Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
therefore connects this chapter with the preceding. Because the Son of God is immeasurably greater than the angels, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard," etc. Our text presents to us a view of the superior privileges and the more solemn responsibilities of Christians as compared with those who lived in the earlier dispensation. We shall confine our attention at present to the former portion of the subject, which we may state thus - The privileges of this Christian dispensation are much superior to those of the Mosaic economy.
I. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS MADE BY ANGELS, THE LATER BY THE LORD. The Law was a "word spoken by angels." The Law came from God, but it was given to Moses by the mediation and ministry of angels. They were present and assisted at the giving of the Law on Sinai. The testimony of Scripture upon this point is conclusive (see Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). And Josephus says, "Our best maxims and most excellent laws we have learned of God by means of angels." And Philo: "There were present at the giving of the Law, visible sounds, animated and splendid, flames of fire, spirits, trumpets, and Divine men running hither and hither." But the revelation of the gospel was by the Son of God - "having at the first been spoken by the Lord." "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Inasmuch as the Son is higher than the angels, insomuch is the revelation of the gospel higher than that of the Law.
II. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS CONFIRMED BY SUPERNATURAL AND TERRIBLE SIGNS, THE LATER BY MORE NUMEROUS AND GRACIOUS SUPERNATURAL SIGNS. Very awful and alarming were the extraordinary phenomena at the giving of the Law. "The mount burned with fire," etc. (Hebrews 12:18-21). "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke," etc. (Exodus 19:18). But the gospel revelation is more abundantly and more convincingly confirmed. "God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders," etc. (ver. 4). The miraculous confirmations of the Christian revelation were:
1. More numerous than those of the revelation of the Law. The Savior's public ministry was marked by an almost unbroken series of miraculous works.
2. More marvelous. To raise the dead to life again with a word is far more wonderful than all the fire and smoke, the thunderings and trumpetings and tremblings of Sinai.
3. More various. The miracles of Sinai seem to have been limited to the phenomena and forces of nature. But those which were wrought by our Lord and his apostles related to nature's forces, to nature's products, to diseases of the body, to diseases of the mind, to evil spirits, to life and death.
4. More beneficent. At the giving of the Law the miracles were amazing and alarming, and fitted to impress and awe an uncultivated people. But the miracles associated with the promulgation of the gospel, while even more amazing, were also gracious and helpful, beneficent and rich in blessing, and fitted, not to terrify, but to attract and exalt and purify. As confirmed by these superior signs, the gospel revelation is higher than that of the Law.
III. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS IN THE LETTER, THE LITER WAS IN A LIFE. The Sinaitic Law was written; but the revelation made by the Lord was not merely in word, but in tone and accent, in gesture and expression of countenance, in involuntary influence and voluntary action. The greatest revelations are never verbal, but always vital. The deepest emotions cannot be expressed in any words. The highest truth far transcends the utterance of the loftiest eloquence of the tongue or the pen; it can be expressed only as it is lived. Thus "the greatest truth of the gospel is Christ himself - a human body become the organ of the Divine nature, and revealing, under the conditions of an earthly life, the glory of God." And when even his life in the human body could not adequately express the riches of the grace of God, he laid down his life, and perfected his revelation by voluntarily dying, "the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." And now "God commendeth his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
IV. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS OF LAW ONLY, THE LATER IS OF A "GREAT SALVATION." "The word spoken through angels" consisted chiefly of commands and prohibitions; it expressed the authoritative" Thou shalt," and" Thou shalt not;" and it promised to the obedient life and prosperity, to the disobedient punishment and death. But ours is a revelation of grace. The gospel does not abrogate moral law; it rather insists upon its sacred authority, its great comprehensiveness, its intense spirituality, and its pure benevolence. We have law still, but it is law steeped in love. The gospel is also a revelation of forgiveness of sin for the penitent, of a new life for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and of inspiration and power for those who desire help to serve God; in a word, it is the free offer of a "great salvation." Let us briefly contemplate this "great salvation." It is:
1. Salvation from great evils. We have gazed upon the crumbling ruins of what was once a spacious and massive castle, or upon the venerable remnants of some ancient temple, and while we have pictured to ourselves the scenes of which they had been the theatre in olden days, a feeling of mournfulness has stolen over us. We have thought of the brave doings connected with the old castle - hunting, fighting, feasting, singing, dancing, love-making - all gone. We have thought of the earnest and eloquent pleadings of the servant of God in the temple, of the waves of music from pealing organ and living voices, of the devout, yearning, sorrowing, rejoicing hearts of worshippers, now all gone. Nought but ruins remain. How mournful and oppressive! These are faint pictures of the calamities which have befallen our nature through sin. The original dignity and glory, heroism and harmony, purity and peace of human nature have been lost by sin. And by sin it has become subject to guilt and fear, shame and suffering, death and dread of measureless woe hereafter. But most terrible of all is sin itself. The sinfulness, the degradation, and prostitution of our powers and our being, - these are our greatest curse. Can this fallen temple be rebuilt? etc. Is there a salvation great enough to deliver from these dread evils? Yes; "so great salvation" is this.
2. Salvation by great Agents and means. Not by angels or by men, but by "God manifest in the flesh." "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" "What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son," etc. (Romans 8:3, 4). The "strong Son of God" is the great Savior of men. Then think of the distinguished means which he employed in effecting salvation. His marvelous incarnation, his simple and sublime teaching, his holy and beautiful life, his sacrificial sufferings and death, etc. "Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things," etc. And in bringing this salvation near to men's hearts another great Agent is employed, even the Holy Spirit (see John 15:26, 27; John 16:7-15).
3. Salvation to great glory. This salvation raises man to a more glorious condition than was his before he ruined himself by sin. It saves from the lowest degradation to the highest perfection. It rescues groin hell and introduces to heaven. It includes pardon, peace, purity, perpetual progress, fellowship with God, etc.
4. Salvation of a great multitude. "Many shall come from the cast and west," etc. (Matthew 8:11). Our Lord will bring "many sons unto glory." "In my Father's house are many mansions;" "I saw, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number," etc. (Revelation 7:9, 10). "So great salvation." How immeasurably greater, then, are our privileges than those of the men who lived under the Mosaic economy! - W. J.
heed, etc. As a necessary sequel to our former homily on these verses, let us now consider -
I. THAT THEY TO WHOM ARE OFFERED THE GREATER PRIVILEGES OF THIS CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION ARE UNDER GREATER OBLIGATIONS THAN THEY OF THE EARLIER DISPENSATION WERE. In human relations as well as in the Divine government this principle is generally acknowledged and acted upon, that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more." This principle underlies the reasoning of our text. Our greater privileges bring us under greater responsibilities in this way.
1. The more amply verified revelation has the more imperative claim on our belief. The more convincing the evidence by which a truth is supported, the more binding is the obligation to believe that truth. To doubt the truth of that which bears the manifest seal of God is to rebel against the Divine claims upon our credence.
2. The more gracious revelation has the greater claim upon our loving acceptance. The gospel appeals not only to the reason and conscience, as the Law did, but also to the heart. It is fitted to inspire us with gratitude; it would enkindle our afflictions; it would secure our willing obedience by first eliciting our hearty trust in God. And this involves an increase of our obligations.
3. That our responsibilities are measured by our privileges is an immutable principle of the Divine government. "That servant which knew his lord's will," etc. (Luke 12:47, 48); "A man that hath set at nought Moses' Law," etc. (Hebrews 10:28, 29); "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh," etc. (Hebrews 12:25). So great are our advantages, equally great are our responsibilities.
II. TEAT IF THESE GREATER PRIVILEGES, WITH THEIR CORRESPONDING OBLIGATIONS, ARE DISREGARDED BY US, A TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION WILL OVERTAKE US. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
1. We may neglect this salvation. Though it is provided for us, offered to us freely, and we are entreated to accept it, yet we may neglect it.
(1) The fact of our moral agency shows this.
(2) The method of God's dealing with us shows it. He respects our moral freedom. He invites, entreats, reasons with, warns, and draws us; but he does not force or compel us.
(3) The hypothesis of the text also shows this. The "lest" (ver. 1) shows that we may "be diverted from" (Alford), or "drift away from" (Revised Version), "the things which we have heard." The "if" (ver. 3) shows that we may "neglect so great salvation."
2. Should we neglect this salvation, nothing can avert from us a terrible retributions. "How shall we escape?" etc. A forcible way of expressing the impossibility of escape. Under the Law "spoken through angels" retribution was certain - "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward." How much more certain is it under the gospel! The far superior dignity of him through whom it was first spoken attests with greater force the reliableness of its retributions. The increased evidence by which it is confirmed witnesses to the increased certainty of the punishment of these who neglect it. The very grace which has provided and which offers the "great salvation" renders the punishment of those who reject it more certain and inexpressibly more terrible. Their punishment is more certain, for their guilt is greater; for the same reason it will be more terrible also. It will be punishment from One who in infinite love has done everything which he could do to save us. It will be "the wrath of the Lamb." How, then, "shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation"? Can your temporal resources open up a way for your escape? Can your own arm save you? "Hast thou an arm like God?" Can education, or science, or philosophy save you? There is but one Savior from sin, even Jesus. Accepting him, we shall be saved with "so great salvation." Neglecting him and his salvation, we shall be lost. You need not toil to secure your ruin. Neglect alone is sufficient to bring you under the most terrible condemnation and punishment. Disregard the offered salvation, and all the dread consequences of sin will fall upon you with pitiless and inflexible severity. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard," etc. - W.J.
1. Observe that he is not writing to the ungodly, but to a Christian Church. However suitable these words as an address to the ungodly, they are here spoken to professing Christians who had taken a bold stand for Christ and the gospel (Hebrews 10:32-34).
2. Observe that the literal rendering of the end of the first verse is "lest at any time we drift away. The words, from them," italicized in the Revised Version, are misleading. The drifting away that is deprecated is, not "from the things that were heard," but from Christ. Subject - An exhortation against drifting away from the glorious Son of God.
I. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS FEARFULLY POSSIBLE. It is SO:
1. Because the soul is not always moored to Christ when it is brought to Christ. We regard it a doctrine of the New Testament that the true believer cannot be lost, that the salvation which on faith in Christ he receives is for ever, the might of Christ to supply all that is necessary to salvation being the warrant of it. Why, then, are these professing Christians warned against drifting away from Christ? It is possible to be brought to Christ without being anchored to him. A number of influences may lead one close to the Redeemer, between whom and Christ there is, nevertheless, no vital union, and as long as the tide runs that way his safety may not be suspected even by himself, but let the tide turn and his lack of union becomes apparent and he may drift away and. be lost.
2. Because powerful adverse currents tepid to carry the soul from the Savior. Sometimes the current leads toward Christ. It had been so with these professing Hebrews. But it is not always that way; difficulties occur, winds of temptation blow, the tide of worldly custom runs high, the unseen force of depraved inclination gathers power; and then, however strong the cable, however firmly it may bind shore and ship together, it will creak and strain, and every fiber of it be needed to hold the ship in safety. But what if there be no cable, no vital faith, in that day? Then the soul will inevitably part company with Christ, leaving the harbor where it has lain so long, and be seen (when such a storm shall blow as has never blown on it yet) drifting away.
3. Because the departure of the soul from Christ may be for some time imperceptible. Drifting away is a departure silent, gradual, unnoticeable. At sunset the ship is close to shore and all is safe; without a warning it drops into the tide, and swings round, and with no sound but the ripple of the water is carried down the stream to the open sea, and the crew may sleep through it all. So, departure from Christ may be as involuntary and quiet as that; a silent, ceaseless, unconscious creeping back to old habits. There is its danger. Drifting away means leaving Christ without knowing it, till we find ourselves far out at sea, and a tide we cannot resist bearing us still further away. You have seen men who were once close to Christ, but whilst they slept they have unconsciously glided away, and by the current of worldliness been carried into the rapids and whirled along faster and. faster, only waking to stare wildly at their helplessness, and close hands and eyes in despair for the final plunge into the eternal gulf.
II. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST MUST END IN HOPELESS RUIN. If we drift away "how shall we escape?"
