For you are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor to blackness, and darkness, and tempest,…
I. I am to show THAT IT IS A VERY AWFUL, THOUGH A COMFORTABLE, THING TO CONVERSE WITH GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL.
1. The majesty and glory of the great God makes it awful conversing with Him.
2. God's omniscience is another thing which makes it solemn conversing with God as Judge of all (Hebrews 4:13).
3. The purity and holiness of God make it a solemn thing for polluted sinners to have any converse with Him.
4. The strictness of God's law, which is the rule of judgment, makes it a solemn thing to converse with this great and glorious Judge. God judges of all my thoughts and actions by the same law now that sentence is to be passed by in the great day of accounts.Use
1. Is it so solemn a thing for believers in Christ to come to God the Judge of all; how or "where then must the sinner and the ungodly appear"?
2. Is it so solemn a thing to converse with God the Judge of all? Then, believer, how seldom art thou in a right frame for duty. You know with what solemnity and preparation they of old attended on God when giving the law. The people were sanctified to-day and to-morrow, and washed their clothes to be in readiness against the third day (Exodus 19:10). Is there less call for preparation and solemnity under the gospel? are trifling frames and a worldly spirit any part of that liberty we have in Christ? Dare we go to holy ordinances drowned in the cares of this life, reeking in the filth of some unsubdued lust?
3. Learn from what has been said, the only way to think of future judgment with pleasure and comfort. It is by coming to God the Judge of all, now.
4. What a blessed gospel is that which reveals the only righteousness wherein a poor guilty sinner may appear before God with comfort!
II. How Is IT THAT SUCH A CONVERSE IS BEGUN BETWEEN A HOLY GOD AND POOR SINNERS?
1. It is begun in the conviction or sensibleness a soul has that he is a guilty lost sinner.
2. In order to a poor sinner's comfortably conversing with God the Judge of all, there must be a free confession of all sin and a subscribing to the rights of His justice. This is called an accepting of the punishment of one's iniquity (Leviticus 26:41) and a clearing and justifying God when we are judged (Psalm 51:4).
3. In order to a poor sinner's comfortable converse with God the Judge of all, there must be an absolute renouncing all righteousness of his own.
4. The way to have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all is to come before Him in the Mediator's righteousness and to plead it with Him as thy justifying righteousness.Use: 1. If there be no coming to God as Judge of all with comfort but by confessing sin, their state must be sad who seek comfort by hiding or lessening sin.
2. Must a soul be brought to submit to the rights of God's justice in order to a comfortable converse with Him as Judge of all? then woe to all such as quarrel with God's judgment.
3. Must all self-righteousness be renounced in order to a comfortable converse with God the Judge of all? How contrary is that doctrine which sets up the creature's sincere obedience as a part of our gospel-righteousness!
III. IN WHAT INSTANCES AND BY WHAT METHODS THIS CONVERSE WHICH BELIEVERS HAVE WITH GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL IS MAINTAINED AND CARRIED ON.
1. I am to give some instances wherein believers have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all, through the whole of their gospel profession and walk. The apostle speaks of it as a privilege attending their state, not a blessing peculiar to some extraordinary frames. It is a believer's settled mercy and daily duty to converse with God the Judge of all.
(1) A great part of this comfortable converse with God lies in those high and honourable thoughts which believers have of His righteousness as Judge of all.
(2) Another instance wherein believers have comfortable converse with God lies in their pleading justification before God upon the footing of righteousness.
(3) Another instance wherein believers have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all lies in their referring themselves to His righteous judgment with respect to their state, their frames, and all their actions.
(4) Another instance wherein believers have comfortably con versed with God the Judge of all lies in a hearty approval of all providential dispensations to themselves and others.
(5) Another instance of this comfortable converse which believers have with God the Judge of all is in a Way of anticipating, or antedating as it were, that sentence of absolution which shall be openly pronounced upon them at the last day.
2. How or by what special methods this comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained.
(1) By looking often to the everlasting settlements and grace of the covenant; what God does in time is by virtue of covenant-agreement with His Christ and our Surety in eternity (Psalm 98:3).
(2) This comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained by the soul's daily faith on the person of Christ as God-man.
