AN EXPOSITION OF HEBREWS VOLUME 3 by A.W. Pink


AN EXPOSITION OF
HEBREWS
VOLUME 3

by A.W. Pink

CONTENTS
85. A Call to Steadfastness.

Hebrews 12:3, 4
86. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:5
87. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:5
88. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:6
89. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:7, 8
90. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:9
91. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:10
92. Divine Chastisement.

Hebrews 12:11
93. A Call to Steadfastness.

Hebrews 12:12, 13
94. A Call to Diligence.

Hebrews 12:14
95. A Call to Examination.

Hebrews 12:15
96. A Warning against Apostasy.

Hebrews 12:16, 17
97. The Inferiority of Judaism.

Hebrews 12:18, 19
98. The Inferiority of Judaism.

Hebrews 12:20, 21
99. The Superiority of Christianity.

Hebrews 12:22-24
100. The Superiority of Christianity.

Hebrews 12:22-24
101. The Call to Hear.

Hebrews 12:25, 26
102. The Passing of Judaism.

Hebrews 12:26, 27
103. The Establishing of Christianity.

Hebrews 12:27
104. The Kingdom of Christ.

Hebrews 12:28
105. The Final Warning.

Hebrews 12:28, 29
106. Brotherly Love.

Hebrews 13:1
107. Brotherly Love.

Hebrews 13:1-3
108. Marriage.

Hebrews 13:4
109. Covetousness.

Hebrews 13:5
110. Contentment.

Hebrews 13:5, 6
111. Motives to Fidelity.

Hebrews 13:7, 8.3
112. The Heart Established.

Hebrews 13:8, 9
113. The Christian’s Altar.

Hebrews 13:10
114. Christ Our Sin Offering.

Hebrews 13:11, 12
115. Outside the Camp.

Hebrews 13:12, 13
116. Outside the Camp.

Hebrews 13:13, 14
117. The Christian’s Sacrifices.

Hebrews 13:15, 16
118. The Christian’s Sacrifices.

Hebrews 13:15, 16
119. Christian Rulers.

Hebrews 13:17
120. Christian Rulers.

Hebrews 13:17
121. A Good Conscience.

Hebrews 13:18, 19
122. Praying for Ministers.

Hebrews 13:18, 19
123. The Apostle’s Prayer.

Hebrews 13:20, 21
124. The Apostle’s Prayer.

Hebrews 13:20, 21
125. Divine Exhortations.

Hebrews 13:22
126. Spiritual Freedom.

Hebrews 13:23
127. Conclusion.

Hebrews 13:24, 25.4
CHAPTER 85
A CALL TO STEADFASTNESS
(

HEBREWS 12:3, 4)
At first sight it is not easy to trace the thread which unites the passage that
was last before us and the verses which are now to engage our attention:
there appears to be no direct connection between the opening verses of
Hebrews 12 and those which follow. But a closer examination of them
shows they are intimately related: in verses 3, 4 the apostle completes the
exhortation with which the chapter opens. In verse 1 the apostle borrowed
a figure from the Grecian Games, namely, the marathon race, and now in
verse 4 he refers to another part of those games — the contest between the
gladiators in the arena.
Second, he had specified the principal grace required for the Christian
race, namely, “Patience” or perseverance; so now in verse 3 he is urging
them against faintness of mind or impatience.
Third, he had enforced his exhortation by bidding the saints to “look unto
Jesus” their great Exemplar; so here he calls on them to “consider Him”
and emulate His steadfastness.
Yet, the verses which are now before us are not a mere repetition of those
immediately preceding: rather do they present another, though closely
related aspect of the Christian life or “race.” In verse 1 the racers are
bidden to “lay aside every weight,” and in verse 3 it is the “contradiction of
sinners” which has to be endured: the former, are hindrances which
proceed more from within; the latter, are obstacles which are encountered
from without. In the former case, it is the evil solicitations of the flesh
which would have to be resisted; in the other, it is the persecutions of the
world which have to be endured. In verse 1 it is “the sin which doth so
easily beset” or “encircle us” — inward depravity — which must be “laid
aside”; in verse 4 it is martyrdom which must be prepared for, lest we yield
to the “sin” of apostasy..5
Now the secret of success, the way to victory, is the same in either case.
To enable us to “lay aside” all that hinders from within, there has to be a
trustful “looking unto Jesus,” and to enable us to “endure” the oppositions
encountered from without and to “strive” against inconstancy and
wavering in our profession, we must thoughtfully “consider Him” who was
hounded and persecuted as none other ever was. As the incentive to self-denial
we are to be occupied with our great Leader, and remember how
much He “laid aside” for us — He who was rich for our sakes became
poor; He who was “in the form of God” divested Himself of His robes of
glory and took upon Him “the form of a servant.” We are not called on to
do something which He did not He vacated the throne and took up His
cross! Likewise, the chief source of comfort and encouragement when we
are called upon to suffer for His sake, is to call to mind the infinitely
greater sufferings which He endured for our sakes.
The more we endeavor to emulate the example which the Lord Jesus has
left us, the more shall we be opposed from without; the more closely we
follow Him, the greater will be the enmity of our fellow-men against us.
Our lives will condemn theirs, our ways will be a perpetual rebuke to them,
and they will do all they can to discourage and hinder, provoke and
oppose. And the tendency of such persecution is to dishearten us, to tempt
us to compromise, to ask “What is the use?” Because of this, the blessed
Spirit bids us, “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners
against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Let the
experiences through which Christ passed be the subject of daily
contemplation. The record of His unparalleled temptations and trials, His
endurance, and His victory, is to be the grand source of our instruction,
comfort and encouragement. If we have grown “faint and weary” in our
minds, it is because we have failed to properly and profitably “consider
Him.”
Supremely important is a knowledge of the Scriptures concerning the Lord
Jesus: there can be no experimental holiness, no growth in grace apart from
the same. Vital godliness consists in a practical conformity to the image of
God’s Son: it is to follow the example which He has left us, to take His
yoke upon us and learn of Him. For this, there must needs be an intimate
knowledge of His ways, a prayerful and believing study of the record of
His life, a daily reading of and meditating thereon. That is why the four
Gospels are placed at the beginning of the N.T. — they are of first
importance. What we have in the Epistles is principally an interpretation.6
and application of the four Gospels to the details of our walk. O that we
may say with ever-deepening purpose of heart,
“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord” (

Philippians 3:8).
O that we may “follow on to know the Lord” (

Hosea 6:3)
“For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners
against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have
not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (

Hebrews 12:3,
4).
The whole of this is a dehortation or caution against an evil, which if
yielded to will prevent our discharge of the duty inculcated in verses 1, 2.
That which is dehorted against is “be not wearied” — give not up the race,
abandon not your Christian profession. The way whereby we may fall into
that evil is by becoming “faint” in our minds. The means to prevent this is
the diligent contemplation of our great Exemplar.
In verses 1, 2 the apostle had exhorted unto a patient or persevering
pressing forward in the path of faith and obedience. In verses 3-11 he
presents a number of considerations or motives to hearten us in our course,
seeking particularly to counteract the enervating influence which
difficulties are apt to exert upon the minds of God’s tried people. The
tendency of strong and lasting opposition and persecution is to discourage,
which if yielded unto leads to despair. To strengthen the hearts of those
tried Hebrews, the apostle bade them consider the case of Christ Himself:
He encountered far worse sufferings than we do, yet He patiently
“endured” them (verse 3). Then they were reminded that their case was by
no means desperate and extreme — they had not yet been called to suffer a
death of martyrdom. Finally, their very difficulties were the loving
chastisement of their Father, designed for their profit (verses 5-11). By
what a variety of means does the blessed Spirit strengthen, stablish, and
comfort tried believers!
Are you, dear reader, disheartened by the hard usage you are receiving
from men, yea, from the religions world; are you fearful as you anticipate
the persecutions which may yet attend your Christian profession; or, are
you too ready to show resentment against those who oppose you? Then
“consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.”
The connecting “For” has the force here of “moreover:” in addition to.7
“looking unto Jesus” as your Leader and Perfecter, consider Him in His
steadfastness under relentless persecution. Faith has many actings or forms
of exercise: it is to reflect, contemplate, call to mind — God’s past ways
with us, His dealings with His people of old, and particularly the recorded
history of His beloved and incarnate Son. We are greatly the losers if we
fail to cultivate the habit of devout consideration and holy meditation. The
Greek word for “consider” is not the same as the one used in

Hebrews
3:1 and

Hebrews 10:24; in fact it is a term which occurs, in this form,
nowhere else in the N.T.
The Greek word for “consider” in our text is derived from the one
rendered “proportion” in

Romans 12:6. It is a mathematical term,
signifying to compute by comparing things together in their due
proportions. It means: form a just and accurate estimate. “For consider
Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself:” draw an
analogy between His sufferings and yours, and what proportion is there
between them! Weigh well who He was, the place He took, the infinite
perfection of His character and deeds; and then the base ingratitude, the
gross injustice, the cruel persecution He met with. Calculate and estimate
the constancy of the opposition He encountered, the type of men who
maligned Him, the variety and intensity of His sore trials, and the spirit of
meekness and patience with which He bore them. And what are our trifling
trials when compared with His agonies, or even to our deserts! O my soul
blush with shame because of thy murmurings.
“Consider Him” in the ineffable excellency of His person. He was none
other than the Lord of glory, the Beloved of the Father, the second person
in the sacred Trinity, the Creator of heaven and earth. Now, since He
suffered here on earth, why should you, having enlisted under His banner,
think it strange that you should be called on to endure a little hardness in
His service! Consider his relationship to you: He is your Redeemer and
Proprietor: is it not sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master, the
servant as his Lord? If the Head was spared not trial and shame, shall the
members of His body complain if they be called on to have some fellowship
with Him in this? When you are tempted to throw down your colors and
capitulate to the Enemy, or even to murmur at your hard lot, “Consider
Him” who when here “had not where to lay His head.”
The particular sufferings of Christ which are here singled out for our
consideration are, the “contradiction of sinners” which He encountered. He.8
was opposed constantly, by word and action; He was opposed by His own
people according to the flesh; He was opposed by the very ones to whom
He ministered in infinite grace and loving-kindness. That opposition began
at His birth, when there was no room in the inn — He was not wanted. It
was seen again in His infancy, when Herod sought to slay Him, and His
parents were forced to flee with Him into Egypt. Little else is told us in the
N.T., about His early years, but there is a Messianic prophecy in

Psalm
88:15 where we hear Him pathetically saying, “I am afflicted and ready to
die from My youth up!” As soon as His public ministry commenced, and
during the whole of its three years’ course, He endured one unbroken,
relentless, “contradiction of sinners against Himself.”
The Lord Jesus was derided as the Prophet, mocked as the King, and
treated with the utmost contempt as the Priest and Savior. He was accused
of deceiving (

John 7:12) and perverting the people (

Luke 23:14).
His teaching was opposed, and His person was insulted. Because He
conversed with and befriended publicans and sinners, He was “murmured”
at (

Luke 15:2). Because He performed works of mercy on the sabbath
day, He was charged with breaking the law (

Mark 3:2). The gracious
miracles which He wrought upon the sick and demon-possessed, were
attributed to His being in league with the Devil (

Matthew 12:24). He
was regarded as a low-born fanatic. He was branded as a “glutton and
winebibber.” He was accused of speaking against Caesar (

John 19:12),
whereas He had expressly bidden men to render unto Caesar what rightly
belonged to him (

Matthew 22:21). Though He was the Holy One of
God, there was scarcely anything about Him that was not opposed.
“For consider Him who endured such contradiction” Here is emphasized
the greatness of Christ’s sufferings: “such contradiction” — so bitter, so
severe, so malicious, so protracted; everything which the evil wits of men
and Satan could invent. That word “such” is also added to awaken our
wonderment and worship. Though the incarnate Son of God, He was spat
upon, contemptuously arrayed in a purple robe and His enemies bowed the
knee before Him in mockery. They buffeted Him and smote Him on the
face. They tore His back with scourgings, as was foretold by the Psalmist
(

Psalm 129:3). They condemned Him to a criminal’s death, and nailed
Him to the Cross, and that, between two thieves, to add to His shame. And
this, at the hands of men who, though they made a great show of sanctity,
were “sinners.”.9
Christ felt keenly that “contradiction,” for He was the Man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief. At the end, He exclaimed “reproach hath broken My
heart” (

Psalm 69:20). Nevertheless, He turned not aside from the path
of duty, still less did He abandon His mission. He fled not from His
enemies, and fainted not under their merciless persecution: instead, He
“endured” it. As we pointed out in our exposition of the previous verse,
that word is used of Christ in its highest and noblest sense. He bore
patiently every ignominy that was heaped upon Him. He never retaliated or
reviled His traducers. He remained steadfast unto the end, and finished the
work which had been given Him to do. When the supreme crises arrived,
He faltered not, but “set His face as a flint to go up to Jerusalem”
(

