Calton Hill, Edinburgh--a row of pillars showing what the building was meant to be, but is not.
2. Again, I remark that the first crisis spoken of in my text will be our physical ruin. However attractive the body may have been, it must come to defacement and mutilation. Dissolution!
3. Again, I remark, in regard to the first crisis of which I speak, it will be the ending of all our earthly associations. From all our commercial, all our social, all our political, all our religious, all our earthly associations, we will be snapped short off.
4. Again, I remark, in regard to that first crisis, it will be the ending of the day of grace. Before that, plenty of bright sabbaths, and golden communion days, and prayers, and sermons, and songs; but at that point a messenger from God will stand with uplifted hand, bidding all opportunities of salvation “Stand back!” But I have given you only half the text. Is there anything after that? When our physical life is extinct, are we done? No! I am immortal. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.”
In that one word of eight letters are piled up harps and chains, palaces and dungeons, hallelujahs and wailings of eternity.
1. I remark, in regard to that second crisis, that it will be our physical reconstruction. Paul will get back his body without the thorn in the flesh; Payson his, without the pang; Robert Hall his, without the lifelong excruciation; Nero his; Robespierre his; Napoleon III. his; the sot his; the libertine his. Some of the bodies built up into unending rapture, some of them into unending pang.
2. I remark, again, in regard to that second crisis, that it will be the time of explanation. Why is it that the good have it hard and the bad have it easy?
Why that the Christian mother is deprived to-day of her only child, and the household of the godless left undisturbed? I appeal to the day of judgment. On that day God will be vindicated, and men will cry out, “He is right--everlastingly right!”
3. That last crisis, I remark, will be one also of scrutiny. I do not know how long the last trial will take, but I am very certain that all the past will rush through our recollection. And just imagine it, how that man, that woman will feel when displayed before him or her there shall be ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years of unimproved opportunities.
4. I remark, again, in regard to that crisis, that it will be one of irrevocable decision. If we lose our case in the Court of “Common Pleas,” we take it to the “Circuit”; or, failing there, we take it to “Chancery,” or “Supreme Court.” If we are tried before a petit jury, and the case goes against us through some technicality of the law, we get a new trial. But, when the decision of the last day shall be given, there will be no appeal. (T. DeWitt Talmage.)
Death and judgment
I. A SOLEMN EVENT--death and judgment.
II. THE GLORIOUS WORK OF CHRIST--He was offered to bear the sins of many.
III. THE FINAL AND TRIUMPHANT RESULTS--unto them that look for Him shall He appear a second time without sin, unto salvation. (George Hall.)
Death, judgment, and salvation
I. THE SENTENCE OF DEATH. When it is said “once to die,” a resurrection from the dead and life after death are implied. Otherwise, had death been the extinction of being, it would have been sufficient to have said simply “to die”; for what could have remained beyond it to render repetition possible? One awful truth is established--that, dying once, we can die no more. Whatsoever state, therefore, we enter, whether of happiness or of misery, is eternal.
II. THE SUMMONS TO JUDGMENT. The sin of another renders us liable to death; but associated with the last tribunal everything is personal. I shall be judged by myself, and must answer for myself. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
III. THE REVELATION OF LIFE. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” “Offered”--behold here the character of His death. The whole argument of this Epistle is, that the death of Christ was a sacrifice. Connect whatever else with it you please, this is its leading feature--“to bear the sins of many.” In what sense to bear their sins? Assuredly as their substitute, to suffer in their stead. “To bear the sins of many.” It is clear that they are not few who shall be saved. Bigotry and party find no ground on which to place their foot here.
IV. THE RETURN OF THE SAVIOUR. “He shall appear the second time without sin,” properly without a sin-offering. He appears not again to make an atonement for sin. For what purpose, then, shall He appear in all this glory the second time? “Unto salvation.” To bring with Him the glorified spirits of His people; to raise their bodies from the grave, and to transform them into the likeness of His own, to give a public manifestation of their adoption, to place them upon His throne; and so shall they ever be with the Lord. To whom will this second appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ be fraught with such transcendant blessings? “Unto them that look for Him.” In this fine figure of one watching until the day break and the shadows flee away, what lively faith, unyielding patience, established hope, fixed expectation, unslumbering vigilance, inextinguishable zeal, and ardent love, are implied!--all the graces of the Spirit in full exercise--all present ills swallowed up in the anticipation of the approaching crisis. (W. B.Collyer, D. D.)
Death and judgment
I. HERE WE SEE AN APPOINTMENT, A DECREE, A SENTENCE: WHEREIN FOUR CIRCUMSTANCES ARE TO BE OBSERVED.
1. By whom this appointment is made, namely, by God Almighty, in whom there is not a shadow of turning, and which is able to bring that to pass which He hath appointed. Men are mutable; they appoint and disappoint; it is not so with God; hath He said it, and shall He not do it? Therefore, as sure as God is in heaven, this appointment shall stand. Who at any time hath resisted His will? who can break His appointment?
2. What it is that is appointed--once to die. What is death? Properly to speak, it is a separation of the soul from the body.
3. There is an extraordinary dying, and an ordinary. Some have died twice, as Lazarus, and those that rose with Christ at His resurrection; but ordinarily it is appointed to all men once to die. It is not appointed to all to be rich, wise, learned, but to die.
4. Why was this appointment made? Because of sin (Romans 5:12), “at what time thou eatest, thou shalt die the death.” Why are we afraid of the plague? Because it will kill us. Sin will kill both soul and body; therefore let us all be afraid to sin.
5. The persons to whom this appointment is made, to men--to all men. There is no man living but shall see death: it is appointed to kings to die, to dukes, earls, lords, knights, gentlemen, merchants, clothiers, husbandmen, to high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned. It is appointed to the ministers to die, and to the people; to the master, and servant; to the husband, and to the wife. We read of a woman that had seven husbands, they all died, and in the end the woman died also. None can avoid the stroke of death: the physicians that cure others, at the length die; the godly die; so good men and women die, as well as bad, as the faithful are sick as well as the unfaithful, so also they die as well as others.
II. DEATH GOES NOT ALONE, THERE IS ONE THAT FOLLOWS HER, AND THAT IS JUDGMENT. Judgment, either of absolution for the godly, or of condemnation for the wicked. If there were no judgment after death, the godly of all others were most miserable; and if no judgment, the ungodly were the happiest men. The drunkard must give an account of his drunkenness, the covetous man how he hath employed his riches; we must give an account of our oppressions, thefts secret or open, of our negligent coming to church and contempt of the Word of God. Let this cause us with a narrow eye to look into our lives, let us judge ourselves in this world, that we be not condemned hereafter. Yet there be a number in the Church that think it a scarecrow, and make a mock at this judgment, as the Athenians did at the resurrection (Acts 17:32). Let it be a means to pull us from sin, and to make our peace with God in this world, that we may stand without trembling before the Son of man. (W. Jones, D. D.)
Death and judgment
I. This passage, beyond all its solemnity, DOES HONOUR TO MAN. It declares that death leaves his essential nature untouched. After death he is still man. No affection, no principle of human nature is lost.
II. These TWO APPEARANCES OF MAN CORRESPOND WITH THE TWO APPEARANCES OF CHRIST, the representative Man of the race. As Christ inherits to eternity what He acquired in His earthly humanity, so shall we.
III. Our brief planetary existence IS QUITE LONG ENOUGH FOR THE INNER, THE ESSENTIAL MAN, TO TAKE THE STAMP, SPIRIT, AND GENERAL CHARACTER OF HIS ENDLESS AFTER LIFE.
IV. In the present outer court or vestibule of our nature OUR ESSENTIAL HUMANITY IS IN PROCESS OF FORMATION. And who can fail to admire the justice and mercy of the Divine provision by which the hereditary nature, formed independently of our personal choice, is not permitted to be our final nature; but every man’s final nature shall be the result of the choice and co-operation of his own will and personality.
V. A MAN IS UNDER NO ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF CONSIDERING THE BEARINGS OF HIS PRESENT LIFE ON HIS FUTURE. It is not more time we want, but more will.
VI. Whether we are made out of heaven for heaven, or out of more dusky elements for the dusky world, WE SHALL HAVE TO KEEP OUR APPOINTMENT.
VII. By death we go into THE SEARCHING ROOM OF TRUTH. That will not harm us if we invite the truth to search us beforehand.
VIII. IT IS WISE AND FRIENDLY THAT TIME SHOULD CLOSE WITH US AND ETERNITY OPEN.
IX. TIME IS A SURPRISING MERCY BEFORE ETERNITY BEGINS.
X. EVERY MAN’S LOOK FORWARD DEPENDS ON HIS LOOK BACKWARD.
XI. IF THE HEAVENLY NATURE IS NOT IN US, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT THE JUDGMENT OF GOD SHOULD PUT US INTO THE SOCIETY OF HEAVENLY PERSONS.
XII. YOU SHALL NOT BE ADJUDGED TO A PLACE OUTSIDE HEAVEN, UNLESS YOU ADJUDGE CHRIST TO A PLACE OUTSIDE YOUR SOULS. (J. Punshon.)
