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Title: Messages from the Epistle to the Hebrews
Author: Moule, H. C. G. (Handley Carr Glyn), 1841-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 {Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors, printing errors and
   mis-spellings have been corrected. Any other inconsistencies remain
   as they are in the original. Footnotes have been placed at the end of
   the paragraph in which they appear.}



      MESSAGES FROM THE EPISTLE
           TO THE HEBREWS



          MESSAGES FROM

         THE EPISTLE TO

           THE HEBREWS

   _By_ HANDLEY C.G. MOULE, D.D.
         BISHOP OF DURHAM



      LONDON: ELLIOT STOCK
    62, PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
              1909

  THE BIBLE IS THE SKY IN WHICH
   GOD HAS SET CHRIST THE SUN.

                 JOHN KER, D.D.


  _First Edition      May 1909_
  _Second Impression  July 1909_



PREFACE


The following chapters are the work of intervals of leisure scattered
over a long time. The exposition had advanced some way when an
unexpected call to new and exacting duties compelled me to put it aside
for several years. Accordingly a certain difference of treatment in the
later chapters as compared with the earlier will probably be seen by the
reader, particularly a rather fuller detail in the exposition. But
purpose and plan are essentially the same throughout.

No attempt whatever is made, here or in the course of the work, to deal
with those literary and historical problems which so conspicuously
attach themselves to this Epistle. Who the "Hebrews" were is nowhere
discussed. Nor is any positive answer offered to a question to which
assuredly no such answer can be given, the question, namely, of the
authorship. In my opinion, in face of all that I have read to the
contrary, it still seems at least possible that the _ultimate_ human
author was St. Paul. All, or very nearly all, the objections to his name
which the phenomena of the Epistle _primâ facie_ present, and some of
which lie unquestionably deep, seem to be capable of a provisional
answer if we assume, what is so conceivable, that the Apostle committed
his message and its argument, on purpose, to a colleague so gifted,
mentally and by the Spirit, that he might be trusted to cast the work
into his own style. The well-known remark of Origen that only God knows
who "wrote" the Epistle appears to me to point (if we look at its
context) this way. Origen surely means by the "writer" what is meant in
Rom. xvi. 22. Only, on the hypothesis, the amanuensis of our Epistle
was, for a special purpose presumably, a Christian prophet in his own
right.

In any case the author, if not an apostle, was a prophet. And he carries
to us a prophet's "burthen" of unspeakable import, and in words to which
all through the Christian ages the soul has responded as to the words of
the Holy Spirit.

                                                  HANDLEY DUNELM.

_Easter, 1909._



  CONTENTS


  I
                                                           PAGE

  CONSIDER HIM                                               1
  Heb. i.-ii.

  II

  A HEART OF FAITH                                           8
  Heb. iii.

  III

  UNTO PERFECTION                                           14
  Heb. iv.-vi.

  IV

  OUR GREAT MELCHIZEDEK                                     23
  Heb. vii.

  V

  THE BETTER COVENANT                                       32
  Heb. viii.

  VI

  SANCTUARY AND SACRIFICE                                   42
  Heb. ix.
  VII

  FULL, PERFECT, AND SUFFICIENT                             51
  Heb. x.

  VIII

  FAITH AND ITS POWER                                       61
  Heb. xi. (I.).

  IX

  FAITH AND ITS ANNALS                                      71
  Heb. xi. (II.).

  X

  FOLLOWERS OF THEM                                         80
  Heb. xii. 1-14.

  XI

  SINAI AND SION                                            90
  Heb. xii. 14-28.

  XII

  APPEALS AND INSTRUCTIONS                                 100
  Heb. xiii. 1-14.

  XIII

  LAST WORDS                                               110
  Heb. xiii. 15-25.



MESSAGES

FROM THE

EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS



CHAPTER I

CONSIDER HIM

HEB. i.-ii.


Let us open the Epistle to the Hebrews, with an aim simple and
altogether practical for heart and for life. Let us take it just as it
stands, and somewhat as a whole. We will not discuss its authorship,
interesting and extensive as that problem is. We will not attempt,
within the compass of a few short chapters, to expound continuously its
wonderful text. Rather, we will gather up from it some of its large and
conspicuous spiritual messages, taken as messages of the Word of God
"which liveth and abideth for ever."

No part of Holy Scripture is ever really out of date. But it is true
meanwhile that, as for persons so for periods, there are Scripture books
and Scripture truths which are more than ordinarily timely. It is not
that others are therefore untimely, nor that only one class of book or
one aspect of truth can be eminently timely at one time. But it seems
evident that the foreseeing Architect of the Bible has so adjusted the
parts of His wonderful vehicle of revelation and blessing that special
fitnesses continually emerge between our varying times and seasons on
the one hand and the multifold Word on the other.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is in some remarkable respects a book timely
for our day. It invites to itself, if I read it aright, the renewed
attention of the thoughtful Christian, and not least of the thoughtful
Christian of the English Church, as it brings him messages singularly in
point to some of the main present needs of his spiritual life and its
surroundings. It was written manifestly in the first instance to meet
special and pressing current trials; it bears the impress of a time of
severe sifting, a time when foundations were challenged, and individual
faith put to even agonizing proofs, and the community threatened with an
almost dissolution. Such a writing must have a voice articulate and
sympathetic for a period like ours.

We will take into our hands then, portion by portion, this wonderful
"open letter," and listen through it to some of the things which "the
Spirit saith" to the saints and to the Church.

We now contemplate in this sense the first two chapters. We put quite
aside a host of points of profound interest in detail, and ask ourselves
only what is the broad surface, the drift and total, of the message
here. As to its climax, it is JESUS CHRIST, our "merciful and faithful
High Priest" (ii. 17). As to the steps that lead up to the climax, they
are a presentation of the personal glory of Jesus Christ, as God the Son
of God, as Man the Son of Man, who for us men and our salvation came,
suffered, and prevailed.

Who that reads the Bible with the least care has not often noted this in
the first passages of the Hebrews, and could not at once so state the
matter? What is the great truth of Hebrews i.? Jesus Christ is GOD (ver.
8); the Son (ver. 2); absolutely _like_ the Father (ver. 3); Lord of the
bright Company of Heaven, who in all their ranks and orders worship Him
(ver. 6); creative Originator of the Universe (ver. 10), such that the
starry depths of space are but the folds of His vesture, which hereafter
He shall change for another (ver. 12); Himself eternal, "the same,"
transcendent above all time, yet all the while the Son begotten, the
Son, infinitely adequate and infinitely willing to be the final Vehicle
of the Father's voice to us (verses 1, 5, 6). What is the great truth of
Hebrews ii.? Jesus Christ is MAN. He is other than angelic, for He is
God. But also He is other than angelic, for He is Man (verses 5, 6, 7).
He is the Brother of Man as truly as He is the Son of God (ver. 11). He
has taken share with us in flesh and blood (ver. 14), that is to say, He
has assumed manhood in that state or stage in which it is capable of
death, and He has done this on purpose (it is a wonderful thought) that
He may be capable of dying. This blessed Jesus Christ, this God and Man,
our Saviour, was bent upon dying, and that for a reason altogether
connected with us and with His will to save us (ver. 15). We were
immeasurably dear and important to Him. And our deliverance demanded His
identification with us in nature, and His temptations (ver. 18), and
finally His mysterious suffering. So He came, He suffered, He was
"perfected"--in respect of capacity to be our Redeemer--"through
sufferings" (ver. 10). And now, incarnate, slain, and risen again, He,
still our Brother, is "crowned with glory and honour" (ver. 9). He is
our Leader (ver. 10). He is our High Priest, merciful and faithful (ver.
17).

Thus the Epistle, on its way to recall its readers, at a crisis of
confusion and temptation, to certainty, patience, and peace, leads
them--not last but first--to Jesus Christ. It unfolds at once to them
His glories of Person, His Wonder of Work and Love. It does not
elaborately travel up to Him through general considerations. It sets out
from Him. It makes Him the base and reason for all it has to say--and it
has to say many things. Its first theme is not the community, but the
Lord; not Church principles, not that great duty of cohesion about which
it will speak, and speak urgently, further on, but the Lord, in His
adorable personal greatness, in His unique and all-wonderful personal
achievement. To that attitude of thought it recurs again and again in
its later stages. In one way or another it is always bidding us look up
from even the greatest related subjects and "consider HIM."

Am I not right in saying that here is a message straight to the restless
heart of our time, and not least to the special conditions of Christian
life just now in our well-beloved Church? We must, of course we must,
think about a hundred problems presented by the circumference of the
life of the Christian and the life of the Church. At all times such
problems, asking for attention and solution, emerge to every thoughtful
disciple's sight. In our own time they seem to multiply upon one
another with an importunate demand--problems doctrinal, ritual,
governmental, social; the strife of principles and tendencies within the
Church; all that is involved in the relations between the Church and the
State, and again between the Church and the world, that is to say, human
life indifferent or opposed to the living Christian creed and the
spiritual Christian rule.

Well, for these very reasons let us make here first this brief appeal,
prompted by the opening paragraphs of the great Epistle. If you would
deal aright with the circumference, earnest Christian of the English
Church, live at the Centre. "Dwell deep." From the Church come back
evermore to Jesus Christ, that from Jesus Christ you may the better go
back to the Church, bearing the peace and the power of the Lord Himself
upon you.

There is nothing that can serve as a substitute for this. The
"consideration" of our blessed Redeemer and King is not merely good for
us; it is vital. To "behold His glory," deliberately, with worship, with
worshipping love, _and seen by direct attention to the mirror of His
Word_, can and must secure for us blessings which we shall otherwise
infallibly lose. This, and this alone, amidst the strife of tongues and
all the perplexities of life, can develope in us at once the humblest
reverence and the noblest liberty, convictions firm to resist a whole
world in opposition, yet the meekness and the fear which utterly exclude
injustice, untruth, hardness, or the bitter word. For us if for any, for
us now if ever, this first great message of the Epistle meets a vital
need; "CONSIDER HIM."



CHAPTER II

A HEART OF FAITH

HEB. iii.


We have just endeavoured to find a message, "godly and wholesome, and
necessary for these times," in the opening paragraphs in the Epistle to
the Hebrews. We come now to interrogate our oracle again, and we open
the third chapter as we do so.

Here again we find the Epistle full, first, of "Jesus Christ Himself."
He is "the Apostle and the High Priest of our profession" (ver. 1), or
let us read rather, "our confession," the "confession" of us who are
loyal to His Name as His disciples. We are expressly called here to do
what the first two chapters implied that we must do--to "consider Him"
(ver. 1), to bend upon His Person, character, and work the attention of
the whole heart and mind. We are pointed to His holy fidelity to His
mission (ver. 2) in words which equally remind us of His subordination
to the Father's will and of His absolute authority as the Father's
perfect Representative. We are reminded (ver. 3) of that magnificent
other side of His position, that He acts and administers in "the house
of God" not as a servant but as the Father's "own SON (ver. 6) that
serveth Him." Nay, such is He that the "house" in which He does His
filial service is a building which He Himself has reared (ver. 3); He is
its Architect and its Constructor in a sense in which none could be who
is not Divine. Yes, He is no less than God (ver. 4); God Filial, God so
conditioned that He is also the faithful Sent-One of the Father, but
none the less GOD. We saw Him already in the first chapter (ver. 10),
placed before us in His majesty as the Originator of the material
Universe, to whom the starry skies are but His robe, to be put on and
put off in season. Here He is the doer of a yet more wonderful
achievement; He is the Builder of the Church of the Faithful. For the
"house" which He thus built is nothing else than "we" (ver, 6), we who
by faith have entered into the structure of the "living stones" (see 1
Pet. ii. 5), and who, by "the confidence and the rejoicing of our hope,"
abide within it.

Thus the blessed Lord is before us here again, filling our sphere of
thought and contemplation. It is here just as it is in the Epistle to
the Colossians. There, as here, errors and confusions in the Church are
in view--a subtle theosophy and also a retrograde ceremonialism,
probably both amalgamating into one dangerous total. And St. Paul's
method of defence for his converts there--what is it? Above all, it is
the presentation of Jesus Christ, in the glories of His Person and His
Work. He places HIM in the very front of thought, first as the Head,
Founder, and Corner-stone of the Universe; then as the Head, Redeemer,
and Life of the Church. With HIM so seen he meets the dreamy thinker and
the ceremonial devotee; Christ is the ultimate and only repose, alike
for thought and for the soul.

In this Epistle as in that we have the same phenomenon, deeply
suggestive and seasonable for our life to-day. In both cases, not only
for individuals but for the Church, there was mental and spiritual
trouble. Alike in Phrygian Colossæ and wherever the "Hebrews" lived
there was an invasion of church difficulties and confusion. A certain
affinity in detail links the two cases together. Colossian Christians
and Hebrew Christians, under widely different circumstances, and no
doubt in very different tones, persuasive in one case, threatening in
the other, were pressed to _retrograde_ from the sublime simplicity and
fulness of the truth. Their danger was what I may venture to call a
certain medievalism. Not Mosaism, not Prophetism, but Judaism, the
successor and distortion of the ancient revelations, invited or
commanded their adhesion, or, in the case of the "Hebrews," their
return, as to the one true faith and fold. There were great differences
in detail. At Colossæ it does not seem that the "medievalists" professed
to deny Christianity; rather they professed to teach the Judaistic
version of it as the authentic type. Among the "Hebrews"
anti-Christianity was using every effort to allure or to alarm the
disciples back to open Rabbinism, "doing despite to the Son of God." But
both streams of tendency went in the same general direction so far that
they put into the utmost prominence aspects of religion full of a
traditional ceremonialism, and of the idea of human meritorious
achievement rather than of a spiritual reliance for the salvation of the
soul.

Deeply significant it is that in both cases we have the danger met
thus--by the presentation of the Incarnate Redeemer Himself, in His
personal and official glory, to the most immediate possible view of
every disciple, "nothing between." The Epistles, both of them, have much
to say on deep general principles. But all this they say in vital
connexion with Jesus Christ; and about Him they say most of all. He is
the supreme Antidote. He, "considered," considered fully, is not so
much the clue out of the labyrinth as the great point of view from which
the mind and the soul can look down upon it and see how tortuous, and
also how limited, it is.

But the message of our chapter has not yet been fully heard. It has
spoken to us of Christ Jesus, and of the "consideration" of Him to which
we are called. At its close it speaks to us of faith: "Take heed, lest
there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the
living God" (ver. 12). "To whom sware He that they should not enter into
His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not
enter in because of unbelief" (verses 18, 19).

That is to say, our "consideration" of Jesus Christ must not be all our
action towards Him, if we would be sure, and safe, and strong. It must
be but the preliminary to a "heart of faith." That is to say again, we
must personally and practically take Him at His word, and rely upon Him,
committing our souls and our all to Him, to Him directly, to Him solely.
We must, in the exercise of this reliance, use Him evermore as our
Prophet, Priest, and King. We must venture upon His promises, just as
Israel ought to have ventured upon the promises of Him who had redeemed
them, although He _tried_ their will and power to do so by the terrors
of the wilderness and by the giants of Canaan.

Thus to rely is faith; for faith is personal confidence in the Lord in
His promise. And such faith is not only, as it is, the empty hand which
receives Divine blessings in detail. It is the empty arms which clasp
always that comprehensive blessing, the presence of "the living God" in
Christ, so making sure of a secret of peace, of rest, of decision, of
strength, of deep-sighted and tranquil thought upon "things which
differ," which is of infinite importance at a time of confusion and
debate in the Christian Church.

Therefore, alike for our safety and for our usefulness, let us first
afresh "consider Him." And then let us afresh "take heed" that with "a
good heart of faith" we draw to and abide in union with the "considered"
Christ, in whom we know and possess the living God.



CHAPTER III

UNTO PERFECTION

HEB. iv.-vi.


Our study of the great Epistle takes here another step, covering three
short but pregnant chapters. So pregnant are they that it would be
altogether vain to attempt to deal with them thus briefly were we not
mindful of our special point of view. We are pondering the Epistle not
for all that it has to say, but for what it has to say of special moment
and application for certain needs of our own time.