Isaiah 50:7,

Luke 9:51).
Do you, tried reader, feel that your cup of opposition is a little fuller than
that of some of your fellow Christians? Then look away to the cup which
Christ drank! Here is the Divine antidote against weariness: Christ meekly
and triumphantly “endured” far, far worse than anything you are called on
to suffer for His sake; yet He fainted not. When you are weary in your
mind because of trials and injuries from the enemies of God, “consider”
Christ, and this will quieten and suppress thy corrupt propensities to
murmuring and impatience. Set Him before thy heart as the grand example
and encouragement — example in patience, encouragement in the blessed
issue: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (

2 Timothy 2:12).
Faith’s consideration of Him will work a conformity unto Him in our souls
which will preserve from fainting.
“Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” There is no connecting “and”
in the Greek: two distinct thoughts are presented: “lest ye be wearied,” that
is, so discouraged as to quit; “faint in your mind,” states the cause thereof.
The word for “weary” here is a strong one: it signifies exhausted, being so
despondent as to break one’s resolution. In its ultimate meaning, it refers
to such a state of despondency as an utter sinking of spirit, through the
difficulties, trials, opposition and persecution encountered as to “look
back” (

Luke 9:62), and either partially or wholly abandon one’s
profession of the Gospel. In other words, it is another warning against
apostasy. What we are cautioned against here is the opposite of that which
the Lord commended in the Ephesian Church,
“And for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted”
(

Revelation 2:3).10
— here there is perseverance in the Christian profession despite all
opposition.
At different periods of history God has permitted fierce opposition to break
out against His people, to test the reality and strength of their attachment
to Christ. This was the case with those to whom our Epistle was first
addressed: they were being exposed to great trials and sufferings,
temptations and privations; hence the timeliness of this exhortation, and its
accompanying warning. Reproaches, losses, imprisonments, scourgings,
being threatened with death, have a strong tendency to produce dejection
and despair; they present a powerful temptation to give up the fight. And
naught but the vigorous activity of faith will fortify the mind under
religious persecution. Only as the heart is encouragingly occupied with
Christ’s endurance of the “contradiction of sinners against Himself,” will
our resolution be strong to endure unto the end:
“In the world ye shall have tribulations: but be of good cheer: I
have overcome the world” (

John 16:33).
“Faint in your minds.” This it is which, if not resisted and corrected, leads
to the “weariness” or utter exhaustion of the previous clause. This faintness
of mind is the reverse of vigor and cheerfulness. If, under the strong
opposition and fierce persecution, we are to “endure unto the end,” then
we must watch diligently against the allowance of such faintness of mind.
There is a spiritual vigor required in order to perseverence in the Christian
profession during times of persecution. Hence it is that we are exhorted,
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm
yourselves likewise with the same mind” (

1 Peter 4:1);
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of
this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies. Wherefore take
unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand
in the evil day, and having done all to stand” (

Ephesians 6:12,
13);
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”
(

1 Corinthians 16:13).
Any degree of faintness of mind in the Christian results from and consists
in a remitting of the cheerful actions of faith in the various duties which.11
God has called us to discharge. Nothing but the regular exercise of faith
keeps the soul calm and restful, patient and prayerful. If faith ceases to be
operative, and our mind be left to cope with difficulties and trials in our
own natural strength, then we shall soon grow weary of a persecuted
Christian profession. Herein lies the beginning of all spiritual declension —
a lack of the due exercise of faith, and that in turn, is the result of the heart
growing cold toward Christ! If faith be in healthy exercise, we shall say,
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”
(

Romans 8:18),
realizing that
“our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (

2 Corinthians
4:17);
ah, but that consciousness is only “while we look not at the things which
are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (verse 18).
“Consider Him:” there is the remedy against faintness of mind; there is the
preservative from such “weariness” of dejection of spirits that we are ready
to throw down our weapons and throw up our hands in utter despair. It is
the diligent consideration of the person of Christ, the Object of faith, the
Food of faith, the Supporter of faith. It is by drawing an analogy between
His infinitely sorer sufferings and our present hardships. It is by making
application unto ourselves of what is to be found in Him suitable to our
own case. Are we called on to suffer a little for Him, then let our eye be
turned on Him who went before us in the same path of trial. Make a
comparison between what He “endured” and what you are called to
struggle with, and surely you will be ashamed to complain!
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”
(

Philippians 2:5).
Admire and imitate His meekness — weeping over His enemies, and
praying for His murderers!
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (verse 4).
The persons here immediately addressed — the “ye” — were the Hebrews
themselves. Because of their profession of Christianity, because of their.12
loyalty to Christ, they had suffered severely in various ways. Plain
reference to something of what they had already been called on to endure is
made in

10:32-34,
“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were
illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly whilst ye
were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and
partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For
ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the
spoiling of your goods.”
Thus, the Hebrew saints had been sorely oppressed by their unbelieving
brethren among the Jews; it is that which gave such point to the
exhortation and warning in the previous verse.
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Here is the
second consideration which the apostle pressed upon his afflicted brethren:
not only to ponder the far greater opposition which their Savior
encountered, but also to bear in mind that their own sufferings were not so
severe as they might have been, or as possibly they would yet be. It is an
argument made by reasoning from the greater to the less, and from
comparing their present state with that which might await them: what
could be expected to sustain their hearts and deliver from apostasy when
under the supreme test of death by violence, if they fainted beneath lesser
afflictions? We, too, should honestly face the same alternative: if unkind
words and sneers make us waver now, how would we acquit ourselves if
called on to face a martyr’s death!
The present state of the oppressed Hebrews is here expressed negatively:
“ye have not yet resisted unto blood.” True, they had already met with
various forms of suffering, but not yet had they been called upon to lay
down their lives. As

Hebrews 10:32-34 clearly intimates, they had well
acquitted themselves during the first stages of their trials, but their warfare
was not yet ended. They had need to bear in mind that word of Christ,
“Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (

Luke 18:1); and that
exhortation of the Holy Spirit,
“let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap,
if we faint not” (

Galatians 6:9).
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood.” The apostle here hinted to the
Hebrews what might yet have to be endured by them, namely a bloody and.13
violent death — by stoning, or the sword, or fire. That is the utmost which
fiendish persecutors can afflict. Men may kill the body, but when they have
done that, they can do no more. God has set bounds to their rage: none
will hound or harm His people in the next world! Those who engage in the
Christian profession, who serve under the banner of Christ, have no
guarantee that they may not be called unto the utmost suffering of blood on
account of their allegiance to him; for that is what His adversaries have
always desired. Hence, Christ bids us to “sit down and count the cost”
(

Luke 14:28), of being His disciples. God has decreed that many, in
different ages should be martyred for His own praise, the glory of Christ
and the honor of the Gospel.
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” “Sin” is here
personified, regarded as a combatant which has to be overcome. The
various persecutions, hardships, afflictions, difficulties of the way, in
consequence of our attachment to Christ, become so many occasions and
means which sin seeks to employ in order to hinder and oppose us. The
Christian is called to a contest with sin. The apostle continues his allusion
to the Grecian Games, changing from the racer to the combatant. The great
contest is in the believer’s heart between grace and sin, the flesh and the
spirit (

Galatians 5:17). Sin seeks to quench faith and kill obedience:
therefore sin is to be “striven against” for our very souls are at stake. There
is no place for sloth in this deadly contest; no furloughs are granted!
“Striving against sin.” That which the Hebrews were striving against was
apostasy, going to the full lengths of sin — abandoning their Christian
profession. Persecution was the means which indwelling depravity sought
to use, to employ in slaying faith and fidelity to Christ. That terrible
wickedness was to be steadfastly resisted, by fighting against weariness in
the conflict. O to say with the apostle,
“I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for
the name of the Lord Jesus” (

Acts 21:13):
but in order to reach that state of soul, there has to be a close walking with
Him day by day, and a patient bearing of the minor trials.
“If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then
how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace,
wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in
the swelling of Jordan?” (

Jeremiah 12:5)..14
CHAPTER 86
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:5)
The grand truth of Divine Chastisement is inexpressibly blessed, and one
which we can neglect only to our great loss. It is of deep importance, for
when Scripturally apprehended it preserves from some serious errors by
which Satan has succeeded (as “an angel of light”) in deceiving and
destroying not a few. For example, it sounds the death-knell to that wide-spread
delusion of “sinless perfectionism.” The passage which is to be
before us unmistakably exposes the wild fanaticism of those who imagine
that, as the result of some “second work of grace,” the carnal nature has
been eradicated from their beings, so that, while perhaps not so wise, they
are as pure as the angels which never sinned, and lead lives which are
blameless in the sight of the thrice holy God. Poor blinded souls: such have
not even experienced a first “work of Divine grace” in their souls:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is
not in us” (

1 John 1:8).
“My son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint
when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth”
(

Hebrews 12:5, 6).
How plain and emphatic is that! God does find something to “rebuke” in
us, and uses the rod upon every one of His children. Chastisement for sin is
a family mark, a sign of sonship, a proof of God’s love, a token of His
Fatherly kindness and care; it is an inestimable mercy, a choice new-covenant
blessing. Woe to the man whom God chastens not, whom He
suffers to go recklessly on in the boastful and presumptuous security which
so many now mistake for faith. There is a reckoning to come of which he
little dreams. Were he a son, he would be chastened for his sin; he would
be brought to repentance and godly sorrow, he would with grief of heart
confess his backslidings, and then be blest with pardon and peace..15
The truth of Divine chastisement corrects another serious error, which has
become quite common in certain quarters, namely, that God views His
people so completely in Christ that He sees no sin in them. It is true,
blessedly true, that of His elect it is stated,
“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen
perverseness in Israel” (

Numbers 23:21)
and that Christ declares of His spouse
“Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee”
(

Song of Solomon 4:7).
The testimony of Scripture is most express that in regard to the
justification or acceptance of the persons of the elect, they are “complete in
Him” — Christ (

Colossians 2:10); “accepted in the Beloved”
(

Ephesians 1:6) — washed in Christ’s blood, clothed with His
righteousness. In that sense, God sees no sin in them; none to punish. But
we must not use that precious truth to set aside another, revealed with
equal clearness, and thus fall into serious error.
God does see sin in His children and chastises them for it. Even though the
non-imputation of sin to the believer (

Romans 4:8) and the chastisement
of sin in believers (

1 Corinthians 11:30-32) were irreconcilable to
human reason, we are bound to receive both on the authority of Holy Writ.
Let us beware lest we fall under the solemn charge of

Malachi 2:9, “Ye
have not kept My ways, but have been partial in the law.” What could be
plainer than this,
“I will make Him my Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
My mercy will I keep for Him for evermore, and My covenant shall
stand fast with Him. His seed also will I make to endure forever
and His throne as the days of heaven. If His children forsake My
law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and
keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression
with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My loving
kindness will I not utterly take from Him, nor suffer My faithfulness
to fail” (

Psalm 89:27-33).
Five things are clearly revealed there.
First Christ Himself is addressed under the name of “David.”.16
Second, His children break God’s statutes.
Third, in them there is “iniquity” and “transgression.”
Fourth, God will “visit” their transgression “with the rod!”
Fifth, yet will He not cast them off.
What could express more clearly the fact that God does see sin in believers,
and that He does chastise them for it? For, be it noted, the whole of the
above passage speaks of believers. It is the language, not of the Law, but
of the Gospel. Blessed promises are there made to believers in Christ: the
unchanging loving-kindness of God, His covenant-faithfulness toward
them, His spiritual blessing of them. But “stripes” and the “rod” are there
promised too! Then let us not dare to separate what God has joined
together. How do we know anything concerning the acceptance of the
elect in Christ? The answer must be, Only on the testimony of Holy Writ.
Very well; from the same unerring Testimony we also know that God
chastises His people for their sins. It is at our imminent peril that we reject
either of these complementary truths.
The same fact is plainly presented again in

Hebrews 12:7-10,
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for
what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be
without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye
bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our
flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not
much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For
they verily, for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure;
but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.”
The apostle there draws an analogy from the natural relationship of father
and child. Why do earthly parents chastise their children? Is it not for their
faults? Can we justify a parent for chastening a child where there was no
fault, nothing in him which called for the rod? In that case, it would be
positive tyranny, actual cruelty. If the same be not true spiritually, then the
comparison must fall to the ground. Hebrews 12 proves conclusively that,
if God does not chastise me then I am an unbeliever, and I sign my own
condemnation as a bastard..17
Yet it is very necessary for us to point out, at this stage, that all the
sufferings of believers in this world are not Divine rebukes for personal
transgressions. Here too we need to be on our guard against lopsidedness.
After we have apprehended the fact that God does take notice of the
iniquities of His people and use the rod upon them, it is so easy to jump to
the conclusion that when we see an afflicted Christian, God must be
visiting His displeasure upon him. That is a sad and serious error. Some of
the very choicest of God’s saints have been called on to endure the most
painful and protracted sufferings; some of the most faithful and eminent
servants of Christ have encountered the most relentless and extreme
persecution. Not only is this a fact of observation, but it is plainly revealed
in Holy Writ.
As we turn to God’s Word for light on the subject of suffering among the
saints, we find it affirmed,
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth
him out of them all” (