One death and one salvation:
There are few things which more strike a reflective mind, one which seriously ponders the relation of the creature to the moral Governor of the universe, than that the period of human probation should be so short, when compared with the period of recompense. There seems, at first sight, little or nothing of proportion between the thing done and the penalty incurred: and, accordingly, it is no unfrequent argument with those who wish to get rid of the plain statements of Scripture, that it cannot be just to visit the momentary gratification of a passion with everlasting pains, and that, therefore, there will come a termination of the torments of the lost. We need hardly pause to observe to you, that in every such reasoning there is a grievous forgetfulness of the very nature of sin, as committed against an infinite Being; for it is impossible that any sin should be inconsiderable, seeing that it offers violence to all the attributes of God, however insignificant it may appear in itself. But nevertheless, we are free to own, that had not Scripture been definite on the point, there would have seemed nothing wild in the supposition that men might be admitted to other states of probation, and that the whole of their eternity would not be made dependent on the single trial they pass through on earth. We do not know that we have a right to refer it to anything else but a Divine appointment, that those who fail in the single trial are not allowed to try again, so that no opportunity is afforded for endeavouring to retrieve what is lost: but certainly the statements of the Bible are sufficiently explicit, and leave no room for the supposition that the present life is to be followed by other periods of probation. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment”; and the judgment as delineated in the figures and assertions of Holy Writ, closes up God’s dealings with the human race in its probationary character, and is followed by nothing but one interminable dispensation of happiness or misery. So that if there be but one death, and that one succeeded by the judgment, without the intervention of new seasons of trial, it is evident that man’s portion for eternity is to be decided exclusively by what he now does on the earth: that in the brief space of his present life he is to lose or secure everlasting glory. And is there in this any just ground of complaint, anything that can be proved at variance with either the wisdom or mercy of God? We know that at first thought the persuasion will be, that if the appointment were somewhat less rigid--if men might die twice in place of only once, so that, having failed in the first trial, they might return to the second with all the experience derived from having actually entered the invisible world--there would be a vast increase in the numbers of the righteous; and we may possibly marvel that no further opportunity should be granted, when the result would be to throng heaven with a mightier multitude. But even if you put out of sight that sufficient has been done for every man in his present state of probation, we can have no right to wonder; and we see strong ground for question-in whether there would be any such increase in the number of the righteous as you are inclined to suppose. We rather think, if it had been appointed to men to die twice, far more would die eternally than now that it is appointed unto men to die once. If even now, when we tell you, if you die in your sins you are everlastingly lost, we are heard with indifference, what would it be if you had the thorough assurance that though you threw away the present opportunity, another would yet be vouchsafed? Indeed, if you could only die twice, we could hope to produce no moral impression on any man who had not yet died once. It is impossible to question, seeing that even under the present arrangement everybody is disposed to defer the work of repentance--it is impossible to question, that, with scarce an exception, men would put off seeking the Lord until after the first death; and the rarest thing on earth would be the spectacle of an individual who had resolved to forego the pleasures of sin, without waiting to undergo the second probation. So that we should have to seek the righteous almost exclusively among those upon whom the first death had passed. And here, perhaps, you think we should find them in great numbers. We do not think so. These men would enter upon their second season of probation, with a conscience hardened and seared by the despite done to God through the whole of their first. It is true, they would have been made to taste something of the recompence of sin, and that therefore they would be their own witnesses to the stern consequences of persisting in evil; but in a short time the testimony of sense wears away, and it becomes nothing more than the testimony of faith; and the man who is impervious to God’s threatenings might easily become proof against his own recollections. And then you are to consider, that with this hardened conscience, and this ever-strengthening tendency to forgetfulness of their sufferings, they have before them the prospect of another long life, and therefore are as likely as ever to procrastinate. We now advance to the statements in the second verse of our text, between which and those of the first we are to search for such a correspondence as may justify the form of expression which the apostle adopts. It will not be necessary that we insist on the great doctrine of the atonement, which is evidently affirmed by the words under review. Without enlarging on points on which we may suppose you to be agreed, we shall lay the stress where the apostle seems to lay it, on the fact that “Christ was once offered”--a fact which is made to answer to the other, that “it is appointed unto men once to die.” We wish you again especially to observe how the apostle sets these facts one against the other. You strip his expressions of all force, unless you suppose that the appointment of a single death proves in some way the sufficiency of a single sacrifice. Why was Christ offered but once? Because “it is appointed unto men once to die.” St. Paul states in the one verse what was the condition of man, and to what he was exposed in consequence of sin, and then he shows in the other verse that Christ had done precisely what was needed in order to man’s deliverance and happiness. The one verse is the law, requiring that man should die and be then eternally condemned; the other verse is the gospel, proclaiming an arrangement through which death is abolished, and judgment may issue in nothing but salvation. And by putting the one verse in contrast with the other, St. Paul affirms the precision with which the provisions of the gospel meet the demands of the law; the former so answering to the latter, as to prove them constructed for the purpose of setting man free. The whole appointment of vengeance might be gathered into two articles, the death and the judgment. This was the appalling sum of the penalties which man incurred by disobedience to God; it is appointed to him once to die, and after this the judgment. And then there stood forth a Surety for the lost, a Surety so capable of suffering in their stead, that by one offering of Himself, He could redeem the whole race from the curse which had fastened on both body and soul. Yea, and so confident have we a right to be in the extent of that love which was felt for human kind, that we may be sure that had a second sacrifice been necessary, a second sacrifice would not have been withheld; but there remained nothing that love with all its anxiety could suggest, which has not been done for the welfare of its objects. The one death of the Mediator threw life into the dead, and gaining for Him the office of Judge, secured the final acquittal of all that believe on His name. And therefore might the apostle glory in this one death, and magnify it in comparison with the altars and sacrifices of the Mosaic economy; therefore might he insist on the fact that Christ was to die only once, as overwhelming evidence of the awful dignity of the surety, for that myriads were to be quickened through one death--the past, the present, the future being alike pervaded by the energies of one expiatory act. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. UNDER WHAT PRACTICAL NOTIONS WE SHOULD CONSIDER DEATH.
1. We should consider death as an event certain and inevitable, in consequence of the irreversible sentence once pronounced to our first parents, and, in them, to all succeeding generations.
2. We should consider death as an event removed at no great, though an uncertain, distance. For, how transitory is life! at the longest, how short! and at the best, how frail!
3. Again, we should consider death as an event that will consign us to an immediate state of happiness or misery.
II. THE UTILITY OF THE RELIGIOUS CONSIDERATION OF DEATH,
1. It discovers to us the unimportance and vanity of all temporal enjoyments; which, however satisfactory or delightful, are yet short and transitory. It evinces the indiscretion of an intemperate attachment to the world. It serves to extend our views, and elevate our desires.
2. It is the best guard of innocence and virtue. Temptations surround us on all sides, to prevent which nothing can be more effectual than ,serious meditations on that eternity into which we must soon, and may suddenly, enter.
3. It is the best preparative for a comfortable death. Nothing dissipates the fears of death so much as due preparation for it; nothing so effectually disarms it of its terrors, as the consciousness of integrity. (G. Carr, B. A.)
Death a Divine appointment:
I. ALL THE ANTECEDENTS AND PRELIMINARIES OF DEATH ARE INCLUDED IN THE APPOINTMENT.
II. THIS APPOINTMENT, THOUGH UNIVERSAL, HAS VERY DIFFERENT ASPECTS.
III. THIS APPOINTMENT ILLUSTRATES THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF GOD.
IV. THIS APPOINTMENT SPEAKS INTELLIGIBLY AND IMPRESSIVELY TO ALL.
V. THIS APPOINTMENT EXERTS A MOST SALUTARY INFLUENCE ON THE EXPERIENCE OF THE BELIEVER.
VI. THIS APPOINTMENT DERIVES MUCH OF ITS SOLEMNITY FROM THE FACT THAT AFTER “DEATH THE JUDGMENT.” (J. Hewlett.)
I. That which I shall do, shall be, in an applicatory way, to make some REFLECTIONS UPON THE STUPIDITY OF MEN; who, though they know themselves mortal, yet thrust from themselves the thoughts of death, and neglect due preparations for it.
1. The generality of men are so immersed in the affairs and pleasures of life, that all serious thoughts of death and preparations for it are swallowed up by them.
2. Men put off the thoughts of death and their preparations for it, because they generally look upon it as afar off.
3. Men generally put off the thoughts of death and their preparation for it, because of those frightful terrors and that insupportable dread which such apprehensions bring with them.
II. The next thing shall be to lay down some CONSIDERATIONS, WHICH MAY FORE-ARM CHRISTIANS AGAINST THE FEARS AND TERRORS OF DEATH, and make them willing to submit unto this law of dying, unto which God hath subjected all men.
1. If the soul be immortal, as certainly it is, and that, parting from this, it enters upon a better life than this, we may well then be contented to die upon that account.
2. The whole life of a Christian is founded upon a hope that cannot be accomplished but by dying.
3. This death, though so much dreaded, is no other than a quiet sleep.
III. But now, beside this general appointment of God, that all shall die, there is a PARTICULAR APPOINTMENT, which reacheth to every particular circumstance of man’s death; the time when, the manner how, we shall die. These are unalterably determined, in God’s secret counsel.
IV. Let us now make some PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT of this.
1. If God hath thus appointed us to die, let this then serve to convince us of the gross folly of setting our affections eagerly upon this present world, a world which we must shortly leave behind us.
2. Seeing by the appointment of God we must all shortly die, let us he persuaded to be always in a readiness and preparation for it.
(1) Wean your hearts from an inordinate love of the world. Death must and will pluck you from it: and, oh! it will be a violent rending, if your affections be glued to it.
(2) Would you be prepared for death? Beware, then, that you do not defer your repentance one day or hour longer, upon any presumption of the continuance of your life. Death depends not upon the warning of a sickness. God doth not always afford it; but, sometimes, He doth execution before He shoots off His warning-piece. And why may it not be so with you?
(3) Live every day so, as if every day were your last and dying day, and the very next day allotted to you unto eternity. If it be not so, it is more than any of us know; and, since we have no assurance of one day or hour longer, it is but wisdom to look upon every day as that which may prove our very last.
(4) Be constant in the exercise of a holy life, and always doing of that which you would be content Christ should find you doing when He comes to summon you before His bar.
(5) Labour to get an assurance of a better life, and this will prepare you for a temporal death. When you and all things in the world must take leave of one another and part for ever, then to have the sense of the love of God, of an interest in Jesus Christ, and the sight of your own graces; these will bear up your heart in a dying hour: these things are immortal, as your souls are. (Bp. E. Hopkins.)
I. CONSIDER DEATH AS AN :EVENT THE PERIOD OF WHICH IS UNCERTAIN.
II. A GOOD LIFE IS THE REST PREPARATION FOR DEATH. Every man dies as he lives; and it is by the general tenor of the life, not a particular frame of mind at the hour of death, that we are to be judged at the tribunal of God.
III. CONSIDER DEATH AS BECOMING PRESENT TO US. HOW will the closing eye contemplate the glitter of life, the evil of avarice, the bustling of ambition, and all this circle of vanity to which we are now enchanted?
IV. BY MAKING THE THOUGHT OF DEATH PRESENT TO US, LET US REGULATE OUR CONDUCT with respect to the friendships which we form, and concerning the animosities which we entertain. However some men choose to live, all men would wish to die at peace with their neighbours; there is no enmity in the grave. (John Logan.)
Death an appointment
I. IT IS APPOINTED UNTO MEN TO DIE. Man, then, is no exception to the universal doom, to the all-prevailing law of earthly life. We live in a dying world. At any time, under any circumstances, death is appalling. He is well called “the King of terrors.” The dread of death crowns all our fears. He comes to the work of destruction blind, heartless, inexorable. All the approaches to death make it dreadful. The crowded way of pale disease, of corrupting beauty, of enfeebled powers, of grief and distressing care, of disconsolate old age, of life which enjoys life no longer, makes us dread death. For, if the way be such, what must it be to pass through that crowded gate. Moreover, dying is an utterly new experience, to be undergone alone, and not to be repeated. We cannot practise dying, nor can any one accompany us.