The outline of the portion before us must accordingly be traced. In
detail it presents many questions of connexion and argument, for,
particularly in chapter iv., the apostolic thought takes occasionally a
parenthetical flight of large circuit. But in outline the progression
may be traced without serious difficulty.

We have first the appeal to exercise the promptitude and decision of
faith, in view of the magnificent promise of a Canaan of sacred rest
made to the true Israel in Christ. Even to "seem" (iv. 1) to fail of
this, even to seem to sink into a desert grave of unbelief while "the
rest of faith" is waiting to be entered, is a thought to "fear." Great
indeed are the promises; "living" and "energetic" is "the Word" which
conveys them.[A]

[A] Ch. iv. 12, if I am right, follows in thought upon iv. 2, leaving a
long and deep parenthesis between.

That "Word" is piercing as a sword in its convictions, for it is the
vehicle of His mind and His holiness "with whom is concerned our
discourse" (iv. 13); while yet it is, on its other side, a "Gospel"
indeed (iv. 2), the message of supreme good, if only it is met with
faith by the convicted soul. Yes, it is a message which tells of a land
of "rest," near and open, fairer far than the Canaan on which Caleb
reported and from which he and his fellows brought the great clusters of
its golden vines. Passage after passage of the old Scriptures (iv. 3-9)
shows that _that_ Canaan was no finality, no true _terminus_ of the
purpose of God; another "rest," another "day" of entrance and blessing,
was intimated all along. Unbelief forfeited the true fruition of even
the old Canaan for the old Israel. And now out of that evil has sprung
the glorious good of a more articulate promise of the new Canaan, the
inheritance of rest in Christ, destined for the new Israel. But as
then, so now, the promise, if it is to come to its effect, must be met
and realized by obedient faith. Despite all the difficulties, in face of
whatever may seem the Anakim of to-day, looking to Him who is
immeasurably more than Moses, and who is the true and second Joshua,[B]
we must make haste to enter in by the way of faith. We must "mingle the
word with faith" (iv. 2), into one glorious issue of attained and
abiding rest. We must lay our hearts soft and open (iv. 7) before the
will of the Promiser. We must "be in earnest" to enter in (iv. 11).

[B] The "Jesus" (iv. 8) of the Authorized Version.

Then, at iv. 14, the appeal takes us in beautiful order more directly to
Him who is at once the Leader and the Promised Land. And again He stands
before us as a "great High Priest." Our Moses, our Joshua, is also our
more than Aaron, combining in Himself every possible qualification to be
our guide and preserver as we enter in. He stands before us in all the
alluring and endearing character of mingled majesty and mercy; a High
Priest, a great High Priest, immeasurably great; He has "passed through
the heavens" (iv. 14) to the Holiest, to the throne, the celestial
mercy-seat (iv. 16) "within the veil" (vi. 19); He is the Son (v. 5); He
is the Priest-King, the true Melchizedek; He is all this for ever (vi.
20). But on the other hand He is the sinner's Friend, who has so
identified Himself in His blessed Manhood with the sinner, veritably
taking our veritable nature, that He is "able to feel with our
weaknesses" (iv. 15); "able to feel a sympathetic tolerance [Greek:
metriopathein] towards the ignorant and the wandering" (v. 2);
understanding well "what sore temptations mean, for He has felt the
same"; yea, He has known what it is to "cry out mightily and shed tears"
(v. 7) in face of a horror of death; to cast Himself as a genuine
suppliant, in uttermost suffering, upon paternal kindness; to get to
know by personal experience what submission means ([Greek: emathe tên
hypakoên], v. 8); "not my will but Thine be done."

Such is the "Leader of our faith," so great, so glorious, so perfect, so
tender, so deep in fellowship with us. Shall we not follow Him into "the
rest," though a "Jordan rolls between" and though cities of giants seem
to frown upon us even on the other side? Shall we not dare thither to
follow HIM out of the desert of our "own works"?

Much, says the Epistle (v. 11, etc.), is to be said about Him; the theme
is deep, it is inexhaustible, for He is God and Man, one Christ. And the
Hebrew believers (and is it not the same with us?) are not quick to
learn the great lesson of His glory, and so to grow into the adult
manhood of grace. But let us try; let us address ourselves to "bear
onwards ([Greek: pherômetha]) to perfection" (vi. 1), in our thought,
our faith, and so in our experience. The great foundation factors must
be for ever there, the initial acts or attitudes of repentance, and of
"faith towards God"; the abandonment of the service of sin, including
the bondage of a would-be salvation of self by self, and the simple
turning God-ward of a soul which has come to despair of its own
resources--truths symbolized and sealed by the primal rites of baptism
and blessing (vi. 2); and then the great revealed facts in prospect,
resurrection and judgment, must be always remembered and reckoned with.
These however must be "left" (vi. 1), not in oblivion but in progress,
just as a building "leaves" the level of its always necessary
foundation. We must "bear onwards" and upwards, into the upper air of
the fulness of the truth of the glory of our Christ. We must seek
"perfection," the profound maturity of the Christian, by a maturer and
yet maturer insight into Him. Awful is the spiritual risk of any other
course. The soul content to stand still is in peril of a tremendous
fall. To know about salvation at all, and not to seek to develope the
knowledge towards "perfection," is to expose one's self to the terrible
possibility of the fate reserved for those who have much light but no
love (vi. 4-9).[C] But this, by the grace of God, shall not be for the
readers of the Epistle. They have shewn living proofs of love already,
practical and precious, for the blessed Name's sake (vi. 10). Only, let
them remember the spiritual law--the necessity of growth, of progress,
of "bearing onwards to perfection"; the tremendous risks of a subtle
stagnation; the looking back; the pillar of salt.

[C] I make no attempt here to expound in detail the formidable words of
vi. 4-8. But I believe that their purport is fairly described in the
sentence above in the text. Their true scriptural illustrations are to
be sought in a Balaam and a Judas.

In order that full blessing may thus be theirs, let them look for it in
the only possible direction. Let them take again to their souls the
mighty promise of eternal benediction (vi. 14), sealed and crowned with
the Promiser's gracious oath in His own Name, binding Himself to
fidelity under the bond of His own majesty (vi. 13). Aye, and then let
them again "consider" Him in whom promise and oath are embodied and
vivified for ever; in whom rests--nay, in whom consists--our anchor of
an eternal hope (vi. 19); Jesus, our Man of men, our High Priest of the
everlasting order, now entered "within the veil," into the place of the
covenant and the glory, and "as Forerunner on our behalf" (vi. 20). To
follow Him in there, in the "consideration" of faith and of worshipping
love--this is the secret, to the end, for "bearing onwards to
perfection."

Our review of the passage is thus in some sort over. Confessedly it is
an outline; but I do not think that any vital element in the matter has
been overlooked. Much of the message we are seeking has been inevitably
given us by the way; we may be content now to gather up and summarize
the main result.

The "Hebrews," then, and their special circumstances of difficulty, are
here in view, as everywhere else in the Epistle. Tempted to "fall away,"
to give up the "hope set before them," to relapse to legalism, to
bondage, to the desert, to a famine of the soul, to barrenness and
death--here they are dealt with, in order to the more than prevention of
the evil. And here, as ever, the remedy propounded is our Lord Jesus
Christ, in His personal glory, in His majestic offices, in His
unfathomable human sympathy, seen in perfect harmony of light with His
eternal greatness.

The remedy is Christ; a deeper, fuller, always maturing sight of Christ.
The urgent necessity is first promptitude and then progress in respect
of knowing Him.

At the risk of a charge of iteration and monotony, I reaffirm that here
is the great antidote for the many kindred difficulties of our troubled
time. From how many sides comes the strain! Sometimes from that of an
open naturalism; sometimes from that of a partial yet far-reaching
"naturalism under a veil" which some recent teachings on "The Being of
Christianity" may exemplify, with principles and presuppositions which
largely underlie the extremer forms, certainly, of the modern critique
of Scripture; sometimes from the opposite quarter of an ecclesiasticism
which more or less exaggerates or distorts the great ideas of corporate
life and sacramental operation. It would be idle to ignore the subtle
_nuances_ of difference between mind and mind, and the resultant varying
incidence in detail of great and many-sided truths. But is it not fair
and true to say that, on the whole, the supreme personal glory of
Christ, as presented direct to the human soul in its august and
ineffable loveliness, in its infinite lovableness, is what alike the
naturalistic and the ultra-ecclesiastic theories of religion tend to
becloud? On the other side, accordingly, it is in the "consideration" of
that glory, in acquaintance with that wonderful Christ, that we shall
find the glow which can melt and overcome the cloud. We must put
ourselves continually in face of the revelation of this in the Word of
God. We must let that revelation so sink into the heart as to do its
self-verifying work there thoroughly, yet with a growth never to be
exhausted. We must "bear onwards" evermore "unto perfection"--in
"knowing Him." So we shall stand, and live, and love, and labour on.



CHAPTER IV

OUR GREAT MELCHIZEDEK

HEB. vii.


There is a symmetrical dignity all its own in the seventh chapter of the
Hebrews. I recollect listening, now many years ago, to a characteristic
exposition of it by the late beloved and venerated Edward Hoare, in a
well-known drawing-room at Cromer--a "Bible Reading" full alike of
mental stimulus and spiritual force. He remarked, among many other
things, that the chapter might be described as a sermon, divided under
three headings, on the text of Psalm cx. 4. This division and its
significance he proceeded to develope. The chapter opens with a
preamble, a statement of the unique phenomena which surround, in the
narrative of Genesis, the name and person of Melchizedek. Then, starting
from the presupposition, to whose truth the Lord Himself is so
abundantly a witness, that the Old Testament is alive everywhere with
intimations of the Christ, and remembering that in the Psalm in
question a mysterious import is explicitly assigned to Melchizedek, the
Writer proceeds to his discourse. Its theme is the primacy of the
priesthood embodied in Melchizedek over that represented by Aaron, and
the bearing of this on the glory of Him who is proclaimed a priest for
ever after Melchizedek's order. This theme is presented under headings,
somewhat as follows. _First_ (verses 4-14), the one priesthood is
greater than the other _in order_. Abraham, bearing the whole Aaronic
hierarchy potentially within him, defers to Melchizedek as to his
greater. Hence, among other inferences, the sacred Personage who is a
priest for ever after Melchizedek's order, wholly independent of
Levitical limits, must dominate and must supersede the order of the sons
of Aaron with their inferior status and with their transitory lives.
_Secondly_ (verses 15-19), the one priesthood is greater than the other
in respect of _the finality_, the permanence, the everlastingness, of
the greater Priest and of His office. He is what He is "for ever, on the
scale of the power of indissoluble life."[D] As such, He is the Priest
not of an introductory and transient "commandment" but of that "better
hope" which (ver. 19) has at last "made perfect" the purpose and the
promise, fulfilled the intention of eternal mercy, and brought us, the
people of this great covenant, absolutely nigh to God. _Thirdly_ (verses
20, 21), this second aspect of the supremacy of the greater Priesthood
is emphasized and solemnized by one further reference to Psalm cx. 4.
There the Eternal, looking upon the mysterious Partner of His throne, is
heard not to promise only but to _vow_, with an oath unalterable as
Himself, that the Priesthood of "His Fellow" shall be everlasting. No
such solemnity of affirmation attended Aaron's investiture. There is
something greater here, and more immediately Divine. The "covenant"
(ver. 22) committed to the administration of One thus sealed with the
oath of Heaven must indeed be "better," and cannot but be final; the
goal of the eternal purpose.

[D] [Greek: kata dunamin zôês akatalytou].

_Then_ (verses 23-28) the discourse passes into what we may call its
epilogue. The thought recurs to the sublime contrast between the
pathetic numerousness of the successors of Aaron, "not suffered to
continue by reason of death," and the singleness, the "unsuccessional"
identity for ever, of the true Melchizedek, who abides eternally. And
then, moving to its end, the argument glows and brightens into an
"application" to the human heart. We have in JESUS (the Name has now
already been pronounced, ver. 22) a Friend, an Intercessor, infinitely
and for ever competent to save us, His true Israel. We have in Him a
High Priest supreme in every attribute of holiness and power, and
qualified for His work of intercession by that sacrifice of Himself
which is at once solitary and all-sufficient. Behold then the contrast
and the conclusion. To a great Dispensation, the preparatory, succeeds a
greater, the greatest, the other's end and crown. To the "weak" mortal
priesthood of the law, never warranted by the vow of God to abide always
in possession, succeeds One who is Priest, and King, and SON, sealed for
His office by the irrevocable vow, "consecrated for evermore."

Such on the whole, as I recall it, was the exposition of my venerable
friend, in 1887. Each new reading of the chapter seems to me to bear out
the substantial accuracy of it; indeed the symmetry and order of the
chapter make it almost inevitable that some such line should be taken by
the explanation. Thus then it lies before us. It is filled in all its
parts with Jesus Christ, in His character of the true Melchizedek, our
final, everlasting, perfect, supreme, Divine High Priest.

This simple treatise is not the place for critical discussions. I do not
attempt a formal vindication of the mystical and Messianic reference of
Psalm cx. All I can do here, and perhaps all I should do, is to affirm
solemnly my belief in it, at the feet of Christ. I am perfectly aware
that now, within the Church, and by men unquestionably Christian as well
as learned, our Lord's own interpretation of that Psalm,[E] involving as
it does His assertion of its Davidic authorship, is treated as quite
open to criticism and disproof. One such scholar does not hesitate to
say that, if the majority of modern experts are right as to the
non-Davidic authorship, and he seems to think that they are, "our Lord's
argument breaks down." All I would remark upon such utterances, coming
from men who all the while sincerely adore Christ as their Lord and God,
is that they must surely open the way towards conceptions of His whole
teaching which make for the ruin of faith. For the question is not at
all whether our Redeemer consented to submit to limits in His conscious
human knowledge; I for one hold that He assuredly did so. It is whether
He consented to that sort of limitation which alone, in respect of
imperfection of knowledge, is the real peril of a teacher, and which is
his fatal peril--the ignorance of his own ignorance, and a consequent
claim to teach where he does not know. In human schools the betrayal of
_that_ sort of ignorance is a deathblow to confidence, not only in some
special utterance, but in the teacher, for it strikes at his claim not
to knowledge so much as to wisdom, to balance and insight of thought. I
venture to say that recent drifts of speculation shew how rapidly the
conception of a fallible Christ developes towards that of a wholly
imperfect and untrustworthy Christ. And, looking again at the vast
phenomenon of the Portrait in the Gospels, I hold that the line of
thought which offers by very far the least difficulty, not to faith only
but to reason, is that which relies absolutely on His affirmations
wherever He is pleased actually to affirm.

[E] Matt. xxii. 44; Luke xx. 42. Cp. Acts ii. 34.

So thinking, I take His exposition of Psalm cx. as for me final. And
that exposition guarantees at once a typical mystery latent in Gen. xiv.
and the rightness of its development in the passage here before us.

But now, what "message" has our chapter for us, in view of the needs of
our own time?

First, as to its sacerdotal doctrine. It throws a broad illumination on
the grand finality and uniqueness of the mediatorial priesthood of our
Lord, the Son of God. It puts into the most vivid possible contrast the
age of "the law" and that of Christ as to the priestly conception and
institution. Somehow, under the law, there was a need for priests who
were "men, having infirmity." For certain grave purposes (not for all,
by any means, even in that legal period) it was the will of God that
they should stand between His Israel and Him. But the argument of this
chapter, unless it elaborately veils its true self in clouds, goes
directly to shew that such properly mediatorial functions, in the age of
Christ, are for ever withdrawn from "men, having infirmity." Where they
stood of old, one after another, sacrificing, interceding, going in
behind the veil, permitted to draw nearer to God, in an official
sanctity, than their brethren, there now stands Another, sublime,
supreme, alone. He is Man indeed, but He is not "man having infirmity."
He is higher than the heavens, while He is one with us. And now our one
secret for a complete approach to God is to come to God "through HIM."
And this, unless the chapter is an elaborate semblance of what it is
not, means nothing if it does not mean that between the Church, and
between the soul, and the Lord Jesus Christ, there is to come
_absolutely nothing mediatorial_. As little as the Jew, for ceremonial
purposes, needed an intermediary in dealing with his mortal priest so
little do we, for the whole needs of our being, need an intermediary in
dealing with our eternal Priest.