Psalm 34:19).
Those “afflictions” are sent by God upon different ones for various
reasons. Sometimes for the prevention of sin: the experience of the beloved
apostle was a case in point,
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the
abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the
flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted
above measure” (

2 Corinthians 12:7).
Sometimes sore trials are sent for the testing and strengthening of our
graces:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience”
(

James 1:2, 3).
Sometimes God’s servants and people axe called on to endure fierce
persecution for a confirmatory testimony to the Truth
“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that
they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name”
(

Acts 5:41)..18
Yet here again we need to be much on our guard, for the flesh is ever
ready to pervert even the holy things of God, and make an evil use of that
which is good. When God is chastising a Christian for his sins, it is so easy
for him to suppose such is not the case, and falsely comfort himself with
the thought that God is only developing his graces, or permitting him to
have closer fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. Where we are visited
with afflictions personally, it is always the safest policy to assume that God
has a controversy with us; humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand, and
say with Job, “Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me” (

10:2);
and when He has convicted me of my fault, to penitently confess and
forsake it. But where others are concerned, it is not for us to judge —
though sometimes God reveals the cause to His servants (

Amos 3:7).
In the passage which is to be before us, the apostle presents a third
consideration why heed should be given unto the exhortation at the
beginning of Hebrews 12, which calls to patient perseverance in the path of
faith and obedience, notwithstanding all the obstacles, difficulties, and
dangers which may be encountered therein. He now draws a motive from
the nature of those sufferings considered in the light of God’s end in them:
all the trials and persecutions which He may call on His people to endure
are necessary, not only as testimonies to the truth, to the reality of His
grace in them, but also as chastisements which are required by us, wherein
God has a blessed design toward us. This argument is enforced by several
considerations to the end of verse 13. How we should admire and adore
the consummate wisdom of God which has so marvelously ordered all, that
the very things which manifest the hatred of men against us, are evidences
of His love toward us! How the realization of this should strengthen
patience!
O how many of God’s dear children have found, in every age, that the
afflictions which have come upon them from a hostile world, were soul-purging
medicines from the Lord. By them they have been bestirred,
revived, and mortified to things down here; and made partakers of God’s
holiness, to their own unspeakable advantage and comfort. Truly wondrous
are the ways of our great God.
Hereby doth He defeat the counsels and expectations of the wicked, having
a design to accomplish by their agency something which they know not of.
These very reproaches, imprisonments, stripes, with the loss of goods and
danger of their lives, with which the world opposed them for their ruin;.19
God makes use of for their refining, consolation and joy. Truly He “maketh
the wrath of man to praise Him” (

Psalm 76:10). O that our hearts and
minds may be duly impressed with the wisdom, power and grace of Him
who bringeth a clean thing out of an unclean.
“In all these things is the wisdom and goodness of God, in contriving and
effecting these things, to the glory of His grace, and the salvation of His
Church, to be admired” (John Owen). But herein we may see, once more,
the imperative need for faith — a God-given, God-sustained, spiritual,
supernatural FAITH. Carnal reason can see no more in our persecutions
than the malice and rage of evil men. Our senses perceive nothing beyond
material losses and painful physical discomforts. But faith discovers the
Father’s hand directing all things: faith is assured that all proceeds from
His boundless love: faith realizes that He has in view the good of our souls.
The more this is apprehended by the exercise of faith, not only the better
for our peace of mind, but the readier shall we be to diligently apply
ourselves in seeking to learn God’s lessons for us in every chastisement He
lays upon us.
The opening “And” of verse 5 shows the apostle is continuing to present
motives to stir unto a perseverance in the faith, notwithstanding sufferings
for the same. The first motive was taken from the example of the O.T.
worthies (verse 1). The second, from the illustrious pattern of Jesus (verses
2-4). This is the third: the Author of these sufferings — our Father — and
His loving design in them. There is also a more immediate connection with
5:4 pointed by the “And:” it presents a tacit rebuke for being ready to faint
under the lesser trials, wherewith they were exercised. Here He gives a
reason how and why it was they were thus making that reason the means of
introducing a new argument. The reason why they were ready to faint was
their inattention to the direction and encouragement which God has
supplied for them — our failure to appropriate God’s gracious provisions
for us is the rise of all our spiritual miscarriages.
The Hebrew Christians to whom this epistle was first addressed were
passing through a great fight of afflictions, and miserably were they
acquitting themselves. They were the little remnant out of the Jewish
nation who had believed on their Messiah during the days of His public
ministry, plus those Jews who had been converted under the preaching of
the apostles. It is highly probable that they had expected the Messianic
kingdom would at once be set up on earth, and that they would be allotted.20
the chief places of honor in it. But the millennium had not begun, and their
own lot became increasingly bitter. They were not only hated by the
Gentiles, but ostracized by their unbelieving brethren, and it became a hard
matter for them to make even a bare living. Providence held a frowning
face. Many who had made a profession of Christianity had gone back to
Judaism and were prospering temporally. As the afflictions of the believing
Jews increased they too were sorely tempted to turn their back upon the
new Faith. Had they been wrong in embracing Christianity? Was high
heaven displeased because they had identified themselves with Jesus of
Nazareth? Did not their sufferings go to show that God no longer regarded
them with favor?
Now it is most blessed and instructive to see how the apostle met the
unbelieving reasoning of their hearts. He appealed to their own scriptures,
reminding them of an exhortation found in

Proverbs 3:11, 12:
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as
unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastenings of the
Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him” (

Hebrews 12:5).
As we pointed out so often in our exposition of the earlier chapters of this
Epistle, at every critical point in his argument the apostle’s appeal was to
the written Word of God — an example which is binding on every servant
of Christ to follow. That Word is the final court of appeal for every
controversial matter, and the more its authority is respected, the more is its
Author honored. Not only so, but the more God’s children are brought to
turn to its instruction, the more will they be built up and established in the
true faith. Moreover,
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our
learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures
might have hope” (

Romans 15:4):
it is to them alone we must turn for solid comfort. Great will be our loss if
we fail to do so.
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you.” Note
well the words we have placed in italics. The exhortation to which the
apostle referred was uttered over a thousand years previously, under the
Mosaic dispensation; nevertheless the apostle insists that it was addressed
equally unto the New T. saints! How this exposes the cardinal error of
modern “dispensationalists,” who seek to rob Christians of the greater part.21
of God’s precious Word. Under the pretense of “rightly dividing” the
Word, they would filch from them all that God gave to His people prior to
the beginning of the present era. Such a devilish device is to be steadfastly
resisted by us. All that is found in the book of Proverbs is as much God the
Father’s instruction to us as are the contents of the Pauline epistles!
Throughout that book God addresses us individually as “My son:” see

Hebrews 1:8, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, etc. Surely that is quite sufficient for every
spiritual mind — no labored argument is needed.
The appositeness of

Proverbs 3:11, 12 to the case of the afflicted
Hebrews gave great force to the apostle’s citing of it here. That passage
would enable them to perceive that their case was by no means
unprecedented or peculiar, that it was in fact no otherwise with them than
it had been with others of God’s children in former ages and that long
before the Lord had graciously laid in provision for their encouragement:
“My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary
of His correction: For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even
as a Father the son in whom He delighteth” (

Proverbs 3:11, 12).
It has ever been God’s way to correct those in whom He delights, to
chastise His children; but so far from that salutary discipline causing us to
faint, it should strengthen and comfort our hearts, being assured that such
chastening proceeds from His love, and that the exhortation to
perseverance in the path of duty is issued by Him. It is the height of pride
and ingratitude not to comply with His tender entreaties.
But the apostle had to say to the suffering Hebrews, “Ye have forgotten
the exhortation.” To forget God’s gracious instruction is at least an
infirmity, and with it they are here taxed. To forget the encouragements
which the Father has given us is a serious fault: it is expressly forbidden:
“Beware lest thou forget the Lord” (

Deuteronomy 6:12).
It was taxed upon the Jews of old,
“They soon forgat His works… They forgat God their Savior,
which had done great things in Egypt” (

Psalm 106:13, 21).
Forgetfulness is a part of that corruption which has seized man by his fall:
all the faculties of his soul have been seriously injured — the memory,
which was placed in man to be a treasury, in which to lay up the directions.22
and consolations of God’s Word, has not escaped the universal wreckage.
But that by no means excuses us: it is a fault, to be striven and prayed
against. As ministers see occasion, they are to stir up God’s people to use
means for the strengthening of the memory — especially by the formation
of the habit of holy meditation in Divine things.
Thus it was with the Hebrews, in some measure at least: they had
“forgotten” that which should have stood in good stead in the hour of their
need. Under their trials and persecution, they ought, in an especial manner,
to have called to mind that Divine exhortation of

Proverbs 3:11, 12 for
their encouragement: had they believingly appropriated it, they had been
kept from fainting. Alas, how often we are like them!
“The want of a diligent consideration of the provision that God
hath made in the Scripture for our encouragement to duty and
comfort under difficulties, is a sinful forgetfulness, and is of
dangerous consequence to our souls” (John Owen).
“Which speaketh unto you as unto children.” It is very striking indeed to
observe the tense of the verb here: the apostle was quoting a sentence of
Scripture which had been written a thousand years previously, yet he does
not say “which hath spoken,” but “which speaketh unto you!” The same
may be seen again in that sevenfold exhortation of Revelation 2 and 3, “He
that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith (not “said”) unto the
churches.” The Holy Scriptures are a living Word, in which God speaks to
men in every generation. Holy Writ is not a dumb or dead letter: it has a
voice in it, ever speaking of God Himself.
“The Holy Spirit is always present in the Word, and speaks in it
equally and alike to the church in all ages. He doth in it speak as
immediately to us, as if we were the first and only persons to whom
He spake. And this should teach us, with what reverence we ought
to attend to the Scriptures, namely, as to the way and means
whereby God Himself speaks directly to us” (John Owen.)
“Which speaketh unto you as unto children.” The apostle emphasizes the
fact that God addresses an exhortation in

Proverbs 3:11 to “My son,”
which shows plainly that His relation to the O.T. saints was that of a Father
to His children. This at once refutes a glaring error made by some who
pose as being ultra-orthodox, more deeply taught in the Word than others.
They have insisted that the Fatherhood of God was never revealed until the.23
Son became incarnate; but every verse in the Proverbs where God says
“My son” reveals their mistake. That the O.T. saints were instructed in this
blessed relationship is clear from other passages:
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that
fear Him” (

Psalm 103:13).
This relation unto God is by virtue of their (and our) union with Christ: He
is “the Son,” and being one with Him, members of His body, they were
“sons” too.
This precious relationship is the ground of the soul’s confidence in God.
“If God speaks to them as to children, they have good ground to
fly to God as to a Father. and in all time of need to ask and seek of
Him all needful blessings (

Matthew 7:11), yea, and in faith to
depend on Him for the same (

Matthew 6:31, 32). What useful
things shall they want? What hurtful thing need such to fear? If God
deal with us as with children, He will provide for them every good
thing, He will protect them from every hurtful thing, He will hear
their prayers, He will accept their services, He will bear with their
infirmities, He will support them under all their burdens, and assist
them against all their assaults; though through their own weakness,
or the violence of some temptation, they should be drawn from
Him, yet will He be ready to meet them in the mid-way, turning to
Him — instance the mind of the father of the prodigal towards
him” (W. Gouge)..24
CHAPTER 87
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:5)
It is of first importance that we learn to draw a sharp distinction between
Divine punishment and Divine chastisement — important for maintaining
the honor and glory of God, and for the peace of mind of the Christian.
The distinction is very simple, yet is it often lost sight of. God’s people can
never by any possibility be punished for their sins, for God has already
punished them at the Cross. The Lord Jesus, our blessed Substitute,
suffered the full penalty of all our guilt, hence it is written,
“the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin”
(

1 John 1:7).
Neither the justice nor the love of God will permit Him to again exact
payment of what Christ discharged to the full. The difference between
punishment and chastisement lies not in the nature of the sufferings of the
afflicted: it is most important to bear this in mind. There is a threefold
distinction between the two.
First, the character in which God acts. In the former God acts as Judge, in
the latter as Father. Sentence of punishment is the act of a judge, a penal
sentence passed on those who are charged with guilt. Punishment can
never fall upon a child of God in this judicial sense, because his guilt was
all transferred to Christ: “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body
on the tree.” But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the
Christian cannot be condemned (