II. OUR TEXT, HOWEVER, MEETS THIS DREAD, RELIEVES THE DANKNESS AND FURNISHES GROUND FOR HOPE. It speaks of death as an “appointment”--a Divine appointment, also, of an “after-death.” It, moreover, brings ourdeath into relation with the death of Christ, and our “after-death” with “His coming again without sin unto salvation.” Death, then, is not an end, still less is it simply a punishment.
III. Now LET US SEE THAT DEATH IS AN APPOINTMENT WHICH IS RETROSPECTIVE. The spirit in the full contents of its life looks back upon all opportunity and power, in relation to the possibilities of its being, as closed, and begins to learn from within what have been their use or abuse, and to anticipate their future consequences.
IV. FOR DEATH IS AN APPOINTMENT WHICH IS RETROSPECTIVE BECAUSE IT IS ALSO PROSPECTIVE. It looks back, and from the past determines the future. There is an after-death to which our moral nature points, of which it makes demands. Things do not appear on this side the grave in their true relations. Strange combinations present themselves, which are often held together simply by the force of circumstances and the necessities of our temporal forms of life, against which we often carry a deep inward protest. But death resolves all these false combinations and unrighteous alliances, and separates from us all that is foreign to our real life, and restores to us all that is truly ours. (W. Pulsford, D. D.)
Life the preparation for death:
Why is there such awe in that brief word, “death”? It is not the mere loss of this life or its joys, which gives that start of fear. Loss we may grieve over! It does not give that piercing shock of personal fear. The poet truly said, “Conscience does make cowards of us all.” For the apostle said, “The sting of death is sin.” Hence was it that a brave man, sent on a forlorn hope, turned back to meet a disgraced death. Death confronted:him; one deadly unrepented sin flashed on his mind; he dared meet death; he dared not meet an unreconciled God. Why did the sight of the decayed remains of his pious and beautiful queen so affect the young Duke of Gandia (S. Francis Borgia), that for his thirty-three remaining years he never forgot that sight, and at once died to the world, that at his death he might live to God? Why, in our own days, did that chance glance at the morning dress laid aside for dinner, awakening the thought of our laying aside this our mortal frame, change in an -instant the whole current of the life of a noble convert, while yet young, and make him give his life, his all to God? What gives to death this solemn aspect? The answer is simple. We can but die once. Every error, negligence, ignorance, sin, can be, in some sort, undone. But if we fail in death, it cannot be repaired. All of life is summed up there. “It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that”--what, a second trial? a second plank after shipwreck? a fresh use of all the experience of life? However any may act, you too know that God saith none of these things, but, “It is appointed unto all men once to die, but after that, the judgment.”. But, because death is an act so alone, so single, so distinct and separate in its nature and its issue from all besides in life, does it therefore stand insulated? If one were to judge from the ways and words of mankind, it must surely be so. It is the one thing in this life, which is absolutely certain! All depends on it. Eternity hangs upon the moment of death; eternal bliss, eternal woe. And yet who prepares for it? The thought is an unwelcome guest, to whom men refuse entrance, if they can; if they cannot, they are fertile in excuses for dismissing him. They would fain never think of him, till he comes to carry them to judgment. We know that we must die. Why embitter life with the thought of it? And yet how should it be, that everything of moment in this life, which has to be done well, is to be studied, and that the weightiest act of all should need no study, no preparation? Is there no science of dying well? Life, will we, nill we, is the preparation for death. We liltSS, but to die. Our death is not the end only, it is the object of our life. Time and eternity meet in that one point. As we are in that last moment of time, such are we throughout eternity. How then can we prepare for that moment, upon which our all hangs, and in which we can do so little, nay, in which almost all must be done for us? What can men do then mostly, but repeat what they have done before? Good, if by God’s grace they are done sincerely; comforts to survivors. But are such few acts, even if God continue the grace to do them, are such few acts the turning-points of life and death? Would they replace a wasted life? Would they efface whole multitudes of lifelong sins? Death has a great work for grace to do, in itself, without weighting it with a work not its own. Every sort of death has its own trials. It has become a sort of proverb, “The ruling passion strong in death.” What, if that ruling passion have been something antagonistic to simplicity of character, to the tranquil workings of grace? What if it have been vainglory, or love of praise, or vanity, or impatience, or love of ease, or again disputing, or censoriousness, what pitfalls there yawn on all sides for us, what opening in our armour (if spiritual armour we have) for Satan’s deadly thrusts, what occasions for unreality, in the face of the truth itself, for loss of faith when faith is our all; for murmuring against Divine justice when about to appear at its bar! Probably those evil deaths after specious lives have had this in common, that it was the evil passion to which such men had often secretly given way, a smothered, smouldering, but unextinguished fire, which burst out at last and destroyed them. I have known of relapse into the deadly accustomed sin on the bed of death. Since then death has enough of trial in itself for the grace of God to master, since those trials are aggravated by all unconquered evil in our whole life, since a good death is the object of our life, and such as we are in life, such we shall almost surely be in death, and what we are in death, such we shall certainly be in all eternity, what remains but that we make all our life a preparation for eternity? Heathen wisdom saw a gleam of this. “Who closes best his last day?” one was asked. “He who ever set before him, that the last day of life was imminent.” Not without inspiration of God was that counsel, “In all thy works remember thy end, and thou shalt never do amiss.” It was a good old-fashioned practice, morning by morning, to think of the four last things, death, judgment, heaven, hell, and to pray to live that day as one would wish to have lived when the last day came. Every day is a part of our death, and enters into it. For death, which sums up all, gathers into one the results of each of our days; and each day as we live well or ill, through the grace of God or our own fault, is the earnest of many like days beyond. It is a stern nakedness of truth, stern only because it is so true: “He is not worthy to be called a Christian, who lives in that state wherein he would fear to die.” For nothing makes death fearful except the fear of all fears, lest we be separated from Christ. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
Confessions of dying men
1. When men come to die, they are wont to feel, with a vividness of impression wholly unknown before, the shortness of life and the unspeakable value of time. Lord Chesterfield, though a sceptic, and devoted to a life of pleasure, was compelled to say, near the close of his days, “When I reflect upon what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I can hardly persuade myself that all the frivolous hurry and bustle and pleasure of the world are a reality; but they seem to have been the dreams of restless nights.” Voltaire, after having spent a long life in blaspheming the Saviour and opposing His gospel, said to his physician on his dying bed, “I will give you half of what I am worth, if you will give me six months of life.” “O time! time!” exclaimed the dying Altamont; “how art thou fled for ever! A month! oh, for a single week! I ask not for years, though an age were too little for the much I have to do.” Said Gibbon, “The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more, and my prospect of futurity is dark and doubtful.” Hobbes said, as the last hour approached, “If I bad the whole world to dispose of, I would give it to live one day.” “Oh! “ cried the Duke of Buckingham, as he was closing a life devoted to folly and sin,” what a prodigal I have been of the most valuable of all possessions--time! I have squandered it away with the persuasion that it was lasting; and, now, when a few days would be worth a heatcomb of worlds, I cannot flatter myself with the prospect of half a dozen hours.
2. Another confession which is wont to be made by dying men is that there is nothing in this world that can satisfy the wants of the immortal soul. When Salmasius, one of the greatest scholars of his time, drew near to death, he exclaimed bitterly against himself--“Oh, I have lost a world of time; time, the most precious thing on the earth, whereof if I had but one year more, it should be spent in David’s Psalms and Paul’s Epistles. Oh, mind the world less and God more!” Grotius possessed the finest genius ever recorded of a youth in the learned world, and rose to an eminence in literature and science which drew upon him the admiration of all Europe; yet after all his attainments and high reputation, he was constrained at last to cry out--“Ah, I have consumed my life in a laborious doing of nothing! I would give all my learning and honour for the plain integrity of John Urick”--a poor man of eminent piety. Sir John Mason, on his deathbed, said--“I have lived to see five princes, and have been privy counsellor to four of them; I have seen the most important things in foreign parts, and have been present at most state transactions for thirty years together; and I have learned, after so many years’ experience, that seriousness is the greatest wisdom, temperance the best physic, and a good conscience the best estate. And were I to live again I would change the whole life I have lived in the palace, for an hour’s enjoyment of God in the chapel.” Philip, the third king of Spain, when he drew near the end of his days, expressed his deep regret for a worldly and careless life in these emphatic words--“Ah, how happy it would have been for me had I spent these twenty-three years I have held my kingdom, in retirement.” “Good God!” exclaimed a dying nobleman, “how have I employed myself! In what delirium has my life been passed! What have I been doing while the sun in its race and the stars in their courses have lent their beams, perhaps, only to light me to perdition! I have pursued shadows, and entertained myself with dreams. I have been treasuring up dust, and sporting myself with the wind. I might have grazed with the beasts of the field, or sung with the winged inhabitants of the woods, to much better purpose than any for which I have lived.”
3. When men are laid upon a dying bed they are wont to feel and to acknowledge the utter insufficiency of a mere moral life to prepare them to appear in the presence of God. “It is not giving up my breath,” said the nobleman before referred to, “it is not being for ever insensible, that is the thought at which I shrink; it is the terrible hereafter, the something beyond the grave, at which I recoil. Those great realities which in the hours of mirth and vanity I have treated as phantoms, as the idle dreams of superstitious beings, these start forth and dare me now in their most terrible demonstrations.” “Oh, my friends,” exclaimed the pious Janeway, we “little think what Christ is worth on a death-bed. I would not now for a world, nay, for millions of worlds, be without Christ and pardon.” “God might justly condemn me,” said Richard Baxter, “for the best deeds I ever did, and all my hopes are from the free mercy of God in Christ.” Said the meek and learned Hooker, as he approached his end: “Though I have by His grace loved God in my youth and feared Him in my age, and laboured to have a conscience void of offence to Him and to all men, yet, if Thou, O Lord, be extreme to mark what I have done amiss, who can abide it? And, therefore, where I have failed, show mercy to me, for I plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, for His merits who died to purchase pardon for penitent sinners.” Such too were the feelings of our own venerated Hooker in his dying hour. To a friend who said to him, “Sir, you are going to receive the reward of your labours,” he replied, “Brother, I am going to receive mercy.” And not to mention other examples under this head, let me refer to the case of Dr. Johnson. He was a moral man; but his morality could not soften the terrors of a death-bed, nor give him the least peace in prospect of meeting his Judge. When a friend, to calm his agitated mind, referred him to his correct morals and useful life for topics of consolation, he put them away as nothing worth, and in bitterness of soul exclaimed, “Shall I, who have been a teacher of others, be myself cast away?” This great man had not then fled for refuge to the blood of atonement, as he afterwards did; and, therefore, notwithstanding his moral and useful life, he was afraid to die, and all beyond the grave looked dark and gloomy to him. And so it must look to all who come to the dying hour with no better preparation than is furnished in a moral life.