1. To drift away from Christ is to leave the only Refuge from our sin's consequences. "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" The point is, we are condemned already; apart from the great salvation we are in the position of those whose transgressions and disobediences were followed by righteous judgment. But under these circumstances a "great salvation" has been provided. "Great," indeed! A full and everlasting remission of all sin, the enjoyment of God's fatherly favor, the transformation of our moral nature, a tranquil conscience, a bright and glorious hope for eternity; and all this free to whosoever will accept it. Now, if man is under condemnation apart from this, what must he be if, this having been secured and offered to him, he ignores and neglects it? To suffer ourselves to drift away from Christ is to add to the madness of leaving the only haven of security, the guilt of refusing that grace which would have saved us had we let it.
2. To drift away frown Christ is to disregard the supreme dignity of him who offers the salvation to us. "So great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." The point is the dignity of him who brings the salvation to us. Angels were employed in the ministrations of the old dispensation; "The Law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." But he who has brought the word in these last days is God the Son. He has spoken it by being it; and then by uttering it - uttering it to our hearts by his Spirit. The overtures of salvation are not made by man to God, but by God to man; it is not the condemned rebel that appeals to the offended Sovereign for salvation, but the offended Sovereign appealing to the rebel. What a spectacle - God, as it were, on his knees before men, beseeching them to be saved! "As though God did beseech you," etc. See how that adds to man's guilt, and the certainty of his ruin if he drifts away from Christ.
3. To drift away from Christ is to close our eyes willfully to the urgency of his claims. "Which, having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto," etc. (vers. 3, 4). The abundant proof they had received as to the divinity of this Word of salvation is the point here. Man has received the utmost evidence of the truth of the gospel. What he has seen of its results in the lives and characters of others is, of itself, overwhelming assurance that it is of God; and when he hears it preached he knows it is from above, he knows its worth, he knows its claim. Think of what it is to leave Christ after that; to depart from him, though you know the right he has to you, and. the blessings he wants to impart; to be lost, not in the dark, but in the light! The apostle gathers up these arguments against leaving Christ, in this earnest appeal to reason and conscience: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" There is no answer to that. "Friend, how earnest thou in hither without a wedding garment? And he was speechless."
III. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS PREVENTED BY EARNEST HEED TO HIS WORD. "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away." Faith is the cable which alone can moor us to Christ; but the Word of God has a vital bearing on faith; therefore, where the Scriptures are neglected, there is the utmost peril of drifting away.
1. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can you discover whether, in your soul, faith exists. You think it does, but you may be deceived; then search here for the fruits and evidences of faith; then see if they exist in your heart and life. If you would know whether you have faith, you must bring yourself to the test this Book affords.
2. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can you create faith where it does not exist. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." To make light of this Book is to remain faithless.
3. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can faith be maintained where it does exist. How does Christ; maintain faith in the soul, but by the means he has appointed? He gives grace through the means of grace. To neglect the means, therefore, is to lose the grace. Scripture declares the Divine Word to be the means employed for our sanctification. Faith is the cable that holds the soul to the Redeemer. The Word creates and maintains the faith. "Therefore we ought to give," etc. "Drift away!" Away from Christ, the only Haven; drift away into the wild, wintry, shoreless sea of doom - drifted away by the currents of worldliness and care. We drift away silently and imperceptibly; are you sure you are securely moored to the Rock of ages? - C.N.
I. HERE ARE TO BE SEEN THE SUPERIOR GLORY OF THE GOSPEL TO THE LAW IN THE PERSON OF ITS REVEALER. There are frequent proofs of the wisdom of God in the adaptations of means and ends both in the spheres of providence and the institutions of worship. When Jehovah published the Law from Sinai, the angels were mediators between himself and the tribes of Israel; as it is written in Deuteronomy 33:2, "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Sear unto them; be shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of his saints or angels." Stephen remarks that "the people received the Law by the disposition, or ministry, of angels," who probably, by vocal utterance, proclaimed the commands which required and shaped the obedience of the Hebrew race. This was an august and sublime ministry, and raised the giving of the Law above the great events and important crises of earthly affairs, whether they were the gaining of victories, the founding of cities, or the coronation of monarchs. There are many ranks, orders, and principalities among the angels, who are pre-eminent for their wisdom, power, and holiness; but they must all yield to One who is far above them all. This is the Son of God, who alone was able to convey, with sufficient dearness, attraction, and power, all the sacred truths which concern the character of God, the character of man, and the way of bringing the sinner into a state of reconciliation now, and into the possession of eternal life hereafter. He said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" and in all the acts of his public ministry and his sacrificial death he revealed God as he had never been known before.
"He is the Eternal Image bright, II. THERE FOLLOWS THE SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY OF HEARING AND OBEYING THE VOICE OF JESUS CHRIST. Wherever the Word of God comes there is an altered relation of the soul towards its Divine Author, and serious indebtedness to him for the use of so precious a talent. Caution and prayer are necessary, lest the truths which our Lord proclaimed should silently evaporate from the soul like morning dew, and leave the spirit dry and barren. They may, amid the pressure of worldly affairs, the attractions of this life, and the agency of Satan, who carries away the seed sown, be lost for all the purposes of salvation. There must be decisive and intentional acts of meditation, prayer, and obedience, and then they will not slip away from us. They should be held as the miser holds his gold, lest the cunning and violence of men should rob him of his treasure. The gravity of this question enhanced by the certainty that neglect will be punished; for if the offenders against a law published by angels "died without mercy" (Hebrews 10:8), then those who disobey the will of the Lord, who is infinitely above angels, must meet with a tremendous penalty and retribution; because to offend him is, in a sense, to tread underfoot the blood of the Son of God and do despite to the Spirit of grace. To turn aside from him is to reject unutterable grace, and to undervalue the labors, sufferings, and martyrdoms of apostles, faithful preachers of the gospel, and the life and prayers of believers, and to incur the judicial anger of him who requires all men "to honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." The question is asked, "How shall we escape?" The reply must be, "There is no escape." It is the great salvation, because it is the fruit of an eternal purpose, revealed by holy prophets, illustrated by various types, wrought out by the incarnation, ministry, and. sorrow of Jesus, who drank the bitter and brimming cup in Gethsemane and. on the cross; and has engaged the work of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of the Church of God. It is great in the range of its present blessings and in the prospects of everlasting life. "How shall we escape, if rye neglect so great salvation?" Conscience answers, "There is no escape." - B.
II. THERE FOLLOWS THE SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY OF HEARING AND OBEYING THE VOICE OF JESUS CHRIST. Wherever the Word of God comes there is an altered relation of the soul towards its Divine Author, and serious indebtedness to him for the use of so precious a talent. Caution and prayer are necessary, lest the truths which our Lord proclaimed should silently evaporate from the soul like morning dew, and leave the spirit dry and barren. They may, amid the pressure of worldly affairs, the attractions of this life, and the agency of Satan, who carries away the seed sown, be lost for all the purposes of salvation. There must be decisive and intentional acts of meditation, prayer, and obedience, and then they will not slip away from us. They should be held as the miser holds his gold, lest the cunning and violence of men should rob him of his treasure. The gravity of this question enhanced by the certainty that neglect will be punished; for if the offenders against a law published by angels "died without mercy" (Hebrews 10:8), then those who disobey the will of the Lord, who is infinitely above angels, must meet with a tremendous penalty and retribution; because to offend him is, in a sense, to tread underfoot the blood of the Son of God and do despite to the Spirit of grace. To turn aside from him is to reject unutterable grace, and to undervalue the labors, sufferings, and martyrdoms of apostles, faithful preachers of the gospel, and the life and prayers of believers, and to incur the judicial anger of him who requires all men "to honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." The question is asked, "How shall we escape?" The reply must be, "There is no escape." It is the great salvation, because it is the fruit of an eternal purpose, revealed by holy prophets, illustrated by various types, wrought out by the incarnation, ministry, and. sorrow of Jesus, who drank the bitter and brimming cup in Gethsemane and. on the cross; and has engaged the work of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of the Church of God. It is great in the range of its present blessings and in the prospects of everlasting life. "How shall we escape, if rye neglect so great salvation?" Conscience answers, "There is no escape." - B.
I. NOTE THE APPEAL TO HISTORY. In the history of the Hebrew people God had shown the validity and seriousness of his messages. Those to whom the message had come had been disposed to slight it, either because of the improbability of the matter, or the mean appearance of the messenger. And behind both of these considerations it might also be that the message was very unpalatable. But however the message might appear to men, it was God's message, therefore necessary to be sent. The steadfast word through the angels we must take with a very wide significance, as including the prophets, though angels are specially mentioned because being so reverently regarded by the Hebrews There was an a fortiori argument as applied to the message that came through the Son.
II. NOTE THE GREAT TRANSGRESSION AND DISOBEDIENCE WE MAY COMMIT. We may be negligent of the great salvation. Our own personality, with its great powers and with the claims which God has upon it, we may allow to go to wreck and ruin, instead of submitting to the process whereby God would save us, and make us capable of glorifying him in a perfect way. The man who in any physical peril should steadily neglect whatever means of escape were put in his way, if he perished, would be held to have in him the spirit of the suicide. He who takes active steps against his own life is held to be committing a crime against society; but he who neglects his physical welfare is also sinning against society, though society cannot define his offence so as to punish him. But God, we know, can specify offences, as we cannot; and here is one, that when a man has spiritual and eternal salvation laid before him he yet neglects it. And the more we study this state of negligence, the more we shall see how great a sin it involves.
III. THE INEVITABLE PUNISHMENT WHICH WILL COME FOR SUCH NEGLECT. How shall we escape it? It is a question parallel to that of Paul in Romans 2:3, "How shalt thou escape the judgment of God?" The question is not of escaping from the danger by some other means than what God has provided. It is as to how we shall get away from God's doom upon us for deliberately and. persistently neglecting his loving provisions. How often New Testament exhortations make us face the thought of the great judgment-seat! We see what a serious thing in the sight of God simple negligence is. It is in heavenly affairs as in earthly, probably more harm is done by negligence of the good than by actual commission of the evil. Let there be strongest emphasis and deepest penitence in the confession, "We have not done the things we ought to have done."
IV. THE EXHORTATION TO ATTENTION. We must give more earnest heed to the things that have been heard. How close this exhortation comes! Things not only spoken but heard. The excuse is not permitted that we have not heard of these things. It is what we have heard, but have failed to treat rightly, to cherish and hold fast which constitutes our peculiar responsibility. Over against actual negligence there is the demand for close, continual attention. The meaning of salvation and the means of salvation are not to be discovered by listless hearts. We are attending too much to the wrong things - things that, in comparison with the so great salvation, are but as the fables and endless genealogies, attention to which Paul contemptuously condemned. And those who have to proclaim this salvation would do well to attend to that other counsel of Paul to Timothy, "Give heed to reading, exhortation, teaching," and so all of us need to be readers, learners, and especially submissive to the παράκλησις of the Holy Ghost. - Y.
I. THIS SALVATION WAS SPOKEN OF THROUGH THE LORD; i.e. through Jesus. Doubtless the reference here is specially to those solemn and awful intimations he gave to his disciples of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. But the destruction of Jerusalem was itself only a type of a destruction more dreadful still. The worst thing was, not the destruction of the buildings, but the spiritual ruin of those who dwelt in them. This was the thing to be feared, that believers in Jesus should get infected by the lawless life around them, or should take unbelieving and self-indulgent ways to get away from peril. Therefore the Lord proclaimed salvation to him who would endure to the end. His own resurrection from the dead after men had done their very worst and got untrammeled their fullest opportunities, was itself an assurance of safety to those who fully trusted in him.
II. THE WORD OF THIS SALVATION CONFIRMED BY LISTENERS. We feel there must be a parallelism between the βέβαιος of ver. 2 and the ἐβεβαιώθη of ver. 3. The same God who gave authority to his messengers of old, and- put on them a certain kind of honor by showing, in severe treatment of those who rejected them, the Divine origin of their message, also gave authority to certain persons to continue that news of salvation which Jesus had first of all made known. Jesus himself passed these persons through a manifold and. searching discipline to qualify them for their work. He said many things to the common crowd, but of the mysteries of the kingdom he spoke for a while only to a chosen and docile circle; until at last the hour came when these listeners had to spread far and wide the same truths, for a benefit to every one who would attend to them. Jesus, in the greatness of his unique power, began - and it is ever the first step which is most difficult; others came and continued his work on his lines, and made some at least of their auditors in every place to feel that what they said rested on a sure foundation of a reality.