Romans 8:33), yet he may be
chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the
non-Christian: he is a member of the family of God. The relationship which
now exists between him and God is that of Parent and child; and as a son
he must be disciplined for wrong-doing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of
all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to
humble..25
The second distinction between Divine punishment and Divine
chastisement lies in the recipients of each. The objects of the former are
His enemies; the subjects of the latter, His children. As the Judge of all the
earth God will yet take vengeance on all His foes; as the Father of His
family God maintains discipline over all His children. The one is judicial,
the other parental. A third distinction is seen in the design of each: the one
is retributive, the other remedial. The one flows from His anger, the other
from His love. Divine punishment is never sent for the good of sinners, but
for the honoring of God’s law and the maintenance of His government.
Divine chastisement is sent for the well-being of His children: “We have
had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence:
shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and
live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure;
but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness”
(

Hebrews 12:9, 10).
The above distinctions should at once rebuke the thoughts which are so
generally entertained among Christians. When the believer is smarting
under the rod, let him not say, God is now punishing me for my sins. That
can never be; that is most dishonoring to the blood of Christ. God is
correcting thee in love, not smiting in wrath. Nor should the Christian
regard the chastening of the Lord as a sort of necessary evil to which he
must bow as submissively as possible. No, it proceeds from God’s
goodness and faithfulness and is one of the greatest blessings for which we
have to thank Him. Chastisement evidences our Divine sonship; the father
of a family does not concern himself with those on the outside: but those
within he guides and disciplines to make them conform to his will.
Chastisement is designed for our good, to promote our highest interests.
Look beyond the rod to the All-wise hand that wields it!
Unhappily there is no word in the English language which is capable of
doing justice to the Greek term here. “Paideia” which is rendered
“chastening” is only another form of “paidion” which signifies “young
children, being the tender word that was employed by the Savior in

John 21:5 and

Hebrews 2:13. One can see at a glance the direct
connection which exists between the words “disciple” and “discipline:”
equally close in the Greek is the relation between “children” and
“chastening” — son training would be better. It has reference to God’s
education, nurture and discipline of His children. It is the Father’s wise and
loving correction which is in view. It is true that much chastisement is the.26
rod in the hand of the Father correcting His erring child, but it is a serious
mistake to confine our thoughts to this one aspect of the subject.
Chastisement is by no means always God’s scourging of His refractory
sons. Some of the saintliest of God’s people, some of the most obedient of
His children, have been and are the greatest sufferers. Oft times God’s
chastenings instead of being retributive are corrective. They are sent to
empty us of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness; they are given to
discover to us hidden transgressions, to teach us the plague of our own
hearts. Or again; chastisements are sent to strengthen our faith, to raise us
to higher levels of experience, to bring us into a condition of greater
usefulness. Still again; Divine chastisement is sent as a preventative, to
keep under pride, to save us from being unduly elated over success in
God’s service. Let us consider, briefly, four entirely different examples.
David. In his case the rod was laid upon him for grievous sins, for open
wickedness. His fall was occasioned by self-confidence and self-righteousness.
If the reader will diligently compare the two songs of David
recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and 23, the one written near the beginning of his
life, the other near the end, he will be struck by the great difference of spirit
manifested by the writer in each. Read

2 Samuel 22:22-25, and you will
not be surprised that God suffered him to have a fall. Then turn to chapter
23, and mark the blessed change. At the beginning of 5:5 there is a heart-broken
confession of failure. In verses 10-12, there is a God-glorifying
profession, attributing victory unto the Lord. The severe scourging of
David was not in vain.
Job. Probably he tasted of every kind of suffering which falls to man’s lot:
family bereavements, loss of property, grievous bodily afflictions, came
fast, one on top of another. But God’s end in them all was that Job should
benefit therefrom and be a greater partaker of His holiness. There was not
a little of self-satisfaction and self-righteousness in Job at the beginning;
but at the end, when he was brought face to face with the thrice Holy One,
he “abhorred himself” (Hebrews 42:6). In David’s case the chastisement
was retributive; in Job’s corrective.
Abraham. In him we see an illustration of an entirely different aspect of
chastening. Most of the trials to which he was subject were neither because
of open sins nor for the correction of inward faults. Rather were they sent
for the development of spiritual graces. Abraham was sorely tried in
various ways, but it was in order that faith might be strengthened, and that.27
patience might have its perfect work in him. Abraham was weaned from
the things of this world, that he might enjoy closer fellowship with Jehovah
and become “the friend” of God.
Paul.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the
abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the
flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted
above measure” (

2 Corinthians 12:7).
This “thorn” was sent not because of failure and sin, but as a preventative
against pride. Note the “lest” both at the beginning and end of the verse.
The result of this “thorn” was that the beloved apostle was made more
conscious of his weakness. Thus chastisement has for one of its main
objects the breaking down of self-sufficiency, the bringing us to the end of
ourselves.
Now in view of these widely different aspects — chastisements which are
retributive, corrective, educative, and preventative — how incompetent are
we to diagnose, and how great is the folly of pronouncing a judgment
concerning others! Let us not conclude when we see a fellow-Christian
under the rod of God that he is necessarily being taken to task for his sins.
Let us now consider the spirit in which Divine chastisements are to be
received.
“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint
when thou art rebuked of Him” (verse 5).
Not all chastisement is sanctified to the recipient of it. Some are hardened
thereby; others are crushed beneath it. Much depends on the spirit in which
afflictions are received. There is no virtue in trials and troubles in
themselves: it is only as they are blest by God that the Christian is profited
thereby. As

Hebrews 12:11 informs us, it is those who are “exercised”
under God’s rod that bring forth “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” A
sensitive conscience and a tender heart are the needed adjuncts.
In our text the Christian is warned against two entirely different dangers:
despise not, despair not. These are two extremes against which it is ever
necessary to keep a sharp look-out. Just as every truth of Scripture has its
balancing counterpart, so has every evil its opposite. On the one hand there
is a haughty spirit which laughs at the rod, a stubborn will which refuses to.28
be humbled thereby. On the other hand there is a fainting which utterly
sinks beneath it and gives way to despondency. Spurgeon said, “The way
of righteousness is a difficult pass between two mountains of error, and the
great secret of the Christian’s life is to wend his way along the narrow
valley.” Let us then ponder separately the two things which the Christian is
here warned against: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,
nor faint when thou are rebuked of Him.”
“The Greek word for ‘despise’ is nowhere used in the Scripture, but in this
place. It signifies to ‘set lightly by,’ to have little esteem of, not to value
any thing according to its worth and use. The Hebrew word means ‘to
reprobate, to reject, to despise.’ We render the apostle’s word by ‘despise,’
which yet doth not intend a despising that is so formally, but only
interpretatively. Directly to despise and condemn or reject the
chastisements of the Lord is a sin that perhaps none of His sons or children
do fall into. But not to esteem of them as we ought, not to improve them
unto their proper end, not to comply with the will of God in them, is
interpretatively to despise them” (John Owen). As the point now before us
is one which is of great practical importance to afflicted Christians, we will
describe a number of ways in which God’s chastisement may be
“despised.”
First, by callousness. There is a general lack of regard unto God’s
admonitions and instructions when troubles and sufferings come upon
Christians. Too often they view them as the common and inevitable ills
which man is heir unto, and perceive not that their Father hath any special
hand or design in them. Hence they are stoically accepted in a fatalistic
attitude. To be stoical under adversity is the policy of carnal wisdom: make
the best of a bad job is the sum of its philosophy. The man of the world
knows no better than to grit his teeth and brave things out: having no
Divine Comforter, Counselor, or Physician, he has to fall back upon his
own poor resources. But it is inexpressibly sad when we find the child of
God conducting himself as does a child of the Devil.
This is what is dehorted against in our present text: “despise not thou the
chastening of the Lord.” Observe well the personal emphasis — “thou:”
no matter how thy fellow-creatures act when the clouds of providence
frown upon them, see well to it that thou comportest thyself as becometh a
son of God. Take to heart the caution here given. Stout-heartedness and
stiff-neckedness is to be expected from a rebel, but one who has found.29
grace in the eyes of the Lord should humble himself beneath His mighty
hand the moment He gives any intimation of His displeasure. Scorn not the
least trials: each has instruction wrapped up in it. Many a child would be
spared the rod if he heeded the parent’s frown! So it is spiritually. Instead
of hardening ourselves to endure stoically, there should be a melting of
heart.
Second, by complaining. This is what the Hebrews did in the wilderness;
and there are still many murmurers in Israel’s camp today. A little sickness,
and we become so cross that our friends are afraid to come near us. A few
days in bed, and we fret and fume like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.
We peevishly ask, Why this affliction? what have I done to deserve it? We
look around with envious eyes, and are discontented because others are
carrying a lighter load. Beware, my reader: it goes hard with murmurers.
God always chastises twice if we are not humbled by the first. Remind
yourself of how much dross there yet is among the gold. View the
corruptions of your own heart, and marvel that God has not smitten you
far more severely.
This is what is dehorted against here: “despise not thou the chastening of
the Lord.” Instead of complaining, there should be a holy submitting unto
the good will of God. There is a dreadful amount of complaining among
Christians today, due to failure to nip this evil weed in the bud. Grumbling
at the weather, being cross when things are lost or mislaid, murmuring
because some one has failed to show us the respect which we consider
ourselves entitled unto. God’s hand in these things — for nothing happens
by chance under His government: everything has a meaning and message if
our hearts are open to receive it — is lost sight of. That is to “despise” His
rod when it is laid but gently upon us, and this it is which necessitates
heavier blows. Form the habit of heeding His taps, and you will be less
likely to receive His raps.
Third, by criticisms. How often we question the usefulness of
chastisement. As Christians we seem to have little more spiritual good
sense than we had natural wisdom as children. As boys we thought that the
rod was the least necessary thing in the home. It is so with the children of
God. When things go as we like them, when some unexpected temporal
blessing is bestowed, we have no difficulty in ascribing all to a kind
Providence; but when our plans are thwarted, when losses are ours, it is
very different. Yet, is it not written,.30
“I form the light and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things” (

Isaiah 45:7).
How often is the thing formed ready to complain “Why hast Thou made
me thus?” We say, I cannot see how this can possibly profit my soul: if I
had better health, I could attend the house of prayer more frequently; if I
had been spared those losses in business, I would have more money for the
Lord’s work! What good can possibly come out of this calamity? Like
Jacob we exclaim, “All these things are against me.” What is this but to
“despise” the rod? Shall thy ignorance challenge God’s wisdom? Shall thy
shortsightedness arraign omniscience? O for grace to be as a “weaned
child” (

Psalm 131:2).
Fourth, by carelessness. So many fail to mend their ways. The exhortation
of our text is much needed by all of us. There are many who have
“despised” the rod, and in consequence they have not profited thereby.
Many a Christian has been corrected by God, but in vain. Sickness,
reverses, bereavements have come, but they have not been sanctified by
prayerful self-examination. O brethren and sisters, take heed. If God be
chastening “consider your ways” (

Haggai 1:5), “ponder the path of thy
feet” (

Proverbs 4:26). Be assured that there is some reason for the
chastening. Many a Christian would not have been chastised half so
severely had he diligently inquired as to the cause of it.
“Cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (

Job 6:24);
“show me wherefore Thou contendest with me”
(

Hebrews 10:2),
expresses the attitude we should take whenever God’s hand is laid upon us.
We are bidden “hear ye the rod” (

Micah 6:9), that is, to pay a due
regard to God’s voice in our trials and afflictions, and to correct that in our
lives with which He is displeased. In chastisement God is to be viewed not
only as a Father but also as a Teacher: valuable lessons are to be learned
therefrom if we cultivate a teachable spirit. Not so to do, failure to improve
them unto their proper design and to comply with the will of God in them,
is to “despise” His loving reproofs. But we must turn now to the second
half of our verse.
“Nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.” This word presupposes that we
have not “despised” God’s chastening, but have heeded it — inquired as to
the cause and reason of it, and have discovered He is evidencing that He is.31
displeased with us. The learned tell us that the word for “rebuked,” both in
the Hebrew and in the Greek, signifies “a reproof by rational conviction:”
the conscience has been pricked, and God has discovered unto the heart
that there is something in our ways — which before we took no notice of
— which has convinced us of the needs-be for our present afflictions. He
makes us to understand what it is that is wrong in our lives: we are
“rebuked” in our conscience. Our response should be to humble ourselves
before Him, confess the fault, and seek grace to right it; and in order to this
we are cautioned against “fainting” in our minds. Let us mention several
forms of this particular evil of “fainting.”
First, when we give up all exertion. This is done when we sink down in
despondency. The smitten one concludes that it is more than he can
possibly endure. His heart fails him; darkness swallows him up; the sun of
hope is eclipsed, and the voice of thanksgiving is silent. To “faint” means
rendering ourselves unfit for the discharge of our duties. When a person
faints, he is rendered motionless. How many Christians are ready to
completely give up the fight when adversity enters their lives. How many
are rendered quite inert when trouble comes their way. How many by their
attitude say, God’s hand is heavy upon me: I can do nothing. Ah, beloved,
“sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”
(