4. Men at the hour of death are constrained to acknowledge the folly and guilt of an irreligious life, and the supreme importance of a saving interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever apologies are made in the days of health and prosperity for the neglect, of religion, those apologies are found utterly worthless on a death-bed, and are renounced as vain and delusive. Religion is then felt to be indeed the one thing needful, and the whole earth too poor to be given in exchange for the soul. None find peace and hope in that hour but those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in the gospel. The world retires then, and leaves its wretched votaries in poverty and despair. But heaven comes near to sustain and comfort the faithful servants of God; and they feel that an interest in Christ is of more value than a thousand worlds like this. Look at Enoch walking with God, who through faith was exempted from death, and was not, for God took him; at David comforting himself in the close of life in the assurance that God had made an everlasting covenant with him, ordered in all things and sure; at Paul joyfully declaring in the near view of death, “I know in whom I have believed”; at the dying missionary, Ziegenbalger, exclaiming, “Washed from my sins in the blood of Christ, and clothed with His righteousness, I shall enter into His eternal kingdom”; at Swartz sweetly singing his soul away to everlasting bliss; at Baxter, saying, amid the sinkings of nature, “I am almost well”; at Owen lifting up his eyes and his hands as in a kind of rapture, and exclaiming to a friend, “Oh, brother, the long looked for day is come at last, in which I shall see the glory of Christ in another manner than I have ever yet done”; at Edwards comforting his family, as they stood around his dying bed, with the memorable words, “Trust in God, and you have nothing to fear”; at Martyn in the solitudes of Persia, writing thus s few days before his death--“I sat alone, and thought with sweet comfort and peace of God, in solitude my company, my friend, and comforter”; at Dwight exclaiming, when the seventeenth chapter of John was’ read to him, “Oh, what triumphant truths!”; at Evarts shouting “Glory! Jesus reigns! “ as he closed his eyes on death; at Payson uttering the language of assurance, as he grappled with his last enemy--“The battle is fought! the battle is fought! and the victory is won for ever!” In a word, look at the great cloud of witnesses, who in the faith of Jesus have triumphed over death and the grave, and peacefully closed their eyes on this world in joyful hope of opening them in another and a better, and you will learn in what estimation religion is held, when the scenes of earth are retiring, and those of eternity are opening upon the vision of dying men. Think of it as we may, while the event is viewed as future and distant, we shall all find, when the last hour comes, that it is indeed a serious matter to die. A future state, said the Duke of Buckingham, dying in despair, may well strike terror into a man who has not acted well in life; and he must have an uncommon share of courage indeed who does not shrink at the presence of God. And even Lord Chesterfield, sceptic and devotee of pleasure as he was, was compelled to acknowledge, as the closing scene drew on, “When one does see death near, let the best or the worst people say what they please, it is a serious consideration.” “Remorse for the past,” exclaimed the dying Altamont, “throws my thoughts on the future. Worse dread of the future strikes them back on the past. I turn and turn, and find no ray of light. Death is knocking at my doors; in a few hours more I shall draw my last gasp; and then the judgment, the tremendous judgment! How shall I appear, all unprepared as I am, before the all-knowing and omnipotent God?” “O eternity, eternity,” cried the distracted Newport, as he lay upon his death-bed, contemplating the solemn scenes before him, “who can paraphrase on the words for ever and ever?” Such are the confessions that are wont to be made by dying men; such the feelings and thoughts that crowd upon the mind as the last hour approaches. And in view of them we may remark:
1. They are founded in truth; there is just cause for them It is true that life is short, and that time is of infinite value. It is true that this world contains nothing which can satisfy the wants of the immortal mind. It is true that a moral life is utterly insufficient as a preparation for death and the judgment. It is true that an irreligious life is a life of extreme folly and presumption, and that a saving interest in Christ is a matter of supreme importance to every living man. And the wonder is, not that dying men should feel these things to be true, and be deeply affected by them, but that living men should treat them with indifference.
2. That many of my hearers will, in a short time, view the subject in a very different light from that in which they now contemplate it. Some of you are young, and in the buoyant feelings of youth and health scarcely think it possible that you may soon be called to death and the judgment. Some of you are profoundly careless of your immortal well-being, and are so enamoured of the things of the world that you seldom think of your latter end. Others of you are perhaps sceptical as to the reality of a change of heart to fit you for the closing scene; others of you still, who bear the Christian name, are probably deceived as to the ground of your hope, or are living in a state of backsliding from God, awfully unprepared for His summons to leave the world. To all such the Son of man is likely to come in an hour they think not of; and when He comes, they will be thrown into fearful consternation, and the dreams with which they are now deluded will vanish for ever.
3. It is the part of true wisdom to cherish those views and feelings now, which we know we shall regard as of supreme importance when we come to die. Why should any spend life in treasuring materials for sorrow, disappointment, and despair in the dying hour? Why should any gather food for the worm that never dies, or fuel for the fire that is never quenched?
4. The confessions of dying men are of no avail, only as they indicate the folly of sin and the value of religion. They do not change the character--they do not fit the soul for death or for heaven. The strong bands of sin are not so dissolved, nor is it so that the love of God and Christ is inspired in the bosom, and mettness acquired for a place among the redeemed in heaven. Be wise, then, in this your day, to attend to the things which belong to your peace, lest they be hid for ever from your eyes. Go learn the value of religion in the peaceful and triumphant death of those that die in the Lord; go learn its value in the remorse and despair of those that die in neglect of Christ and His salvation. (J. Hawes, D. D.)
The inevitable ending
1. Consider the statement in itself. It affirms a universal law. “What man is he that liveth and shall not see death?”
2. How are we to account for this great law?
(1) It is, says our science, a law of nature: it is an inevitable incident in the chemical development of animal organism. From the moment of our birth we carry within us the seeds, the secrets of our dissolution. The operation of the law may be delayed by precautions which interrupt the action of the causes which would more immediately precipitate it: it may be prematurely enforced through the rapid development of some latent poison or weakness in the system; but in the end will have its way anyhow.
(2) It is, says faith, a law of religion. I had better said, it is a law of the Divine government. We do not deny that death is the term of a process which the chemistry of the human body renders inevitable, because we also see in it a great moral act of the living God, a fact which belongs, in all its highest aspects, purely to the spiritual, to the supersensuous world. Death, it has been finely said by a modern writer, is the very masterpiece of the Divine justice. It is not merely a consequence, it is a measure, of sin. It is God’s way of tracing out, as if before our very eyes, what, in His judgment, sin is, because sin has lodged itself in the inmost recesses of our complex being, where spirit and body find their unseen, their unimagined, point of unity, and so is transmitted with the inheritance of life from sire to son. Therefore, we may dare to say, it was necessary, if sin was to be exposed and vanquished, if it was to be torn forth by the very roots, from the nature with which it was so mercilessly interwoven, that God should sever the most secret bonds which unite soul and body--that He should break up this mould of life which had been so deeply dishonoured in the interests of His enemy. And yet in doing this He was only letting sin take its natural course, for sin is in its essence the germ of death. Death is merely the prolongation into the sphere of physical existence of that disorganisation which sin induces into the sphere of spirit. Death is destruction spreading downwards from a higher to a lower department of being, like a fire which has broken out in the upper story of a palace, and which goes on to enwrap in its fury the floors beneath.
3. The practical bearings of this appointment to die. It teaches us our highest work in this life. We live that we may prepare to die. There are four lines of preparation.
(1) There is the discipline of resignation. It may seem hard to part with so many friends, so many interests, so much work, so many hopes, so many enthusiasms. But there is no help for it, and it is better, for our own sakes, and still more for the honour of our God, that we should bow to the inevitable.
(2) There is the discipline of repentance.
(3) There is the training of prayer--I should speak more accurately--of worship. When we pray, really shutting out the things and thoughts of time, cleansing the inner temple of the soul; when we behold the realities over which death has no power, the realities which have no relation to time--the everlasting throne, the unceasing intercession--we are not onlyinsensibly suffused with the light which streams down from that other world; we learn here upon earth how to behave ourselves in that majestic presence; we learn the manners of another climate, the habits of another society, before our time. And this worship is a training for death.
(4) There is the discipline of voluntary sacrifice. By sacrifice man does not merely learn to await death; he goes out to welcome it. He learns how to transfigure a stern necessity into the sublimest of virtues. His life is not simply to be taken from him: he will have the privilege of offering it to God; for each true act of sacrifice, each surrender, whether in will or in act, of self, carries with it the implied power of controlling the whole being, not merely on ordinary occasions, but at the crisis, at the trial time of destiny. Like his Lord, the Christian must, by many a free surrender of that which he desires, or of that which he loves, prepare himself for the last great act which awaits him when, anticipating, controlling the final struggle, the last agony, the rent, the pang of separation between his body and his soul, he will exclaim with the Redeemer, “Into Thy hands, O Father, I commend my spirit”; but he will add, because he is a sinner--a redeemed sinner--“for Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of Truth.” (Canon Liddon.)
The time of each man’s death Divinely appointed
The fact that God has chosen us to salvation does not make us careless of the means of salvation; so the fact that God has fixed the day, the hour, and the mode of my death, will not make me less attentive to the duties that devolve upon me as a rational, a sensible and a reasonable being. And the practical fact that we find, wherever that thought is cherished, is, that they who believe it most strictly are most attentive to present duties, but most fearless of possible perils. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
I had an interview with death. The place, a lonely dell, winter-bound, swathed in spotless snow. The time, new-risen morn; the last star paling, as if in fear, retired, but not extinguished. A spirit strengthened me to brave the enemy of life, and gave me courage to upbraid his cruelty. My speech I do remember well, and death’s reply. Said I, in heightened tone, as if to keep uncertain courage steadfast and ardent: “Monster, of thee no man speaks well. Thy silent tread makes the house tremble, and in thy cold breath all flowers die. No little child is safe from death’s all-withering touch: nor mothers dost thou spare, nor lovers weaving life’s story into coloured dream, nor saints in lowly prayer. Why not content thyself with warring and succeeding in the gloomy jungle? Smite the tiger crouching for his prey, or the lion in his fierceness, or fly after the punting wolf, or lodge an arrow in the heart of the proud eagle. Why devastate our homes? Why kill our little ones? Why break our hearts and mock our thirst with the brine of useless tears? O death! I would that thou wert dead.” Then death answered me, and filled me with amaze. “Believe me,” said the weird defendant, “thy reasoning is false, thy reproach an unintelligent assault.” His voice was gentle, and through all his pallor there gleamed the outline of a smile. I saw transfigured death. “I am God’s servant. The flock must be brought home. I go to bring the wanderers to the fold. The lambs are God’s, not yours; or yours but to watch and tend until He sends for them. Through your own fatherhood read God’s heart. Through your own watching for the child’s return conceive the thought that glows in love Divine.” He paused. Said I: “Could not some brighter messenger be sent? An angel with sunlight in his eyes and music in his voice? Thou dost affright us so, and make us die so oft in dying once. If our mother could but come, or some kindred soul, or old pastor, whose voice we know; any but thou, so cold, so grim.” “I understand thee well,” said death, “but thou dost not understand thyself. Why does God send this cold snow before the spring? Why icebergs first, then daffodils? My grimness, too, thou dost not comprehend. The living have never seen me. Only the dying can see death. I am but a mask. The angel thou dost pine for is behind. Sometimes angel-mother, sometimes father, sometimes a vanished love, but always, to the good and true, the very image of the Christ. No more revile me. I am a visored friend.” The dell was then transformed. The snow gleamed like silver. The day a cloudless blue. And suddenly living images filled the translucent space. And then I asked of death if he could tell whence came they? And he said: “These are mine. A reaper I, as well as shepherd. I put in the sharp sickle; I bound the sheaves; I garnered the precious harvest; and when I come angels sing ‘Harvest home.’” (J. Parker, D. D.)