III. AN EXPLICIT STATEMENT OF HOW THIS CONFIRMATION WAS PRODUCED. Never let us forget that the apostles were peculiarly witness-bearers (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8). Again and again this is the apostolic claim in the Acts of the Apostles. Therefore it is quite the thing to be expected that God should be introduced, bearing his testimony along with them. Certain things were done, manifestly transcending human power, and manifestly full of a Divine presence and intent to those who regarded them with an honest heart. It is part of the love of God that he seeks all means to strengthen our hearts in keeping hold of the truth as it is in Jesus. Evidence is nothing without a spirit to appreciate it; but God knew that wheresoever the gospel went there would be some appreciating spirits, and to them the truth came by agencies such as bore it forward to an abiding home in their hearts. Evidence, of course, changes as the ages change; but truth is ever the same. The truth as it is in Jesus has not been altered; the need which that truth came to supply remains undiminished; and so we may be sure God is testifying still concerning that truth, the testimony being such that it satisfies the intellect because first of all it feeds and comforts the heart. - Y.
I. THE DESTINY FOR WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. In certain aspects of his being man seems to be an insignificant creature, and to occupy a comparatively mean position in the universe. The psalmist, who is quoted in the text, refers to this: "When I consider thy heavens,... what is man?" etc. The word translated "man" denotes the weakness and frailty of our nature; and the words translated "son of man" point to man as "formed of the dust of the ground." Yet there are aspects in which man is great; and the destiny for which God created him is a glorious one. That destiny is briefly indicated in this quotation from Psalm 8:8. It consists in:
1. A high place in the Divine regard. As evidence of this we have a twofold fact.
(1) God graciously thinks of man. "Thou art mindful of him;" "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil." God's care of man, which is manifested in the provision which he has made for him, witnesses to his thought of him. What significance it gives to our life when we reflect that the Infinite thinks upon us and cares for us! How the fact tends to exalt our nature! What a consolation and inspiration it should be to us! "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
(2) God graciously visits man. "Thou visitest him." The word used indicates a kindly visitation, as of "a physician visiting the sick." His visitation preserveth our spirits. His visits bring light and refreshment and joy. "His going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain," etc. His visits are redemptive. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people."
2. An exalted rank in creation. "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels." We have already called attention to the distinguished rank of angels in the universe, Man is only a little lower than they. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." Man's nature is intellectual He can reason, reflect, etc. It is spiritual. The body is the vesture of that which comes from God and returns to him. "There is a spirit in man," etc. It is moral. He can understand and feel the heinousness of the morally wrong, the majesty of the morally right. Conscience speaks within him. It is religious. He can love, admire, and adore. It is capable of endless progress. If man attains unto his Divine destiny he will for ever have to say, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." Truly, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels;" "a little less than Divine."
3. A position of kingly majesty and authority in this world.
(1) Here is regal majesty. "Thou crownedst him with glory and honor." The figure of coronation is intended to set forth the royal majesty which was conferred upon man, as of a kingly crown. Amongst creatures in this world he is royal in his faculties and capacities, and in his position.
(2) Here is regal authority. "Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet," etc. The psalmist in the original passage amplifies this "all things:" "All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field," etc. There is a reference to Genesis 1:26-28," Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea," etc. In this world man is God's vicegerent. He was made by his Creator to exercise dominion over all things and all creatures here.
II. THE FAILURE OF MAN TO REALIZE HIS TRUE DESTINY. "But now we see not yet all things put under him." It is unmistakably clear that at present man's sovereignty in the world is not complete. The scepter has slipped from his grasp. His dominion is contested. He has to contend against the creatures that were put in subjection unto him. The forces of nature sometimes scorn his authority and defy his power. Man has not now complete rule over his own being. His passions are sometimes insurgent against his principles. His senses are not always subordinate to his spirit. His appetites war against his aspirations. Sin has discrowned man. He has lost his purity, therefore has he lost his power. In his present condition he is far from realizing his glorious destiny.
III. THE DIVINE MEANS FOR ENABLING MAN TO REALIZE HIS DESTINY. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels," etc.
1. The Son of God has taken upon himself human nature. "We behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus." "Who being in the form of God, deemed not his equality with God a thing to grasp at, but emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men." As man was "made a little lower than the angels," so, in becoming man, our Lord also was "made a little lower than the angels."
2. In his human nature he endured death. "That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
(1) The death of Jesus was voluntary. In his case death was not inevitable. He was not forced to die. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," ere; "The Son of man came... to give his life a ransom for many.... Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all." The voluntariness was essential to the influence of his death as an atonement and as an inspiration.
(2) The death of Jesus was for the benefit of man. "Taste death for every man." In this place "for (ὐπέρ) does not mean "instead of," but "on behalf of. Alford well says, Where this ordinary meaning of ὐπέρ suffices, that of vicariousness must not be introduced. Sometimes, as e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:15, it is necessary. But here clearly not, the whole argument proceeding, not on the vicariousness of Christ's sacrifice, but on the benefits which we derive from his personal suffering for us in humanity; not on his substitution for us, but on his community with us. He died for every man." The benefits of his death, its inspiring and redeeming power, are available "for every man" - for the poorest, the obscurest, the wickedest, etc.
(3) The death of Jesus for man is to he ascribed to the kindness of God. "That he by the grace of God should taste," etc. Our salvation is to be ascribed to the unmerited kindness and love of God towards us. "The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation unto all men." "When the kindness of God our Savior, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness," etc.; "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc.
3. On account of his endurance of death he has been raised to supreme glory and authority. "Because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." His exaltation to this might and majesty is in consequence of his voluntary humiliation and suffering and death. "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him," etc. This was necessary to the perfection of his redemptive work. "On the triumphant issue of his sufferings their efficacy depends."
4. He has been exalted to this supreme position as the Head of humanity. Not the angelic but the human nature has God raised to the throne. "For not unto the angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak." This Christian economy, this new world of redemption by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, in all its developments, is placed under our Lord. In our humanity, and as our Head and Forerunner, he is enthroned the King in the new realm of Divine grace. Humanity is crowned in him. Through him alone can we realize our glorious destiny. We must:
(1) Believe in him. Our text intimates this. "We behold him... even Jesus." This "behold" does not express an indifferent, uninterested sight of him; but the earnest look of faith, the believing contemplation of him. By faith we become one with him.
(2) Imitate him. The sacrifice of the cross leads to the splendor of the crown. The true sovereignty is reached only by the way of service. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him." - W.J.
the Epistle is based on the fact of the dual nature of our Lord. Having spoken of the Godhead of Christ, he has to meet the objection which presented itself with great force to the Hebrews. Why should this glorious Being stoop to the humiliation of Jesus of Nazareth? To the Jew, Christ crucified was a stumbling-block (see John 10:30-33; John 12:32-34). The writer needs to justify the Incarnation. (Observe, he does not attempt to prove the real humanity of Jesus. Clearly the Hebrews did not share subsequent doubts on this point, for there is not a word in the Epistle - though it is based on the fact - to prove that Jesus was man; it is assumed, than which there can be no stronger evidence of it, for if the Hebrews, Christ's contemporaries cherished no doubts with regard to it, the later doubts of others are worth nothing.) In justifying the Incarnation, the writer uses in this chapter four progressive arguments, closely woven together yet distinct. The first is in this passage. Subject - The dignity of human nature shows that the Incarnation was not degrading to the Godhead. True, Christ did assume human nature, and that was an act of infinite condescension; but there was no degradation in it, for consider how sublime this nature is in God's estimate.
I. THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN NATURE AND MAN'S FAILURE TO ATTAIN IT. (Vers. 5 - 8.) (Observe marginal readings in Revised Version, ver. 5, "the inhabited earth;" ver. 7," for a little while.") In proof of this dignity, the writer quotes from their own Scriptures. (Observe that this Epistle is very remarkable for its quotations from the Old Testament. Many of the Epistles addressed to Gentile believers have no quotations, but in this they are found in almost every page. To the Jew the Scriptures were a final authority, so in writing to them each successive step of the argument is based thereon.) He bids them, therefore, read in the eighth psalm how lofty is God's idea with regard to man. The picture drawn there may be ideal, may never have been reached; but it is God's idea, and being so, some day it shall be fulfilled. What, then, is the proper dignity of humanity? what the place in the universe to be filled by this wondrous being, man, who in himself, unlike God's other works, is a combination of the material and the spiritual? The psalm specifies in token of man's greatness:
1. His lordship over creation. "Thou didst set him over the works of thy hands; thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet." Man is not one of innumerable beings made to people the earth; not a link in an endless series, as though up to him all previous things have led, and from him others higher still shall be evolved. The world was made for him, made and furnished (see Genesis 1.) to be his home, the scene of his education, the means of his discipline, the minister to his happiness. Man is greater, in God's sight, than all the worlds; he was made to be a crowned and sceptered king, with them for his servants; he was made in God's image to have dominion over them all.
2. His fellowship with God. "Man, thou art mindful of him... the son of man, thou visitest him!" God rejoices in all the works of his hands, but how different his feeling towards men! They are to have communion with him, which involves similarity of nature; they are taught to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven." The parable of the prodigal son is the picture of his attitude with regard to them - his sorrow, and joy, and welcome, and fellowship, and care. How great that nature of which this is true!
3. His destroy to be higher than the angels. "Thou madest him, for a little while, lower than the angels; ... thou didst put all things... under his feet." Nothing is left out; angels, principalities, powers, are included. How great the angels; how sublime the idea Scripture gives of them! But man is only made lower than they for a little while. He is the son, they are the servants.
4. His redemption secured at so great a price. "Jesus... should taste death for every man." How great is he of whom Christ could say, "I will give my heavenly crown for him; I will pass through the humiliation of a sorrowful human life for him; I will bow my head in accursed death for him; I will forfeit my Father's favor for him!" But this glorious dignity is not yet reached. "But now we see not yet all things subjected to him." If we compare the eighth psalm with the actual condition of things, it reads like a satire. Traces of man's greatness are seen in his moral nature and achievements; but when we behold the poverty, ignorance, disease, misery, crime, sin, which abound under the sun, and compare them with the magnificent ideal of Scripture, the distance of the actual from the ideal seems too great to be destroyed.
II. THE ASSUMPTION OF HUMAN NATURE BY CUBIST, AND ITS PERFECTION REACHED IN HIM. "But we behold him who hath been made for a little while lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." This ideal psalm is realized in Christ; all that man was to be we see in Jesus.
1. Christ assumed that nature which is lower than the angels. Mark the contrast between this and the substance of the first chapter. This is the first chapter: Christ "so much better than the angels." This is the second: "Jesus, made for a little while lower than the angels." How great the contrast between the angels who heralded his birth, and the feeble babe; between the angels who ministered to him, and the lonely Man worn with conflict; between the angels who strengthened him in Gethsemane, and the Man of sorrows, whose sweat was as it were great drops of blood; between the angels who kept his tomb, and that lifeless body! Think of the Lord of angels needing angelic ministry!