1 Thessalonians 4:13).
“Faint not when thou art rebuked of Him:” go to the Lord about it;
recognize His hand in it. Remember thine afflictions are among the “all
things” which work together for good.
Second, when we question our sonship. There are not a few Christians
who, when the rod descends upon them, conclude that they are not sons of
God after all. They forget that it is written “Many are the afflictions of the
righteous (

Psalm 34:19), and that we must “through much tribulation
enter into the kingdom of God” (

Acts 14:22). One says, “But if I were
His child, I should not be in this poverty, misery, shame.” Listen to verse 8.
“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye
bastards and not sons.” Learn, then, to look upon trials as proofs of God’s
love — purging, pruning, purifying thee. The father of a family does not
concern himself much about those on the outside of his household: it is
they who are within whom he guards and guides, nurtures and conforms to
his will. So it is with God..32
Third, when we give way to unbelief. This is occasioned by our failure to
seek God’s support under trials, and lay hold of His promises —
“weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”
(

Psalm 30:5).
Sure are we to “faint” if we lose sight of the Lord, and cherish not His
words of consolation. David was encouraging himself against unbelief
when he took himself to task and said,
“Why art thou cast down O my soul? and why art thou disquieted
in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of
His countenance” (

Psalm 42:5):
if only that attitude be maintained by us, we shall be preserved from sinking
when troubles come upon us.
Fourth, when we despair. When unbelief dominates the heart,
despondency soon becomes our portion. Some indulge the gloomy fancy
that they will never again get from under the rod in this life; ah, it is a long
lane that has no turning! Perhaps a reader says, “But I have prayed and
prayed, and yet the dark clouds have not lifted.” Then comfort yourself
with the reflection: it is always the darkest hour which precedes the dawn.
Perhaps another says, “I have pleaded His promises, but things are no
better with me: I thought God delivered those who called upon Him; I
have called, but He has not delivered, and I fear He never will.” What!
child of God, speak of thy Father thus? You say, He will never leave off
smiting because He has smitten so long; rather conclude, He has now
smitten so long, I must soon be delivered. Fight hard, my brother, against
this attitude of despair, lest your complaining cause others to stumble.
Despise not; faint not. May Divine Mace preserve both writer and reader
from either of these sinful extremes.
N.B. For several of the leading thoughts in the above article, we are indebted to
a sermon by the late C.H. Spurgeon..33
CHAPTER 88
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:6)
The problem of suffering is a very real one in this world, and to not a few
of our readers a personal and acute one. While some of us are freely
supplied with comforts, others are constantly exercised over procuring the
bare necessities of life. While some of us have long been favored with good
health, others know not what it is to go through a day without sickness and
pain. While some homes have not been visited by death for many years,
others are called upon again and again to pass through the deep waters of
family bereavement. Yes, dear friend; the problem of suffering, the
encountering of severe trials, is a very personal thing for not a few of the
members of the household of faith. Nor is it the external afflictions which
occasion the most anguish: it is the questionings they raise, the doubts they
stimulate, the dark clouds of unbelief which they so often bring over the
heart.
Very often it is in seasons of trial and trouble that Satan is most successful
in getting in his evil work. When he perceives the uselessness of attempting
to bring believers under the bondage in which he keeps unbelievers, he
bides his time for the shooting at them of other arrows which he has in his
quiver. Though he is unable to drag them down to the commission of the
grosser outward forms of sin, he waits his opportunity for tempting them
to be guilty of inward sins. Though he cannot infect them with the poison
of evolutionism and higher criticism, he despairs not of seducing them with
questions of God’s goodness. It is when adversity comes the Christian’s
way, when sore trials multiply, when the soul is oppressed and the mind
distressed, that the Devil seeks to instill and strengthen doubtings of God’s
love, and to call into question the faithfulness of His promises.
Moreover, there come seasons in the lives of many saints when to sight and
sense it seems as though God Himself had ceased to care for His needy and
afflicted child. Earnest prayer is made for the mitigation of the sufferings,
but relief is not granted. Grace is sought to meekly bear the burden which.34
has been laid upon the suffering one; yet, so far from any sensible answer
being received, self-will, impatience, unbelief, are more active than ever.
Instead of the peace of God ruling the heart, unrest and enmity occupy its
throne. Instead of quietness within, there is turmoil and resentment. Instead
of “giving thanks always for all things unto God” (

Ephesians 5:20), the
soul is filled with unkind thoughts and feelings against Him. This is cause
for anguish unto the renewed heart; yet, at times, struggle against the evil
as the Christian may, he is overcome by it.
Then it is that the afflicted one cries out,
“Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord, why hidest Thou Thyself in
times of trouble?” (

Psalm 10:1).
To the distressed saint, the Lord seems to stand still, as if He coldly looked
on from a distance, and did not sympathize with the afflicted one. Nay,
worse, the Lord appears to be afar off, and no longer “a very present help
in trouble,” but rather an inaccessible mountain, which it is impossible to
reach. The felt presence of the Lord is the stay, the strength, the
consolation of the believer; the lifting up of the light of His countenance
upon us, is what sustains and cheers us in this dark world. But when that is
withheld, when we no longer have the joy of His presence with us, drab
indeed is the prospect, sad the heart. It is the hiding of our Father’s face
which cuts to the quick. When trouble and desertion come together, it is
unbearable.
Then it is that the word comes to us,
“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint
when thou art rebuked of Him” (

Hebrews 12:5).
Ah, it is easy for us to perceive the meetness of such an admonition as this
while things are going smoothly and pleasantly for us. While our lot is
congenial, or at least bearable, we have little difficulty in discerning what a
sin it is for any Christian to either “despise” God’s chastenings or to “faint”
beneath them. But when tribulation comes upon us, when distress and
anguish fill our hearts, it is quite another matter. Not only do we become
guilty of one of the very evils here dehorted from, but we are very apt to
excuse and extenuate our peevishness or faintness. There is a tendency in
all of us to pity ourselves, to take sides with ourselves against God, and
even to justify the uprisings of our hearts against Him..35
Have we never, in self-vindication, said, “Well, after all we are human; it is
natural that we should chafe against the rod or give way to despondency
when we are afflicted. It is all very well to tell us that we should not, but
how can we help ourselves? we cannot change our natures; we are frail
men and women, and not angels.” And what has been the issue from the
fruit of this self-pity and self-vindication? Review the past, dear friend, and
recall how you felt and acted inwardly when God was tearing up your cozy
nest, overturning your cherished plans, dashing to pieces your fondest
hopes, afflicting you painfully in your affairs, your body, or your family
circle. Did it not issue in calling into question the wisdom of God’s ways,
the justice of His dealings with you, His kindness towards you? Did it not
result in your having still stronger doubts of His very goodness?
In

Hebrews 12:5 the Christian is cautioned against either despising the
Lord’s chastenings or fainting beneath them. Yet, notwithstanding this
plain warning, there remains a tendency in all of us not only to disregard
the same, but to act contrary thereto. The apostle anticipates this evil, and
points out the remedy. The mind of the Christian must be fortified against
it. But how? By calling to remembrance the source from which all his
testings, trials, tribulations and troubles proceed, namely, the blessed,
wondrous, unchanging love of God. “My son, despise not thou the
chastenings of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him. FOR
whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” Here a reason is advanced why we
should not despise God’s chastening nor faint beneath it — all proceeds
from His love. Yes, even the bitter disappointments, the sore trials, the
things which occasion an aching heart, are not only appointed by unerring
wisdom, but are sent by infinite Love! It is the apprehension and
appropriation of this glorious fact, and that alone, which will preserve us
from both the evils forbidden in 5:5.
The way to victory over suffering is to keep sorrow from filling the soul:
“Let not your heart be troubled” (

John 14:1). So long as the waves
wash only the deck of the ship, there is no danger of its foundering; but
when the tempest breaks through the hatches and submerges the hold, then
disaster is nigh. No matter what floods of tribulation break over us, it is
our duty and our privilege to have peace within: “keep thy heart with all
diligence” (

Proverbs 4:23): suffer no doubtings of God’s wisdom,
faithfulness, goodness, to take root there. But how am I to prevent their so
doing? “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21), is the inspired
answer, the sure remedy, the way to victory. There, in one word, we have.36
made known to us the secret of how to overcome all questionings of God’s
providential ways, all murmurings against His dealings with us.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” It is as though a parent said to his
child, “Keep yourself in the sunshine:” the sun shines whether he enjoys it
or not, but he is responsible not to walk in the shade and thus lose its
genial glow. So God’s love for His people abides unchanging, but how few
of them keep themselves in the warmth of it. The saint is to be “rooted and
grounded in love” (

Ephesians 3:17); “rooted” like a tree in rich and
fertile soil; “grounded” like a house built upon a rock. Observe that both of
these figures speak of hidden processes: the root-life of a tree is concealed
from human eyes, and the foundations of a house are laid deep in the
ground. Thus it should be with each child of God: the heart is to be fixed,
nourished by the love of God.
It is one thing to believe intellectually that “God is love” and that He loves
His people, but it is quite another to enjoy and live in that love in the soul.
To be “rooted and grounded in love” means to have a settled assurance of
God’s love for us, such an assurance as nothing can shake. This is the deep
need of every Christian, and no pains are to be spared in the obtaining
thereof. Those passages in Scripture which speak of the wondrous love of
God, should be read frequently and meditated upon daily. There should be
a diligent striving to apprehend God’s love more fully and richly. Dwell
upon the many unmistakable proofs which God has made of His love to
you: the gift of His Word, the gift of His Son, the gift of His Spirit. What
greater, what clearer proofs do we require! Steadfastly resist every
temptation to question His love: “keep yourselves in the love of God.” Let
that be the realm in which you live, the atmosphere you breathe, the
warmth in which you thrive.
This life is but a schooling. In saying this we are uttering a platitude, yet it
is a truth of which all Christians need to be constantly reminded. This is the
period of our childhood and minority. Now in childhood everything has, or
should have, the character of education and discipline. Dear parents and
teachers are constantly directing, warning, rebuking; the whole of the
child-life is under rule, restraint and guidance. But the only object is the
child him-self — his good, his character, his future; and the only motive is
love. Now as childhood is to the rest of our life, so is the whole of our
earthly sojourn to our future and heavenly life. Therefore let us seek to
cultivate the spirit of childhood. Let us regard it as natural that we should.37
be daily rebuked and corrected. Let us behave with the docility and
meekness of children, with their trustful and sweet assurance that love is
behind all our chastenings, that we are in the tender hands of our Father.
But if this attitude is to be maintained, faith must be kept in steady
exercise: only thus shall we judge aright of afflictions. Sense is ever ready
to slander and belie the Divine perfections. Sense beclouds the
understanding and causes us to wrongly interpret God’s dispensations with
us. Why so? Because sense estimates things from their outside and by their
present feeling.
“No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous”
(

Hebrews 12:11),
and therefore if when under the rod we judge of God’s love and care for us
by our sense of His present dealings, we are likely to conclude that He has
but little regard for us. Herein lies the urgent need for the putting forth of
faith, for “faith is the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is the only remedy
for this double evil. Faith interprets things not according to the outside or
visible, but according to the promise. Faith looks upon providences not as
a present disconnected piece, but in its entirety to the end of things.
Sense perceives in our trials naught but expressions of God’s disregard or
anger, but faith can discern Divine wisdom and love in the sorest troubles.
Faith is able to unfold the fiddles and solve the mysteries of providence.
Faith can extract honey and sweetness out of gall and wormwood. Faith
discerns that God’s heart is filled with love toward us, even when His hand
is heavy and smarts upon us. The bucket goes down into the well the
deeper, that it may come up the fuller. Faith perceives God’s design in the
chastening is our good. It is through faith
“that He would show thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are
double to that which is” (

Job 11:6).
By the “secrets of wisdom” is meant the hidden ways of God’s providence.
Divine providence has two faces: the one of rigor, the other of clemency;
sense looks upon the former only, faith enjoys the latter.
Faith not only looks beneath the surface of things and sees the sweet
orange beneath the bitter rind, but it looks beyond the present and
anticipates the blessed sequel. Of the Psalmist it is recorded,.38
“I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Thine eyes”
(

Psalm 31:22).
The fumes of passion dim our vision when we look only at what is present.
Asaph declared,
“My feet were almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped; for I
was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the
wicked” (

Psalm 73:2, 3);
but when he went into the sanctuary of God he said, “Then understood I
their end” (verse 17), and that quieted him. Faith is occupied not with the
scaffolding, but with the completed building; not with the medicine, but
with the healthful effects it produces; not with the painful rod, but with the
peaceable fruit of righteousness in which it issues.
Suffering, then, is a test of the heart; chastisement is a challenge to faith —
our faith in His wisdom, His faithfulness, His love. As we have sought to
show above the great need of the Christian is to keep himself in the love of
God, for the soul to have an unshaken assurance of His tender care for us:
“casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you” (