Death common to all
A beautiful story is told of Buddha and a poor woman who came to ask him if there was any medicine which would bring back to life her dead child. When he saw her distress he spoke tenderly to her, and he told her that there was one thing which might cure her son. He bade her bring him a handful of mustard seed, common mustard seed; only he charged her to bring it from some house where neither father or mother, child nor servant had died. So the woman took her dead baby in her arms, and went from door to door asking for the mustard seed, and gladly was it given to her; but when she asked whether any had died in that house, each one made the same sad answer “I have lost my husband,” or “My child is dead,” or “Our servant has died.” So with a heavy heart the woman went back to Buddha, and told him how she had failed to get the mustard seed, for that she could not find a single house where none had died. Then Buddha showed her lovingly that she must learn not to think of her own grief alone, but must remember the griefs of others, seeing that all alike are sharers in sorrow and death. (Heralds of the Cross.)
Preparation for death:
Prepare to die whilst you are in health. It is an ill time to calk the ship when at sea, tumbling up and down in a storm: this should have been looked to when she was in port. And as bad is it to begin and trim a soul for heaven when tossing on a sick bed. Things that are done in a hurry are seldom done well. Those poor creatures, I fear, go in an ill dress into another world who begin to provide for it when they are dying but alas, they must go, though they have not time to put on proper clothes. (W. Gurnall.)
Death should be first prepared for:
There was a young man who once went to the city of Rome. He was an intense student. He had studied by the midnight lamp until his face was pale and his eyes were dim, and as he passed along the streets of Rome, he met one who asked him wherefore he had come. The young man replied: “I have come that I may improve and have opportunities for reading.” “And when you have done that, what then?” The youth’s eye brightened with the instinctive ardour of youth, as he said, “Who can tell? I may become a bishop.” “And when you have become a bishop, what then?” It seemed almost a vain thing, but still elasticity and youthful hope were there; and he said, “I may become a cardinal.” “And when you become a cardinal, what then?” “It seems almost madness.” was the reply, “but who can tell? I may become Pope.” “And when you have become Pope, what then?” Poor lad! he had got to the end, and he said, “Well, I suppose I must die.” “Ah!” said the wise old man, “first get ready for that which must be, and afterwards for that which may be. You may be a bishop; you must die. You may be a cardinal; you must die. You may be Pope; but you must die. First make ready for that which must be.” That was wise advice. (S. Coley.)
Certainty of death
A good old man who used to go about doing good in the Tasmanian “bush” stood, shortly before his death, in a small country place of worship to preach the gospel. In the course of his simple address he pulled out a large watch which had long been his faithful companion. “This watch of mine,” said he, “has been going for many years--tick, tick, tick. It is one of the old-fashioned sort and a real trusty one, but it stopped the other day, and has refused to go again. Now, I have lived to old age, healthy and well for the most part: my heart has been beating and my pulse throbbing--tick, tick, tick--“very much like the watch; but I shall stop some day, and be numbered with the dead.” From the way in which the earnest pastor uttered those words, his little congregation knew he spake as a dying man to dying men, and that he realised that he was as likely to go as any. Hence the power which accompanied the exhortation that followed. (Thos. Spurgeon.)
John Asgill distinguished himself by maintaining in a treatise, now forgotten, that death is no natural necessity, and that to escape it is within the range of the humanly practicable. But Asgill’s biography, like every other, has for a last page the inevitable “And he died.” (Francis Jacox.)
Death is a black camel which kneels at every door. (Persian proverb.)
Death hath ten thousand several doors for men to take their exits. (John Webster.)
Death as a messenger:
Death is like a postman, who knocks alike at the door of rich and poor; and brings to this man wedding cards, and to his neighbour a funeral envelope; to one the pleasant news that his richly-laden vessel has arrived in port, and to another tidings of disaster and bankruptcy.
Death as a liberator:
Death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release, the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure, and the comforter of him whom time cannot console. (C. Colton.)
We can die but once:
Daniel Webster once attended church in a quiet country village. The clergyman was a simple-hearted, pious old man, who rose and named his text with the utmost simplicity. He then said, “My friends, we can die but once!”--and paused. Said Webster: “Frigid and weak as these words might seem at first, they were to me among the most impressive and awakening I ever heard. I never felt so sensibly that I must die at all as when that devout old man told me I could die but once.”
Death the universal lot:
There is a fig-tree in India, the branches of which, after growing to a certain height, bend, and grow down into the ground. This tree is a symbol of every human life. From the dust we came, and to the dust we return.
Unprepared for death:
It is said of the celebrated Caesar Borgia, that in his last moments he exclaimed, “I have provided, in the course of my life, for everything except death; and now, alas! I am to die, although entirely unprepared.”
After this the judgment
The last judgment
I. THE CERTAINTY OF JUDGMENT TO COME. TO get rid of the doctrine, a man must plunge into the gloomy absurdities of atheism. And is he safe there? He has conscience still left; he is rebuked for sin. There is its premonition. What passes thus in the court of conscience, may be called a kind of petty session, before the great assize, when the Judge shall come and call the nations round His bar.
II. THE TIME OF JUDGMENT. At the end of the world. What epithets are attached to this “day” in Scripture! In some places it is called “that day.” As if there were no other day. The day of days. In other places it is called “the day of Christ,” the “day of the revelation of Christ”; to intimate that it is the day on which publicly He will be manifested in all His glory, as “ the great God and our Saviour.” It is called in other places “ the day of the revelation of God’s righteous judgment.” Intimating that then the principles of His moral government are to be exposed and vindicated. In another passage it is called “ the day of wrath.” The impenitent sinner is said to be “treasuring up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath.” It is called in other places “the last day.” The close of time; the world’s dying day.
III. THE JUDGE. To call rational creatures to account for their conduct, with a view to final retribution, implies that they are the subjects of Him who thus deals with them. It is an act of authority, therefore, over them which belongs exclusively to God. And God has not only right, not only authority, but every qualification for calling us into judgment. Dwell upon His attributes. He is not only omnipresent, but He is omniscient. All their history, their lives, their words, their thoughts, their feelings. He is omnipotent. He can arrest the sinner. Where will the sinner go, and the hand of God cannot reach him? Then think of His justice. His award must be right. Power cannot awe Him; wealth cannot bribe Him; cunning cannot deceive Him. God is to be Judge. But the Father has delegated this awful commission to the Son. It is part of His mediatorial reward, as God-Man, to judge the world. And how fit that He, who to redeem the world assumed human nature, should in that human nature judge the world! How congruous, that He who came to fulfil the covenant of grace, should be Judge of those who have been placed under it!
IV. WHO ARE TO BE JUDGED? “All.” All kings and their subjects; all pastors and their flocks. All; the great and the small.
V. FOR WHAT THEY WILL BE JUDGED. Everything. You must account for all your privileges. Your Bible; your minister; your sabbaths; your sermons; your sacraments. Your religious parents. Your judgment; your conscience; your memory. Your bodies; all the organs of sense. You must be judged as to your actions. All your secret actions; the deeds which many of you would be glad to forget. For your words. Your slanderous words; your impure words; your malicious words; your false words. The judgment will go further: it will go to the heart. The heart makes the character; motive gives character to action; it is as a man feels and purposes, that he is. There are a thousand thoughts for one action. And all those thoughts are to be brought into judgment. The secrets of all hearts are to be laid open. Oh! who would like to be known for an hour? What, then, must it be to have the life, the history of the heart, laid open? You must be judged, not only for what you have done, but for what you have not done. You are to be judged for your property. And for your influence. Influence is a talent, and we must give account of it to God. (J. A. James.)
Judgment to come
I. THERE ARE FACTS IN MATERIAL NATURE WHICH SUGGEST FUTURE RETRIBUTION FOR PRESENT WRONG.
1. The connection of suffering with transgression.
2. The power to adjust disturbances.
3. The frequent adjournment of punishment to a future time.
II. THERE ARE FACTS IN HUMAN SOCIETY WHICH SUGGEST FUTURE RETRIBUTION FOR PRESENT WRONG.
1. All society implies laws: laws imply penalties.
2. In society the penalties of broken laws are often adjourned.
III. THERE ARE FACTS IN MAN’S SPIRITUAL CONSTITUTION WHICH SUGGEST FUTURE RETRIBUTION FOR PRESENT WRONG.
1. There is a principle in the human soul which reproduces the past.
(1) In actions.
(2) In memory.
2. There is a principle in the human soul which excites forebodements of the future. (Homilist.)
I. WE HAVE THREE DIRECTIONS TO GIVE YOU.
1. Our first direction regards the argument taken from the disorders of society. Do not confine your attention to those disorders which strike the senses, astonish reason, and subvert faith itself Reflect on other irregularities which, although they are less shocking to sense,. are yet no less deserving the attention of the Judge of the whole earth, and require-a future judgment. Have human laws been ever made against hypocrites? See that man artfully covering himself with the veil of religion, that hypocrite, who excels in his art! See his vivacity--or his flaming zeal, shall I call it?--to maintain the doctrines of religion, and to pour out anathemas against heretics! Not one grain of religion, not the least shadow of piety in all his whole conversation. It is a party-spirit, or a sordid interest, or a barbarous disposition to revenge, which produces all his pretended piety. And the justice of God, what is it doing? My text tells you, “After death comes judgment.” Have human laws been ever made against the ungrateful? Who shall punish this black crime? I answer again, “After death comes judgment.” Have men made laws against cowards? I do not mean cowardice in war; the infamy that follows this crime is a just punishment of it. I speak of that mean cowardice of soul which makes a man forsake an oppressed innocent sufferer, and keep a criminal silence in regard to the oppressor. Pursue this train of thought, and ye will everywhere find arguments for a future judgment; because there will everywhere appear disorders which establish the necessity of it.