In the age of Christ, no office can for one moment put one "man having
infirmity" nearer to God than another, if this chapter means what it
says. Mediatorial priesthood, a very different thing from commissioned
pastorate, has no place in apostolic Christianity, with the vast
exception of its sublime and solitary place in the Person of our most
blessed Lord.

Then further, the chapter, far from giving us merely the cold gift (as
it would be if this were all) of a negative certainty against unlawful
human claims, gives us, as its true, its inmost message, a glorious
positive. It gives us the certainty that, for every human heart which
asks for God, this wonderful Christ, personal, eternal, human, Divine,
is quite immediately accessible. The hands of need and trust have but to
be lifted, and they hold HIM. And He is the SON. In Him we have the
FATHER. We do indeed "_draw nigh_ to God through Him."

Therefore we will do it. The thousand confusions of our time shall only
make this Divine simplicity the more precious to us. We will at once and
continually take Jesus Christ for granted in all the fulness and
splendour of His High-priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. That
Priesthood is for ever what it is; it is as new and young to-day in its
virtue as if the oath had but to-day been spoken, and He had but to-day
sat down at the right hand.

Happy we if we use Him thus. He blesses those who do so with blessings
which they cannot analyse, but which they know. Many years ago a
Christian lady, daughter of a saintly Non-conformist pastor in the west
of Dorset, told me how, in a then distant time, her father had striven
to teach a sick man, a young gipsy in a wandering camp, to read, and to
come to Christ. The camp moved after a while, and the young man, dying
of consumption, took a Bible with him. Time rolled on, and one day a
gray-haired gipsy came to the minister's door; it was the youth's
father, with the news of his son's happy death, and with his Bible.
"Sir, I cannot read a word; but _he_ was always reading it, and he
marked what he liked with a stick from the fire. And he said you would
find one place marked with two lines; it was everything to my poor lad."
The leaves were turned, and the stick was found to have scored two lines
at the side of Heb. vii. 25: "He is able also to save them to the
uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing that He ever liveth to make
intercession for them."



CHAPTER V

THE BETTER COVENANT

HEB. viii.


The Person and greatness of our High Priest are now full before the
readers of the Epistle. The paragraph we enter next, after one more
deliberate contemplation of His dignity and His qualifications, proceeds
to expound His relation to the better and eternal Covenant. We shall
find here also messages appropriate to our time.

The first step then is a review, a summing up, a "look again" upon the
true King of Righteousness and peace (verses 1, 2). "Such a High Priest
_we have_." It is a wonderful affirmation, not only of His existence but
of His relation to "us," His people. "_We have_" Him. He has taken His
seat indeed "at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the
heavens." But this great exaltation has not removed Him for a moment out
of our possession; we have Him. He is now the great Minister, the
supreme sacerdotal Functionary, of the heavenly sanctuary, "the true
tabernacle," [Greek: tês skênês tês alêthinês], the non-figurative
reality of which the Mosaic structure was only the shadow; the true
scene of unveiled Presence and immortal worship, "pitched" by Him whose
face makes Heaven, and makes it all one temple. But this sublimity of
our Priest's place and power does not make Him in the least less ours;
we have Him.

The words invite us to a new and deliberate look upward, and then to a
recollection deeper than ever that He is held spiritually in our very
hands; that He is a possession, nearer to us than any other.

Then (verses 3 and following) the thought moves towards the sacrificial
and offertorial qualifications of this great and most sacred Person. He
is what He is, our High Priest, our Minister of the sanctuary above, on
perfectly valid grounds. For He is, what every sacerdotal minister must
be, an Offerer. And He is this in a sense, in a way, congruous to His
heavenly position. He has no blood of goats and calves to present, like
the priests on earth. Indeed, were He "on earth" (ver. 4), this greatest
of all High Priests "would not even be a priest" ([Greek: oud an ên
hiereus]), an ordinary priest. For that function, says the Writer, is
already filled, "according to the law," by the Aaronic order, to which
He never belonged and never could belong (see vii. 13, 14). It is in
charge of the sacred servants ([Greek: latreuousin]) of the earthly
sanctuary, the God-given type and shadow (ver. 5) of the realities of
Heaven, but no more than their type and shadow, partial and transient.
No, His sacerdotal qualification is of another sort and a greater. What
it is which "He hath to offer" in the celestial Holiest is not yet
explicitly said; that is reserved for the ninth chapter, to which this
is but the vestibule. But already the Epistle emphasizes the truth that
"He _hath somewhat_ to offer," so that we may fully realize the
completeness of His high-priestly power.

It may be well to pause here, and to ask whether this passage reveals
that our Lord Jesus Christ is at this moment "offering" for us, in His
heavenly life. We are all aware that this has been widely held and
earnestly pressed, sometimes into inferences which, as far as I can see,
cannot at all be borne even by the doctrine that He _is_ offering for us
now. In particular it is said that, if He in glory is offering for His
Church, then His Church must, in some sense, as in a counterpart, be
offering here on earth, in union with Him. In short, there must still be
priests on earth who are ministers of "the example and shadow of
heavenly things." But surely, if this Epistle makes anything clear, it
makes it clear that our great Priest is the superseding fulfilment of
all such ministrations done by "men having infirmity." It is His glory,
and it is ours, that He is known by us as our one and all-sufficient
Offerer and Mediator. It is precisely as such that "we have Him," in a
way to distinguish our position and privilege in a magnificent sense
from that of those who needed the sacerdotal aid of their mortal
brethren.

But then further, does this passage really intimate at all that He is
offering now? The thought appears to be decisively negatived by the
grandeur of the terms of the first verse of this chapter. Where, in the
heavenly sanctuary, is our High Priest now? He has "taken His seat on
the right hand of the throne of the majesty." But enthronement is a
thought out of line with the act and attitude of oblation. The offerer
stands before the Power he approaches. Our Priest is seated--where Deity
alone can sit.

Does not this tell us that the words (ver. 3), "It is necessary that He
too should have something to offer," are to be explained not of a
continuous historical procedure (to which idea, by the way, the aorist
verb [Greek: prosenenkê] would hardly be appropriate), but as the
statement of a principle in terms of time? The "necessity" is, not that
He should have something to offer now, and to-morrow, and always, but
that the matter and act of offering should belong to Him. And they do so
belong, in principle and effect, for priestly purposes, by having been
once and for ever handled and performed by Him. His "need" is, not to be
always offering, but to be always an Offerer. He meets that need by
being for ever the Priest who had Himself to offer, and who offered
Himself, and who now dispenses from His sacerdotal seat the benedictions
based upon the sacrifice of which He is for ever the once accepted
Offerer.

Only thus viewed, I venture to say, can this phrase be read in its full
harmony with the whole Epistle. "He hath somewhat to offer," in the
sense that He has for ever the grand sacerdotal qualification of being
an Offerer who, having executed that function, now bears to all eternity
its _character_. But He is not therefore always executing the function.
Otherwise He must descend from His throne. But His enthronement, His
session, is a fact of His present position as important and
characteristic as possible in this whole Epistle.

Aaron was not always offering. But he was always an offerer. On the
morrow of the Atonement Day he was as much an offerer as on the day
itself. All through the year, even until the next Atonement, he was
still an offerer. He exercised his priestly functions at all times
because, in principle, he "had somewhat to offer" in its proper time.
_Our_ High Priest knows only one Atonement Day, and it is over for ever.
And His Israel have it for their privilege and glory not to be "serving
unto an example and shadow" of even His work and office, but to be going
always, daily and hourly, direct to Him in His perfect Priesthood, in
which they always "have" Him, and to be always abiding, in virtue of
Him, "boldly," "with confidence," in the very presence of the Lord.

Then the chapter moves forward (verses 6 and following) to consider the
relation between our High Priest and _the Covenant_ of which He is the
Mediator. Here begins one of the great themes of the Epistle. It will
recur again and again, till at last we read (xiii. 20) of "the blood of
the Covenant eternal."

This pregnant subject is introduced by a solemn reference to the
"promises upon which has been legislated," legally instituted, [Greek:
nenomothetêtai], this new compact between God and man. The reference is
to the thirtieth chapter of Jeremiah, from which an extract is here made
at length. There the prophet, in the name of his God, explicitly
foretells the advent of what we may reverently call a new departure in
the revealed relations between Jehovah and His people. At Sinai He had
engaged to bless them, yet under conditions which left them to discover
the total inability of their own sin-stricken wills to meet His holy
while benignant will. They failed, they broke the pact, and judgment
followed them of course. But now another order is to be taken. Their
King and Lawgiver, without for one moment ceasing to be such, will also
undertake another function, wholly new, as regards the method of
covenant. He will place Himself so upon their side as Himself to
readjust and empower their affections and their wills. He "will put His
laws into their mind and write them upon their hearts," and "they shall
all know Him," with the knowledge which is life eternal. And further, as
the antecedent to all this, in order to open the path to it, to place
them where this wonderful blessing can rightly reach and fill them,
their King and Lawgiver pledges Himself to a _previous_ pardon, full and
unreserved; "Their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more."
They shall be set before Him in an acceptance as full as if they had
never fallen. And then, not as the condition to this but as the sequel
to it, He will so deal with them, internally and spiritually, that they
shall will His will and live His law. There shall be no mechanical
compulsion; "their mind," "their hearts," full as ever of personality
and volition, shall be the matter acted upon. But there shall be a
gracious and prevailing influence, deciding their spiritual action along
its one true line; "I will put," "I will write."

This is the new, the better, the everlasting Covenant. It is placed here
in the largest and most decisive contrast over against the old covenant,
the compact of Sinai, "written and engraven in stones" (2 Cor. iii. 7).
That compact had done its mysterious work, in convincing man of his
sinful incapacity to meet the will of God. Now emerges its wonderful
antithesis, in which man is first entirely pardoned, with a pardon which
means acceptance, peace, re-instatement into the home and family of God,
and then and therefore is internally transfigured by his Father's power
into a being who loves his Father's law.

What the prophet foretold was claimed by the Lord Christ Himself, as
fulfilled in His Person and His work, when He took the cup of blessing,
at the feast of the new Passover of the new Israel, and said, "This cup
is the new covenant in my blood." And what He so claimed His great
apostle rejoiced in, when he wrote to Corinth (2 iii. 6, etc.) of the
"ministry of the new covenant," the covenant of the Spirit, of life, of
glory. And here the same truth is stated again, and in strong connexion
again with Him who is at once its Sacrifice, its Surety, its Mediator;
the Cause, and Guardian, and Giver of all its blessings. He is such that
it is such; ours is "_so great_ a salvation," because of so great and
wonderful a High Priest, the possessor in very deed of "somewhat to
offer," and now, with hands full of the fruits of that offering,
"seated" for us "on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the
heavens."

Here is a message for our times, in a sense which seems to me special,
pressing, and deeply beneficent. For the terms of that new covenant are
nothing less than the glorious essence, the Divine peculiarity, of the
Gospel of the grace of God. This forgiveness, this most sincere and
entirely unearned amnesty, this oblivion of the sins of the people of
God--do we hear very much about it now, even where by tradition it might
be most expected? But do we not need it now? Was there ever a time when
human hearts would be more settled and more energized than now, amidst
their moral restlessness, by a wise, thoughtful, but perfectly
unmistakable reaffirmation of the sublime fulness of Divine forgiveness
in Christ? Men may think that they can do without that message. They may
bid us throw the whole weight of preaching upon self-sacrifice, upon
social service, upon conduct at large. But the fully wakeful soul knows
that it is only then capacitated for self-sacrifice in the Lord's
footsteps when it has received the warrant of forgiveness, written large
in His sacred blood, finding pardon and peace at the foot of His
sacrificial Cross. Then turn to the second limb of the covenant, a limb
greater even than the first, inasmuch as for it the first is provided
and guaranteed. Do we hear too much about this covenant blessing now? Do
our pulpits too frequently and too fully give out the affirmation that
God in Christ stands pledged and covenanted to work the moral
transfiguration of His believing Israel, to act so on "the first springs
of thought and will" that our being shall freely respond to His free
action upon it, and will His will, and live His law? But was there ever
greater need for such an affirmation than in our time, so restless, so
unsatisfied, and, deep below all its superficial arrogance, so
disappointed, so discouraged?

Let us return upon the rich treasures of this great Compact of God in
Christ. The Covenant is ever new, for it is eternal. And it lies safe in
the ministering hands of Him who died to inaugurate it and make it good,
and who lives to shower its blessings down. He is on the right hand of
the throne of the majesty in the heavens. And "_we have_" Him.



CHAPTER VI

SANCTUARY AND SACRIFICE

HEB. ix.


The Epistle has exhibited to us the glory of the eternal Priest and the
wealth and grandeur of the new Covenant. It advances now towards the
Sanctuary and the Sacrifice wherein we see that covenant sanctified and
sealed, under the auspices of our great "Priest upon His throne."

The Teacher first dilates to the Hebrews upon the outstanding features
of the type. He enumerates the main features of that "sanctuary, adapted
to this (visible) world" ([Greek: to hagion, kosmikon]), which was
attached to the first covenant (ver. 1).[F] Particularly, he emphasizes
its double structure, which presented first a consecrated chamber, holy
but not holiest, the depository of lamp and table, but then beyond it,
parted from it by the inner curtain, the _adylum_ itself, the Holiest
Place, where lay ready for use "a golden censer," the vessel needful
for the making of the incense-cloud which should veil the glory, and,
above all, the Ark of that first covenant of which so much has now been
said. There it lay, with the manna and the budding rod, symbols of
Mosaic and Aaronic power and function; and the tablets of that law which
was written not on the heart but on the stone; and the mercy-seat above
them, and the cherubic bearers of the Shechinah above the mercy-seat;
symbols of a reconciliation and an access yet to be revealed (verses
2-5).

[F] Assuredly we must delete [Greek: skênê] from the text in this verse,
and understand [Greek: diathêkê] (see viii. 13) after [Greek: hê prôtê].

Such was the sanctuary, as depicted to the mind of the believing Hebrew
in the books which he almost worshipped as the oracles of God. That
tabernacle he had never seen; that ark he knew had long vanished out of
sight. The temple of Herod, with its vacant Holiest, was the sanctuary
of his generation. But the Mosaic picture of the Tent and of the Ark was
for him the abiding standard, the Divine ideal, the pattern of the
realities in the heavens; and to it accordingly the Epistle directs his
thought, as it prepares to display those realities before him.[G]

[G] I do not attempt in these papers to do more than allude to the
controversy of our time over the historical character of the Mosaic
books. But I must allude in passing to a noteworthy German critique of
the Wellhausen theory, "by a former adherent," W. Möller: _Bedenken
gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese, von einem früheren Anhänger_
(Gütersloh, 1899). The writer, a young and vigorous student and thinker,
explains with remarkable force the immense difficulties from the purely
critical point of view in the way of the theory that the account of the
Tabernacle was invented by "Levitistic" leaders of the time of the
Captivity. The work has been translated into English, and published by
the Religious Tract Society "_Are the Critics right?_"

Then it proceeds to a similar presentation of one great feature in the
ritual, the "praxis," connected with this Tent of Sanctuaries. It takes
the reader to his Book of Leviticus, and to its order of Atonement.
There (ch. xvi.) a profound emphasis is laid upon both the secluded
sanctity of the inner shrine, the place of the Presence, and the
sacrificial process by which alone the rare privilege of entrance into
it could be obtained. The outer chamber was the daily scene of priestly
ministration. But the inner was, officially at least, entered once only
in the year, and by the High Priest alone, in the solitary dignity of
his office. And even he went in there only as bearing in his very hands
the blood of immolated victims, blood which he offered, presented, in
the Holiest, with an express view to the Divine amnesty for another
year's tale of "ignorances" ([Greek: agnoêmata], ver. 7), his own and
the people's.