1 Peter 5:7).
But the knowledge of that “care” can only be experimentally maintained by
the exercise of faith — especially is this the case in times of trouble. A
preacher once asked a despondent friend, “Why is that cow looking over
the wall?” And the answer was, “Because she cannot look through it.” The
illustration may be crude, yet it gives point to an important truth.
Discouraged reader, look over the things which so much distress you, and
behold the Father’s smiling face; look above the frowning clouds of His
providence, and see the sunshine of His never changing love.
“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every
son whom He receiveth” (verse 6).
There is something very striking and unusual about this verse, for it is
found, in slightly varied form, in no less than five different books of the
Bible: —
“Happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not
thou the chastening of the Almighty” (

Job 5:17);
“Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest
him out of Thy law” (

Psalm 94:12);.39
“Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in
whom he delighteth” (

Proverbs 3:12);
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (

Revelation 3:19).
Probably there is a twofold reason for this reiteration.
First, it hints at the importance and blessedness of this truth. God repeats
it so frequently lest we should forget, and thus lose the comfort and cheer
of realizing that Divine chastisement proceeds from love. This must be a
precious word if God thought it well to say it five times over!
Second, such repetition also implies our slowness to believe it; by nature
our evil hearts are inclined in the opposite direction. Though our text
affirms so emphatically that the Christian’s chastisements proceed from
God’s love, we are ever ready to attribute them to His harshness. It is
really very humbling that the Holy Spirit should deem it necessary to repeat
this statement so often.
“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom
He receiveth.” Four things are to be noted.
First, the best of God’s children need chastisement — “every son.” There
is no Christian but what has faults and follies which require correcting: “in
many things we all offend” (

James 3:2).
Second, God will correct all whom He adopts into His family. However
He may now let the reprobate alone in their sins, He will not ignore the
failings of His people — to be suffered to go on unrebuked in wickedness
is a sure sign of alienation from God.
Third, in this God acts as a Father: no wise and good parent will wink at
the faults of his own children: his very relation and affection to them oblige
him to take notice of the same.
Fourth, God’s disciplinary dealings with His sons proceed from and make
manifest His love to them: it is this fact we would now particularly
concentrate upon.
1. The Christian’s chastisements flow from God’s love. Not from His anger
or hardness, nor from arbitrary dealings, but from God’s heart do our
afflictions proceed. It is love which regulates all the ways of God in dealing
with His own. It was love which elected them. The heart is not warmed.40
when our election is traced back merely to God’s sovereign will, but our
affections are stirred when we read “in love having predestinated us”
(

Ephesians 1:4, 5). It was love which redeemed us. We do not reach the
center of the atonement when we see nothing more in the Cross than a
vindication of the law and a satisfaction of justice: “God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son” (

John 3:16). It is love which
regenerates or effectually calls us: “with loving kindness have I drawn
thee” (

Jeremiah 31:3). The new birth is not only a marvel of Divine
wisdom and a miracle of Divine power, but it is also and superlatively a
product of God’s affection.
In like manner it is love which ordained our trials and orders our
chastisements. O Christian, never doubt the love of God. A quaint old
Quaker, who was a farmer, had a weather-vane on the roof of his barn,
from which stood out in clear-cut letters “God is love.” One day a preacher
was being driven to the Quaker’s home; his host called attention to the
vane and its text. The preacher turned and said, “I don’t like that at all: it
misrepresents the Divine character — God’s love is not variable like the
weather.” Said the Quaker, “Friend you have misinterpreted its
significance; that text on the weather-vane is to remind me that, no matter
which way the wind is blowing, no matter from which direction the storm
may come, still, “God is love.”
2. The Christian’s chastisements express God’s love. Oftentimes we do not
think so. As God’s children we think and act very much as we did when
children naturally. When we were little and our parents insisted that we
should perform a certain duty we failed to appreciate the love which had
respect unto our future well-being. Or, when our parents denied us
something on which we had set our hearts, we felt we were very hardly
dealt with. Yet was it love which said “No” to us. So it is spiritually. The
love of God not only gives, but also withholds. No doubt this is the
explanation for some of our unanswered prayers: God loves us too much
to give what would not really be for our profit. The duties insisted upon,
the rebukes given, the things withheld, are all expressions of His faithful
love.
Chastisements manifest God’s care of us. He does not regard us with
unconcern and neglect, as men usually do their illegitimate children, but He
has a true parent’s solicitation for us:.41
“Like as a father pitieth his children so the Lord pitieth them that
fear Him” (

Psalm 103:13).
“And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee
with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know;
that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread
only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the
Lord doth man live” (

Deuteronomy 8:3).
There are several important sermons wrapped up in that verse, but we have
not the space here to even outline them. God brings into the wilderness
that we may be drawn nearer Himself. He dries up cisterns that we may
seek and enjoy the Fountain. He destroys our nest down here that our
affection may be set upon things above.
3. The Christian’s chastisements magnify God’s love. Our very trials make
manifest the fullness and reveal the perfections of God’s love. What a word
is that in

Lamentations 3:33; “He doth not afflict willingly”! If God
consulted only His own pleasure, He would not afflict us at all: it is for our
profit that He “scourges.” Ever remember that the great High Priest
Himself is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”; yet,
notwithstanding, He employs the rod! God is love, and nothing is so
sensitive as love. Concerning the trials and tribulations of Israel of old, it is
written, “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (

Isaiah 63:9); yet out of
love He chastens. How this manifests and magnifies the unselfishness of
God’s love!
Here, then is the Christian supplied with an effectual shield to turn aside
the fiery darts of the wicked one. As we said at the beginning, Satan ever
seeks to take advantage of our trials: like the fiend that he is, he makes his
fiercest assaults when we are most cast down. Thus it was that he attacked
Job — “Curse God and die.” And thus some of us have found it. Did he
not, in the hour of suffering and sorrow, seek to remind you that when you
had become increasingly diligent in seeking to please and glorify God, the
darkest clouds of adversity followed; and say, How unjust God is; what a
miserable reward for your devotion and zeal! Here is your recourse,
fellow-Christian: say to the Devil, “It is written, ‘Whom the Lord loveth
He chasteneth.’ “
Again; if Satan cannot succeed in traducing the character of God and cause
us to doubt His goodness and question His love, then he will assail our.42
assurance. The Devil is most persevering: if a frontal attack falls, then he
will make one from the rear. He will assault your assurance of sonship: he
will whisper “You are no child of His: look at your condition, consider
your circumstances, contrast those of other Christians. You cannot be an
object of God’s favor; you are deceiving yourself; your profession is an
empty one. If you were God’s child, He would treat you very differently.
Such privations, such losses, such pains, show that you cannot be one of
His.” But say to him, “It is written, ‘Whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth.’“
Let our final thought be upon the last word of our text: “For whom the
Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”
The one whom God scourges is not rejected, but “received” — received up
into glory, welcomed in His House above. First the cross, then the crown,
is God’s unchanging order. This was vividly illustrated in the history of the
children of Israel: God “chose them in the furnace of affliction,” and many
and bitter were their trials ere they reached the promised land. So it is with
us. First the wilderness, then Canaan; first the scourging, and then the
“receiving.” May we keep ourselves more and more in the love of God..43
CHAPTER 89
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:7, 8)
The all-important matter in connection with Divine chastenings, so far as
the Christian is concerned, is the spirit in which he receives them. Whether
or not we “profit” from them, turns entirely on the exercises of our minds
and hearts under them. The advantages or disadvantages which outward
things bring to us, is to be measured by the effects they produce in us.
Material blessings become curses if our souls are not the gainers thereby,
while material losses prove benedictions if our spiritual graces are enriched
therefrom. The difference between our spiritual impoverishment or our
spiritual enrichment from the varied experiences of this life, will very
largely be determined by our heart-attitude toward them, the spirit in which
they are encountered, and our subsequent conduct under them. It is all
summed up in that word “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”
(

Proverbs 23:7).
As the careful reader passes from verse to verse of

Hebrews 12:3-11,
he will observe how the Holy Spirit has repeatedly stressed this particular
point, namely, the spirit in which God’s chastisements are to be received.
First, the tried and troubled saint is bidden to consider Him who was
called upon to pass through a far rougher and deeper sea of suffering than
any which His followers encounter, and this contemplation of Him is urged
“lest we be wearied and faint in our minds” (verse 3.).
Second, we are bidden to “despise not” the chastenings of the Lord, “nor
faint” when we are rebuked of Him (verse 5).
Third, our Christian duty is to “endure” chastening as becometh the sons
of God (verse 7).
Fourth, it is pointed out that since we gave reverence to our earthly
fathers when they corrected us, much more should we “rather be in
subjection” unto our heavenly Father (verse 9). Finally, we learn there will.44
only be the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” issuing from our afflictions,
if we are duly “exercised thereby” (verse 11).
In the previous articles we have sought to point out some of the principal
considerations which should help the believer to receive God’s
chastisements in a meet and becoming spirit. We have considered the
blessed example left us by our Captain: may we who have enlisted under
His banner diligently follow the same. We have seen that, however severe
may be our trials, they are by no means extreme: we have not yet “resisted
unto blood” — martyrdom has not overtaken us, as it did many who
preceded us: shall we succumb to the showers, when they defied the
fiercest storms! We have dwelt upon the needs-be for Divine reproof and
correction. We have pointed out the blessed distinction there is between
Divine punishment and Divine chastisement. We have contemplated the
source from which all proceeds, namely, the love of our Father. We have
shown the imperative necessity for the exercise of faith, if the heart is to be
kept in peace while the rod is upon us.
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for
what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be
without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye
bastards, and not sons” (verses 7, 8).
In these verses another consideration is presented for the comfort of those
whom God is chastening. That of which we are here reminded is, that,
when the Christian comports himself properly under Divine correction, he
gives proof of his Divine sonship. If he endure them in a manner becoming
to his profession, he supplies evidence of his Divine adoption. Blessed
indeed is this, an unanswerable reply to Satan’s evil insinuation: so far from
the disciplinary afflictions which the believer encounters showing that God
loves him not, they afford a golden opportunity for him to exercise and
display his unquestioning love of the Father. If we undergo chastisements
with patience and perseverance, then do we make manifest, both to
ourselves and to others, the genuineness of our profession.
In the verses which are now before us the apostle draws an inference from
and makes a particular application of what had been previously affirmed,
thereby confirming the exhortation. There are three things therein to be
particularly noted..45
First, the duty which has been enjoined: Divine chastisements are to be
“endured” by us: that which is included and involved by that term we
shall seek to show in what follows.
Second, the great benefit which is gained by a proper endurance of
those chastisements: evidence is thereby obtained that God is dealing
with us as “sons:” not as enemies whom He hates, but as dear children
whom He loves.
Third, a solemn contrast is then drawn, calculated to unmask
hypocrites and expose empty professors: those who are without Divine
chastisement are not sons at all, but “bastards” — claiming the Church
for their mother, yet having not God for their Father: what is signified
thereby will appear in the sequel.
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.” This
statement supplements what was before us in verse 5. Both of them speak
of the spirit in which chastisements are to be received by the Christian, only
with this difference: verse 5 gives the negative side, verse 7 the positive.
On the one hand, we are not to “despise” or “faint” under them; on the
other hand, they are to be “endured.” It has become an English proverb
that “what cannot be cured must be endured,” which is but another way of
saying that we must grit our teeth and make the best of a bad job. It
scarcely needs pointing out that the Holy Spirit has not used the term here
in its lowest and carnal sense, but rather in its noblest and spiritual
signification.
In order to ascertain the force and scope of any word which is used in Holy
Scripture neither its acceptation in ordinary speech nor its dictionary
etymology is to be consulted; instead, a concordance must be used, so as
to find out how it is actually employed on the sacred page. In the case now
before us, we do not have far to seek, for in the immediate context it is
found in a connection where it cannot be misunderstood. In verse 2 we
read that the Savior “endured the cross,” and in verse 3 that He “endured
such contradiction of sinners against Himself.” It was in the highest and
noblest sense that Christ “endured” His sufferings: He remained steadfast
under the sorest trials, forsaking not the path of duty. He meekly and
heroically bore the acutest afflictions without murmuring against or fainting
under them. How, then, is the Christian to conduct himself in the fires? We
subjoin a sevenfold answer..46
First, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement inquiringly. While it be
true that all chastisement is not the consequence of personal disobedience
or sinful conduct, yet much of it is so, and therefore it is always the part of
wisdom for us to seek for the why of it. There is a cause for every effect,
and a reason for all God’s dealings. The Lord does not act capriciously,
nor does He afflict willingly (