2. Our second direction regards the argument taken from conscience. Conscience is that faculty of our minds by which we are able to distinguish right from wrong, and to know whether we neglect our duties or discharge them. The judgment that constitutes the nature of conscience is founded on three principles, either fully demonstrable, or barely probable. First, I am in a state of dependence. Second, there is a supreme law; or what is the same thing, there is something right and something wrong. Third, I am either innocent or guilty. On these three principles an intelligent spirit grounds a judgment, whether it deserves to be happy or miserable; it rejoiceth if it deserve to be happy; it mourns if it deserve to be miserable; and this judgment, and this joy, or sorrow, which results from it, constitutes what we call conscience.
3. Our third direction concerns the proof taken from revelation.
II. BUT WHAT SHALL BE THE DESTINY OF THIS AUDIENCE?
1. We shall be judged as having lived under an economy of light. We shall be judged according to what is clear in the gospel itself; and not according to what is abstruse and impenetrable in the systems of the schools. But if this truth be comfortable to good people, it is also terrifying to people of an opposite character. Ye will be judged as reasonable beings, who had it in their power to discover truth and virtue.
2. We shall be judged as having lived under an economy of proportion; I mean to say, the virtues, which God requireth of us under the gospel, are proportioned to the faculties that He hath given us to perform them. Endeavours to be perfect will be accounted perfection. This very law of proportion, which will regulate the judgment of us, will overwhelm the wicked with misery. It is always an aggravation of a misery to reflect that we might have avoided it, and that we brought it upon ourselves.
3. We shall be judged as having lived under an economy of mercy. What can be more capable, at once, of comforting a good man against an excessive fear of judgment, and of arousing a bad man from his fatal security? (J. Saurin.)
A judgment to come:
I. A judgment to come, or a future state, may be PROVED FROM REASON, OR THE PRINCIPLES OF NATURE. And hence it was, that every sect of men that did prescribe morality, did teach an afterlife. Nothing was more generally believed among the heathens. Their tribunal below, where three most severe judges were appointed, meant the same thing with our last judgment; their elysian fields were but a poetical paradise; their Phlegethon, or river of fire, was set to express our lake of fire and brimstone. The notion of future judgment is so obvious to the capacity of every natural man, that when St. Paul (Acts 24:25) reasoned about it, Felix, though a heathen, trembled at it. The certainty whereof may appear to any considerative man from these three things
1. The unequal distribution of rewards and punishments in this world.
2. Those natural hopes and expectations which good men have of a state of perfect happiness.
3. Those natural fears which wicked, men usually have of a state of torment.
II. FROM SCRIPTURE AND DIVINE REVELATION. The principal evidence, therefore, of a future judgment is to be found in (2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 1:10).
1. The great Judge of heaven and earth hath clear knowledge.
2. Entire justice in God is no quality, that may be got and lost again; but His very nature and essence. And can there flow any injustice from the pure fountain of justice? (Genesis 18:25.)
3. A third property of the Judge of all the earth, which may render Him terrible to as, is His uncontrollable power, which no earthly judge can pretend to. For though man by sin runs away from his God, yet he is still in His chain; and though he may have put on the devil’s livery, yet he is still within the verge and reach of God’s power, who can deliver him up to Satan, and make his new master whom he serves his gaoler, his executioner. When Popilius, by order of the Roman Senate, required Antiochus to withdraw his army from the king of Egypt, and he desired time to deliberate upon it, Popilius drew a circle about him with his wand, and said, “Give me your answer and final resolution, which I may return to the Senate, before you stir out of this circle.” The day of judgment is making its approaches towards you, and you must now, before you go out of the circle of this world, resolve whether you will withdraw from the service of sin and Satan, and thereby make it prove to you a joyful and a happy day. (R. Neville, B. D.)
Personal responsibility of man in the great account:
To the Father who created us, the Son “who redeemed us, the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us, we have to give account, not merely by the enactment of a positive law, but by the declaration of an eternal necessity, which forbids the divorce of responsibility from the consciousness of privilege and power. And this is ours, not as being atoms merged in the corporate ,existence and workings of the Church, but as presented individually to Him with whom we have to do; brought face to face with Him at every turn of life; either consciously walking with Him, like the Prophet of the patriarchal world, or less consciously watched by a Divine Presence which we only recognise when it thwarts us, like the angel whom Balaam had not at first his eyes open to see. There is a general way of recognising this, which easily admits it, but with little fruit. But we further trace the lesson into its details; and confess ourselves accountable for the possession and the use of every one of those separate gifts which form or adorn the master of this world and heir of the next
1. Whether it be intellect--given us to comprehend, in a measure, that which passes comprehension in the deep things of God;--yet, when unsanctified, the characteristic attribute of the enemy of God.
2. Or speech--our glory, the best member that we have, when consecrated to the praises of God and to the proclamation of His will;--yet in its misuse a fire, a world of iniquity, defiling the whole body, setting on fire the course of nature, itself set on fire of hell; made to bless God, used to curse men.
3. Or time--the stuff that our lives are made of, the seed-field in which we are permitted to sow for eternity; given us for work, thought, prayer; given to carry us on from strength to strength till we appear before the God of gods in Sion;--but wasted, it may be, abused in vanities and pleasures which perish in the using, in raking together stones for the tomb of our sepulture, or faggots for the fire that is to burn us.
4. Or money--the most hazardous, yet the real gift of God. It may open heaven to us if we have sent our treasure there before us. But oh! how much oftener it is carried with us on the downward road, as if we had a toll to pay to open the gates of hell! And as all these gifts, and the many others which might be instanced, go to mould a man’s character, ay, go to mould the characters of others by the imperceptible, irresistible interdependence of society, for these things too we are responsible; for that which we have made ourselves, for that which we have made others. But in this multifarious responsibility there is necessarily something of vagueness and uncertainty. One by one the burdens upon us have seemed more than we could bear. But what is there cumulative effect?
(1) It is, perhaps, bewilderment. Take the colours on a painter’s palette, as they lie side by side so brilliant in their beauty. Try the experiment of blending them into one, and what will be the result? One undistinguishable blotch of mud! And so it may prove to be with the mind, overstrained in the attempt to grasp the total of that which has been so alarming in its details.
(2) Or the result may be carelessness. The first impression may have been deep, the second slighter, the third slighter still; and before the catalogue has been gone through, attention flags; some new trick of the tempter’s art dazzles the eyes; and the man turns again, forgetting the burden on his back, to chase the butterflies of his childhood.
(3) Or it may be desperation;--and like a beast of chase that faces round and breaks away through the array of its pursuers, he may altogether break the yoke and burst the bonds. And thus life glides away; and while responsibility is accumulating, the sense of it grows dull; conscience loses its sensitiveness and power, becomes callous, is seared as with a hot iron. But if a man can live, if a man can die with his eyes shut or his heart hardened to the sense of his responsibility, is he therefore free? If death were the end of all, then those who were content to accept the life and the death of the brute, might be almost deemed impregnable in their position. Fallen so low,. it might seem that they could fall no further. But though there are instances of this kind, how is it that they are so rare, even among those whose interest it would seem not to believe? How is it that conscience does make herself heard in the closing hours of life, when she has been bound and tongue-tied before? It is because at the approach of death there is something lifted of the veil that shrouds the unseen. Then the voice of warning assumes the voice of prophecy; and the message is, “It is appointed to all men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Then, at last, all masks drop off, all veils fall away. It will be of little advantage to have silenced conscience, in the day when her whispers are replaced by the record written in the opened books. It will be no time to plead ignorance or lack of memory, when the light of the Judge’s countenance shall illuminate the secret chambers of all hearts. Of all the terrors of that day, to men who, while the day of salvation lasted, have refused to be persuaded of the terrors of the Lord, which will be the chief? Will it be the exposure of all our sins and all our shame; the sins that we might have hidden, might have cleansed in His blood, but would not; the shame that we might have anticipated by taking shame to ourselves, clothing ourselves in our own confusion before Him, that we might receive from Him robes of grace and glory? This would be sufficiently terrible. Think, but for a moment, what an influence this sense of exposure to your fellow-sinners’ judgment exerts over you even now. Ask yourselves, Has it ever happened that you have felt quite comfortable under the secret consciousness of an action, which has caused you agony as soon as you began to think that your neighbours knew it as well as yourselves? Is not this the plain and simple history of nine-tenths of the cases of desperate suicide that we hear of? But in that day all will be naked before all the world; no shelter in the present, no hope in the future! But amidst that great company--the first and last gathering of the universal human race--there are individuals whose presence may suggest a special pang. There are those whom we have known only too well, those whose companions we have been in vanity or in sin, those for whom we have to answer. If we have led souls into sin, either to share our own wickedness or to follow it; if we have made them the victims of our vile passions, or have taught them to indulge their own; if our words have shaken their faith, or hardened them in ungodliness; nay, if our silence has left them un-warned and unreproved, when a word spoken in season might have saved them from sin; then indeed the burden of responsibility will be as lead upon our souls in that day. Again, there will be those there who had a responsibility for us, and who knew it, and did their best to discharge it; those who loved us in our childhood; those who have nursed us in our decline. Their Christian love cannot lack its reward for themselves. But if all this, their ministry, their devotion, has been without avail to us, with what feelings are we to meet their eyes in that day? But we are still lingering in the suburbs of that judgment-place; as if for very shame turning our eyes away from the throne and Him that sitteth thereon. But though the presence of the universal race of Adam in that day shall enhance its horrors for the wicked, it is not to them that we are responsible; it is not they that shall fix our doom. No trees of the garden will be there to shelter us; no rocks and mountains to cover us. And not of God only, but of Him who is God and Man--of the man Christ Jesus, to whom the Father has committed this judgment, even because He is the Son of man. (R. Scott, D. D.)