Such was the sanctuary, such the atoning ritual, attached to the first
covenant. All was "mysteriously meant," with a significance infinitely
deeper than what any thought of Moses, or of Ezra, could of itself have
given it. "The Holy Ghost intimated" (ver. 8), through that guarded
shrine and those solitary, seldom-granted, death-conditioned entrances
into it, things of uttermost moment for the soul of man. There stood the
Tent, there went in the lonely Priest, with the blood of bull and goat,
as "a parable for the period now present,"[H] the time of the Writer and
his readers, in which a ritual of offering was still maintained whose
annual recurrence proved its inadequacy, its non-finality. Yes, this
majestic but sombre system pictured a state of jealous reserve between
the worshippers and their God. Its propitiations were of a kind which,
in the nature of things, could not properly and in the way of virtual
force set the conscience free from the sense of guilt, "perfecting the
worshipper conscience-wise." They could only "sanctify with a view to
the purity of the flesh" (ver. 13), satisfying the conditions of a
national and temporal acceptance. Its holiest place was indeed
approachable, once annually, by one representative person; enough to
illustrate and to seal a hope; but otherwise, and far more deeply, the
conditions symbolized separation and a Divine reserve. But "the good
things to come"[I] were in the Divine view all along. The "time of
reformation" (ver. 10), of the rectification of the failures suffered
under the first covenant, drew near. Behold Messiah steps upon the
scene, the true High Priest (ver. 11). Victim and Sacrificer at once, He
sheds His own sacrificial blood (ver. 12) on the altar of Golgotha, to
be His means ([Greek: dia] _c. gen._) of acceptable approach. And then
He passes, through the avenue of a sanctuary "not made with hands" (ver.
11), even the heavenly world itself (cp. [Greek: dielêlythota tous
ouranous], iv. 14), into the Holiest Place of the eternal Presence on
the throne. He goes in thither, there to be, and there to do, all that
we know of from the long context previous to this chapter, even to sit
down accepted at the right hand of the majesty on high, King of
Righteousness and Peace. And this action and entrance is, in its very
nature, a thing done once and for ever. The true High Priest, being what
He is, doing what He has done, has indeed "found _eternal_ redemption
for us" (ver. 12). It is infinitely unnecessary now to imagine a
_repetition_ of sacrifice, entrance, offering, acceptance, for Him, and
for us in Him. Such an Oblation, the self-offering of the Incarnate Son
in the power of the Eternal Spirit (ver. 14), what can it not do for the
believing worshipper's welcome in, and his perfect peace in the
assurance of the covenanted love of God? Is it not adequate to "purge
the conscience from dead works," to lift from it, that is to say, the
death-load of unforgiven transgressions, and to lead the Christian in,
as one with his atoning Lord, "to serve a living God," with the happy
service of a worshipper ([Greek: latreuein]) who need "go no more out"
from the Holy Place of peace?

[H] I think the Revisers are right in giving "_now_ present" instead of
"_then_ present" as the rendering for [Greek: ton enestêkota] (ver. 9).
The Epistle alludes, so I should conjecture, to the period of its
writing as a time when the sacrifices were still going on, albeit on the
eve of cessation.--It seems best to read [Greek: kath' hên], not [Greek:
kath' hon], in ver. 9; "in accordance with which _parable_."

[I] Possibly we should read [Greek: tôn genomenôn agathôn], "the good
things that are come" (R.V. marg.). But the practical difference is not
great.

But the Teacher has not yet done with the wealth of the Mosaic types of
our full salvation. He has more to say about the profound truth that the
New Covenant needed for its Mediator, its Herald, its Guarantor and
Conveyer of blessing, not a Moses but a Messiah, who could both die and
reign, could at once be Sacrifice and Priest. Covenants, in the normal
order of God's will in Scripture, demanded death for their ratification.
"Where covenant is, there must be brought in the death of the
covenant-victim."[J] So it was with the old covenant (verses 18-21) in
the narrative of Exodus xxiv. So, throughout the Mosaic rules, we find
"remission," practically always, conditioned by "blood-shedding" (ver.
22). Peace with violated holiness was to be attained only by means of
sacrificial death. The terrestrial sanctuary, viewed as polluted by the
transgressions of the worshippers who sought its benefits, required
sacrificial death, the blood of bulls and goats, so to "cleanse" it that
God could meet Israel there in peace (ver. 23). Even so, only after a
higher and holier order, must it be with the better covenant and that
invisible sanctuary where a reconciled God may for ever meet in peace
His spiritual Israel. There must be priestly immolation and an offered
sacrifice; there must be peace conditioned by life-blood shed. And such
is the work of our Messiah-Priest. He has "borne the sins of many" (ver.
28). Presenting Himself (ver. 6) as the Atonement Victim, in the
heavenly Holiest, He has thereby "borne," uplifted ([Greek:
anenenkein]), in that Presence, for pardon and peace, the sins of the
new Israel. And so "the heavenly things" are, relatively to that Israel,
"cleansed"; their God can meet them in that sanctuary with an intimacy
and access free and perfect, because their High Priest and Mediator has
done His work for them. For ever and ever now they need no new
_sacrifice_; His blood, once shed, is eternally sufficient. Aye, and
they need now for ever no repeated _offering_ (ver. 25) of sacrifice, no
new _presentation_ of His blood before the throne, since once He has
taken His place upon it. To offer again He must suffer again (ver. 26).
For it is the law of His office first to offer--_and then to take His
place at the right hand_. He must leave that place, He must descend
again to a cross, if He is to take again the attitude of presentation.
"Henceforth" He sits, "expecting" (see below, x. 13), "till His enemies
be made His footstool." And His Israel on their part wait (ver. 28),
"expecting," till in that bright promised day "He appears, the second
time, without sin," unencumbered by the burthen He once carried for
them, "unto salvation," the salvation which means the final glory.
"Once, only once"--this is the sublime law of that Sacrifice and that
Offering. As death for us men comes "once," and then there follows
"judgment," so the death of Christ, the "offering" of Christ, comes
"once," and then comes, in a wonderful paradox, not judgment but
"salvation," for them that are found in Him.

[J] So, with the late Professor Scholefield (_Hints on a New
Translation_) I venture to render [Greek: tou diathemenou]. I am
convinced that this rendering, though it has the serious difficulty of
lacking any clear parallel to certify the application of [Greek:
diathemenou], is necessitated by the connexion.

The messages of this chapter for our time are equally manifest and
weighty. It closes with the assertion of a principle which should be for
all time decisive against all sorts and forms of "re-presentation" of
the Lord our Sacrifice. He has "offered" Himself once and for ever, and
is now, on our behalf, not in the Presence only but upon the Throne. Yet
more urgent, more vital, if possible, is the affirmation here of the
need and of the virtue of His vicarious death. The chapter puts His
blood-shedding before us in a way as remote as possible from a mere
example, or from a suffering meant to do its work mainly by a mysterious
impartation to us of the power to suffer. He dies "for the redemption of
the transgressions under the first covenant"--in other words, for the
welcome back to God of those who had sinned against His awful Law. He
dies that we, "the called," "might receive the promise of an eternal
inheritance." He dies, He offers, that we, wholly and solely because He
has done so, may find the heavenly, invisible, spiritual Holiest a place
of perfect peace with God, dwelling in it as in our spirits' home.

Are these the characteristic accents of the voice of the modern Church?
Have we not need to listen again, reverent and believing, to the ninth
chapter of the Hebrews, as it discourses about sanctuary, and sacrifice,
and offering, and peace?



CHAPTER VII

FULL, PERFECT, AND SUFFICIENT

HEB. x.


The heaven-taught Teacher has led us now along the avenue of the
Levitical fore-shadowings, through the prophetic symbolism of the old
high-priesthood, through the holy place and the holiest. The pathway,
marked by the blood of animal sacrifices, hallowing the awful terms of
the covenant of works, has brought us to the true Tabernacle and true
Sacrifice, to the better and final Covenant, to the supreme High Priest.
The teaching has left us, as the ninth chapter closes, "looking up
steadfastly into heaven," recollecting where the Lord is and why He is
there; thinking how we, His Israel, "have Him" for our Representative
and Mediator as He "appears in the presence of God for us," and
expecting the hour of joy and glory when He will put aside the curtains
of that tabernacle, and come forth to crown us with the final
benediction, receiving us "unto the salvation" of eternity (ix. 27,
28).

It is a solemn but a happy attitude. It can be taken by those only who
have "fled for refuge to the hope set before them." But they are to take
it, as those who feel beneath their feet the rock of an assured
salvation and know their open way to the heart of God.

The argument now proceeds in living continuity. Its business now is to
accentuate and develope the supremacy, the ultimacy--if the word may be
allowed--of the finished work of the true High Priest, in contrast to
the provisional and preparatory "law." The Writer has said much to us in
this way before, particularly in the preceding three chapters of the
Epistle. But he must emphasize it again, for it is the inmost purport of
his whole discourse. And he must do it now with the urgency of one who
has in view a real peril of apostasy. His readers are hard pressed, by
persuasions and by terrors, to turn back from Christ to the Judaistic
travesty of the message of the Law. He must tell them not only of the
splendour of Messiah's work but of the absolute finality of it for man's
salvation. To forsake it is to "forsake their own mercy," to "turn back
into perdition."

So he begins with a reminder of the incapacity of the Law to save, by
pointing to the ceaseless _repetition_ of the sacrificial acts. Year by
year, on one Atonement Day after another, the blood-shedding, the
blood-sprinkling, the propitiation, had to be done again. Year by year
accordingly the worshippers were treated as "not perfect" (ver. 1); that
is to say, in the clear light of the context, they were not perfect as
to reconciliation, they were loaded still with the burthen of guilt. The
"conscience of sins" (ver. 2) haunted them still, that is to say, the
weary sense of an unsettled score of offences, a position precarious and
unassured before the Judge.

We believe--nay, with the Psalms in our hands, such Psalms as xxiii.,
and xxxii., and ciii., we know--that for the really contrite and loyal
heart, even under the Law, there were large experiences of peace and
joy. But these blessings were not due to the sacrifices of the
tabernacle or the temple, however divinely ordered. They were due to
revelations from many quarters of the character of the Lord Jehovah, and
not least, assuredly, to the conviction--how could the more deeply
taught souls have helped it?--that this vast and death-dealing
ceremonial had _a goal_ which alone could explain it, in some
transcendent climax of remission. But in itself the ritual emphasized
not gladness but judgment, not love but the dread fact of guilt. And the
blood of goats could not for a moment be thought of (ver. 4) as _by
itself_ able to make peace with God. At best it laid stress on the need
of something which, while analogous to it on one side, should be
transcendently different and greater on the other.

The priests daily (ver. 11), the high priest yearly, as they slew and
burnt the victims, and sprinkled blood, and wafted incense, in view of
Israel's tale of offences against his King, were all, by their every
action, prophets of that mysterious something yet to come. They "made
remembrance of sins" (ver. 3), writing always anew upon the conscience
of the worshipper the certainty that sin, in its form of guilt, is a
tremendous reality in the court of God, that it calls importunately for
propitiation, while yet animal propitiations can never, by their very
nature, be really propitiatory of themselves. Yet the God of Israel had
commanded them; they could not be _mere_ forms therefore. What could
they be then but types and suggestions of a reality which should at last
justify the symbolism by a victorious fulfilment? Thus was an oracle
like Isa. liii. made possible. And thus, as we are taught expressly here
(verses 5-7), the oracle of Psalm xl. was made possible, in which
"sacrifices and offerings," though prescribed to Israel by his King,
were not "delighted in" by Him, not "willed" by Him for their own sake
at all, but in which One speaks to the Eternal about another and
supreme immolation, for which He who speaks "has come" to present
HIMSELF. "Ears hast Thou opened for me," runs the Hebrew (Ps. xl. 6). "A
body hast Thou adjusted for me," was the Greek paraphrase of the
Seventy, followed by the holy Writer here. It was as if the paraphrasts,
looking onward to the Hope of Israel, would interpret and expand the
thought of an uttermost _obedience_, signified by the _ear_, into the
completer thought of the _body_ of which the listening ear was part, and
which should be given up wholly in sacrifice to God.[K]

[K] So Kay, on this passage, in the _Speaker's Commentary_.

If this is at all the course of the Writer's exposition, there is
nothing arbitrary in the sequel to it. He explains the enigmatic Psalm
by finding in it the crucified and self-offering High Priest of our
profession. Of Him "the roll of the book" had spoken, as the supreme
doer and bearer for us of the will of God. His sacred Body was the Thing
indicated by the prophetic altars of Aaron. When He "offered" it,
presenting it to the eternal Holiness on our behalf, when He let it be
done to death because we had sinned, so that we might be accepted
because it, because He, had suffered--then did He "fill" the types
"full" of their true meaning, and so close their work for ever.

Yes, that work was now _for ever_ closed by the attainment of its goal.
Moreover, _His_ work of sacrifice and of offering, of suffering and of
presentation, was for ever finished also. This is the burthen and
message of the whole passage (verses 11-18). "Once for all" ([Greek:
ephapax]), "once for ever," the holy Body has been offered (ver. 10).
"He offered one sacrifice for sins in perpetuity," [Greek: eis to
diênekes] (ver. 12). And therefore, not only for the priests of the old
rite but for the High Priest of the heavenly order, "there is no more
offering for sin" (ver. 18).

And why? Because, for the new Israel, for the chosen people of faith
(ver. 39), the supreme sacrifice and offering has done its work. It has
"sanctified" them (verses 10, 29); that is to say, it has hallowed them
into God's accepted possession by its reconciling and redeeming
efficacy. For its virtue does much more than rescue; it annexes and
appropriates what it saves. It has "perfected" them (ver. 14); that is
to say, it has placed them effectually in that position of complete
"peace with God" which guilt while still unsettled makes impossible. It
has "put them among the children," within the home circle of Divine
love. It has done this "in perpetuity," [Greek: eis to diênekes] (ver.
14); that is to say, they will never to the very last need anything but
that sacrifice and offering to be the cause and the warrant of their
place within that home. "Their sins and their iniquities" their
reconciled Father "will never remember any more" against them (ver. 17),
in the sense that the sacrifice once presented on their behalf will be
before Him every moment in the person of the Self-Sacrificer, who sits
beside Him, "appearing for us." They are the Israel of the great New
Covenant. And that covenant, as we have already remembered (viii. 7-13),
provides for the spiritual transformation of the wills of the
covenanters; the law of their God shall be "written on" their very
minds; that is to say, they shall will His will as their own. But such a
"writing" demands, by the very nature of things, that _first, not last_,
there should be an absolute remission. For without remission there could
not be inward peace, nor therefore filial and paternal harmony. So, for
this deep mass of reasons, the new Israelites are _first_ wholly
accepted for the sake of their self-offered High Priest, that _then_
they may be wholly transformed by His power, working through His peace,
within themselves.

The great closing paragraphs of the chapter (verses 19-39) are one long
application of this sublime finality of the one Offering and this
presentness of our complete acceptance. First, the new Israelite, his
"heart sprinkled from an evil conscience" (ver. 22), released, that is
to say, by the applied Sacrifice from the haunting sense of guilt, and
having his "body washed with pure water," the baptismal sign and seal of
the covenant blessing, is _to behave as what he is_--the child at home.
That home is the Holy Place; it is the very Presence of his God; but _it
is home_. He is to pass into that sanctuary, along the pathway traced by
the blessed blood, not hesitating, but with the "boldness" of an
absolute reliance, perfectly free while perfectly and wonderingly
humbled; "with a true heart, in fulness, in full assurance, of faith"
(ver. 22). He is to hold fast his avowal of assurance, and meanwhile he
is to animate the brethren round him to a holy rivalry (ver. 24) of love
and zeal. He is to maintain all possible worshipping union with them, in
the dawning light of the promised return of the now enthroned High
Priest (ver. 25).