Lamentations 3:33). Every time the
Father’s rod fails upon us it is a call to self-examination, for pondering the
path of our feet, for heeding that repeated word in Haggai “Consider your
ways.” It is our bounden duty to search ourselves and seek to discover the
reason of God’s displeasure. This may not be a pleasant exercise, and if we
are honest with ourselves it is likely to occasion us much concern and
sorrow; nevertheless, a broken and contrite heart is never despised by the
One with whom we have to do.
Alas, only too often this self-examination and inquiring into the cause of
our affliction is quite neglected, relief therefrom being the uppermost
thought in the sufferer’s mind. There is a most solemn warning upon this
point in

2 Chronicles 16:12, 13,
“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in
his feet, until his disease was exceeding great; yet in his disease he
sought not to the Lord, but the physicians. And Asa slept with his
fathers.”
How many professing Christians do likewise today. As soon as sickness
strikes them, their first thought and desire is not that the affliction may be
sanctified unto their souls, but how quickly their bodies may be relieved.
We do not fully agree with some brethren who affirm that the Christian
ought never to call in a doctor, and that the whole medical fraternity is of
the Devil — in such case the Holy Spirit had never denominated Luke “the
beloved physician,” nor had Christ said the sick “need” a physician. On the
other hand, it is unmistakably evident that physical healing is not the first
need of an ailing saint.
Second, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement prayerfully. If our
inquiry is to be prosecuted successfully, then we are in urgent need of
Divine assistance. Those who rely upon their own judgment are certain to
err. As our hearts are exercised as to the cause of the chastening, we need
to seek earnestly unto God, for it is only in His light that we “see light”
(

Psalm 36:9). It is not sufficient to examine ourselves: we must request
the Divine physician to diagnose our case, saying.47
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in
the way everlasting” (

Psalm 139:23, 24).
Nevertheless, let it be pointed out that such a request cannot be presented
sincerely unless we have personally endeavored to thoroughly search
ourselves and purpose to continue so doing.
Prayer was never designed to be a substitute for the personal discharge of
duty: rather is it appointed as a means for procuring help therein. While it
remains our duty to honestly scrutinize our hearts and inspect our ways,
measuring them by the holy requirements of Scripture, yet only the
immediate assistance of the Spirit will enable us to prosecute our quest
with any real profit and success. Therefore we need to enter the secret
place and inquire of the Lord “show me wherefore Thou contendest with
me” (

Job 10:2). If we sincerely ask Him to make known unto us what it
is in our ways He is displeased with, and for which He is now rebuking us,
He will not mock us. Request of Him the hearing ear, and He will tell what
is wrong. Let there be no reserve, but an honest desire to know what needs
correcting, and He will show you.
Third, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement humbly. When the Lord
has responded to your request and has made known the cause of His
chastening, see to it that you quarrel not with Him. If there be any feeling
that the scourging is heavier than you deserve, the thought must be
promptly rejected.
“Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment
(or chastisement) of his sins?” (

Lamentations 3:39).
If we take issue with the Most High, we shall only be made to smart the
more for our pains. Rather must we seek grace to heed that word,
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God”
(

1 Peter 5:6).
Ask Him to quicken conscience, shine into your heart, and bring to light
the hidden things of darkness, so that you may perceive your inward sins as
well as your outward. And then will you exclaim,
“I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in
faithfulness hast afflicted me” (

Psalm 119:75)..48
Fourth, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement patiently. Probably that
is the prime thought in our text: steadfastness, a resolute continuance in the
path of duty, an abiding service of God with all our hearts, notwithstanding
the present trial, is what we are called unto. But Satan whispers, “What is
the use? you have endeavored, earnestly, to please the Lord, and how is He
rewarding you? You cannot satisfy Him: the more you give, the more He
demands; He is a hard and tyrannical Master.” Such vile suggestions must
be put from us as the malicious lies of him who hates God and seeks to
encompass our destruction. God has only your good in view when the rod
is laid upon you. Just as the grass needs to be mown to preserve its
freshness, as the vine has to be pruned to ensure its fruitfulness, as friction
is necessary to produce electric power, as fire alone will consume the
dross, even so the discipline of trial is indispensable for the education of the
Christian.
“Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap,
if we faint not” (

Galatians 6:9).
Keep before you the example of Christ: He was led as a lamb to the
slaughter, yet before His shearers He was “dumb.” He never fretted or
murmured, and we are to “follow His steps.” “Let patience have her
perfect work” (

James 1:4). For this we have to be much in prayer; for
this we need the strengthening help of the Holy Spirit. God tells us that
chastisement is not “joyous” but “grievous”: if it were not, it would not be
“chastening.” But He also assures us that
“afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto
them which are exercised thereby” (

Hebrews 12:11).
Lay hold of that word “afterward”: anticipate the happy sequel, and in the
comfort thereof continue pressing forward along the path of duty.
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the
patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (

Ecclesiastes
7:8).
Fifth, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement believingly. This was how
Job endured his:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the
name of the Lord” (

Hebrews 1:21)..49
Ah, he looked behind all secondary causes, and perceived that above the
Sabeans and Chaldeans was Jehovah Himself. But is it not at this point we
most often fail? Only too frequently we see only the injustice of men, the
malice of the world, the enmity of Satan, in our trials: that is walking by
sight. Faith brings God into the scene.
“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the
Lord in the land of the living” (

Psalm 27:13).
It is an adage of the world that “Seeing is believing:” but in the spiritual
realm, the order is reversed: there we must “believe” in order to “see.” And
what is it which the saint most desires to “see”? Why, “the goodness of the
Lord,” for unless he sees that, he “faints.” And how does faith see “the
goodness of the Lord” in chastisements? By viewing them as proceeding
from God’s love, as ordered by His wisdom, and as designed for our profit.
As the bee sucks honey out of the bitter herb, so faith may extract much
good from afflictions. Faith can turn water into wine, and make bread out
of stones. Unbelief gives up in the hour of trial and sinks in despair; but
faith keeps the head above water and hopefully looks for deliverance.
Human reason may not be able to understand the mysterious ways of God,
but faith knows that the sorest disappointments and the heaviest losses are
among the “all things” which work together for our good. Carnal friends
may tell us that it is useless to strive any longer; but faith says, “Though He
slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (

Job 13:15). What a wonderful promise
is that in

Psalm 91:15, “I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him.”
Ah, but faith alone can feel that Presence, and faith alone can enjoy now
the assured deliverance. It was because of the joy set before Him (by the
exercise of faith) that Christ “endured the cross,” and only as we view
God’s precious promises will we patiently endure our cross.
Sixth, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement hopefully. Though quite
distinct, the line of demarcation between faith and hope is not a very broad
one, and in some of the things said above we have rather anticipated what
belongs to this particular point.
“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for
what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for
that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (

Romans
8:24, 25)..50
This passage clearly intimates that “hope” relates to the future. “Hope” in
Scripture is far more than a warrantless wish: it is a firm conviction and a
comforting expectation of a future good. Now inasmuch as chastisement,
patiently and believingly endured, is certain to issue in blessing, hope is to
be exercised. “When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (

Job
23:10): that is the language of confident expectation.
While it be true that faith supports the heart under trial, it is equally a fact
— though less recognized — that hope buoys it up. When the wings of
hope are spread, the soul is able to soar above the present distress, and
inhale the invigorating air of future bliss.
“For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a
far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: while we look not
at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen”
(

2 Corinthians 4:17, 18):
that also is the language of joyous anticipation. No matter how dark may
the clouds which now cover thy horizon, ere long the Sun of righteousness
shall arise with healing in His wings. Then seek to walk in the steps of our
father Abraham,
“who against hope, believed in hope, that he might become the
father of many nations” (

Romans 4:18).
Seventh, the Christian is to “endure” chastisement thankfully. Be grateful,
my despondent brother, that the great God cares so much for a worm of
the earth as to be at such pains in your spiritual education. O what a marvel
that the Maker of heaven and earth should go to so much trouble in His
son-training of us! Fail not, then, to thank Him for His goodness, His
faithfulness, His patience, toward thee. “We are chastened of the Lord
(now) that we should not be condemned with the world” in the day to
come (

1 Corinthians 11:32): what cause for praise is this! If the Lord
Jesus, on the awful night of His betrayal, “sang a hymn” (

Matthew
26:30), how much more should we, under our infinitely lighter sorrows,
sound forth the praises of our God. May Divine grace enable both writer
and reader to “endure chastening” in this sevenfold spirit, and then will
God be glorified and we advantaged.
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.” This does
not mean that upon our discharge of the duty enjoined God will act toward
us “as with sons”; for this He does in the chastisements themselves, as the.51
apostle has clearly shown. No, rather, the force of these words is, If ye
endure chastening, then you have the evidence in yourselves that God deals
with you as sons. In other words, the more I am enabled to conduct myself
under troubles as becometh a child of God, the clearer is the proof of my
Divine adoption. The new birth is known by its fruits, and the more my
spiritual graces are exercised under testing, the more do I make manifest
my regeneration. Furthermore, the clearer the evidence of my regeneration,
the clearer do I perceive the dealings of a Father toward me in His
discipline.
The patient endurance of chastenings is not only of great price in the sight
of God, but is of inestimable value unto the souls of them that believe.
While it be true that the sevenfold description we have given above depicts
not the spirit in which all Christians do receive chastening, but rather the
spirit in which they ought to receive it, and that all coming short thereof is
to be mourned and confessed before God; nevertheless, it remains that no
truly born-again person continues to either utterly “despise” the rod or
completely “faint” beneath it. No, herein lies a fundamental difference
between the good-ground hearer and the stony-ground one: of the former
it is written, “The righteous also shall hold on his way” (Job. 17:9); of the
latter, it is recorded,
“Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when
tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, immediately
he is offended” (

Matthew 13:21).
mere suffering of things calamitous is not, in itself, any evidence of our
acceptance with God. Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards,
so that afflictions or chastisements are no pledges of our adoption; but if
we “endure” them with any measure of real faith, submission and
perseverance, so that we “faint not” under them — abandon not the Faith
or entirely cease seeking to serve the Lord — then do we demonstrate our
Divine sonship. So too it is the proper frame of our minds and the due
exercise of our hearts which lets in a sense of God’s gracious design
toward us in His chastenings. The Greek word for “dealeth with us as with
sons” is very blessed: literally it signifies “he offereth Himself unto us:” He
proposeth Himself not as an enemy, but as a Friend; not as toward
strangers, but as toward His own beloved children.
“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then
are ye bastards, and not sons” (verse 8)..52
These words present the reverse side of the argument established in the
preceding verse: since it be true, both in the natural and in the spiritual
realm, that disciplinary dealing is inseparable from the relation between
fathers and sons, so that an evidence of adoption is to be clearly inferred
therefrom, it necessarily follows that those who are “without chastisement”
are not children at all. What we have here is a testing and discriminative
rule, which it behoves each of us to measure himself by. That we may not
err therein, let us attend to its several terms.
When the apostle says, “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are
partakers,” it is obvious that his words are not to be taken in their widest
latitude: the word “all” refers not to all men, but to the “sons” of whom he
is speaking. In like manner, “chastisement” is not here to be taken for
everything that is grievous and afflictive, for none entirely escape trouble in
this life. But comparatively speaking, there are those who are largely
exempt: such the Psalmist referred to when he said,
“For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like
other men” (

Psalm 73:4, 5).
No, it is God’s disciplinary dealings which the apostle is speaking of,
corrective instruction which promotes holiness. There are many professors
who, whatever trials they may experience, are without any Divine
chastisement for their good.
Those who are “without chastisement” are but “bastards.” It is common
knowledge that bastards are despised and neglected — though unjustly so
— by those who illegitimately begot them: they are not the objects of that
love and care as those begotten in wedlock. This solemn fact has its
counterpart in the religious realm.
There is a large class who are destitute of Divine chastisements, for they
give no evidence that they receive them, endure them, or improve them.
There is a yet more solemn meaning in this word: under the law “bastards”
had no right of inheritance:
“A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord”
(

Deuteronomy 23:2):
No cross, no crown: to be without God’s disciplinary chastenings now,
means that we must be excluded from His presence hereafter. Here, then, is.53
a further reason why the Christian should be contented with his present lot:
the Father’s rod upon him now evidences his title unto the Inheritance in
the day to come..54
CHAPTER 90
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:9)
The apostle Paul did not, like so many of our moderns, hurry through a
subject and dismiss an unpleasant theme with a brief sentence or two. No,
he could say truthfully, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you.”
His chief concern was not to please, but to help his hearers and readers.
Well did he know the tendency of the heart to turn away quickly from what
is searching and humbling, unto that which is more attractive and
consoling. But so far from acceding to this spirit, he devoted as much
attention unto exhortation as instruction, unto reproving as comforting,
unto duties as expounding promises; while the latter was given its due
place the former was not neglected. It behooves each servant of God to
study the methods of the apostles, and seek wisdom and grace to emulate
their practice; only thus will they preserve the balance of Truth, and be
delivered from “handling the Word deceitfully” (