The blessing of judgment
A thing so universal as death must, we believe, prove a benefit to all, and this after-intensity of consciousness, this revelation of judgment, will be a blessing. For just those of us who need most a judgment day cannot obtain it on earth; memory is dull, the temper of the brain is such that remembrances are written in sand, and those things which ought to come into our minds to help us form a right estimate of ourselves or a fit determination for the future are covered over by oblivion, and we go blundering on, never knowing our own powers, never doing our right work, ever falling into the same snares, beaten by the same enemies. Here, cruel misunderstandings occur, leading to long tragedies in which good people are mutually estranged by misconception and falsehood; here, the egotist is blind to the direful malady from which he suffers; here, the hypocrite sometimes deceives himself as well as others; here, patient hearts bear and forbear without complaint, cling to the right amid sharp trial, and no one gives them credit for their fortitude; here, malice, covetousness, and sensuality make men’s lives ugly and foul, and through training or heredity the truth is kept from them--conscience erects no throne of God in their gloomy souls to judge them--ignorant and unrepentant they die in their sins. God’s judgment day shall set all these things right; His light shall shine into the darkest crypts of the soul; the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed; in heaven “the books shall be opened.” It will be a blessing to us all to see ourselves as God sees us, to know the truth though it condemns us, to be driven out of the refuges of lies that we run to when conscience would upbraid us, to experience in the nakedness of our souls even the pains of hell, if so be that thereby can enter heaven at last. Every wise man prepares for contingencies. This judgment day after death is the contingency we have to face--not to fear it, but to thank God for it and prepare for it. There is more good than evil in it for all of us, just as there is in this life if we will only find it. (H. H. Snell, B. A.)
The expectation of a judgment is reasonable:
Our little life is rounded with a sleep: after sleep an awaking. We must expect judgment after death just as naturally as we experience it in the great crises of life. A drowning man sees in a minute his life flash through his mind, illuminating the track of all the years; memory, in the agony of that critical experience, accomplishes the marvel for him. Any great experience--a death, a misfortune, a grave temptation--will similarly vitalise memory and conscience. Is it not natural that death, the means by which our spirits pass into complete realisation of themselves, should be such a stupendous change that memory and conscience will be awakened into such vitality as is here unknown? By everything we know of Nature we must expect it, by the same laws which enable a worm to crawl into the chrysalis state and emerge therefrom a winged sylph, we must look for the rising of our spirits into a condition in which our conscience shall be winged to fly from end to end of our lives and discover what we really are when stripped of the disguises of mortality. (H. H. Snell, B. A.)
I have read somewhere of a company of young men who were jesting on sacred things. Suddenly a funeral passed by, and one of the company, pointing to it, said, “There goes the last affair of all.” “Not so,” answered a quiet bystander; “it is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment.” It is a common mistake to speak of a man’s death as the end of him; it is simply for him the beginning of eternity. (H. J.Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
Certainty of the judgment day:
Let us suppose, that at the time when Britain was peopled by half-savage tribes, before the period of the Roman sway, some gifted seer among the Druids had engraven upon a rock a minute prediction of a portion of the future history of the island. Suppose he had declared that it should, ere long, be conquered by a warrior people from the south; that he should name the Caesar himself, describe his eagle standard, and all the circumstances of the conquest. Suppose he should portray the Saxon invasion centuries after, the sevenfold division of the monarchy, the Danish inroad, the arrival and victory of the Normans. Our imagined prophet pauses here, or at whatever other precise period you please to suppose; and his next prediction, overleaping a vast undescribed interval, suddenly represents the England of the present day. Now conceive the forefathers of existing England to have studied this wondrous record, and to find, to their amazement, that every one of its predictions was accurately verified; that, as their generations succeeded, they but walked in the traces assigned for them by the prophetic inscription, and all it spoke progressively became fact. Can we suppose, that however far away in futurity was the one remaining event, and however impossible to them, at their early stage, to conceive the means by which all the present wonders of this mighty empire could ever be realised, they would permit themselves to doubt its absolute certainty after such overwhelming proofs of the supernatural powers of the seer who guaranteed it? Would they not shape their course as confidently in view of the unquestionable future as in reference to the unquestionable past? It should be thus with regard to the coming judgment. (Archer Butler.)
Judgment day forgotten:
Is it not foolish to be living in this world without a thought of what you will do at last? A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order his wine, his dinner, his bed; there is no delicacy in season which he forgets to bespeak. He stops at the inn for some time. By and by the bill is forthcoming, and it takes him by surprise. “I never thought of that--I never thought of that!” “Why,” says the landlord, “here is a man who is either a born fool or else a knave. What! never thought of the reckoning--never thought of settling with me!” After this fashion too many live. They eat, and drink, and sin, but they forget the inevitable hereafter, when for all the deeds done in the body the Lord will bring us into judgment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A traveller crossing the frontier had to pass the custom-house. The examining officers said to him: “Have you any contraband goods?” “I don’t think I have,” he replied. “But we cannot allow you to pass until we have examined you,” said the officers in charge. After he was examined he said to the officers: “Gentlemen, will you permit me to tell you what thoughts this examination has brought to my mind? We are all travellers to an eternal kingdom, into which we cannot take any contraband goods. By these forbidden things, I mean deceitfulness, anger, pride, lying, covetousness, and all such offences, which are an abomination in the sight of God Almighty. For all these, every man that passes the boundary line of the grave is searched far more strictly than you have searched me. God is the great Searcher of hearts, and from Him nothing is hid that shall not in that day be revealed.” (C. W. Bibb.)
The backslider’s dream
A young gentleman, being reproved by his mother for being religious, made her this answer: “I am resolved by all means to save my soul.” Some time afterwards he fell into a lukewarm state, and was, besides, sick and nigh unto death. One night he dreamed that he saw himself summoned before God’s throne, and from thence hurried into a place of torments; where, seeing his mother full of scorn, she upbraided him with his former answer, because he did not save his soul by all means. This was so much impressed upon his mind when he awoke, that, under God, it became the means of his turning again to Him; and when anybody asked him the reason why he became again religious, he gave them no other answer than this: “If I could not in my dream endure my mother’s upbraiding my folly and lukewarmness, how could I be able to suffer that God should call me to an account in the last day, that the angels should reproach my lukewarmness, that the devil should aggravate my sins, and that all the saints of God should deride my folly and hypocrisy?” (K. Arvine.)
Christ was once offered
On the sacrifice and atonement of Christ
1. On contemplating the death of Christ, let us consider that “it brought life and immortality to light”; and while it manifested in the most striking manner God’s abhorrence of sin, it assured us of the riches of His Divine love in admitting such an expiation and atonement for it.
2. Farther, the death of Christ “sealed up the vision, and the prophecy,” to use the language of the prophet, “caused the oblation and sacrifice to cease, and brought in everlasting righteousness.”
3. But, above all, the death of Christ set before us a heavenly example of those virtues, which in this world of discipline and trial we most want, and are chiefly required to practise. Let us distinctly consider His patience and forbearance, His charity and great humility. (J. Hewlett, B. D.)
The sacrifice of Christ
I. WHAT THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST SIGNIFIES.
1. It supposes man’s revolt and fall from God (Romans 5:18).
2. It supposes God’s purpose to take vengeance for sin (Exodus 34:7).
3. It implies man’s helplessness to recover himself (Psalms 49:7-8).
4. It implies the necessity of Christ’s being God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
5. It denotes the extremity of Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 3:18).
6. It implies the gracious design of God to reconcile us to Himself at so dear a rate (John 3:16).
II. THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST’S PRIESTHOOD.
1. This appears from the nature of sin (Romans 6:23).
2. The veracity of God requires it (Genesis 2:17).
3. The justice of God admits not of relaxation.
III. THE INFERENCES DEDUCIBLE.
1. It evinces the incomprehensible superiority of the Christian religion over all others.
2. Hence also the necessity of having true faith, in order to the possession of a state and sense of peace in the soul, with and from God.
3. If Christ be your high priest, and if His priesthood be felt as necessary for us, then you will freely acknowledge your utter incapacity to reconcile your own souls to God.
4. All you that believe can daily feel the absolute need of a Saviour every day, not only to plead your cause, but to render rich supplies to your souls, with all necessary help.
5. The strict duties of the best men do not supersede this sacrifice.
6. See the goodness of God in providing this sacrifice.
7. Let your souls exult whilst meditation is their employment respecting the glories and superlative excellency of Christ.
8. This sacrifice has only once been offered.
9. None but Christ could bear the sins of sinners.
10. The believing sinner shall never bear his own sins. (T. B. Baker.)
The sacrifice and the second coming of Christ:
I. THE FACTS CONCERNING MAN.
II. THE FACTS CONCERNING CHRIST. They are two, corresponding with the two concerning man.
1. The first fact is past. It corresponds to man’s one certain death. He was once offered.
2. The second fact is future. It corresponds to the certain judgment. He cannot die the second time, but He can come the second time. He will come to judgment. Not Himself to be judged. Mark
(1) The fact itself. He will “appear.” It is the word used in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, to express His appearance after His resurrection. As then, He will be seen in His glorified body.
(2) The persons interested in it. “Them that look for Him.” They are distinctly taught to anticipate this event (Matthew 16:27; Acts 9:11). Hence they stand in the attitude of believing, longing expectation Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; Philippians 3:20-21; Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
(3) The ends contemplated by it.
(a) A contrast with the first coming. “Without sin.” He was personally without it. At His second coming He will be officially without it. He will come in His glory as the Judge of men.
(b) A resemblance to His first coming. When He came before He came to save. When He comes again it will be “ unto salvation.” This is equivalent to full salvation. It will be both the public manifestation of His position as the Saviour and the public acknowledgment of His people. The best preparation for His coming is the cultivation of faith, love, holy character 2 Peter 3:11-14). (John Rawlinson.)
Christ the only Sin-bearer
Mr. Innis, a great Scotch minister, once visited an infidel who was dying. When he came to him the first time, he said, “Mr. Innis, I am relying on the mercy of God; God is merciful, and lie will never damn a man for ever.” When he got worse and was nearer death, Mr. Innis went to him again, and he said, “Oh! Mr. Innis, my hope is gone; for I haw been thinking if God be merciful, God is just too; and what if, instead of being merciful to me, He should be just to me? What would then become of me? I must give up my hope in the mere mercy of God; tell me how to he saved!” Mr. Innis told him that Christ had died in the stead of all believers-that God could be just, and yet the justifier through the death of Christ. “Ah!” said he, “Mr. Innis, there is something solid in that; I can rest on that; I cannot rest on anything else”; and it is a remarkable fact that none of us ever met with a man who thought he had his sins forgiven unless it was through the blood of Christ. Meet a Mussulman; he never had his sins forgiven; he does not say so. Meet an Infidel; he never knows that his sins are forgiven. Meet a Legalist; he says, “I hope they will be forgiven”; but he does not pretend they are. No one ever gets even a fancied hope apart from this, that Christ, and Christ alone, must save by the shedding of His blood.