"His earnest prayer, his deepening groans, 2. Christ has lifted that nature far higher than the angels. "We behold him crowned with glory and honor." When Christ returned to his native position, he retained his human nature for evermore; as when he trod the streets of Jerusalem and hills of Galilee - " this same Jesus." Exalted to the right hand of the Father, he is still "the Man," the man wearing his human body, that body spiritual in the like of which Moses and Elias appeared at the Transfiguration, and the saints will be enwrapped at the resurrection. It is thus, as muff, he is exalted King over all. To him, as man, every knee doth bow in heaven, and shall bow on earth; on his head, as man, are many crowns; in his human hand rests the sceptre which rules the universe; and before him, as man, the hosts of heaven continually do cry," Thou art the King of glory, O Christ." 3. Christ's ability for this was due to the suffering of death. Christ inherits the throne of heaven as man, as the meritorious reward of his sufferings. So Isaiah (Isaiah 53:11, 12); so Paul (Philippians 2:6-11). What Christ is in his mediatorial capacity he is because he died; apart from his death, he would have no power to be or do anything for man. Man has failed to be what God meant him to be; Christ has become it all; and through the suffering of death retains it all for evermore. III. THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN NATURE IN CHRIST IS THE PLEDGE OF ITS PERFECTION IN his PEOPLE. That is evidently the idea here: "We see not yet all things subjected to [man], but we behold Jesus... crowned with glory and honor." The truth is that whereas we are groaning in our failure to reach the eighth-psalm ideal, Christ has attained that sublimity which human nature ought to reach; and through him we shall one day attain it too. The littleness under which we labor we shall shake off, and rise to that grand summit in which there will be only One above us, God over all; the pledge of this being that that summit is already reached by Christ as man. 1. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the token of the complete removal of man's disabilities. God was unable to fulfill his ideal for man, because sin forfeited exaltation and incurred abasement. Christ undertook, as man's Representative, to remove the sin by an atoning death. The exaltation of Jesus from the sepulcher to the throne was the proof that the atonement was sufficient. Now the hindrance to God fulfilling his purpose for man is removed: the eighth-psalm ideal is that purpose; that ideal will, therefore, be attained. 2. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the assurance of all power in the hands of the Mediator. Christ raised to supreme authority as God-Man, means that all the authority he possesses is to be used in his redemptive work. Then, depend upon it, he will redeem perfectly; he will save up to the highest point of salvation of which man is capable, and. which even God desires. There can be no fear of his people reaching the eighth-psalm ideal when they know that on purpose to raise them to it, Christ, in the nature and character of Savior, has been placed on the highest throne. 3. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the promise of perfection to all who are to be made like him. His people are to be "glorified together" with him, sit with him on his throne, become like him when they see him. See here what Christ is; learn thereby what man in him shall be; for Christ in glory is but the First fruits of perfected humanity. - C.N.
2. Christ has lifted that nature far higher than the angels. "We behold him crowned with glory and honor." When Christ returned to his native position, he retained his human nature for evermore; as when he trod the streets of Jerusalem and hills of Galilee - " this same Jesus." Exalted to the right hand of the Father, he is still "the Man," the man wearing his human body, that body spiritual in the like of which Moses and Elias appeared at the Transfiguration, and the saints will be enwrapped at the resurrection. It is thus, as muff, he is exalted King over all. To him, as man, every knee doth bow in heaven, and shall bow on earth; on his head, as man, are many crowns; in his human hand rests the sceptre which rules the universe; and before him, as man, the hosts of heaven continually do cry," Thou art the King of glory, O Christ."
3. Christ's ability for this was due to the suffering of death. Christ inherits the throne of heaven as man, as the meritorious reward of his sufferings. So Isaiah (Isaiah 53:11, 12); so Paul (Philippians 2:6-11). What Christ is in his mediatorial capacity he is because he died; apart from his death, he would have no power to be or do anything for man. Man has failed to be what God meant him to be; Christ has become it all; and through the suffering of death retains it all for evermore.
III. THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN NATURE IN CHRIST IS THE PLEDGE OF ITS PERFECTION IN his PEOPLE. That is evidently the idea here: "We see not yet all things subjected to [man], but we behold Jesus... crowned with glory and honor." The truth is that whereas we are groaning in our failure to reach the eighth-psalm ideal, Christ has attained that sublimity which human nature ought to reach; and through him we shall one day attain it too. The littleness under which we labor we shall shake off, and rise to that grand summit in which there will be only One above us, God over all; the pledge of this being that that summit is already reached by Christ as man.
1. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the token of the complete removal of man's disabilities. God was unable to fulfill his ideal for man, because sin forfeited exaltation and incurred abasement. Christ undertook, as man's Representative, to remove the sin by an atoning death. The exaltation of Jesus from the sepulcher to the throne was the proof that the atonement was sufficient. Now the hindrance to God fulfilling his purpose for man is removed: the eighth-psalm ideal is that purpose; that ideal will, therefore, be attained.
2. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the assurance of all power in the hands of the Mediator. Christ raised to supreme authority as God-Man, means that all the authority he possesses is to be used in his redemptive work. Then, depend upon it, he will redeem perfectly; he will save up to the highest point of salvation of which man is capable, and. which even God desires. There can be no fear of his people reaching the eighth-psalm ideal when they know that on purpose to raise them to it, Christ, in the nature and character of Savior, has been placed on the highest throne.
3. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the promise of perfection to all who are to be made like him. His people are to be "glorified together" with him, sit with him on his throne, become like him when they see him. See here what Christ is; learn thereby what man in him shall be; for Christ in glory is but the First fruits of perfected humanity. - C.N.
Genesis 9:2). This sublime promise is realized in the exaltation of the Son of God, who was made for a short time lower than the angels; and yet, even in his state of humiliation, showed his kingly power over the diseases of men, the storms of the sky, and the fishes of the sea. But there is the plain fact that all things are not put under men; yet we see Jesus of Nazareth made lower than the angels that he should fulfill the purposes of eternal grace, taste death in its unutterable bitterness and agony that life might be offered to mankind, and now crowned with glory and honor. There is a sacred lesson conveyed to Jewish Christians in the allusion to the death of our Lord, since the offence of the cross was likely to disturb their faith, and lead them to surrender a truth which was a stumbling-block to many of their countrymen. Jesus passed through this valley of the shadow of death to reach the throne where he is now exalted, angels, principalities, and powers, believers and unbelievers, being now subject unto him. The glory and honor which he has attained raise him far above all patriarchs, priests, prophets, and the whole angelic world; and therefore those that kiss the Son, in unlimited trust and loving obedience, may expect all the blessedness now and hereafter from their faith in the Redeemer. - B.
I. WHAT WE SEE SHOWS US THE POWER WHICH CAN PRODUCE THE DESIRED UNSEEN. God, in saying that all things shall be subjected to Christ, asserts authority. But by the course of his Son Jesus on earth he also manifested power. He took as it were a small section of time and space, and there gave us gracious illustration of what he is ever doing, some of it in the realm of the seen, but much more in that of the unseen. What power there is in the Incarnation! For obvious reasons the Incarnation is mostly connected with thoughts of God's condescension, and the lowly-heartedness of Jesus himself. But these considerations must not blind us to the Incarnation as an illustration of God's power. There is a mysterious power in making Jesus lower than the angels, and if it be true that there is a causal connection between sin and death as a painful experience, then some peculiar power must be involved in bringing the sinless Jesus in contact with the pain of death. Then, of course, there is the instance of power, most impressive and most cheering to us, in the raising of Jesus from the dead. If only we can really believe that God has power over the grave, we shall believe in his final conquest of all that can hurt his people.
II. WHAT WE SEE SHOWS US THE PURPOSE EVER WORKING TOWARDS THE DESIRED UNSEEN. The grace of God is manifest as well as the power of God. Jesus not only died; he tasted of death for every one - for every one who could benefit by the tasting of it. He tasted of it that by his resurrection he might show it was not the remediless poison men reckoned it to be. In his love he tasted death, as much as to say to men, "Fear not." We have the Divine purposes in words, but those words are only the more perfect expressions of what we might infer from the works. It is true that "through the ages one increasing purpose runs" - a purpose much higher than that any individual man might form, or the combination of any men.
III. WHAT WE SEE SHOWS US PATIENCE WAITING FOP, THE DESIRED UNSEEN. Great is the patience of God - a contrast to our impatience, our haste, our discontent, if we cannot get immediate results. The fullness of time has to be waited for before the Christ can enter the world; the fullness of manhood has to be waited for till he can begin to teach. Jesus himself must have his own time of sufficient seed-sowing before he can go to Jerusalem for the final scene, belay, procrastination, postponement, is what God cannot tolerate where there ought to be decision, but for great steps to be taken in his own mighty plans he can wait the proper time. If we do not yet see all things subjected to Jesus, if indeed the struggle seems often quite the other way, then there is all the more need for us to look at the career of Jesus from Bethlehem to Calvary as an illustration of how God can wait. In making up the cup which Jesus drank, many ingredients had to be waited for. - Y.
I. THE PERFECTION OF THE REDEEMER WAS ATTAINED THROUGH SUFFERING. "Perfect through suffering." The perfection here spoken of does not refer to his character as Son of God, but as Mediator - "the Captain of our salvation." "The perfecting of Christ was the bringing him to that glory which was his proposed and destined end." Made "perfect through suffering" is similar in meaning to "because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." Only through suffering could he enter upon his mediatorial glory. Two thoughts are suggested.
1. Before he could attain unto his mediatorial glory his character and work as Redeemer must be complete.
2. Suffering was essential to the completeness of his character and work as Redeemer. He must suffer in order that he might
(1) sympathize with his suffering people (ver. 18);
(2) present a perfect example to his suffering people (1 Peter 2:21-24);
(3) reconcile sinners to God.
The exhibition of infinite love - love that gives up life itself, and that for enemies - was necessary to remove the alienation of man's heart from God, and to enkindle love to him in its stead. And the exhibition of perfect obedience - obedience even unto death - was necessary to establish and honor in this world the Law of God which man had broken. So our Savior was perfected through suffering; he passed through sharpest trials to sublimest triumphs.
II. THIS MODE OF REACHING PERFECTION CONSISTS WITH THE CHARACTER OF THE GREAT GOD AND FATHER. "It became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things," etc. God the Father is here represented as:
1. The great first Cause of all things. "By whom are all things." He is the Source and Origin of the entire universe.
2. The great Final Cause of all things. "For whom are all things." All things in the universe are for his glory. Creation, providence, redemption, are all designed and all tend to promote the glory of the great Father. The words under consideration are sometimes used of the Savior, and they are true of him; but they are even more applicable to God "the Father, who sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." "For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen."
3. The great Author and Designer of salvation, with its agents, means, and methods. Our Lord is spoken of in the text as the "Captain [Revised Version, 'Author'] of salvation." But, traced to its source and origin, salvation takes us up to the eternal Father. And "it became him" that he should so order the agencies and methods of salvation that the Savior should be perfected through suffering. Such an arrangement was not fatalistic or arbitrary, but suited to the object in view, the means being adapted to the end, and in thorough harmony with the character and perfections of God - his wisdom, righteousness, and love. The Hebrew Christians, whom the writer is addressing, felt the offence of the cross. There were times when in some measure "Christ crucified" was still "a stumbling-block" to them, or at least they were in danger of this. And so the writer argues that the attainment of the crown by the endurance of the cross was an arrangement worthy of God, and therefore the fulfillment of this arrangement could not be unworthy of the Savior. We have said that the means were adapted to the end; the perfection could not have been attained without the sufferings. But, more, the sufferings were in complete conformity to the being and character of God. He is not a cold, impassive Beholder of human sin and misery. He suffers by reason of man's sin and woe (cf. Isaiah 63:9; Hosea 11:8). Christ in his sufferings reveals to our race how God had felt towards us in all preceding ages.
III. THIS MODE OF REACHING PERFECTION IS EXEMPLARY FOR ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS.
1. The exalted relation of true Christians. They are "sons" of God, not simply because he is "the Father of their spirits," but also by adoption (cf. Romans 8:14-17; 1 John 3:1-3).
2. The vast number of true Christians. "Many sons unto glory." There have been ages when the number of the true and good has been comparatively small. But, as the result of Christ's mediation, the saved will be so many that no human arithmetic can count them, no human mind grasp the glorious total. Many things encourage this belief; e.g.
(1) the inexhaustible provisions of Divine grace in Jesus Christ;
(2) the immense numbers of the race who die in infancy, and through the Savior are received into glory;
(3) the prevalence of true religion throughout the world, which is being rapidly accomplished, and the triumph of Divine grace over human sin, which may be continued for many long ages before the end of this dispensation; - these and other things encourage the belief that our Lord will lead to glory an overwhelming majority of our race.
3. The inspiring relation which our Lord sustains to true Christians. He is "the Captain [Revised Version, 'Author'] of their salvation." The word in this place certainly has a deeper significance than "captain" or leader. Salvation originated in the heart of God, but it was accomplished by Christ. He redeemed us unto God by his blood; and now he inspires and empowers and leads us onward to complete victory.
