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Messages from the Epistle to the Hebrews
by Handley C.G. Moule
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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 prima 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 Colossae 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 Colossae 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 ten hypakoen], 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: pherometha]) 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 zoes 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: tes skenes tes alethines], 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 en 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: prosenenke] 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: nenomothetetai], 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: skene] from the text in this verse, and understand [Greek: diatheke] (see viii. 13) after [Greek: he prote].

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. Moeller: Bedenken gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese, von einem frueheren Anhaenger (Guetersloh, 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: agnoemata], 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: dielelythota 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 enestekota] (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' hen], not [Greek: kath' hon], in ver. 9; "in accordance with which parable."

[I] Possibly we should read [Greek: ton genomenon agathon], "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 dienekes] (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 dienekes] (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.

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