Then, further, the new Israelite is to cherish the grace of godly fear.
The "boldness" of the loyal child is to go along with the clear
recollection that outside the holy home there lies only "a wilderness of
woe." To leave it, to turn back from it, to be a renegade from covenant
joys, is no mere exchange of the best for the less good. It means
multiplied and capital rebellion. No legal shadow-sacrifices will
shelter now the soul that forsakes the eternal High Priest and casts His
Self-Sacrifice aside. To do that is to set out towards a hopeless
retribution, towards the fire of judgment, the vengeance of the living
God (verses 26-31).

With tender urgency he pleads for fresh memories and fresh resolves
(verses 32-35). He recalls to them days, not long ago, when they had
borne shame and loss, "a conflict of sufferings," fellowship with
outcast and imprisoned saints, spoiling of their own possessions--all
made more than bearable by the joy of their wonderful "enlightenment"
(ver. 32). Let them do so still, in full view of the coming crown. Let
them grasp afresh the glorious privilege of "boldness" (ver. 35),
reaffirming to themselves with strong assurance that they are
"sanctified," "perfected," at home with God in Christ. Let them rise up
and go on in that noble "patience" (ver. 36) which "suffers and is
strong." It is only "a very little while" before the High Priest will
reappear. And the "faith" which takes Him at His word will, as the
prophet witnesses (Hab. ii. 4), bridge that little while with a "life"
which cannot die. To "shrink back," as the same seer in the same breath
warns us, is to lose the smile of God in a final ruin. But that, for us,
cannot be; we, in His mercy, relying upon the faithful Promiser, attain
"the saving of the soul."

Now, as then, the tenth chapter of the Hebrews points with a golden rod
to the one path of life, and peace, and perseverance to the end.
"Rejoice in the Lord; _for you it is safe_" (Phil. iii. 1). The
"boldness" of a humble assurance of a present and a great salvation
traces the way for us, as it traced the way of old, through holiness to
Heaven.



CHAPTER VIII

FAITH AND ITS POWER

HEB. xi. (I.)


The eleventh chapter of the Hebrews is a pre-eminent Scripture. With the
fullest recognition of the Divine greatness of the whole Bible, never
forgetting that "every scripture hath in it the Spirit of God" (2 Tim.
iii. 16), we are yet aware as we read that some volumes in the inspired
Library are more pregnant than others, some structures in the sacred
city of the Bible more impressive than others, more rich in interest,
more responsive to repeated visits. Such a scripture among books is this
Epistle, and such a scripture among chapters is that on which we enter
now.

It is impressive by the majestic singleness of its theme; Faith, from
first to last, is its matter and its burthen. Further, it carries one
long appeal to the heart by its method; almost from the exordium to the
very close it deals with its theme not by abstract reasoning, nor even
by a citation of inspired utterances only. It works out its message by
a display, in long and living procession, of inspired human experiences.
It is to an extraordinary degree human, dealing all along with names as
familiar to us as any in any history can be; with characters which are
perfectly individual; with lives lived in the face of difficulty,
danger, trial, sorrow, as concrete as possible; with deaths met and
overcome under conditions of mystery, suspense, trial to courage and to
trust, which for all time the heart of man can apprehend in their
solemnity. Meanwhile, as a matter of diction and eloquence, the chapter
carries in it that peculiar charm which comes always with a stately
enumeration. It has often been remarked that there is a spell in the
mere recitation of names by a master of verse:

  "Lancelot, and Pelleas, and Pellenore."

Or take that great scene in _Marmion_, where the spectral summons is
pealed from Edinburgh Cross:

  "Then thunder'd forth a roll of names;
   The first was thine, unhappy James!
      Then all thy nobles came;
   Crawford, Glencairn, Montrose, Argyle,
   Ross, Bothwell, Forbes, Lennox, Lyle,
      Each chief of birth and fame."

And the consummate prose of this our chapter moves us with the like
rhythmical power upon the spirit, while from Abel and Enoch onwards we
hear recited, name by name, the ancestors of the undying family of
faith. No wonder that the chapter should have inspired to utterances
formed in its own style the Christian eloquence of later days, as in
that noble closing passage of Julius Hare's _Victory of Faith_, where he
carries on the record through the apostolic age, and the early
persecutions, and the times of the Fathers, to Wilfrid and Bernard, the
Waldenses, Wiclif, Luther, Latimer, down to Oberlin, and Simeon, "and
Howard, and Neff, and Henry Martyn."

So we approach the chapter, familiar as it is (and it is so familiar
because it is so great), with a peculiar and reverent expectation. We
look forward to another visit to this great gallery of "the portraits of
the family of God" with a pleasure as natural as it is reverent and
believing. True to our plan in these expositions, however, we shall not
attempt to comment upon it in the least degree fully or in detail. Our
aim will be rather to collect and focus together some main elements of
its teaching, particularly in regard of their applicability to our own
days.

The first question suggested as we read is, what is the connexion of the
chapter? Why does the Writer spend all this wealth of example and
application upon the one word Faith?

The reason is not far to seek. The tenth chapter closes with that word,
or rather with that truth: "My righteous man shall live by faith"; "we
are of them that have faith, unto the saving of the soul." And this
close is only the issue of a strain of previous teachings, going far
back towards the opening of the Epistle. "The evil heart of unbelief,"
of "unfaith," if the word may be used, is the theme of warning in iii.
12: "They could not enter in because of unbelief" (iii. 19). "The word
of hearing did not profit them" because of their lack of faith (iv. 2).
It is "we who have believed" who "enter into God's rest" (iv. 3).
Looking to our great High Priest and His finished work, we are to "draw
near with a true heart, in fulness of faith" (x. 22), for the
all-sufficient reason that such trust meets and appropriates eternal
truth: "He is faithful that promised" (x. 23).

These explicit occasional _mentions_ of faith are, however, as we might
expect, only a part of the phenomenon of the great place which _the
idea_ of faith holds in the Epistle. When we come to reflect upon it,
the precise position of the Hebrew Christians was that of men seriously,
even tremendously, tempted to walk by sight, not by faith. The Gospel
called them to venture their all, for time and eternity, upon an
invisible Person, an invisible order, a mediation carried on above the
skies, a presentation of sacrifice made in a temple infinitely other
than that of Mount Moriah, and a kingdom which, as to all outward
appearance, belonged to a future quite isolated from the present. On the
other hand, so they were told by their friends, and so it was perfectly
natural to them to think, the vast visible institutions of the Law were
the very truth of God for their salvation, and those institutions
appealed to them through every sense. Why should they forsake a creed
which unquestionably connected itself with Divine action and revelation
in the past, and which presented itself actually to them under the
embodiment of a widespread but coherent nation, all descended from
Abraham and Israel, and of a glorious "city of solemnities," and of a
temple which was itself a wonder of the world, and of which every detail
was "according to a pattern" of Divine purpose, and in which all the
worship, all the ritual, done at the altars and within the veil, was
great with the majesty of Divine prescription? There the pious Israelite
could behold one vast sacramental symbol of JEHOVAH'S life, glory, and
faithfulness. And the living priesthood that ministered there, in all
its courses and orders, was one large, accessible organ of personal
witness to the blessings assured to the faithful "child of the Law."

It demands an effort--and it well deserves an effort--to realize in some
measure what the trial must have been for the sensitive mind of many a
Jewish convert to look thus from the Gospel to the Law as both shewed
themselves to him then. Even now the earnest and religious Jew, invited
to accept the faith of Jesus, has his tremendous difficulties of
thought, as we well know, although for so many ages Jerusalem has been
"trodden down," and the priesthood and sacrifices have become very
ancient history. But when our Epistle was written it was far otherwise.
True, the great ruin of the old order was very near at hand, but not to
the common eye and mind. It may be--for all things are possible--that
the Papal system may be near its period; but certainly there is little
look of it to the traveller who visits Rome and contemplates St. Peter's
and the Vatican. As little did the end of the Mosaic age present itself
as probable, judging by externals, to the pilgrim to Jerusalem then,
when, for example, the innumerable hosts of Passover-keepers filled the
whole environs of the city, and moved incessantly through the vast
courts around the sacred space where the great altar sent up its smoke
morning and evening, and where the wonderful House stood intact, "a
mountain of snow pinnacled with gold."

Think of the contrast between such historic invitations to "walk by
sight" towards the bosom of Abraham, and the call to "come out and be
separate" in some Christian upper-room, devoid of every semblance of
decorative art and dignified proportion, only to listen to the Word, to
pray and praise in the name of the Crucified, and to eat and drink at
the simple Eucharist, the rite of Thanksgiving for--the Master's awful
death!

Recollecting these facts of the position, it is no wonder that the
Writer emphasizes the greatness and glory of faith, and that now he
devotes this whole noble and extended chapter to illustrate that glory.

We come thus to the opening words of the passage, and listen to him as
he takes the word "faith" up, and sets it apart, to look afresh at its
significance and to describe its potency, before he proceeds, with the
tact and skill of sympathy, to illustrate his account of it from the
history so deeply sacred to the tried Hebrew Christian's heart.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things
not seen." So the Revisers translate the first verse. They place in
their margin, as an alternative, a rendering which makes faith to be
"the giving substance to things hoped for, the test of things not seen."
I presume to think that the margin is preferable as a representation of
the first clause in the Greek, and the text as a representation of the
second. So I would render (with the one further variation, in view of
the Greek, that I dispense with the definite article): "Now faith is a
giving of substance to things hoped for, a demonstration of things not
seen." And we may paraphrase this rendering somewhat thus: "Faith is
that by which the hoped-for becomes to us as if visible and tangible,
and by which the unseen is taken and treated as proven in its
verity."[L]

[L] A friend has pointed out to me that in the recently discovered
papyri, which, although a relatively small part of them only has been
read as yet, have thrown much deeply interesting light on the character
and vocabulary of Greek as used by the New Testament writers, the word
[Greek: hypostasis] is found with the meaning of "title-deeds." On the
hypothesis of such a meaning here (we can only speak with reserve), we
may paraphrase: "Faith enables us to treat things hoped for as a
property of which we hold the deeds."

In the light of what we have recalled regarding the position of the
first readers of the words, we have only to render them thus to see
their perfect appropriateness, their adjustment to an "exceeding need."
The Gospel led its disciple supremely and ultimately always towards the
hoped-for and the unseen. True, it had a reference of untold value and
power to the seen and present. There was then, as there is in our day,
nothing like the Gospel to transfigure character, on the spot, here and
now, and thus to transfigure the scene and the persons around the man,
before his eyes, within reach of his hands, in the whole intercourse of
his life, by giving them all a new and wonderful yet most practical
importance through the Lord's relation to them and to him. But it does
this always and inevitably in the power and in the light of facts which
are out of sight now, and of prospects essentially bound up with "the
life of the world to come." The most diligent and sensible worker in
Christian philanthropy, _if he is fully Christian_ in his idea and
action, does what he does so well for the relief of the oppressed, or
for the civilization of the degraded, because at the heart of his useful
life he spiritually knows "Him that is invisible," and is animated by
the thought that he works for beings capable, after this life's
discipline, of "enjoying Him fully for ever." He labours for man, man on
earth, because he loves God in heaven, and because he believes that God
made man and redeemed man for an immortality to which time is only the
short while all-important avenue. In the calmest and most normal
Christian periods, accordingly, for the least perilous and heroic forms
of faithful Christian service, it is vital to remember that attitude and
action of the soul which we call faith. For faith is essential both to
the victories and the utilities of the Christian life, just so far as
that life touches always at its living spring "things hoped for,"
"things not seen." And at a time like that of the first readers of the
Epistle every such necessity was enhanced indefinitely, both by the
perils and threatenings which they had to face and by the majestic
illusion to which they were continually exposed--the illusion under
which the order of the Law, because it was Divine in origin and
magnificent in its visible embodiment, looked as if it must be the
permanent, the final, phase of sacred truth and life on earth.

In our next chapter we will consider both the account of faith here
given and some main points in the illustration of it by examples.



CHAPTER IX

FAITH AND ITS ANNALS

HEB. xi. (II.)


We considered in the last chapter the account of Faith with which the
apostolic Writer opens this great recital of the "life, work, and
triumph of faith" in holy human lives. His words, as we found, lend
themselves to some variety of explanation in detail: the term [Greek:
hypostasis] alone may be interpreted in at least three ways. But I do
not think that this need disturb us as to the essential meaning of the
description. Each and all of the renderings leave us with the thought
that faith has a power in it to make the thing hoped-for act upon us as
if it were attained, and the invisible as if it were before our eyes.

We may pause so far further over the description of faith here as to
point out that it is precisely this, a description, not a definition. To
quote Heb. xi. 1 as a good definition of faith is to mistake its import
altogether. I have often recalled, in speech or writing, a story told
me forty years ago by an Oxford friend when we were masters together at
a public school. He had attended a Greek Testament lecture at his
college a few years before, and the lecturer one day asked the class for
a definition of faith. Some one quoted Heb. xi. 1, and the lecturer's
answer was, "You could not have given a worse definition." My old
friend, a "broad" but most reverent Churchman, referred to this as an
instance of painful flippancy. It may have been so. But I am prepared to
think that the lecturer may not have meant it so at all. He may only
have expressed rather crudely his view, the right view, to my mind, that
we have here not a definition of faith at all but a description of faith
as an operative force, an account of what faith looks like when it is at
work; and this is a very different matter.

What is a definition? A precise and exclusive statement of the
essentials of a thing, such that it will fit no other thing. A
description may be something altogether different from this. It may so
handle the object that the terms are not exclusive at all, but are
equally applicable to something else; as here for example, where the
phraseology would equally well describe imagination in its more vivid
forms--a thing as different as possible from faith. To be quite
practical, we have here, if we read this first verse in the light of
the whole subsequent development of the chapter, a description of faith
at work, of the potency and victories of faith, rather than a definition
of faith in its distinctive essence. A true parallel to this passage is
the familiar sentence, "Knowledge is power." Those words do not define
knowledge, obviously; to do that would demand a totally different
phrase. What the words do is to give us one great resultant of
knowledge; to tell us that the possession and use of knowledge endows
the man who knows with a force and efficiency which he would lack
without it. Few words are more elastic and adaptable than the verb
substantive. "_Is_" can denote a wide variety of ideas, from that of
personal identity, as when I see that yonder distant figure _is_ my
brother; to that of equivalence, as when a stamped and signed piece of
thin paper called a bank-note _is_ five pounds of gold; or to that of
mere representation, as when another piece of paper, or a sheet of
canvas, duly lined and coloured by the artist to show the semblance of a
human face, _is_ the King, or _is_ my father; or to that of result and
effect, as when we say that knowledge _is_ power, or that seeing _is_
believing.[M]

[M] It is obvious that these elementary reflections have everything to
do with the need of caution in explaining those most sacred words, "This
_is_ my body which is given for you."

Here we have precisely that last application of the verb substantive,
only in an exact and most noble antithesis. "Seeing is believing," says
the familiar proverb. "Believing is seeing," says the Divine word here.
That is to say, when the human soul so relies upon God that His word is
absolute and sufficient for its certainties, this reliance, this faith,
has in it the potency of sight. It is as sure of the promised blessing
as if it were a present possession. It is as ready to act upon "the
things not seen as yet," the laws, powers, hopes beyond the veil, as if
all was in open view to the eyes of the body.

The whole course of the chapter, when it comes down to particulars and
persons, bears this out. From first to last the message carried to us by
the lives and actions of the faithful is this, that they took their Lord
at His word, simply as His word, and in the power of that reliance found
themselves able to act as if the unseen were seen and the hoped-for were
present. "The elders" (ver. 2) are in view from the first--that is to
say, the pre-Christian saints, who were in _that_ sense distinctively
men who proved the power of faith, that they all lived and died before
the visible fulfilment of the great promise of salvation. To them, to be
sure, or rather to many of them, not to all, merciful helps were
granted. The unseen and the hoped-for was sometimes, not always, made
more tangible to them by the grant of some sign and token, some portent
or miracle, by the way. But the careful Bible-reader knows how very
little such things are represented in the holy histories as being the
"daily bread" of the life of the old believers. Even in the lives where
they occur most often they come at long and difficult intervals, and in
some lives not at all, or hardly at all. And assuredly we gather here
that, to the mind of the apostolic Writer, no experience of miracles, no
permission even to hold direct colloquy with the Eternal, ever made up
for that immeasurable "aid to faith" which we enjoy who know the
Incarnate Son as fact, and walk on an earth which has seen the God-Man
traverse it, and die upon it, and rise again.