4. The illustrious destiny to which he leads true Christians. "Unto glory." This is the crowning result of their salvation. They shall be sharers in the blessedness and majesty of God to the fullest extent of which they are capable (cf. John 17:22-24; Revelation 3:21).
5. The pathway by which he leads them to their destiny. Like himself, they also must be made "perfect through sufferings." "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (cf. 1 Peter 5:10, 11). Wherefore, let us not be afraid of suffering. Only let us be sure that we suffer with our Savior and in his spirit; so shall we ultimately share his bliss and glory. - W. J.
It became him." Note that the expression," Author of their salvation," is simply equivalent to their Savior. Also that the word" perfect" does not refer to the perfection of Christ's character; that was eternally perfect; no sufferings could make Christ better than he was. You must apply the term to his ability to save. Apart from his humiliation he could not have been a perfect Savior. The apostle says, therefore, that to make Christ perfect as a Savior, through humiliation, was in harmony with the perfections of God. Subject - The Incarnation, being the only means of securing perfect salvation for men, was becoming to God.
I. IT BECAME GOD TO SAVE. That is the lowest step in the argument, and does not need proof. God does save, that is certain; then it must become him to save, for he can do nothing which is unbecoming. But think of what the text implies about this salvation which it becomes God to give.
1. Salvation originates in him. "Through whom are all things." Salvation is the outcome of his will. Not suggested by human supplication; not claimed by the recovered righteousness of any that had fallen; not extorted by the atonement of some gracious Savior. It came from himself. "God so loved the world," etc. There salvation is traced hack to its source, and revealed as his act. The desire to save, the method of saving, the work of saving, the whole transaction from beginning to end, is of God.
2. Salvation glorifies him. "For whom are all things." Everything he does is for the good pleasure of his will and the glory of his Name. What a beautiful light that throws upon redemption! How it falsifies the idea that God is unwilling to save! God has so identified himself with man, so fixed his love on him, that he is not happy if man remains unsaved. The salvation he has devised - we say it is for man; Scripture says it is for God.
3. Salvation is gratuitous from him. He provides a "perfect" Savior - One who should do it all. Salvation is a gift, all done for man, so that man in his helplessness has only to receive. God saves men for nothing. Put all this together. God saves; this salvation originates with him; glorifies him; is gratuitous from him. That is the kind of salvation which he bestows. Then this is the point - such a salvation as that becomes God. Then see what kind of a God ours is. What must he be of whose nature this is the outcome; of whose thought and love this is the fitting expression; of whose character this is the suitable revelation; who is never more perfectly revealed than in Christ crucified; of whom it can be said, such a salvation "became him?"
II. IT BECAME GOD TO PROVIDE A PERFECT SAVIOR. "It became him to make the Author of their salvation perfect." Nothing less than a perfect Savior would become God. "As for God, his way is perfect." Being perfect in himself, he can devise nothing imperfect. Being perfect in his resources, he cannot fail to accomplish perfectly all he devises. It is so in everything. Then we are sure that, in his greatest work, he whom he sends as Redeemer will be so minutely perfect that the utmost Divine wisdom and human need can never discover a particular in which he could be made more efficient. Less than that could not become God. All things are to show forth his glory. But his redeeming work is his crowning work; by it pre-eminently is to be manifested his transcendent greatness, and evoked the sweetest and most triumphant song of eternity. Then this must be the most complete work which even God can do; anything unfinished here could not become him. Moreover, consider that he bestows other blessings more than royally. His bestowments surpass our need. His measure of giving is "exceeding abundantly above," etc. But the Savior is his unspeakable Gift, the highest expression of his mercy. It is inconceivable, then, that he who outdoes our need in everything else should under-supply it in his greatest gift of all. It is evident that less than a perfect Savior could not become him. But what is necessary to a perfect Savior? - for this, whatever it be, we shall find in Christ.
1. A perfect Savior must perfectly remove she's penalty. The penalty of sin must be dealt with first. Sin's power cannot be removed until the penalty is gone. That penalty is an awful reality. "The wrath of God is revealed," etc.; "The wages of sin is death;" "The wicked shall be turned," etc. Then, if he who comes forth to save is a perfect Savior, he must be able to remove every whit of that penalty for evermore, and able to do it by himself. Christ claims to do that. "There is therefore now no condemnation," etc.
2. A perfect Savior must secure perfect holiness in the saved. For there is no salvation but holiness. Man is surrounded by temptations, and the slave of corrupt dispositions, and painfully far from God's ideal. If he who comes to save is a perfect Savior, he must be able to deliver us from sin's power, and lead us up to that sanctification which is God's wilt concerning us. He must be able to do it perfectly, however low we have fallen, or however helpless we have become. Christ claims to do that. "0 wretched man," etc.!
3. A perfect Savior must preserve us from the perils of the way, and lead us to the perfect glory. For between us and the celestial city are dangers any of which is enough to swallow us up. But if he who comes to save is a perfect Savior, he must lead us safely through all these, and not leave us till he has brought us within the golden gates where no foe can enter. Christ claims to do that. "He is able to save them to the uttermost," etc.
4. A perfect Savior and a perfect salvation in him - what a pillow for weary man to lay his head upon! It must be so, for "it became him to make the Author of our salvation perfect."
III. IT BECAME GOD TO MAKE THE SAVIOR PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERINGS. Does not the text imply that God was shut up to this mode of saving? "It became him," for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing," etc. That is, God's boundless resources, his unlimited power and wisdom, were of no avail here; only through Christ crucified was salvation possible. Observe that it did not become God to save in any other way, because:
1. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with Ms majesty. Men say such condescension as is implied in the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth is derogatory to the Godhead; it is inconceivable that the majesty of the Most High should stoop to such a depth. But all God's attributes are equal; his condescension, therefore, must be as great as his majesty. Because his majesty is infinite, no less than infinite condescension would become him.
2. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his holiness. The salvation God gives must be consistent with his infinite displeasure at sin. His attributes are inseparable; all that God is is in every part of him, and every deed. As he cannot do what is not love, neither can he do what is not holiness. He could not, then, pardon sin without at the same time uttering his abhorrence of sin. How could he do this apart from the cross?
3. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his justice. The problem to be solved was - how to be "a just God and a Savior;" true to the honor of his Law, the rectitude of his government, the integrity of his word, and at the same time extend mercy to the sinner; how at once fulfill and yet remit the threatened penalty? life salvation could become him in which those requirements were not equally met. How could they be met but in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ "the Just for the unjust"? (Beware of the theory that the atonement was unjust because God thereby punished the innocent for the guilty. That is not true; God never did that. He took the suffering on himself. He who atoned was God.)
4. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his love. For one end of the atonement was to reveal God's love, and so make holiness possible to man; for of that holiness God's love is the mainspring. The atonement, therefore, must be the highest expression of Divine love. That was only reached at Calvary. It therefore became God to make the Savior perfect through sufferings. Is not "the offence of the cross removed now?
IV. IT BECAME GOD, THROUGH THIS SAVIOR PERFECTED BY SUFFERINGS, TO BRING MANY SONS UNTO GLORY.
1. It becomes him to make use of this perfected Savior to the full. Having made Christ a Savior at such cost, it would not become him not to make the greatest use of him. To make such sacrifice to get the power to save and then not to use that power would be inconsistent, would cancel his own undertaking. In consistency God cannot withhold giving this perfect salvation to whosoever will.
2. It becomes him to reward this perfected Savior to the utmost. What shall be the recompense for the Redeemer's sufferings? What result shall become such woe as his? I see in distant vision many sons brought unto glory; " a great multitude, which no man can number," etc. Yea, "he shall see of the travail of his soul, and be," etc. - C.N.
John 17:26, where he said, "And I have declared unto them thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." Then, like his brethren, he would confide in Jehovah, as it is written in Isaiah 12:2, "I will trust in him." The citations end with one drawn from Isaiah 8:18, "Behold, I and the children which thou hast given me," which are the words of the prophet in a time of prevalent unbelief, when he and his children who had received symbolical names were witnesses for the truth of God. Considering the past work of Christ in suffering to bring many sons unto glory, and his joy in claiming relationship with them, we conclude that he is net ashamed to call them brethren. - B.
I. THE TERMS IN WHICH THE FATHER IS HERE DESCRIBED. Fatherhood is, of course, implied when sonship is spoken of; and this Father is the Being "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things." Here is the great unity towards which, consciously or unconsciously, all things are tending. Here is the cause of all existence, compared with whom all other causes that men analyze and apportion are but as the merest instruments. The assertion here is, of course, not a scientific truth; it is the dictum of the Spirit, the Heaven-inspired feeling with which we look up to the Father of our Teacher, Jesus. All things, not for me, or you, or for a class, a nation, a race, an age, or even the total of human beings, but for God. The consummation is not on earth, but in heaven. In the light of such a description of God, what wonder is it that increasing science should mean the increasing knowledge of harmony, the discovery of ever-deepening connections between things that seem on the surface quite unconnected?
II. A PURPOSE OF HIM WHO IS SO DESCRIBED. All things are for him. The question is - Do we obediently recognize that stamp and superscription on ourselves which indicates that we are for him? Everything which in its actual existence is just what God wants it to be is moving towards its glory. The seed moves to its glory in the flower, the flower to its glory in the fruit. Unfallen man would have bad to be brought to glory - the glory of the perfect man in Christ Jesus. Society was meant to develop into a collection of men and women having in them the same beautiful spirit as was in Jesus. And that is the purpose still, only what should have come through a natural growth has to begin with a regeneration. Constantly in the New Testament is this basis-truth starting up, to remind us of its connection with all a Christian's efforts, all a Christian's hopes. God transforms us from his creatures into his children, and then leads us onward to glory.. All who are seeking glory save in the way of sonship are seeking what will prove a mockery when they find it. "Bringing many sons to glory." In this word "many" there is cause for rejoicing and careful reflection. It is not enough to say that men are brought. They are brought as sons; nor are they as a scattered few, one here and there in a generation. They are many. How many is not the question. Here is answered in a measure the query of the disciples, "Are the saved few '?" No, they are always many - more than we suppose, guessing by the mere appearance of firings.
III. HOW THE LEADER OF THIS BAND OF CHILDREN IS FITTED FOR HIS WORK. The ἀρχηγὸς. He who starts the company, giving them the direction. We are the sons of God, and it cloth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know the way in which we are going, and who is before us, responsible for that way being right. The true guide, the true leader, is he who himself has been all the way. This alone will save him from being a blind leader of the blind. He who would lead us must have gone in the way in which we have to go. And because our way is of necessity a way of suffering, his had to become the same. The way of man in any case is a way of suffering, and if he has chosen the motto, "For Christ's sake," then in proportion as that motto is written on his heart, in that same proportion would some sort of special trial be his lot. And so our very attachment to Christ is in a sense the means of bringing more suffering to him. The truth that Christians are persecuted for Christ's sake has its corresponding truth, that Christ was persecuted for God's sake. Jesus was perfected as a Leader by submitting to everything that in this world could come upon the outward man. He showed that there was a way, not round danger, but through danger, to an abiding safety beyond. He did not evade the darkness of the grave - he went into it; vanished, as most thought, for ever, and yet to emerge into everlasting light. Well may he ever sound in our ears those words of duty, promise, and hope, "Follow me." - Y.
I. THE ONENESS OF OUR LORD WITH MAN. "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one."
1. Our Lord is of one nature with man. This is what many take to be the meaning of the writer in this place. The Savior was truly human. As a man, he hungered and thirsted, ate and drank, was wearied and slept, sorrowed and wept, suffered and died. His humanity was a real thing.
2. But unity of spiritual relation seems to be set forth here. The text certainly points to something higher than the mere physical oneness of Christ with all men. It is not his relation to all men that is here expressed, but his relation as Sanctifier to all who are being sanctified through him. It is this union of spiritual relationship which is here meant. The Sanctifier and the sanctified are all of one God and Father. They "are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" they "have received the Spirit of adoption," etc. Our Lord not only stooped down to our nature, but he lifts our nature into fellowship and oneness with God. Thus the Sanctifier and they who are being sanctified are all of one "God, the spiritual Father as of Christ, so also of those who are descended from Christ" (cf. John 20:17).