The sinner’s substitute
A good old Christian woman in humble life was once asked, as she lay on her dying pillow, the ground of her hope for eternity. She replied, with great composure, “I rely on the justice of God”; but seeing that the reply excited surprise, added, “justice, not to me, but to my Substitute, in whom I trust.”
One for many
A deaf and dumb scholar once wrote on the slate to his teacher, “I cannot see how Jesus Christ alone should be able to die for all men.” The teacher (Charlotte Elizabeth) thought for a while how she should open his mind to the blessed truth; and then she went out and brought in a whole apronful of dead leaves, which she put on one end of her desk; then she took off a diamond ring, and put it on the other end. The countenance of the mute scholar lighted up in a moment. “I see it now,” he wrote, “Jesus is a diamond worth more than all the leaves of a dead world.” (Baxendale’s Aneodotes.)
Appear the second time
The advent of our Saviour
I. WHO ARE THEY THAT LOOK FOR HIM?
1. Not all those who believe in, and anticipate, His second coming. There are many who desire the honour and happiness which they believe the second advent will bring; but they have not the mind to obey Christ when He comes, for they do not obey Him now. They are proud, envious, self-willed, unloving, unmerciful, and unjust; their Christian creed enters only their heads, while the creed of the world possesses their hearts and rules their lives. To such the day of the Lord will be darkness and not light; it will disappoint their vain hope.
2. There are those who look for Christ from other feelings. They believe that that day will bring joy to the world by a rule of righteousness; and out of love and pity for humanity they rejoice in the prospect. They look to His coming as the consummation of all which they are now striving after in themselves and in the world. And because they look for the time when truth will be revealed and righteousness rule, they the more hopefully labour to spread the one and establish the other. They only look truly for His personal coming who are now seeking union with Him in His spiritual presence; they only desire truly His future dominion who are earnestly seeking His rule within and around them now.
II. How WILL THE APPEARING OF CHRIST BRING THEM SALVATION?
1. The coming will be personal and real. The personal presence of Christ was an immense power even in the days of His humiliation; and it may be safely believed that it will be far greater in His glorification.
2. The precise character of the power of the presence of Christ will be better understood if we remember that His coming will take place in the spirit-world. Now in such a world the spiritual predominates in all things. It will be so in the appearing of Christ in that world. He will be seen in bodily form; but the vision of His spirit will be more powerful than that of His form. I will try to illustrate my meaning by the impressions which we obtain from language. If we do not understand a language which we hear, we are wholly occupied with the sounds; but if we listen to words which we do understand the mind takes in the sense and is more occupied with it than with the sounds of the voice. The mind, or spirit, in the words dominates over the sounds. So will it be with everything in a spiritual world; the mind in things will be more apparent to us, and will affect us more powerfully, than the external appearances. In Jesus Christ we shall see not only a glorious person, but yet more distinctly the glorious mind and spirit. We shall see Christ’s thought, and it will enter our thought; we shall see Christ’s heart, and it will affect our hearts; and we shall see all the moral perfections of Christ’s character, and they will affect our characters. The bodily form of Christ, which is a spiritual body, will be only a medium for connecting us more closely with His Spirit. He will flow into us in the measure of our capability of receiving Him; and He will thus put forth in all our hearts the direct power of His own life. I think it will be apparent from this that to all them that look for Christ His appearing will be “unto salvation.” Their faith will conjoin them more intimately with His thought; their love will unite them with His heart; and these will cause their characters to fall into perfect harmony with His. But salvation includes more than this. The glorification of the body and its entire deliverance from suffering is required, blow, in a spiritual state, not only does spirit dominate over body, but it makes the body what it is. A glorious soul makes a glorious body; a soul without disease makes a body without disease. And so also a society without Sin will call for a world without darkness or evil of any kind. For in a spiritual world all things are images of the spirits which dwell in it. Thus at the appearing of Christ all things will be made new. The thought and life of God, which make heaven, will be set forth in the harmony, beauty, and variety of a heavenly world. (R. Vaughan, M. A.)
The two advents of Christ
I. The text asserts very plainly that as we are here twice once in a life of probation, and a second time in the day of judgment; so Christ shall be here twice--once in His life of suffering, and then again in His hour of triumph, THE TWO COMINGS OF CHRIST HAVE SOME DEGREE OF LIKENESS.
1. They are like each other in the fact that they are both of them personal comings.
2. Nor less shall the advents be like each other in the fact that they shall both be according to promise.
3. But we must remark in the next place that the second advent of Christ will be like the first in its being unexpected by the mass of people.
4. He will come to bless those who do wait for Him, just as He did at the first.
5. There is this further likeness; He comes, not only to bless His people, but to be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to them that believe not upon Him.
II. THE UNLIKENESS BETWEEN THE TWO ADVENTS.
1. In His coming. Then a manger, now a throne. Then an infant, now the Infinite.
2. In His person. Ah! who would think to recognise in the weary man and full of woes the King eternal, immortal, invisible. Wire would think that the humble man, despised and rejected, was the seed-corn out of which there should grow that full corn in the ear, Christ all-glorious, before whom the angels veil their faces and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!” He is the same, but yet how changed! Ye that despised Him, will ye despise Him now?
3. In the treatment which He will then receive.
4. The difference appears once more in this; He comes again for a very different purpose. He came the first time with, “I delight to do Thy will, O God.” He comes a second time to claim the reward and to divide the spoil with the strong. He came the first time with a sin-offering; that offering having been once made, there is no more sacrifice for sin. He crones the second time to administer righteousness. He was righteous at His first coming, but it was the righteousness of allegiance. He shall be righteous at His second coming with the righteousness of supremacy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s second coming
I. THE CERTAINTY OF OUR LORD’S RETURN.
II. THE GRACIOUS DESIGN OF HIS APPEARANCE.
1. At His second coming Christ will raise the dead bodies of His servants, which will be a considerable addition to their felicity.
2. In that day the Church, which is called the body of Christ, shall be complete, which must add to the happiness of every saint in particular.
3. Then also shall believers be solemnly acquitted by the Judge Himself, and publicly acknowledged in the presence of an assembled world.
4. To complete the happiness of the saints, then shall there be the clearest discovery of all God’s works.
III. His APPEARANCE SHALL BE “WITHOUT SIN.”
1. Without that guilt which was charged upon Him, while He sustained the character of Surety, and stood in the place of sinful man.
2. Without any of the effects of sin, such as pain, poverty, reproach, or infirmity of any kind.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE TO WHOM THIS SECOND APPEARANCE OF OUR LORD SHALL BE COMFORTABLE. They are such as “look for Him.” This short, but insignificant description, may be considered as including
1. A firm belief of this event.
2. The love and desire of this event (2 Timothy 4:8).
3. A patient waiting for His appearance, in spite of all discouragements,
4. An habitual preparation for this event. (R. Walker.)
The second advent:
He shall not come the second time to die for our sins as He did the first; this is the genuine sense. When He came to sacrifice for sin, He came in great humility; this low condition was suitable to the work He then undertook. But now He comes as King and Lord to judge the world, and therefore He comes in glory. The end of His coming is to reward, and the reward is salvation, and the parties to be rewarded are such as look for Him. By salvation is meant eternal life and full happiness, which He purchased by His precious blood, and it is so called because man in danger of eternal death shall then be fully delivered from all sin, and all the sad consequences of sin, and that for ever, for then death, man’s last enemy, shall be destroyed. Yet this immunity from all evil believers do expect, and because they know they shall not fully enjoy it till Ills second appearance, they look for His coming from heaven, that then their joy may be full. Some think the apostle doth here allude to the order of the Levitical service. The high priest enters the sanctuary to pray and expiate sin, and the people stay without, and wait for his coming out to bless them. So Christ enters heaven, that glorious sanctuary, there appears before God, and stays a while, and all His saints do wait for His return and coming out from thence, that they may by Him be eternally blessed. These lookers for Him are they who shall be rewarded. For though Christ came the first time to die for all, so far as to make their sins remissible, yet lie comes the second time to confer the ultimate benefit of His redemption only upon them that look for Him. To look for Christ from heaven doth presuppose the parties regenerate and renewed from heaven, justified, and in the estate of justification. And this looking for Christ is their hope, with a longing desire, expressed sometimes by groans, and yet a patient waiting God’s leisure, out of an assurance that He that shall come will come, and will mot tarry. (G. Lawson.)
Christ’s future appearance, without sin, unto salvation
When He shall again appear upon the world’s surprised or expectant vision, He shall appear without sin. All those remedial agencies which during the past millenniums have been lifting the moral world out of darkness and superstition into the light of God’s truth, mercy, and love, having served their purpose in the salvation of untold multitudes, find no longer any scope or occupation. He comes, not to present a sin-offering and provide more comprehensive remedies than Calvary saw or the Scriptures predicted. He comes no longer as an object of doubt, to be spoken against, to be written against, and to be followed with an interrogation mark wherever His name appears upon the pages of the world’s literature. Criticism has expended its force and finished its work; its quiver is empty, its pen broken. He comes no longer to stand and wait as a suppliant, His garments moist with the dews of the night (Revelation 3:20). But He comes without sin unto salvation to those that look for Him. He comes to complete salvation. Great and immediate results wait upon His reappearance upon this orb of ours. The righteous dead shall first be raised. Their bodies sleeping in the dust of the earth shall hear the voice of resurrection, and come forth into newness of life and beauty. Nor shall the living members of His Church on earth be neglected. Everything in its own order, and in the beautiful harmony established by the Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He comes to assume the judicial character, to manifest His royalty with unclouded splendour, and to award to every man according as his works, words, and thoughts. Now, too, shall be indicated the moral government of God, and all shall see how deeply its foundations have been laid in justice and truth, in mercy and love. Now, too, shall be unfolded the dread or glad realities of the great books of judgment, of life, and of remembrance. And now, too, the Church shall put on her garments of beauty. The Church triumphant shall become the pure gold that has been tried and refined by the fires of purification. But this day shall be to some a day of sorrow. All the impenitent shall call upon the rocks to hide them from judicial wrath, or to fall upon them and crush them. But unto them that look for Him shall His coming be with joy and unto full salvation. Those who have laid the foundation of faith and expectation in His first appearance as their sin-bearer, and have cast forward their hope as an anchor within the veil, where Christ now appears, will find themselves sustained in a day that to all others will prove one of lamentings and woe. (Lewis O. Thompson.)
Ready for the Lord’s coming:
There was an under-witted Scotch lad at the time of the great meteoric shower of November, 1833. When on every side men and women were that night in terror at the thought that the hour of final doom had come, this lad’s mother aroused him from his sleep with a cry, “Sandy, Sandy, get up, will you? The day of judgment has come.” Instantly the boy was alive to that call, and was on his feet, shouting, “Glory to God! I’m ready.” (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29