These "elders" were men called to live, in an eminent and most trying
degree, not by sight but by faith, by mere reliance upon a Promiser.
Therefore their living witness to the capacity of faith to make the
unseen visible and the hoped-for present is the more precious to us. We,
with the Christ of God manifested to us, displayed in history,
experienced in the heart--what are not we to find the power of faith to
be in our lives, having, for our supreme seal upon faith, the promise
fulfilled, the Image of the Invisible God, made one with our nature and
dwelling in our hearts?

One partial exception, and only one, to this great ruling lesson of the
chapter is to be noted; it occurs in the second verse. There "by faith
we perceive that the worlds," the _æons_, the dispensations and
evolutions of created being, "have been framed," perfected, adjusted to
one another, "by the Word of God, so that not from things which appear
has that which is seen originated." These words appear to be inserted
where they stand in order, so to speak, to carry the sequence of the
references to the Old Testament down from its very first page. The work
of faith has exercise in face of the mysterious narrative of Creation,
and in this one instance the exercise is quoted as what concerns us now
quite as much as "the elders." They like us, we like them, get our
guarantee as to the facts of the primal past not by sight but by faith,
by taking God at His word. He, in His revelation, tells us that "in the
beginning"--the beginning of whatever existence is other than
eternal--"God created." Things finite, things visible, came into
original being not as evolved from previous similar material, but as of
His will.

But when that pregnant side-word has once been said, the argument
settles itself forthwith upon the recorded examples of the potency of
faith as "the elders" exercised it. We see man after man enabled to
treat the invisible as visible, the promised as present, by reliant rest
upon the word of God, however conveyed. To Abel, we know not how, it was
divinely said that the sacrificed "firstling" was the acceptable
offering, and, antecedent to any possible experience, he offered it. To
Enoch, we know not how, it was made known that the Eternal, as invisible
to him as to us, cared for man's worshipping company, and he addressed
himself through his age-long life to "walk with God." Noah was apprised,
for the first time in man's known history, of an approaching cataclysm
and of the way of escape; the promise came to him wrapped in the cloud
of an awful warning, and it was long delayed, but he acted upon it in
the steady energy of faith. Abraham was "called," we know not precisely
how, but in some way which tested his reliance on things "not seen as
yet," and he set out on that wonderful life of a hundred years of faith.
He renounced the settled habits and old civilization of Chaldea for the
new life of a Syrian nomad, "settling permanently in tents" ([Greek: en
skênais katoikêsas]), he and his son and his grandson after him, all in
view of an invisible future made visible by the trusted promise, a
future culminating at last to his "eye of faith," so here we are
solemnly assured, in the city of the saints, in the Canaan of the
heavens. The same reliance on the sheer word of promise nerved him to
the awful ordeal of the all-but immolation of his son. And that son in
his turn, against all appearances, and rather bowing to the Word of God
than embracing it, blessed _his_ least-loved son above his dearest; and
that son in his turn, and his son in his turn, carried the process on,
treating the greatness of Ephraim and the deliverance from Egypt as
things seen and present, because God had so spoken. The parents of
Moses, and then Moses himself, in his strange life of disappointments
and wonders, deal likewise with the future, the unseen, the seemingly
impossible, on the warrant of a promise. Figures as little heroic in
natural character as Sarah, as little noble in life as Rahab, take place
in the long procession, as those who treat the invisible as visible by
faith. So do the thronging "elders" of ver. 32--a group singularly
diverse in everything but this victory over the seen and present by
faith in the promise. So do the unnamed confessors and martyrs of the
closing paragraph, the heartbroken, the tortured, the wanderers of the
dens and caves, who all alike, amidst a thousand differences of
condition and of character, "obtained a good report through faith"; and
all won through faith that victory, so great when we reflect upon
it--that they died "not having received the promise." They trusted _to
the very end_. When they sank down in death upon their shadowy path of
pilgrimage, "the promise," the promised Christ, had not yet come.
Nevertheless they treated the hope of Him as fact, and they won their
victory by faith.

And now they are parts and members of the "great cloud" who watch us in
our turn--us, with things unseen and hoped-for still in front, but with
JESUS at our side.



CHAPTER X

FOLLOWERS OF THEM

HEB. xii. 1-14


The Epistle approaches its close. The Writer has much yet to say to the
disciples upon many things, all connected with that main interest of
their lives, a resolute fidelity to the Lord, to the Gospel, and to one
another. But he has not yet quite done with that side of their
"exceeding need" to which the antidote is _the faith_ which can deal
with the future as the present, with the unseen as the seen. Upon this
theme, from one aspect or another, is spent the passage now before us.

First, the appeal is to the recollection that the combat, the race, the
victory of faith, as it was for the Hebrew believers, "the contest set
before _us_" (ver. 1), not only had been fought and won before them by
the saints of the old time, but that those saints were now, from their
blessed rest, as "spirits of the just made perfect" (ver. 23), watchers
and witnesses of their successors' course. "We have, lying around us,
so great a cloud of witnesses" (ver. 1). "We" are running, like the
competitors in the Hellenic stadium, in the public view of a mighty
concourse, so vast, so aggregated, so placed aloft, that no word less
great than "cloud" occurs as its designation: that "long cloud" as it is
finely called in Isaac Watts' noble hymn, "Give me the wings of faith."
True, the multitudinous watchers are unseen, but this only gives faith
another opportunity of exercise; we are to treat the Blessed as seen,
for we know that they are there, living to God, one with us, fellows of
our life and love. So let us address ourselves afresh to the spiritual
race, the course of faith. Let us, as athletes of the soul, strip all
encumbrance off, "every weight" of allowed wrong, all guilty links with
the world of rebellion and self-love; "the sin which doth so easily
beset us," clinging so soon around the feet, like a net of fine but
stubborn meshes, till the runner gives up the hopeless effort and is
lost.[N]

[N] I cannot think possible the alternative (marginal) rendering of
[Greek: euperistaton] in the Revised Version--"_admired by many_." There
is example for the meaning in classical Greek, but the _idea_ is totally
out of keeping with the spirit of this passage.

I thus explain the "witnesses" to mean spectators, watchers, not
testifiers. The context seems to me to decide somewhat positively for
this explanation. It is an altogether pictorial context; the imagery of
the foot-race comes suddenly up, and in a moment raises before us the
vision of the stadium and its surroundings. The reader cannot see the
course with his inner eyes without also seeing those hosts of eager
lookers-on which made, on every such occasion, in the old world as now,
the life of the hour. In such a context nothing but explicit and
positive reasons to the contrary could give to the word "witnesses," and
to the word "cloud" in connexion with it, any other allusion. True,
these watchers are all, as a fact, evidential "witnesses" also,
testifiers to the infinite benefit and success of the race of faith. But
that thought lies almost hidden behind the other. It is as loving,
sympathetic, inspiring lookers-on that the old saints, from Abel
onwards, are here seen gathered, thronging and intent, around us as we
run.

The conception runs off of course into mystery, as every possible
conception about the unseen does, even when Scripture is most explicit
about unseen facts. We ask, and ask in vain, what is the medium through
which these observers watch us, the air and light, as it were, in which
their vision acts; what is their proximity to us all the while; to what
extent they are able to know the entire conditions of our race. But all
this leaves faith in peaceful possession of a fact of unspeakable
animation. It tells the discouraged or tired Christian, tempted to think
of the unseen as a dark void, that it is rather a bright and populous
world, in mysterious touch and continuity with this, and that our
forerunners, from those of the remotest past down to the last-called
beloved one who has passed out of our sight, know enough about us to
mark our advance and to prepare their welcome at the goal.

In that rich treasury of sacred song, _Hymns from the Land of Luther_,
is included the translation of a noble hymn by Simon Dach, _O wie selig
seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen_, "O how happy are ye, saints forgiven." That
hymn beautifully illustrates this verse. It is written responsively all
through. One stanza, sung upward, is the utterance from below of the
pilgrim Church, longing for her rest. The next, sung from above, is the
answer of the Blessed, telling of their love and sympathy, taught them
by their own similar sufferings, of their bright foreview of the
celestial crown reserved for their still toiling brethren. So the two
choirs answer each other, turn by turn, till at last both join in a
glorious concert of blended song, a closing strain of faith and praise.
Let us listen often for those answers from above.

But the holy Writer has more to say yet about the motives to faith. He
points the weary saints upward, even beyond the "cloud," to a Form
radiant and supreme. They are to run, conscious of the witnesses, but
yet more intently "looking off ([Greek: aphorôntes]) unto JESUS, the
supreme Leader ([Greek: archêgon]) and Perfecter of faith"; that is to
say, the Lord of the whole host of the believing, and Himself the
consummate Worker in the field of faith, who, for a joy promised _but
not seen_, "endured the Cross," when its immediate aspect was an
inexpressible outrage and disgrace; reaching the throne of all
existence, as Son of Man, in spite of every possible appearance to the
contrary (ver. 2). Yes, and not only was that final victory thus won by
Him, but He arrived at it by a path full of the conflicts which threaten
faith. He "endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself" (ver.
3). Year by year, day by day, from the Pharisee, from the worldling,
from the leaders of religion, from the inconstant crowd, He had
"contradiction" to endure--sometimes even from "the men of His own
household." He was challenged to prove His claims; He was insulted over
His assertion of them, or over His silence about them. In every way, at
every turn, they spoke against Him to His face, as He slowly advanced,
through a life of love and suffering, to the Agony and the Crucifixion.

Let us not think that all this put no strain, even in the King Messiah,
upon faith. It may seem scarcely reverent (I know devout and thoughtful
Christians who have felt it to be so) to speak of our blessed Lord as
exercising faith, as being the supreme Believer. But we need not shrink
from the thought. It is no more irreverent, surely, than to accept the
evidence of the Gospels to His perfect human capacity to be weary, to be
surprised, to be specially moved to compassion by _the sight_ of
suffering. In His sinless conformity "in all things to His brethren"
there was never for one moment room in Him--of this we may be amply
sure--for error of thought or of word, as He acted as the supreme and
absolute Prophet of His Church. But there was room, so we are expressly
told, on one tremendous occasion at least (Matt. xxvi. 37), for a
mysterious "bewilderment" ([Greek: adêmonein]) of His blessed human
soul. Can we doubt that the victory won in the Garden, after which He
went with profound calmness to the unjust priest, and Pilate, and the
Cross, was of the nature of a victory of faith? Did He not then treat
the coming "joy" as a reality although, in so awful a sense and measure
He did not "feel" it then? The "bewilderment" did not drive Him back
from our redemption; and why? Because "He TRUSTED in GOD that He would
deliver Him" (Ps. xxii. 9; Matt. xxvii. 42), whatever should be the
contents of "the cup" from which His whole humanity turned away as
_almost_ impossible to drink.

And may we not be sure that on many a previous occasion of minor and yet
bitter trial, when evil men gathered round Him with cynical objections
and ruthless denials of His claims, the victory was akin to the victory
of Gethsemane? Often, surely, a strange "bewilderment" must have beset
the Redeemer's soul, of which the external token was the sigh, the
groan, the tears, which shewed Him to be so truly Man.

We all hold, in full doctrinal orthodoxy, that the Lord's sufferings,
both of soul and body, were no "docetic" semblance but a deep and
infinitely pathetic reality. But we need at times to think somewhat
deliberately in order to receive the full impression of that truth upon
the heart. And then surely we are constrained to see in Him, who thus
really suffered and really "endured," the supreme Exemplar of the
victory of faith, the perfect Sympathizer with the tried believer.

From this pregnant thought, of the faith exercised by JESUS, the
disciple is directly led in the remainder of our passage to the
practical inferences for himself. The days, for those first readers of
the Epistle, were indeed evil. Though not yet called to martyrdom (ver.
4), they were hard beset, not only by importunate reasonings and appeals
which, as we have seen all along, were straining their spiritual
allegiance, but by actual outrages (see _e.g._ x. 34), by the
"scourging" (ver. 6) of bitter social persecution. Well, "looking off
unto" Him who had so greatly endured, they were, in these things also,
to see the unseen and to presentiate the future. From the Proverbs (iii.
11, 12), that book where the apostolic insight so often finds the purest
spiritual messages,[O] he quotes (verses 5, 6) the tender words which
bid the chastened child see in his chastening the assurance (ver. 8) of
his happy, holy sonship in the home of a Father, "the Father of our
spirits," who, unlike our earthly fathers even at their best (and that
was a noble best indeed), not only chastens, but chastens with an
unerring result of holiness in the submissive child--yea, a holiness
which is one with His own (ver. 10), His Spirit in our wills.

[O] It was evidently a book dear to St. Peter's mind, as his First
Epistle shews.

Beautiful is _the sympathy_ of this appeal to live, by faith, the life
of victorious patience. "All chastening, for the present, seems not to
belong to joy but grief" (ver. 11). Yes, the immediate pain is here
fully recognized, not ignored. It is not spoken of as if, in view of its
sequel, it did not matter. "It belongs to grief." Scripture is full of
this tender insight into the bitterness of even our salutary sorrows,
and its appeals to patience are all the more potent for that insight.
"Nevertheless, afterward, it produces the peace-bringing fruit of
righteousness," the sense of a profound inward rest, found in conformity
to the "sweet, beloved will of God," in living correspondence to the
Father's rule, "for those who have been exercised, as in a spiritual
_gymnasium_ ([Greek: gegymnasmenois]), thereby." That "exercise" was to
tell at once, as they surrendered their wills to it in faith, in a
present sense of the certainty of future blessing. "Brace the slack
hands" to toil, "and the unstrung knees" to march (ver. 12), "and make
straight paths for your feet," using your will, faith-strengthened, to
choose the line of the will of God, and that alone. So should "the lame
thing" be "healed" rather than "turned aside." The walk, feeble and
halting always when the will is divided, should be restored to firmness
and certainty again.

"Nevertheless, afterward." That is the watchword of the whole pregnant
passage. Nature, shortsighted and impatient, can deal with the seen and
the present only. Grace, in its victorious form of patient faith,
already takes hold upon the "afterward," and works on, and walks on, "as
seeing Him that is invisible."

With the thought of the witness-cloud around us, and "looking off" to
the Prince of Faith, ascended, yet present with us, and sure of the
ultimate and eternal "fruit of righteousness" which lies hidden in the
chastening of the Father of our spirits--we too will live by faith,
taking God at His word, and saying Amen to His will, even to the end.



CHAPTER XI

SINAI AND SION

HEB. xii. 14-28


The paragraph before us is largely concerned with the inner life of the
believing community, its cohesion member with member, and the call to
each member and to all to "walk warily in dangerous days," in the path
of evangelical holiness. The Writer lays it upon them (ver. 14) to
"pursue peace with all," such peace as always _tends_, even in bad
times, to reward the "sons of peace," while they so behave themselves as
never on their own part to contribute a factor to avoidable strife, and
while the influence of their meek consistency leavens in some measure
the mass around them. With equal and concurrent care they are to "pursue
sanctification." It is to be their strong ambition to develope and
deepen incessantly that dedication of themselves to the Holy One which
will give them at once the standard and the secret of holiness, by
bringing them into immediate contact with Him who is at once their law
and their life. They are to "live out," in the spirit of a resolute
quest after fuller and yet fuller attainment, the fact that He has
redeemed them to be "a people of His own possession"; remembering, with
a solemn simplicity of conviction, that only "the pure in heart" shall
ever be able to "see God." For the spirit which refuses to come into a
surrendered harmony with His Spirit might be set in the midst of heaven
itself, yet it would be blind, it would be blinded--by that _alien_
glory. They are to keep watch and oversight upon one another (ver. 15),
mutually observant all round, to see that the life of faith and love is
alive indeed. Does any one find his fellow-believer "falling short of
the grace of God," sinking into conduct no better than the world's? This
must at once disquiet the observer, and call out his loving warnings, or
at least his anxious intercessions; for the declining convert inevitably
extends an influence of decline around him, and the issue will be, in
the end, a declining Church. Is "any root of bitterness growing up"? Is
there (see Deut. xxix. 18) any Christian in the company so fallen, so
"embittered" by alienation from his Lord, as to be a cause around him of
"defilement," so as to stain ultimately large circles ([Greek: hoi
polloi]) with the deep pollution of a practical apostasy from holiness?
Is there here and there a personal example of spiritual infidelity
([Greek: pornos]) to the Lord, of that radically "secular" ([Greek:
bebêlos]) spirit (ver. 16) of which Esau is the type, to which some
"mess of meat," some material advantage, proves overwhelmingly more
momentous than the unworldly "birthright" given by the promise of God?
Let them all watch as for their life against such symptoms. It is a
matter of eternal import. The ancient Esau found too late that he was an
outcast, irrevocably, from the great blessing, though then he cried for
it with a cry great and bitter. In vain he asked his father to reverse
the destiny; there was no "place of repentance" in Isaac's will, for
Isaac knew that he had but carried out, blind as he was, the will of
God.