II. THE WORK OF OUR LORD FOR MAN. He is here represented as the Sanctifier of his people. The word used in the text suggests the ideas of:
1. Expiation. It does not seem to us that we are warranted in making this interpretation exclusive of others (as M. Stuart does, who translates "both he who maketh expiation and they for whom expiation is made"). But ἁγιάζω may point to the atoning death of Christ. "While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." "God reconciled us to himself through Christ." Sanctification is impossible apart from reconciliation to God, and that reconciliation is effected by means of the death of Christ. "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 10:10).
2. Consecration. They who are sanctified have consecrated themselves to God. They are devoted to him; they do not live with common aims or for common cuds; but at all times, and even in commonest duties, they live for God and for his glory. They have presented themselves "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God," etc.
3. Transformation. "They who are sanctified;" literally, "they who are being sanctified," are being made true and right in word and deed, in thought and feeling. They are not sinless or perfect. Their sanctification is not yet complete, but it is in progress. They are being transformed into the image of their Lord and Savior. But how can our Lord be said to be the Sanctifier? The Holy Spirit is the great Agent in the transforming process; but the expiation or atonement was made by Christ. And while consecration, or dedication to God, is the act of the Christian, the mighty impulse from which that act springs comes from the Christ. And in the transforming work Christ sends "the sanctifying Spirit; he is the Head of all sanctifying influences. The Spirit sanctifieth as the Spirit of Christ."
III. THE CONDESCENSION OF OUR LORD TOWARDS MAN. "For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy Name unto my brethren," etc. Though he is "Lord of men as well as angels," he calls his people his brethren. Notwithstanding the lowliness of their condition and the crudeness and imperfection of their character, he graciously acknowledges them as his brethren (cf. Matthew 28:10; John 20:17).
1. Here is encouragement to address our Lord in our tithes of need. "Though now ascended up on high... He bends on earth a Brother's eye;" and he has a brother's heart towards us.
2. Here is reason why we should confess him, as our Lord and Savior. Since he acknowledges us as his brethren, let us humbly and heartily acknowledge him as our Savior and Sovereign.
3. Here is reason for acknowledging the lowliest Christian as our brother. Shall we refuse to recognize as our spiritual kindred those whom our Lord calls his brethren?
4. Here is incitement to the cultivation of holiness. Since Christ is engaged in our sanctification, "let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit," etc. (2 Corinthians 7:1). - W.J.
Subject - The Incarnation a necessity of the redeeming work of Christ.
I. OUR LORD ON EARTH WAS A MAN AMONGST MEN. (Ver. 11.) "Partook of the same" (ver. 14). As usual, the writer appeals to the Jewish Scriptures; they assert, he says, the humanity of the Messiah.
1. The doctrine of the Incarnation is bused on the entire revelation of God. It does not depend on "proof-texts," but underlies the whole Book; it is the truth which gives unity to the whole, so that if it be removed the Scriptures fall to pieces and are inexplicable. How delicately it is woven into the web of Scripture and pervades the whole fabric, is seen in the particular texts the apostle quotes here. They are not the texts we should have chosen - indeed, we should hardly have applied them to Christ; but he who, like the writer, is taught by the Spirit, and has deepest spiritual insight into these pages, discerns Christ where others do not, as Jesus did when "beginning at Moses and all," etc. The Old Testament begins with the promise, "The seed of the woman," etc., goes on to state that he should be of the stock of Abraham, tribe of Judah, family of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, be a Man of sorrows, bear the chastisement of sins, and pour out his soul unto death; and then it closes with the declaration that he is about to come, and that his coming should be preceded by his forerunner. Then the Gospels come in as the counterpart and fulfill-merit of all that, and there is not an Epistle which follows which is not based on the fact with which Paul opens his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:3). This doctrine is the key to the Bible; and no wonder, for this is the great mystery of godliness, "God was manifest in the flesh."
2. This doctrine involves that Christ was at the same time possessed of two distinct natures. That is hinted at here, in "not ashamed to call [men] brethren," which intimates an act of condescension which could not be fulfilled by one who was merely man. You cannot imagine, it affirmed, e.g. of Moses, or Elijah, or Paul, or John, that they were "not ashamed," etc.; the bond of brotherhood in their case existed of necessity, and there could be no humility in admitting it, as is implied with regard to Jesus. The words are meaningless, unless he was by nature far exalted above man, and assumed man's nature voluntarily. Thus the writer who declares Christ's manhood plainly implies that Christ was more than man. He who walked the earth in human nature was at the same time the most high God. It is not that he laid aside his Godhead. He could not do that; God cannot undeify himself. Being God before the Incarnation (as he said, "Before Abraham was, I am"), he was God on earth as he must be forever. How it could be we know not, but our ignorance of the mode does not prove impossibility. He who "in the beginning was God... was made flesh."
3. The doctrine of the Incarnation asserts that, notwithstanding Christ's Godhead, he was a real man. In opposition to the later theories that his body was a phantom, or that his soul was not human, the writer asserts here that Christ was man in every respect save sin. Are not the particular texts quoted here chosen to prove this exhaustively? Man is a trinity - body, soul, and spirit; if Christ was man, he was human in these respects. "Behold I and the children which thou hast given me. Forasmuch as the children are sharers in flesh and blood." In the Old Testament the Messiah calls men his children; that points to likeness in physical nature. Christ was born, grew, needed food and rest, sweat drops of blood, was nailed to the cross, lay in the tomb, bore nail and spear marks. Christ had a human body. Again, "I will declare thy Name unto my brethren." Does not that - " brethren" - point to what we call soul, the seat of affection, emotion, thought, conscience, etc.? He increased in wisdom, was moved with compassion. "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus;" "Jesus wept." Christ had a human soul Again, "In the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise," and again, "I will put my trust in him." Christ worshipping God, and trusting God! Doesn't that refer to what we call spirit, that part of our nature by which we are brought into fellowship with the Most High? Christ's spiritual life was wrought by the Holy Ghost as ours is, tempted by our tempter, cherished by the same Divine Word, needed communion with the Father, prayed and worshipped and trusted as ours do. Christ had a human spirit. Body, soul, and spirit, he was Man amongst men. Beware of supposing that, because he was God at the same time, his Godhead in any way lessened the infirmities and necessities of his humanity; he would not have been true man had it been so, and could have been no example to men. As God, there was the hiding of his power in his humanity. Christ entered on his work, and fulfilled it in the position in which Adam stood before he fell.
II. ONLY AS MAN COULD HE DELIVER MEN FROM BONDAGE. (Vers. 14, 15.) A confessedly difficult verse.
1. Death is curse. This text is made difficult of comprehension, because it is read as though it referred to the fear which Christians often have of dying. We must remove that idea from the text. The writer is dealing with what is much more fundamental than that. Observe, the text does not speak of bondage to the fear of death, but of bondage to Satan through the fear of death. The death here spoken of is death in its main idea. Death as curse; death as witnessing to man's sinful condition; death as the declaration that he is under condemnation. Man's fear of death is but another name for his sense of guilt, his knowledge that he is under the curse of the Almighty.
2. The curse being removed, man is set free to holiness. Holiness is the end of Christ's work. The passage begins with, "He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified." To sanctify us was his aim. But holiness is impossible where the "fear of death," i.e. a sense of being under the curse, is. There is only one principle from which holiness can spring - love to God (that is the difference between morality and holiness). But we can never love him till we know that he loves us - know, i.e., that the curse is removed. Holiness, however, is possible then; then obedience is voluntary, service joyous, surrender easy, resemblance to him certain.
3. Being set free to holiness, Satan's power is gone. He is here said to have "the power of death" - a remarkable expression, to which we must not attach the wrong meaning. Satan cannot inflict death, has no dominion over death. Christ says, "I have the keys," etc. But "fear of death," i.e. sense of being under the curse, is the power Satan wields to keep men in bondage. He blinds them to Divine love, tells them God is angry with them, is a hard Master, has no claim on them, and the result is that men continue in sin. But when their eyes are open to see he is a liar, that the curse is removed, that God is love, that God in Christ is able to extend mercy, then the soul breaks away from his bonds into that holiness which is liberty, and Satan's power ends.
4. This could only be accomplished by Christ's humanity. Only by Christ becoming man could the sense of curse be taken away. Its removal required that the curse should be endured by a substitute; but no substitute could be accepted in man's stead who was not of man's kind, and the Law must be obeyed by the nature to which it was given, and its penalty endured by the nature to which it was due. Moreover, if Christ is to suffer and die, he must have a nature capable of suffering and death. So the holiness of men is based on the humanity of Jesus.
III. AS IT WAS MEN CHRIST SOUGHT TO REDEEM, HIS MANHOOD WAS THEREFORE A NECESSITY. (Ver. 16.) The Old Version, owing to the words in italics, greatly mystifies this verse; as it stands in the Revised Version it is the natural completion of the writer's argument. The "taking bold" (or, "laying hold") is the laying bold to save. Christ assumed human nature, not angelic, because he is the Savior, not of angels, but of men.
1. Christ passed by the necessities of fallen angels. Here is a great mystery. Why did not Christ save fallen angels? We cannot tell. There may be a wide difference between the sins of devils and the sins of men. It has been suggested that the one love evil for its own sake, as when the tempter in the garden would wreck the world; and that the other love it for some fancied good it brings, as when the woman thought she saw a good, and therefore put forth her band and sinned. There may ha some such radical difference which makes salvation possible only in the one case, but we are not told; all we know is "the angels which kept not their first estate, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." "He took not bold of angels."
2. Christ stretched out his redeeming hand to man. He "laid hold of the seed of Abraham;' as a shepherd overtakes a sheep that is running away, lays hold of it, lays it on his shoulders rejoicing, and declares, "My sheep shall never perish, neither," etc. Mark the condescension of the Savior, and the exaltation of the human race. We are lost in astonishment as we see Christ pass by the myriads of celestial beings that had fallen, and set his heart on laying hold of us, that he might raise us as much higher than they, as the children of the king are higher than his servants. This involved the necessity of the Incarnation. But more - it reveals an unutterable desire on Christ's part that man should be saved, and the fact that man may be saved if he will. - C.N.
difference between us and those who do not believe in him. In other words, if there is no real difference between us and the unbeliever, then we cannot reckon ourselves among the sanctified. Sanctification cannot consist in taking so many, irrespective of character or of any change which may be working in them. Jesus and all mankind are of one so far as a common humanity is concerned, and this is a condition for the further unity; but something more is needed. He who sanctifies is first of all sanctified himself - sanctified by the mystery of his birth, and by the Divine testimony at his baptism, and so on by everything that lifted him to a unique eminence among men. And all human beings who have the same Spirit of God working in them are thus reckoned for brethren of Jesus; and "he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Though they be far below him in elevation of character and perception of truth, yet the relation is there, and the very way to make things better is to recognize the relation and found an appeal upon it. Our sanctifying Brother looks upon us in our imperfections, and cheers us with the thought that we shall become like him. He is not ashamed to call us brethren, but how ashamed we ought to be that we are so unworthy of him! Christ is far more intent on working out the possibilities of our life than we are ourselves. - Y.
I. THE GREAT FACT OF THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same." These words suggest:
1. The reality of our Lord's human nature. He partook of our flesh and blood. His body was real, and not merely phenomenal. His physical experiences - e.g., weariness, hunger, thirst, pain, death - were real, not pretended. His human soul also, with its sympathies and antipathies, was genuine.
2. A peculiarity of our Lord's human nature. His human nature was voluntarily assumed. He partook of flesh and blood. We could not apply these words to Moses or to St. Paul without manifest absurdity. We had no choice as to whether we should be or not be, or what we should be; whether we should exist at all, or, if we were to exist, what form of existence should be ours. But he had. We were brought into this world without our will; he "came into the world" of his own will. "He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant." This implies:
(1) His existence before his incarnation. "His goings forth were from of old, from everlasting."
(2) His power over his own existence. He could take upon himself what form of existence he pleased. He had power over his life. He had "power to lay it down, and power to take it again."