(3) This comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained by earnest endeavours after conformity to God in righteousness and true holiness (1 Peter 1:16).
(4) A believer's converse with God the Judge of all is promoted and maintained by his coming often to the blood of sprinkling.
(5) This comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is promoted by the believer's application to God as a Father in Christ (Ephesians 2:18).
(6) This comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is promoted and maintained by direct acts of faith on the promises of the covenant.
(7) A daily application to the Spirit as the glorifier of the Father and of Christ. All the glory of the Father's provision for lost sinners in the person and blood of Christ, and in the grace of the covenant, depends upon the Spirit's revelation of it to and in the soul (Galatians 1:15, 16). It is His work as well to convince of sin as of righteousness (John 16:8).
3. By what means this comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is prevented and interrupted?
(1) This comfortable converse with God is greatly obstructed when it is apprehended that only the benefits and effects of Christ's righteousness are communicated to believers, and not the very righteousness itself.
(2) This comfortable converse is interrupted by supposing that the great God has put all His creatures, believers as well as others, into a state of probation or trial, and that a man cannot be fully persuaded of the safety of his state till the day of his death.
(3) Believers' comfortable converse with God is further prevented or interrupted by a changing or shifting the foundation of our faith and hope. Some that have begun in the spirit think to be made perfect by the flesh (Galatians 3:3).Use: 1. Surely a believer's converse with God must be very precious when Satan finds out so many ways to prevent and interrupt it. Were it then, the office of faith in regard of this continuous judgment which God is exercising upon us because He loves us is, first of all, to open our hearts to it by confession, by frank communion, by referring all our actions to Him to court that investigation. And then, further, remember that this judgment is one that demands our thankful acceptance of the discipline which it puts in force. If we knew ourselves we should bless God for our sorrows. These are His special means of drawing His children away from their evil.
II. FAITH CARRIES US WHILE LIVING TO THE SOCIETY OF THE LIVING DEAD. "The Judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect." Immediately on the thought of God rising in the writer's mind there rises also the thought of the blessed company in the centre of whom He lives and reigns. "The spirits of... men made perfect." That is to say, they dwell freed from the incubus and limitations, and absolved from the activities, of a bodily organisation. Then, further, these spirits are " perfect." The writer has said, at the close of the preceding chapter, that the ancient saints " without us should not be made perfect." And here he employs the same word with distinct reference, as I suppose, to his previous declaration. From which I infer that Jesus Christ shot some rays of His victorious and all-reconciling power from His Cross into the regions of darkness, and brought thence those who were waiting for His coming through many a long age. A great painter has left on the walls of a little cell in his Florentine convent a picture of the victorious Christ, white-robed and banner-bearing, breaking down the iron gates that shut in the dark rocky cave; and flocking to Him, with outstretched hands of eager welcome, the whole long series from the first man downwards, hastening to rejoice in His light, and to participate in His redemption. So the ancient Church was "perfected" in Christ; but the words refer, not only to those Old Testament patriarchs and saints, but to all who, up to the time of the writer's composition of his letter, had "slept in Jesus." They have reached their goal in Him. But yet that "perfecting" does not exclude progress, continuous through all the ages; and especially it does not exclude one great step in advance which, as Scripture teaches us, will be taken when the resurrection of the body is granted. Corporeity is the perfecting of humanity. Body, soul, and spirit, these make the full-summed man in all his powers. And so the souls beneath the altar, clothed in white, and lapt in felicity, do yet wait for the adoption, even the redemption of the body. Mark, further, that these spirits perfected would not have been perfected there unless they had been made just here. That is the first step, without which nothing in death has any tendency to ennoble or exalt men. If we are ever to come to the perfecting of the heavens, we must begin with the justifying that takes place on earth. Let me point you to one other consideration bearing not so much on the condition as on the place of these perfected spirits. It is very significant that they should be closely associated in our text with " God the Judge of all." Is there any hint that men who have been redeemed, who, being unjust, have been made just, and have had experience of restoration and of the misery of departure, shall, in the ultimate order of things, stand nearer the throne than unfallen spirits, and teach angels?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,