Then follows (verses 18-24) that sublime antithesis of Sinai and Sion
which forms one of the greatest examples of rhythmical, of almost
lyrical, eloquence in the whole New Testament. On the one hand looms on
the view the Thing,[P] material, tangible ([Greek: psêlaphômenô]), all
on fire, black with tempestuous cloud, its echoes pealing (ver. 19) to a
tremendous trumpet-blast and then to a yet more awful "voice of words."
At its base cowers an awe-struck, horror-struck, host of men,
shuddering at the warning (ver. 20) not to touch the fatal rocks,
crowding for refuge round a leader who himself owns (ver. 21) to
heart-shaking fears.[Q] On the other hand, as the eyes of faith are
lifted, there shines into view, and in the closest spiritual proximity
(for the believing company has actually "come unto it," ver. 22), the
hill eternal, the true Mount Sion, where shines the city of the living
God, the Jerusalem of heaven. No barren rocks are there, nor do menaces
of articulate thunder sound from and around that height. All is light,
and all is life. Yes, above all things all is life. Behold the countless
thousands ([Greek: myriasin]) of radiant denizens, the angelic friends
of man; and then beatified men besides (ver. 23), "festal, assembly and
church of the first-born, enrolled in heaven"; the Blessed gone before,
the "great cloud," seen now in their other character, as the triumphant
throng of a celestial Passover, or of a Tabernacle-feast of palms, kept
in the better Canaan to commemorate the mercies of the mortal
wilderness. And there, centre and sun of the wonderful scene, is the
glory of the "Judge of all," Vindicator (so we read the meaning of the
word [Greek: kritês] here) of His afflicted ones, treading down their
enemies and presiding in majesty over their happy estate. Around Him
rest and rejoice the pure "spirits of the just made perfect," the dear
and holy who have lately passed through death, "perfected" already, even
before their resurrection, in respect of the course finished, the fight
fought, the faith kept, the trial for ever over. Lastly (ver. 24), the
form is seen of the more than Moses of this better Mount of God. Behold
the Mediator, not of the old covenant but of the new, the Covenant of
the Eternal Spirit. Behold the Surety of the promise of the purified
heart, the promise sealed with that sprinkled blood of the Incarnate
Lamb which, in Divine antithesis to the call for vengeance on the
fratricide which went up from Abel's death, claims for the "brethren"
who once slew their Deliverer not remission only but holiness and
heaven.

[P] The word [Greek: orei] is certainly absent from the true text. We
are left as in presence of a mysterious _somewhat_, a mighty mass,
mantled in terror and without form or name.

[Q] A traditional utterance must be referred to. But the whole narrative
in Exodus and in Deuteronomy supports it.

It is a wonderful picture, the hill of the awful Law confronted by the
"hill whence cometh our help." And we ask ourselves why, just here in
the Epistle, it is painted for us and left upon our spirit's eyes for
ever. Surely it is that the Hebrew disciple (and we in our turn to-day)
may be quickened in watching and in walking alike by an immense
encouragement and a warning of corresponding power. The call has just
been made, all through the twelfth chapter up to this point, to endure,
to watch, to warn each other, to pursue to the uttermost the ambition of
holiness. Let this be done as by those whose pilgrim tents are pitched
as it were in a valley between those two mountains of God. Let the true
Israelite turn his eyes sometimes upon Sinai, to learn again from its
shadows and its thunders the infinite importance of the eternal Will,
the awfulness of transgression, the terrors of the Law when its demand
is met only by the miserable failures of the sinner. Then, humbled lower
than the dust, let him turn towards the eternal Sion, and not only turn
towards it but recollect that in the Spirit, and in the Son, he has
"_come unto it_." In the Lord Christ, his better Moses, his saving
Mediator, he has already arrived beside it and rests upon it. No voice
of thunder bids him not to touch it "lest he be thrust through." He is
commanded to come as near to it as it is possible to be, because he is
to come to "the Lord of the Hill" Himself, in the absolute proximity of
faith, love, and life. He is welcomed to its recesses, and to its
heights. The first-born are his brethren; the just made perfect are his
own beloved; every angel of all the host is his friend; the supreme
Judge is his omnipotent Protector; Jesus is his Peace, through the blood
of His Cross. "Blest inhabitant of Sion, washed in the Redeemer's
blood!" Shall he not address himself to the path and pursuit of
holiness with a heart beating with an inexhaustible hope, and with a
life present while eternal?

Then, as the great paragraph approaches its climax, the note of warning
sounds again (ver. 25). The convert, fresh from the reminder of the
"voice" of the sprinkled blood of the better covenant, is cautioned not
to "refuse" it, not to "decline" it ([Greek: mê paraitêsêsthe]). The
primary reference is manifestly to that perpetual danger of the Hebrews,
the temptation to turn back from the Gospel, with its spiritual order
and its hopes of things not yet seen, to the outworn Dispensation, with
its externally majestic circumstances of glorious ritual and imposing
shows of polity and power. They would need again and again to open the
soul's ears and eyes, and steadfastly to recollect, against all
appearances, that we "_are come unto_ the Mount Sion," if they were to
resist the magnetic forces which drew them back towards Sinai--and
towards death. So they were to hear the sweet voices of heavenly love,
and festal life, and blood-bought covenanted peace, sounding from the
true Sion, with joy indeed but also with holy dread. They were to _fear_
lest they should "decline" them, lest sense should conquer faith and the
soul be lost under the mountain of condemnation after all. "For if they
did not escape who on earth declined Him who spoke oraculous warning
([Greek: chrêmatizonta]), much more shall we not escape, turning from
Him who warns from heaven" (ver. 25). The contemner of the ban of Sinai
fell "stricken through" the body. The "decliner" of the admonition to
turn no more to the hill of doom, but boldly to climb the hill of peace,
will fall stricken through the soul. That warning voice, which once
shook the desert, has now promised (ver. 26)--for a promise, the promise
of an eternal redemption, lies deep in that threatening (Hag. ii.
6)--that not earth only but heaven is yet to feel His shaking, and once
for ever when it comes. He, "yet once more," shall work one vast
"removing"; and then (ver. 27) a stability irremovable shall finally
come in. "The things that have been made," the terrestrial and material
"figures of the real" (ix. 24), are to pass away, never to return, in
order that "the things incapable of disturbance" ([Greek: ta mê
saleuomena]) "may remain." And what are these things? Nothing less than
the spiritual, ultimate, all-fulfilling truths and glories to which the
"things made" served as preparation, type, and foil, but which
themselves to all eternity shall know no successors, no "new order"
through which God shall otherwise "fulfil Himself." For what are they,
in their inmost essence? They are the truths which spring always from
the Incarnate Son, and return always into Him; "the redemption that is
in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory."

So let the disciples clasp their sublime privileges, and greatly
rejoice--and also greatly fear to "decline" them, to surrender them, to
treat them lightly. They "are in receipt ([Greek: paralambanoutes]) of a
kingdom unshakable," for they have become the willing vassals of the
eternal David of the true Israel, in whose kingship they too are kings,
reigning over "all the power of the enemy." But, for the very reason
that they hold a royalty, and such a royalty, let them address
themselves to a life of adoration, and reverence, and awe, deep as that
of the holy ones who, close to the throne above, veil their faces and
their feet evermore with their wings, not in terror but in a joy full of
wonder and of worship. "Let us have grace," let us _take and use_ the
grace which in the covenant is ours,[R] and in it let us live this life.
For it is to be a life all the while not of alarm and doubting, but _of
grace_. Only it is to be lived as before Him who is (ver. 29) "consuming
fire, a jealous God" (Deut. iv. 24), "jealous" against all "forsakers of
their own mercy" (Jonah ii. 8), rejectors of His Son, even when they
seem to fly for refuge to His Law.

[R] For this use of [Greek: echômen] compare Rom. v. 1, where the best
supported reading gives [Greek: echômen eirênên].

Thus the great concatenated passage concludes with one of the most
formidable of Scripture utterances. But let us boldly gather peace and
hope even from this word of fire. For what is the true message of the
verses we have traversed, when we look back and sum them up? It is the
glory, the fulness, the living richness, the abundant lovingkindness,
the supreme and absolute finality, of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus
Christ. It is our Lord Himself, the perfect and ultimate revelation of
the grace and peace of God. And the fiery jealousy of the close, the
warning that we shall lose our souls if we "decline" the blessed Son,
what does it mean as to His Father's heart? That He so loves the Son,
and so loves us, that He adjures us by all His terrors as well as all
His mercies never to turn for refuge for one hour away from the
all-perfect Christ.



CHAPTER XII

APPEALS AND INSTRUCTIONS

HEB. xiii. 1-14


The last chapter of the Epistle has a character quite of its own. Unlike
many of those often arbitrary divisions of the New Testament books which
we know as chapters, it is a naturally separate section. The long and
sustained arguments are over. The Writer's thoughts, gravitating to a
close, and occupied naturally as they do so with the personal conditions
of his Hebrew brethren, attach themselves now to one now to another side
of their duties, their difficulties, their more particular and detailed
needs, practical and spiritual. As he touches upon these, sentence by
sentence, we often see at a glance the probable occasion of the words,
but often again we are left in the dark about it. Who shall say
precisely why he insists (ver. 2) upon the exercise of hospitality? or
who were "the prisoners" (ver. 3) whom he bids them remember? Who shall
tell what in this particular community was the occasion for a solemn
emphasis (ver. 4) upon the holiness of marriage, or why again, just for
them, it was well to speak in warning (ver. 5) about the love of money
and the temptation to discontent? Nor can we be certain who were those
departed "leaders," "guides," of ver. 7, whose "faith" the disciples
were to "imitate," whose blessed "exit from their walk of life" they
were to "contemplate."

All we can say of these opening topics of the chapter is that, whatever
the occasions were, the words occasioned are for us inestimably
precious. Dear to the heart of the believing Church for ages have been
these precepts to love the brethren ([Greek: philadelphia]), to love the
stranger ([Greek: philoxenia]), to remember Abraham at Mamre and Gideon
at Ophrah with their angel-guests, and to see a possible angel-visitor
in every needing stranger at the door. The call (ver. 2) to remember the
captive, and the sufferer of every sort, comes with solemn power from
this paragraph, as it presses home the law of sympathetic fellowship,
and in one passing phrase ("_as being in the body_") reminds us that,
for the Christian, all sufferings, all burthens of pain and care, cease
for ever when once he is "out of the body." Sacred is the witness borne
here to the pure dignity of wedlock (ver. 4): "Be[S] marriage
honourable in all things, and the bed unspotted; for fornicators and
adulterers"--not only adulterers, but those also who sin that other sin
which the world so easily and so blindly condones--"God will judge." And
when the Christian is warned (ver. 5) against the greed of gain, the
quoted words of the Old Testament make, by the use they are put to, a
possession for ever valuable to the believing reader of the Scriptures.
For not only are they in themselves wonderful in their emphasis: "I will
never give thee up; I will never, never desert thee." They are
inestimable as an example of the sort of use which this New Testament
prophet could make of the spiritual riches of the Old Testament. For
here he sees a Divine watchword for the new life, not only in the
glorious outburst of faith (ver. 6) in Psalm cxviii., the _Hallel_ of
the Passover. In the words spoken to Joshua, and to all appearance
spoken _to him personally and alone_ (ver. 5: see Josh. i. 5), we are
led equally to see a message from the heart of God straight to every
Christian soul. Seldom, if ever, are we more powerfully and tenderly
encouraged than we are here to use with confidence that old-fashioned
and now often disparaged sort of Bible study, the collection of eternal
and universal principles of spiritual life out of an "isolated text."

[S] The sentence demands an understood _imperative_ verb, without which
the "_for_" which (in the true reading) introduces the second clause is
out of place.

Then comes the passage where the departed "guides" are commemorated.
Whoever they were, were they a Stephen and a James, or saints utterly
unknown to us, that passage is precious in its principles, true for all
time, of remembrance and appeal. It consecrates the fidelity of the
Christian memory. It assures us that to cherish the names, the words,
the conduct, the holy lives, the blessed deaths, of our teachers of days
long done is no mere indulgence of unfruitful sentiment. It is natural
to the Gospel, which, just because it is the message of an unspeakably
happy future, also sanctifies the past which is the living antecedent to
it. Just because we look with the love of hope towards "our gathering
together unto Him," we are to turn with the love of memory towards all
the gifts of God given to us through the holy ones with whom we look to
be "gathered together." "The exit of their walk of life" (ver. 7) is to
be our study, our meditation. We are to "look it up and down" ([Greek:
anatheôrountes]) as we would some great monument of victory, and from
that contemplation we are to go back into life, to "imitate their
faith," to do just what they did, treating (xi. 1) the unseen as
visible, the hoped-for as present and within our embrace. Thank God for
this authorization and hallowing of our recollections. Precious indeed
is its assurance that the sweetness of them (for all its ineffable
element of sadness, as eyes and ears are hungry for the faces and the
voices gone, for the look and tone of the preacher, the teacher, through
whom we first knew the Lord, or knew Him better) is no half-forbidden
luxury of the soul but a means of victorious grace.

But now comes in a passage of the chapter which more obviously tells its
own story of occasion and aim. The Writer recurs to the supreme theme of
the Epistle, the antithesis between the Lord Jesus, with His finished
work and absolute permanence, and the transitory antecedents of the
older dispensation. Once more the Hebrews are to remember His eternity,
His eternal personal identity, unbeginning and without end (ver. 8); He
is "the same, yesterday, and to-day, and unto the ages." Before all
types and preparations, before law, and ritual, and prophecy, He is.
When, having done their long work, they cease, He still is. Over the
glory of His being and character passes no "shadow of turning." Never to
the endless ages shall He need to be other than He is, or to be
succeeded by a greater. "JESUS, MESSIAH"; He is Alpha; He is also
Omega. The whole alphabet of revelation between the first letter and
the last does but spell out the golden legend of His unalterable glory.

In contrast to Him, thus unchangeably Himself, place the "teachings
variegated and alien" (ver. 9) which would draw you from beside Him
([Greek: parapheresthe]) back to an outworn ceremonial distorted from
its true purpose. "Looking unto Jesus," stay still and be at rest in
Him. The ritual law of "food" ([Greek: brômata]) had its perfectly
befitting place in the age of elementary preparation. But to make it now
a rival to the message of that "grace" which means a life lived by faith
in the Son of God, is to defraud "the heart" of that which alone can
"establish" it in peace, holiness, and hope. To walk in Him is to go
from strength to strength. To "walk in them" ([Greek: hoi
peripatountes]) is to miss the very "benefit" you seek. It is to move
away from the light, backward, into spiritual death.