(3) His deep interest in human existence. "He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor," etc.
II. THE GRAND DESIGN OF THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD. "That through death he might bring to nought him that," etc.
1. Our Lord became man in order that he might die. All other men die because they are human, and their death is unavoidable; but he assumed our nature for the express purpose of acquiring the capability of death. His death was of stupendous importance. He looked forward to it; he preannounced it to his disciples; he deliberately advanced to it; he voluntarily endured it.
2. Our Lord died in order that he might vanquish death. "That through death he might bring to nought him that had," etc. He does this
(1) By the abolition of Satan's power over death. Satan may be said to have the power of death, inasmuch as:
(a) Death, as we know it, is the result of sin, and he introduced sin into our world, and is actively engaged in propagating it. "The sting of death is sin." But for sin, it might have been "a gentle wafting to immortal life."
(b) He kindles the passions which lead on to death; e.g. anger and revenge, which often result in murder; lust of territory, which often causes war, etc.
(c) He inspires the mind with terror in the anticipation of death. The gloomy and dreadful ideas which are frequently associated with death are probably suggested by him. Our Lord died to render this power of Satan ineffective, and in this respect to bring him to nought. How his death effects this we will inquire shortly.
(2) By the emancipation of man from the thraldom of the dread of death. Men recoil in alarm from death for several reasons; e.g.:
(a) The supposed anguish of dying. A good Christian who was drawing near to the river of death said, "I have no doubt of going to heaven; but oh, the crossing, the crossing!
(b) The painful separations which death causes. Tennyson truly expresses the feeling of many in this respect -
For this alone on Death I wreak (c) The appalling mystery as to what lies beyond death- "The dread of something after death, (d) The solemn judgment to which it leads. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, judgment." The dread of death, for these and other reasons, holds men in bondage, enslaves them; they cannot shake it off. Our Lord died to set them free from this thraldom. But how does his death effect this? He was "manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." As an atonement for sin, his death removes the guilt of all who heartily believe on him. Death is no longer penal to them. For them "the sting of death" is taken away. Again, since Christ died and rose again from the dead, death wears a new aspect to the Christian. It is no longer the end of our existence, but an onward and upward step in our existence. It means not repression, but development; not loss, but gain; not the way to darkness and misery, but to light and joy. Death to the Christian is no longer "the king of terrors," but the kind servant of the Lord and Giver of life. Death is the crown of life:
(c) The appalling mystery as to what lies beyond death-
"The dread of something after death, (d) The solemn judgment to which it leads. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, judgment." The dread of death, for these and other reasons, holds men in bondage, enslaves them; they cannot shake it off. Our Lord died to set them free from this thraldom. But how does his death effect this? He was "manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." As an atonement for sin, his death removes the guilt of all who heartily believe on him. Death is no longer penal to them. For them "the sting of death" is taken away. Again, since Christ died and rose again from the dead, death wears a new aspect to the Christian. It is no longer the end of our existence, but an onward and upward step in our existence. It means not repression, but development; not loss, but gain; not the way to darkness and misery, but to light and joy. Death to the Christian is no longer "the king of terrors," but the kind servant of the Lord and Giver of life. Death is the crown of life:
(d) The solemn judgment to which it leads. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, judgment." The dread of death, for these and other reasons, holds men in bondage, enslaves them; they cannot shake it off. Our Lord died to set them free from this thraldom. But how does his death effect this? He was "manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." As an atonement for sin, his death removes the guilt of all who heartily believe on him. Death is no longer penal to them. For them "the sting of death" is taken away. Again, since Christ died and rose again from the dead, death wears a new aspect to the Christian. It is no longer the end of our existence, but an onward and upward step in our existence. It means not repression, but development; not loss, but gain; not the way to darkness and misery, but to light and joy. Death to the Christian is no longer "the king of terrors," but the kind servant of the Lord and Giver of life.
Death is the crown of life:
"O precious ransom! which once paid,
I. OBSERVE A REASON FOR THE INCARNATION. When we look at all the Son of God achieved by the Incarnation, we see what an eminently reasonable thing it was. This seems to be forgotten by those who stumble at what they feel sure is a natural impossibility - that Jesus should have come into the world as he did. But if great ends were achieved by the Son of God thus stooping from his glory, entering the world as a babe, living a human life and dying a human death, then, when we remember how God is love, surely such extraordinary things become credible. If we can help people, we are bound to do everything that lies in our power to help them. And may we not reverently say that a similar obligation lies with the Divine Being? He knows what is most for our help, and does everything in his own wise time and way; and when it is done it is for us to search and see how it is just the thing that needed to be done.
II. CHRIST BECAME A HUMAN BEING LIKE US IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT DIE. This strong way of putting the thing is necessary, in order to bring out the greatness of Christ's work with respect to death. With us death is the end of life, but by no means to be looked on as a result of life - a thing to be aimed at. But in the case of Jesus it was a great end to be reached. Jesus might have lived in the world for many years, teaching men, healing their sicknesses, gladdening their lives in many ways, and then, Enoch-fashion, he might have been translated that he should not see death. But if this had happened, the great end would have been missed.
III. THE RESULTS ACHIEVED BY THE DEATH OF CHRIST. Not all the results, of course; two are mentioned here. Christ died for men - that is the great general truth; and it is the way of God in the Scriptures to put one aspect of a truth in one place and another in another.
1. Christ in dying brings to nothing him who has the might of death. It is the devil who gives death its mighty power. Unseen by us, and by us incomprehensible, he works out his evil pleasure. And so Jesus had to go into the unseen world and conquer him. We can only know that there has been a struggle at all by what we see of the results. We know that he died, we know that he rose again; but all that happened in order to make his rising practicable is utterly beyond us. This is just one of the passages which make us feel how little we know, and how humble and diffident and cautious of speech we should be before the great unknown. The practical thing is that we should have a firm assurance in our hearts of how Christ has mastered the power of death, whencesoever that power may come.
2. The deliverance o/those enslaved by the fear of death. Christ comes to bring liberty. The progress of true Christianity is constantly enlarging the liberty of the individual. And here is one way in which the individual is bound, self-fettered; and too often the more he allows himself to think, the more firmly the chains get fastened, he asks himself what is to come after death. So far is it from being certain that death means utter discontinuance of life that many are in trouble just because of the uncertainty. Then others cling to life just because life holds all that is certain to them. All their treasures are stored up on earth, for they have no notion of any other storehouse. It is, indeed, miserable work to have everything dependent on so uncertain a tenure as that of natural life. But Jesus comes and opens the prison-door. That is all he can do. By his death he has made deliverance possible from the fear of death. But man's confused heart goes on fearing even when the objects of its fear are turned into empty phantoms. - Y.
I. NOT BECAUSE THAT, WHILE MEN NEEDED HELP, ANGELS DID NOT NEED IT. Man needed Divine redemption. A sinner, he needs forgiveness; lost, he needs restoration, etc. The sacred Scriptures, the history of our race, and our personal experience, unite in affirming our need of the saving help of Jesus Christ. The Word of God assures us that there are angels who also need help. It tells of a number of fallen, sinful, suffering angelic beings who are reserved in bondage and darkness until the day of final account (see John 8:44; 2 Peter 2:4; 1 John 3:8; Jude 1:6; Revelation 20:10). Their need is as great as man's.
II. NOT BECAUSE ANGELS WERE IN ANY WAY INFERIOR TO MEN EITHER IN NATURE OR ABILITY. TO US it would have seemed probable that, if only one of the two races of sinners was to be saved, the preference would have been given to the greater of the two. Regarding the matter from our standpoint, the greater and more glorious a being is the more worthy is he of redemption, and the treasures of wisdom and love expended in his redemption will lead to richer results. It was not on this principle that God, in his Son, came to the help of men and not to that of angels. In being and capacity we believe that angels are greater than men. In our remarks on the preceding chapter we endeavored to show that angels are the highest orders of created beings. And the fall of angels did not strip them of their power. And since angels are greater than men, it follows that their fall must have been greater. Their immense powers being perverted render them mightier for mischief than beings el inferior powers could be. Hence how great was their need of help! And if restored to their original condition, would not their restoration bring greater glory to their Restorer than the restoration of beings who are lower in the scale of being?
III. NOT BECAUSE ANGELS, IF LEFT WITHOUT HELP, WOULD SUFFER LESS THAN MEN WOULD HAVE DONE IF THEY HAD BEEN SO LEFT. The greatest sufferings are not those of the body, but those of the mind and heart. And the measure of suffering endured by any one is regulated by his mental and moral capacity. Therefore, if our estimate of angelic capacity be correct, being left without redemption the sufferings of angels will be greater than man's would have been if he had been so left. Their vast powers must be terrible instruments of self-torture. Their remembrance of the irrevocable past must also augment their misery. Their recollection of their lost heritage must greatly increase the anguish which afflicts them. But we have no such memories. Only two of our race experienced the joys of that Eden from which sin has exiled us. We know not the peace and bliss of the human heart in its original state. Hence we conclude that the sufferings of angels are greater than those of men would have been if they had been left without the saving help of God.
IV. NOT BECAUSE OF AN ARBITRARY SOVEREIGNTY ON THE PART OF GOD. The sovereignty of God is the sovereignty of infinite wisdom and love. To say that he chose to restore mankind and to leave angels to their dread doom because of his sovereignty is unsatisfactory. He made the choice in his sovereignty; but what was the reason for the exercise of his sovereignty in this particular way? He is absolutely independent; but he ever acts from wise and worthy reasons, and never from caprice or for the mere assertion of his sovereignty. We may not be able always to discover the reasons of his decisions and deeds; but there are reasons, and perfect ones, for them all, though we see them not. Thus far, then, we have met with no good ground why the Deity should have determined to save lost men rather than lost angels. Our examination would have led us to conclude rather, that if one race was to be helped and the other abandoned, the angelic sinners would have been elected to the blessing. Let us now answer the inquiry which is before us affirmatively.
I. BECAUSE THE GUILT OF FALLEN ANGELS WAS GREATER THAN THAT OF MAN. We attach much greater guilt to one who commits a crime with little or no temptation, than we do to one who commits the same crime under the influence of powerful temptation. Now, Satan was not tempted to sin by any force without himself. We cannot trace the origin of sin beyond Satan. How inexpressibly guilty must he be who generated the first sinful thought, and that in a universe of light and holiness! But man, in the young days of his innocence, was tempted to sin by a subtle, powerful being. The temptation was presented in a pleasing and persuasive form; it appealed at once to the sense of taste, to the love of beauty, and to the desire for knowledge; and man yielded to it, and fell. But his guilt appears to us to be far less than that of the angels who sinned. Is it not a reasonable conclusion that God marks the degrees of guilt, notes every aggravating or extenuating circumstance, and treats the offender accordingly?
II. BECAUSE EVERY FALLEN ANGEL CONSENTED TO THE TRANSGRESSION BY WHICH THEY FELL, WHILE MAN, THROUGH THE LAWS OF HIS BEING, SUFFERS FROM THE SIN OF THE FIRST TRANSGRESSORS TO WHICH THEY ALONE CONSENTED. The sin of the angels affected only those of their number who were guilty of actual participation therein. But the condition of every man is greatly affected through the sin of the first parents of our race. The way in which men are brought into being differs from that of angels. Generation obtains amongst men, but not amongst angels. We are born with an inclination, a bias, to that which is evil. Were it not for the grace of God, that inclination would be irresistible. If Christ had not come to our help, we must have been utterly ruined by reason of a transgression for which we could not possibly have been in any way responsible. Here, then, we have a very powerful reason why God should provide redemption for man rather than for angels.