Here follows in close sequence a passage of pregnant significance. It
begins with ver. 10, and the connexion is not finally broken till ver.
16. The Writer, prompted perhaps by the allusion to a ceremonial law of
"meats," turns abruptly to the still existing ritual of the Law,
familiar to his Hebrew readers as to himself. From it he leads their
thoughts once more to the profound import and ultimate efficacy of the
supreme atoning Sacrifice, in all its shame and all its glory, and to
the call which that great fact conveys to the believer to break for
ever, at whatever cost, from the old order, _considered as a rival to
the Cross_. Such is the true bearing of this often debated passage, if I
am not greatly mistaken. The "altar" which "we have" (ver. 10) is not,
if I read the argumentative context rightly, either the atoning Cross,
at least as to any direct reference of the word, or the Table of the
Christian Eucharist. As to this latter conjecture indeed the reference
is totally unsupported by any really primeval parallel.[T] And _in this
Epistle_ it is scarcely conceivable that, if that were the meaning, if
we were to be abruptly informed here that we Christians have in the Holy
Table a sacrificial altar, no allusion, however slight, should intimate
that the Christian minister is not a "leader" only but a sacrificing
priest. The whole Epistle may be said to circle round the great topic of
Priesthood. From various points of view, and with purposes as practical
as possible in regard of faith, hope, and life, that topic has been
handled. But is it too much to say that, for the Writer, the one
Christian priesthood which is analogous to the Levitical priesthood, as
a sacrificial and mediatorial function on behalf of the Church, is the
High Priesthood of the Son of God? The Christian Ministry indeed hardly,
if at all, comes into view throughout the argument. We find it at length
in this chapter, the chapter which tells the readers that they "have an
altar." Twice over the pastors of the Church are mentioned here (verses
7, 17); but how? As "leaders," "guides," [Greek: hêgoumenoi]: as those
who "speak the word of God," as those whose vigilance over the souls of
the flock claims a loving and grateful loyalty. That is to say, the
Christian Ministry is above all things a pastorate. To a sacerdotal
aspect of its special functions no reference appears. And that is
noteworthy just because of the profound sacerdotalism of the whole
context of the Epistle.

[T] Lightfoot (on Ign. _ad Eph. v., et alibi_) has clearly shewn that
Ignatius' use of [Greek: thysiastêrion] is altogether mystical. He means
not the Holy Table but (among other references) the Church of Christ as
the sphere or place of spiritual sacrifice.

On a careful review of the words before us (verses 10-16), we are
justified in the conclusion that the reference is, not to a Christian
institution at all but precisely to the Hebrew ritual, in which Writer
and readers still had part as members of _the nation_. The thing in view
is an altar whose law was such that the sacerdotal "ministers ([Greek:
hoi latreuontes]) of the Tabernacle" might not use its sacrifices for
food. But why? Not of course because they were not Christians, but
because the sacrifices in question presented there were to be wholly
"burned," "burned without the camp." The entire thought moves within the
limits of the typical ceremonial. It deals with the holocaust which even
the sacrificer might handle only to commit it to the fire; the victim
whose destiny was to be--not eaten by the priestly family but carried
outside the camp as wholly devoted for the people's sins.

It is possible, within the lines of the Levitical ritual, to interpret
in more ways than one the "altar" in question. It may be the great
altar, regarded in its special use on the Atonement Day (Lev. xvi); not
another structure than that used for other sacrifices, but that same
altar regarded, for the moment, as if separated and alone, because of
the awful speciality of the stern while merciful ritual of that great
day. Or again, as it has been argued with learning and force[U], the
reference may be to the altar of incense, the golden altar of the
Holiest, on which the blood not only of the atonement victims but of all
sin-offerings was sprinkled; and every sacrifice so treated was regarded
as a holocaust; no part of it was reserved for food. But in either case
the altar in question is not of the Church but of the Tabernacle. The
"we" of ver. 10 is the community in its Hebrew rather than in its
Christian character.

[U] By the Rev. James Burkitt, in _The Golden Altar: an Exposition of
Hebrews xiii. 10, 11_.

So the whole thought centres itself in the supreme Sacrifice, as
Antitype answering to type. Jesus is our holocaust, wholly sacrificed
for our sins. His sacrifice involved in its awful ritual the shame and
agony of rejection by His own, excommunication from "the camp" of the
chosen. Then let the Hebrew believer, "receiving that inestimable
benefit," be ready also to follow his Redeemer's steps in rejection and
in shame. Let him also be prepared for casting out by priest and scribe.
Let his yearning heart, with whatever anguish, inure itself to the
thought that the beloved "city of his solemnities" is not the final and
enduring Jerusalem. Let his "thoughts to heaven the steadier rise," as
he looks, like Abraham before him, to "God's great town in the unknown
land," where sits on high the Mediator of the New Covenant, the "Priest
upon His throne."



CHAPTER XIII

LAST WORDS

HEB. xiii. 15-25


The connexion of ver. 15 with the antecedent context is suggestive. We
have been led to a contemplation of the Lord Jesus in His character as
Antitype and Fulfilment of the holocaust of the Levitical atonement.
Even as the chief animal victim of the old covenant, the symbolical
bearer of the sins of Israel, was carried "outside the camp" to be
consumed, so our Victim was led "outside the gate" of the city to His
death, that there, by His blood-shedding, by His absolute and perfect
self-immolation in our stead, He might "hallow His people," bringing
them forgiven and welcomed back to God. The point of the dread ritual of
Calvary here specially emphasized is just this, that He "suffered
outside the gate." The old Israel, guiltily unknowing, fulfilled the
type in the Antitype by refusing Him place even to die within the sacred
city. He, in His love for the new Israel, that He might in every
particular be and do what was foreshadowed for Him, refused not to
submit to that supreme rejection.

From this the apostolic Writer draws two messages for his readers. First
(ver. 13) they are to follow the Lord outside, willing to be rejected
like Him and because of Him. They are to be patient, for His sake, when
they are "put out of the synagogues" and reproached as traitors to
Moses. They are by faith to conquer the cry of their human hearts as
they crave perpetuity for the beloved past; they are to remember (ver.
14), as they issue from the old covenant's gate into what seems the
wild, that "Jerusalem that now is" was built for time only, and that
they belong to the city of eternity, where their High Priest sits on His
throne to bless them now and welcome them hereafter. Then, secondly and
therefore (ver. 15), they are to use Him now and for ever as their one
sacerdotal Mediator. By Him, not by the Aaronic ministry, they are to
bring their sacrifices to God. They are to accept exclusion and to turn
it into inclusion, into a shutting-up of all their hopes and all their
worship into their glorious Christ. And what now is their altar-ritual
to be? It is to be twofold; the offering of praise, "the fruit of lips
that confess" the glory of "His Name," and then the sacrifice of self
and its possessions for others for His sake (ver. 16); "doing good, and
communicating" blessings; for these are "altar-sacrifices ([Greek:
thysiai]) with which God is well pleased."

Such, if we are right, is the connexion. The Lord, rejected, that He
might die for us after a manner faithful to the prophetic type, is to be
the Hebrew disciple's example of patience when he too is rejected. Such
rejection is only to unite him the more closely to the Christ as his way
to God, his Mediator for all the praise and all the unselfish service
which is to fill his dedicated life.

The lesson was special for the believing Hebrew then. But it has its
meaning for all time. In one way or another the true follower of the
crucified and rejected Redeemer must _stand ready_ for cross and for
exclusion, so far as he is called upon by his faith to break with all
ultimate and absolute allegiance save to "Jesus Christ and Him
crucified." He has to recollect, on one account or another, that he too
belongs to the invisible order, to the "citizenship that is in heaven,"
and not to any visible polity as if it were final, as if it were his
spirit's goal. But then he too is to make this detachment and separation
only a fresh means to unite him to his great High Priest for a
self-sacrificial life in Him. He is to be no frowning sectary, saying,
"I am holier than thou." He is to be simply a Christian, to whom,
whatever the world may say, or the world-element in the Church, Christ
the crucified is Lord indeed.

Following these appeals, in a connexion which we can trace, the thought
passes (ver. 17) to the Christian Ministry. "Outside the gate" of the
old order, the disciple finds himself at once not an isolated unit but
included in _a new order_. He is one of a spiritual community, which has
of course its system, for it has to cohere and to operate. It has amidst
it its "leaders," its [Greek: hêgoumenoi], its pastoral guides and
watchmen, a recognized institution, which always as such (though always
the more as it is more true to its ideal) claims the obedience, the
loyalty, the subordination, of the multitude who are not "leaders."
These "leaders" are set before us as bearing a Divine commission, for we
read that they "must _give account_." So qualified, not as assertors of
themselves but as servants and agents of God, they watch for souls, with
a vigilance loving and tender, asking for response.

Such an ideal of the Christian Ministry is as remote as possible from
that of a sacerdotal caste, or indeed of anything that has to do with a
harsh and perfunctory officialism. Its position is totally different
from that of an agency of mediation between man and God, between the
Church and her Lord. We have one passing note of this in the fact,
present in other Epistles as in this, that the Ministry is addressed and
greeted through the Church rather than the Church through the Ministry.
See below, ver. 24: "Salute your leaders." If we may put it so, the
Christian clergy are so far from being the sole deliverers of the
apostolic writings to the people that the people rather have to deliver
such messages to the clergy.

Yet on the other hand this passage is one of the many which set the
Christian Ministry before us as a vital factor in the life of the
Church, an institution which has its life from above, not from the will
of the community but from the gift of God. In their anxiety to avoid
distortions and exaggerations of the ministerial idea many Christians
have failed to give adequate place in thought to its essentially Divine
origin and commission. A passage like this should correct such a
reaction. There is in the Church, by the will of God, a "leadership,"
recognizable, authentic, not arbitrary yet authoritative, not
mediatorial yet pastoral. It is never designed indeed to come really
between the believing soul and the ever-present Lord. Yet it is
appointed as the norm a human agency by which He works for the soul, not
only in the solemn ministration of His great ordinances of blessing but
in spiritual assistance and guidance as well. It will be the pastor's
folly if he so insists upon the imagery of shepherding as to forget for
one moment that the "sheep" are also, and in a larger aspect, his equal
brethren and sisters, "the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." It
will be his folly, and the ruin of his true authority, if he forgets in
any part of his service that he is not the master but the servant of the
Church. If in his "guidance" he dares to domineer, and if in his
teaching he takes the tone of one who can _dictate_ any point of faith
or duty, on his own authority, apart from the Word of God, he is fatally
mistaking his whole function. Nevertheless he is called to be a
"leader," with the responsibilities and duties of a leader. This thought
is to keep him always humble, and always intently on the watch over his
own life. But it is to be present also to the members of the Church, to
remind them always to _tend towards_ that generous "obedience" with
which Christian freedom safeguards Christian order. The Church is never
to forget the responsibility of the Ministry; it is to assist the
Ministry in its true discharge. For in this also "we are members one of
another."

       *       *       *       *       *

The closing sentences of the great Letter (ver. 18 and onwards) call for
little detailed explanation, with one great exception. The Writer asks
for intercessory prayer for himself and his colleagues, in the accent of
one who knows his own unreserved desire (ver. 18) to keep his whole
"life-walk honourable," [Greek: kalôs anastrephesthai]. He asks
specially for this help, with a view to his own speedier return to his
disciples (ver. 19), an allusion which we cannot now explain for
certain. At the very end (verses 22-25), with a noble modesty, in the
tone of the true Christian leader, drawing, not driving, he asks for
"patience" over his "appeal" ([Greek: paraklêsis]), his solemn call for
loyalty to the Christ of God under all the trials of the time.

He has "used brevity" ([Greek: dia bracheôn]) in writing; he might have
expanded the vast theme indefinitely; he has only given them its
essentials. Then he makes his one personal reference, abruptly, as if
speaking about well-known circumstances; Timotheus (ver. 23) has been
released from prison, and is on his way to join the Writer, and the two
may hope to visit the Hebrews together again. Then follows the greeting
to the pastors through the Church; and then a message of love sent by
"those from Italy," that is to say, as the familiar idiom suggests,
brethren resident in Italy who send their greeting from it; an allusion
over which endless conjectures may gather but which must always remain
uncertain. The last word is the blessing of grace. "Grace"--the holy
effect upon the Church, and upon the saint, of "God for us" and "God in
us"--"be with you all."

       *       *       *       *       *

We have thus followed this final passage to its end, but making, as the
reader will have seen, one great omission. The twentieth and
twenty-first verses stand by themselves, with such an elevation of their
own, with such a tranquil majesty of diction, with such a pregnant depth
of import, that I could not but reserve my brief comment on them to the
very last in these attempts to carry "Messages from the Epistle to the
Hebrews."

"Now the God of peace, who hath brought again from the dead the Shepherd
of the sheep, that great Shepherd, with blood of covenant eternal, even
our Lord Jesus--may He perfect you in all good unto the doing of His
will, doing in you that which is acceptable before Him, by means of
Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory to the ages of the ages. Amen."

Here is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the benedictory
prayers of the Bible. At every turn it sets before us truths of the
first order, woven into one wonderful texture. It presents to us our God
as "the God of peace," the God who has welcomed us to reconciliation and
is now and for ever reconciled; at peace with us and we with Him. It
sets full in view the supreme fact upon which that certainty reposes,
the Resurrection of His Christ, recorded here and only here in the long
Epistle, as the act and deed by which the Father sealed before the
universe His acceptance of the Son for us. It connects that Resurrection
with its mighty antecedent, the atoning Death, in words pregnant with
the truths characteristic of the Epistle; the Lord, the great Shepherd,
was "brought again from the dead" (the phrase is reminiscent of Isa.
lxiii. 11, with its memories of Moses and the ascent of Israel from the
parted waters), "in the blood" (as it were attended, authenticated,
entitled, by the blood) "of covenant eternal," that supreme Compact of
Divine love of which twice over (chapters viii., x.) the Epistle has
spoken; under which, for the slain Mediator's sake, God both forgives
iniquity and transfigures the will of the forgiven. Then the prayer
follows upon these mighty premisses. The Teacher asks, with the
authority of an inspired benediction, that this God of peace, of
covenant, of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, would carry out the
covenant-promise in His new Israel to the full. May He "perfect" them,
that is to say, equip them on every side with every requisite of grace,
for the supreme purpose of their existence, the doing of His will in
everything. May He so inhabit and inform them, through His Son, by His
Spirit, that He shall be the will within their will, the force beneath
their weakness, "working in them to will and to do for His good
pleasure's sake" (Phil. ii. 13). To Him, the Father, be glory for ever.
To Him, the Son, be glory for ever. Who shall decide, and who need
decide, to which Divine Person the relative pronoun [Greek: hô]
precisely attaches? The glory is to the Father in the Son, to the Son in
the Father.

One closing word remains. Observe this designation just here applied to
the Lord Jesus Christ; "the Shepherd, the great Shepherd, of the sheep."
It is noteworthy, because in our Epistle it stands here quite alone. We
have had the Christ of God presented to us throughout under the totally
different character of the High Priest, the great Self-Immolator of the
Cross, now exalted in the glory of His High Priesthood to be the Giver
of blessing from the Throne. To Him in that sublime aspect the thought
of the Hebrew believer, so sorely tempted to look away from Him, to look
backward to the old and ended order, has been steadily directed, for
spiritual rest of conscience and for loyalty of will. But here, true to
that _habit_ of the Bible, if the word may be used, with which it
accumulates on Him the most diverse titles in the effort to set forth
His fulness, the Writer exchanges all this range of thought for the one
endearing designation of the SHEPHERD of the sheep. It was as such that
He went down to death, giving for the flock His life. It was as such
that He is "brought again," to rescue, to watch, to feed, to guide His
beloved charge, "in the power of life indissoluble."

Not without purpose surely was the Lord left pictured thus in the view
of His tried and tempted followers. In the region of conviction and
contemplation He was to shine always before them as the High Priest upon
His throne, the more than fulfilment of every type and shadow, the goal
of Prophecy, "the end of the Law." But He was to be all this as being
also, close beside them, their Shepherd, great and good. He was to be
with them in the pasture, and in the desert, and in the valley of the
shadow of death. They had followed Him indeed as their Sacrifice without
the gate. But precisely there He took to Himself His resurrection-life,
to be their Companion and their Watcher for evermore. The Lord was their
Shepherd, and He is ours; they should not, and we shall not, want.





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