III. BECAUSE THE PREFERENCE SHOWN TO MAN FURNISHES A STRIKING ILLUSTRATION OF DIVINE JUSTICE, WHICH EXERCISES A SALUTARY INFLUENCE ON BOTH UNFALLEN ANGELS AND REDEEMED MEN. Had the preference been given to fallen angels it would not have set forth the justice of God. It could not have been just to have provided help for the guiltier race while leaving the less guilty race to perish; or to have redeemed those who individually consented to the rebellion, while resigning to ruin untold millions who took no part in the sin by which their race fell. But in the preference given to fallen man, we have a clear manifestation of the justice of God. The fact that he has left fallen angels to their righteous doom, being known to the unfallen universe, will bind the good more firmly in their allegiance to the Almighty. And a knowledge of the great price with which fallen men were redeemed will so impress the saved with the evil of sin, and the justice of God, and the benevolence of the Divine Law, and the love of the heavenly Father, as to secure their everlasting and ever- growing loyalty to God. Thus even we, with our dim perceptions and feeble reason, can discover wise and worthy reasons for the Divine choice of lost man for redemption rather than of lost angels. "Just and true are all thy ways, thou King of saints;" "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" etc. (Romans 11:33-36). Two inferences of great importance are deducible from our subject.
1. That the guilt of those who reject the proffered help of Christ is greater than that of fallen angels. How great soever the guilt of demons may be, they have not incurred that of rejecting the gracious offers of pardon and restoration. But those men who neglect the great salvation must quench the Holy Spirit, harden their hearts against the drawings of the Savior's love, and the Mace of the Divine Father, etc. Of such sin even demons are not guilty.
2. That the blessedness of those who accept the help of Christ will be greater, in some respects, than that of holy angels. Angels have many joys, but the joy of redemption they know not; man alone knows that joy; and it appears to us that of all joys it must be the deepest, tenderest, intensest. Let us personally avail ourselves of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. - W.J.
I. THE FUNCTIONS OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
1. To make atonement for man as a sinner. "A High Priest... to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Various are the renderings of this clause. Revised Version, "to make propitiation;" Alford, "to make expiation;" Ebrard, and Stuart also, "to make atonement." Ebrard says, "Ἱλάσκεσθαι comes from ἵλαος Ιλαος denotes, not the internal disposition of God towards man, but the actual, positive expression and radiation of that feeling which first becomes again possible towards the redeemed; and ἱλάσκεσθαι means to make it again possible for God to be ἵλᾶος, i.e. to make a real atonement for real guilt." Whence arises this need of atonement? Not because God was indisposed to forgive and save man. It has been well said by Delitzsch, "As the Old Testament nowhere says that sacrifice propitiated God's wrath, lest it should be thought that sacrifice was an act by which, as such, man influenced God to show him grace; so also the New Testament never says that the sacrifice of Christ propitiated God's wrath, lest it may be thought that it was an act anticipatory of God's gracious purpose, which obtained, and, so to speak, forced from God, previously reluctant, without his own concurrence, grace instead of wrath." The death of Jesus Christ for us was the expression of the love of God towards us, and not its procuring cause. Why, then, was the sacrifice of the cross necessary to the forgiveness of our sin and the sanctification of our being?
(1) To maintain the majestic authority of God's Law. Obedience to law is an indispensable condition of moral well-being. Man cannot be saved except in harmony with it. The perfect obedience of our Lord, who was'" obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross," is the most striking and significant testimony "that the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."
(2) To meet the deep needs of man's spiritual nature. Man needs the removal of his alienation from God. His sins have separated between him and his God. He is alienated and an enemy in his mind by wicked works. And the death of the Only Begotten of the Father was necessary to reconcile him to God. That death was both "a response to the imperious claims of the eternal law of righteousness, and the final appeal of the Divine love to the conscience and affections of the human race. That appeal moves man's heart, and awakens within it love to God. Moreover, man needs the satisfaction of the instinct of right now awakened within him. The truly penitent soul, knowing that sin is rightly followed by suffering, and if persisted in leads to death, and, hating sin in itself, would fain suffer as an atonement for its sins and as a homage to goodness and truth. Such a penitent soul feels that without shedding of blood there is no remission." The awakened conscience cries out for atonement. Our Lord's death for sin, the voluntary surrender of his life upon the cross for us, meets this deep and urgent need of the religious heart.
2. To succor man as a sufferer. Man needs a High Priest who "is able to succor them that are tempted." The word "tempted" is used in two senses in the Bible.
(1) Tested, proved, with a good intent, as in the case of Abraham (Genesis 22:1). St. James also writes of temptations of this kind (James 1:2, 3).
(2) Tempted with evil intent, or solicitation to sin. In both these senses man is tempted. He is tried by suffering and sorrow, by physical pain and spiritual conflict. He is also assailed by subtle solicitations to sin. He requires a High Priest who will be able to help him in these trying experiences; one who will give him sympathy in his sorrows, inspire him with patience in his trials, and with spiritual discernment and strength in his temptations to sin. Such are the functions of our great High Priest.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
1. He must share our nature in order that he might make atonement for us as sinners. The perfect obedience which our Lord rendered to the holy will of God, the painful sufferings which he patiently endured, and the terrible death which he voluntarily submitted to, could not have constituted an atonement for us had he not previously taken upon himself our nature. "Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren." It was morally necessary that he should share our nature if he would efficiently serve us as our High Priest.
2. He must share our trials in order that he might succor us in our sufferings. Our High Priest must be "merciful," so as to feel compassion for suffering and tempted men. He must be "faithful," so as to elicit and retain the confidence of those whom he represents before God. He must himself suffer temptation, that he may efficiently help the tempted. Both classes of temptation assailed him. He was tempted by satanic suggestion and argument and inducement. He was tried by severest physical pains, and by spiritual sorrows which grew into the great overwhelming agony. "A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.... Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Hence he is able to succor them that are tempted. He can not only feel for them, but with them. By his personal experience of our sufferings he has acquired the power of sympathy with us in them. "As God, he knows what is in us; but as man, he feels it also." "Sympathy," says Burke, "may be considered as a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man, and affected in many respects as he is affected." Thus our great High Priest sympathizes with his tried people. "In all their affliction he is afflicted." He succors as wall as sympathizes; he inspires with courage as well as regards with compassion; and in our weakness he makes us strong in himself "and in the power of his might." Having such a High Priest, let us trust him heartily and at all times. - W.J.
1. That "reconciliation for the sins of the people" is not the central idea of these verses. That has already been dealt with. Here we have a new thought - Christ's ability to succor the tempted.
2. That our Lord's humanity could not make him a merciful and faithful High Priest. He was that already, but thus he proved himself to be this.
3. That the word "tempted" here is not to be confined to the meaning of solicitation to sin.
I. CHRIST, IN THE ENDURANCE OF TRIAL, WAS MADE IN ALL THINGS LIKE UNTO HIS BRETHREN; that is, he passed through every class of human suffering.
1. There were the sufferings which came through human frailty. Christ had no sin, but he experienced those forms of suffering to which innocent human nature is exposed, such as poverty, weariness, dependence, pain, fear of death. We get through our trials more easily because we do not foresee them; but Christ foresaw his, and they were intensified as he drew nearer his end. His life was a conscious advance into deeper gloom.
2. There were the sufferings which came through his holy nature. Thirty-three years in a world of sin must have been continuous pain to the Holy One of God. Suffering in the presence of evil is in proportion to our holiness and our aversion to evil. Christ not only saw a world wandering away from God, but he knew what was in man; he not only saw the malice on men's faces and the guilt in their lives; he read the thoughts and intents of the heart. And, still worse, he felt the hot breath of the arch-tempter on his cheek, and heard the whispering of his hateful suggestions.
3. There were the sufferings which came through his love to man. The pain of sympathy. If Love has her deep joys, she has, too, her deep griefs; if she wears a crown of triumph, she wears, too, a crown of thorns. Love is afflicted in all the afflictions of her beloved. What must have been the suffering of immeasurable Love in witnessing the woes of man!
II. THIS ENDURANCE OF OUR TRIALS PROVES THAT CHRIST WILL BE MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL IN HIS POSITION AS HIGH PRIEST.
1. Christ making propitiation holds the position of High Priest. Christ's high priesthood is only glanced at here, stated to rest something on it. As the high priest alone could offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, so Christ, offering the one atoning sacrifice, showed himself to be High Priest. And the main idea in that is that the high priest was essentially the mediator between God and man. As God's representative he acted for God toward the people; as the people's representative he acted for them toward God. Christ, then, holds this position. He conveys the Father's gifts to us, and our need to the Father. It depends entirely on him whether we receive the gifts of Heaven.
2. If holding that position, he would deal with us in mercy, all we need is assured. There is nothing he cannot secure for us, if he will. The question depends on whether he has sympathetic feeling towards us in our grief. Is Christ the Mediator compassionate?
3. The great proof of his compassion is that for our succor he endured so much more than was necessary for mere propitiation. Our Lord's incarnation and death were necessary for atonement, but he endured much beside that, going down to the lowest state of innocent human experience. Much of his suffering was an extra burden voluntarily assumed with a view to man's comfort; in sorrow. He cared so much about our griefs that in order to allay them he passed through them himself. We cannot doubt his heart after that.
III. THIS PROOF OF HIS HIGH PRIESTLY COMPASSION IS ABLE TO SUCCOUR HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE TRIED.
1. It enables them to trust his sympathy, for he has experienced their pains. Christ's suffering has not made him more sympathetic. His knowledge and sympathy were perfect before; but it gives us more confidence in going to him for succor.
2. It enables them to expect aid from him, for he suffered that he might aid. Why, his poverty, bereavement, weariness, loneliness, shame, being misunderstood, but that he might succor us! Then, will he not succor us?
3. It enables them to anticipate victory through him, for he conquered in all his woe. Who can aid us in our difficulties, like him who has already trodden these difficulties underfoot? What aid can be more satisfactory than his who wears the laurels of victory over those very evils which assail us? Our foe will fly when he sees his Conqueror on our side. - C.N.
I. WHEREIN AN EFFICIENT PRIESTHOOD LIES. The high priest is the representative of man before God. There are certain things which, as from God, are directed towards man; there are certain other things which, as from men, are directed towards God. These things are summed up, or rather the most important of them is specified, in the making reconciliation for the sins of the people. The word is the same as the publican used in saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" The thing needed is that these sins should be mentioned before God in their full reality and extent, and some sin offering made exactly correspondent to them. And for all this there is further needed on the part of the high priest two great qualities - pity and fidelity. The priest must pity his fellow-men as sinners, and to do this requires a very special exaltation of the heart. A man might easily pity his fellow-men for their physical pains and weaknesses, who would look with indifference on their alienation from God and the unrest of their hearts within them. Then as to the fidelity required in the priesthood, this is best seen in the elaborate instructions given concerning priestly duties by Moses; a sacrifice in which the least prescribed detail had been neglected was as no sacrifice at all.
II. THE DEFECTS OF EXISTING PRIESTHOODS. It is not exactly said that the long line of Aaron and his descendants had furnished a priesthood lacking in tenderness and faithfulness; but this is at least suggested, and it is certainly true. If, indeed, a merciful and faithful priesthood had been possible without making the humanity of Jesus to intervene, we are sure such intervention would not have occurred, for it is by no means the way of God to supersede what is doing its work efficiently. But the high priest hitherto had been taken from among men, and he was taken with all his infirmities upon him. He might have no due sense of sin. Judged by the state of his heart, thousands for whom he acted might be nearer to God than him. The priest lay exposed to just this peculiar temptation of having a lamentably inadequate sense of the sins of his fellow men. Thus sacrifice became an unreal, perfunctory thing - altogether of the hand, and not at all of the heart.
III. HOW IT WAS THAT JESUS BECAME AN EFFICIENT HIGH PRIEST. Here we must look at Jesus historically. Strange it is to remember, in the light of the emphatic assertions of his priesthood contained in this Epistle, how he never stood at any altar in Jerusalem, never entered the holy of holies. And yet all the time he was preparing for priesthood and for sacrifice. He was declaring, by all his ceaseless words and acts of mercy, by all his faithfulness to truth, his fitness to be the High Priest. For perfect compassion and perfect fidelity, these constitute the vocation to the priestly office. And it must be one of ourselves who shows them. Jesus, as Son of God, had something which every descendant of Aaron had lacked; but until he became in all respects like his brethren, the most sinful of men had something which Jesus lacked. What wonder is it that angelic visits ceased once the humanity of Jesus became demonstrated and glorified! Angels, whatever their desire might be, could never come so close to us as Jesus - could never know as he knows, man like us, looking into our hearts with human eyes and yet with Divine penetration. - Y.
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