2 Corinthians 4:2).
Some years ago, when the editor was preaching a series of sermons on

Hebrews 12:3-11, several members of the congregation intimated they
were growing weary of hearing so much upon the subject of Divine
chastisement. Alas, the very ones who chafed so much at hearing about
God’s rod, have since been smitten the most severely by it. Should any of
our present readers feel the same way about the writer’s treatment of this
same passage, he would lovingly warn them that, though these articles may
seem gloomy and irksome while prosperity be smiling upon them,
nevertheless they will be well advised to “hearken and hear for the time to
come” (

Isaiah 42:23). The sun will not always be shining upon you,
dear reader, and if you now store these thoughts up in your memory, they
may stand you in good stead when your sky becomes overcast.
Sooner or later, this portion of Holy Writ will apply very pertinently unto
each of our cases. God “scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” None of
the followers of “The Man of sorrows” are exempted from sorrow. It has
been truly said that “God had one Son without sin, but none without.55
suffering.” So much depends upon how we “endure” suffering: the spirit in
which it be received, the graces which are exercised by it, and the
improvement which we make of it. Our attitude toward God, and the
response which we make unto His disciplinary dealings with us, means that
we shall either honor or dishonor Him, and suffer loss or reap gain
therefrom. Manifold are our obligations to comport ourselves becomingly
when God is pleased to scourge us, and many and varied are the motives
and arguments which the Spirit, through the apostle, here presents to us for
this end.
In the verse which is now to be before us a further reason is given showing
the need of the Christian’s duty to meekly bear God’s chastenings. First,
the apostle had reminded the saints of the teaching of Scripture, verse 5:
how significant that he began with that! Second, he had comforted them
with the assurance that the rod is wielded not by wrath, but in tender
solicitude, verse 6. Third, he affirmed that God chastens all His children
without exception, bastards only escaping, verses 7, 8. Now he reminds us
that we had natural parents who corrected us, and we gave them
reverence. Our earthly fathers had the right, because of their relationship,
to discipline us, and we acquiesced. If, then, it was right and meet for us to
submit to their corrections, how much more ought we to be in subjection
unto our heavenly Father when He reproves us.
“Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us,
and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in
subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (verse 9).
The opening “Furthermore” is really humbling and searching. One would
think sufficient had been said in the previous verses to make us be
submissive under and thankful for the tender discipline of our God. Is it not
enough to be told that the Scriptures teach us to expect chastisements, and
exhort us not to despise them? Is it not sufficient to be assured that these
chastisements proceed from the very heart of our Father, being appointed
and regulated by His love? No, a “furthermore” is needed by us! The Holy
Spirit deigns to supply further reasons for bringing our unruly hearts into
subjection. This should indeed humble us, for the implication is clear that
we are slow to heed and bow beneath the rod. Yea, is it not sadly true that
the older we become, the more need there is for our being chastened?
The writer has been impressed by the fact, both in his study of the Word
and his observation of fellow-Christians, that, as a general rule, God uses.56
the rod very little and very lightly upon the babes and younger members of
His family, but that He employs it more frequently and severely on mature
Christians. We have often heard older saints warning younger brethren and
sisters of their great danger, yet it is striking to observe that Scripture
records not a single instance of a young saint disgracing his profession.
Recall the histories of young Joseph, the Hebrew maid in Naaman’s
household, David as a stripling engaging Goliath, Daniel’s early days, and
his three youthful companions in the furnace; and it will be found that all of
them quitted themselves nobly. On the other hand, there are numerous
examples where men in middle life and of grey hairs grievously dishonored
their Lord.
It is true that young Christians are feeblest, and with rare exceptions, they
know it; and therefore does God manifest His grace and power by
upholding them: it is the “lambs” which He carries in His arms! But some
older Christians seem far less conscious of their danger, and so God often
suffers them to have a fall, that He may stain the pride of their self-glory,
and that others may see it is nothing in the flesh — standing, rank, age, or
attainments — which insures our safety; but that He upholds the humble
and casts down the proud. David did not fall into his great sin till he had
reached the prime of life. Lot did not transgress most grossly till he was an
old man. Isaac seems to have become a glutton in his old age, and was as a
vessel no longer “meet for the Master’s use,” which rusted out rather than
wore out. It was after a life of walking with God, and building the ark, that
Noah disgraced himself. The worst sin of Moses was committed not at the
beginning but at the end of the wilderness journey. Hezekiah became
puffed up with pride near the sunset of his life. What warnings are these!
God thus shows us there is no protection in years. Yea, added years seem
to call for increased chastenings. Often there is more grumbling and
complaining among the aged pilgrims than the younger ones: it is true their
nerves can stand less, but God’s grace is sufficient for worn-out nerves.
Often there is more occupation with self and circumstances among the
fathers and mothers in Israel, and less talking of Christ and His wondrous
love, than there is among the babes. Yes, there is, much need for all of us
to heed the opening “furthermore” of our text. Every physician will tell us
there are some diseases which become more troublesome in middle life,
and others which are incident to old age. The same is true of different
forms of sinning. If we are more liable to certain sins in our youth, we are
in greater danger of others in advanced years. Undoubtedly it is the case.57
that the older we get, the more need there is to heed this “furthermore”
which prefaces the call of our being in subjection to the Father of spirits. If
we do not need more grace, certain it is that we need as much grace, when
we are grown old as while we are growing up.
The aged meet with as many temptations as do young Christians. They are
tempted to live in the past, rather than in the future.
They are tempted to take things easier, spiritually as well as temporally, so
that it has to be said of some “ye did run well.” O to be like Paul “the
aged,” who was in full harness to the end. They are tempted to be unduly
occupied with their increasing infirmities; but is it not written “the Spirit
also helpeth our infirmities”! Yet, because this is affirmed, we must not
think there is no longer need to earnestly seek His help. This comforting
word is given in order that we should frequently and confidently pray for
this very thing. If it were not recorded, we might doubt His readiness to do
so, and wonder if we were asking “according to His will.” Because it is
recorded, when feeling our “infirmities” press most heavily upon us, let us
cry, “O Holy Spirit of God, do as Thou hast said, and help us.”
In this connection let us remind ourselves of that verse,
“Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things: so that thy youth is
renewed like the eagle’s” (

Psalm 103:5)
The eagle is a bird renowned for its longevity, often living to be more than
a hundred years old. The eagle is also the high-soaring bird, building its
nest on the mountain summit. But how is the eagle’s youth renewed? By a
new crop of feathers, by the rejuvenation of its wings. And that is precisely
what some middle-aged and elderly Christians need: the rejuvenation of
their spiritual wings — the wings of faith, of hope, of zeal, of love for
souls, of devotedness to Christ. So many leave their first love, lose the joy
of their espousals, and instead of setting before younger Christians a bright
example of trustfulness and cheerfulness, they often discourage by
gloominess and slothfulness. Thus God’s chastenings increase in severity
and frequency!
Dear friend, instead of saying, “The days of my usefulness are over,” rather
reason, The night cometh when no man can work; therefore I must make
the most of my opportunities while it is yet called day. For your
encouragement let it be stated that the most active worker in a church of
which the editor was pastor was seventy-seven years old when he went.58
there, and during his stay of three and a half years she did more for the
Lord, and was a greater stimulus to him, than any other member of that
church. She lived another eight years, and they were, to the very end, filled
with devoted service to Christ. We believe that the Lord will yet say of her,
as of another woman, “She hath done what she could.” O brethren and
sisters, especially you who are feeling the weight of years, heed that word,
“Be not weary in well doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we
faint not” (

Galatians 6:9).
“Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we
gave them reverence.” It is the duty of children to give the reverence of
obedience unto the just commands of their parents, and the reverence of
submission to their correction when disobedient. As parents have a charge
from God to minister correction to their children when it is due — and not
spoil them unto their ruin — so children have a command from God to
receive parental reproof in a proper spirit, and not to be discontented,
stubborn, or rebellious. For a child to be insubordinate under correction,
evidences a double fault; the very correction shows a fault has been
committed, and insubordination under correction is only adding wrong to
wrong. “We gave them reverence,” records the attitude of dutiful children
toward their sires: they neither ran away from home in a huff, nor became
so discouraged as to quit the path of duty.
From this law of the human home, the apostle points out the humble and
submissive conduct which is due unto God when He disciplines His
children: “Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of
spirits?” The “much rather” points a contrast suggested by the analogy:
that contrast is at least fourfold.
First, the former chastening proceeded from those who were our
fathers according to the flesh; the other is given by Him who is our
heavenly Father.
Second, the one was sometimes administered in imperfect knowledge
and irritable temper; the other comes from unerring wisdom and
untiring love.
Third, the one was during but a brief period, when we were children;
the other continues throughout the whole of our Christian life..59
Fourth, the one was designed for our temporal good; the other has in
view our spiritual and eternal welfare. Then how much more should we
readily submit unto the latter.
“Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits?” By
nature we are not in subjection. We are born into this world filled with the
spirit of insubordination: as the descendants of our rebellious first parents,
we inherit their evil nature. “Man is born like a wild ass’s colt” (

Job
11:12). This is very unpalatable and humbling, but nevertheless it is true.
As

Isaiah 53:6 tells us, “we have turned every one to his own way,” and
that is one of opposition to the revealed will of God. Even at conversion
this wild and rebellious nature is not eradicated. A new nature is given, but
the old one lusts against it. It is because of this that discipline and
chastisement are needed by us, and the great design of these is to bring us
into subjection unto the Father of spirits. To be “in subjection unto the
father” is a phrase of extensive import, and it is well that we should
understand its various significations.
1. It denotes an acquiescence in God’s sovereign right to do with us as He
pleases.
“I was dumb, I opened not my mouth: because thou didst it”
(

Psalm 39:9).
It is the duty of saints to be mute under the rod and silent beneath the
sharpest afflictions. But this is only possible as we see the hand of God in
them. If His hand be not seen in the trial, the heart will do nothing but fret
and fume.
“And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of
Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him,
Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?
And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son,
which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: How much more
now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse, for
the Lord hath bidden him” (

2 Samuel 16:10, 11).
What an example of complete submission to the sovereign will of the Most
High was this! David knew that Shimei could not curse him without God’s
permission..60
“This will set my heart at rest,
What my God appoints is best.”
But with rare exceptions many chastenings are needed to bring us to this
place, and to keep us there.
2. It implies a renunciation of self-will. To be in subjection unto the Father
presupposes a surrendering and resigning of ourselves to Him. A blessed
illustration of this is found in

Leviticus 10:1-3,
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his
censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered
strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not. And
there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they
died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that
the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh
Me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held
his peace.”
Consider the circumstances. Aaron’s two sons, most probably intoxicated
at the time, were suddenly cut off by Divine judgment. Their father had no
warning to prepare him for this trial; yet he “held his peace!” O quarrel not
against Jehovah: be clay in the hands of the Potter: take Christ’s yoke upon
you, and learn of Him who was “meek and lowly in heart.”
3. It signifies an acknowledgment of God’s righteousness and wisdom in
all His dealings with us. We must vindicate God. This is what the Psalmist
did:
“I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in
faithfulness hast afflicted me” (

Psalm 119:75).
Let us see to it that Wisdom is ever justified by her children: let our
confession of her be,
“Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and upright are Thy judgments”
(

Psalm 119:137).
Whatever be sent, we must vindicate the Sender of all things: the Judge of
all the earth cannot do wrong. Stifle, then, the rebellious murmur, What
have I done to deserve such treatment by God? and say with the Psalmist,.61
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us
according to our iniquities” (

Psalm 103:10).
Why, my reader, if God dealt with us only according to the strict rule of
His justice, we had been in Hell long ago:
“If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark (“impute”) iniquities, O Lord, who
shall stand?” (

Psalm 130:3).
The Babylonian captivity was the severest affliction which God ever
brought upon His earthly people during O.T. times, yet even then a
renewed heart acknowledged God’s righteousness in it:
“Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty and the terrible
God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem
little before Thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our
princes, and our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers,
and on all Thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto
this day. Howbeit Thou art just in all that is brought upon us: for
Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly” (

Nehemiah
9:32, 33).
God’s enemies may talk of His injustice; but let His children proclaim His
righteousness. Because God is good, He can do nothing but what is right
and good.
4. It includes a recognition of His care and a sense of His love. There is a
sulking submission, and there is a cheerful submission. There is a fatalistic
submission which takes this attitude — this is inevitable, so I must bow to
it; and there is a thankful submission, receiving with gratitude whatever
God may be pleased to send us.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy
statutes” (

Psalm 119:71).
The Psalmist viewed his chastisements with the eye of faith, and doing so
he perceived the love behind them. Remember that when God brings His
people into the wilderness it is that they may learn more of His sufficiency,
and that when He casts them into the furnace, it is that they may enjoy
more of His presence.
5. It involves an active performance of His will. True submission unto the
“Father of spirits” is something more than a passive thing. The other.62
meanings of this expression which we have considered above are more or
less of a negative character, but there is a positive and active side to it as
well, and it is important that this should be recognized by us. To be “in
subjection” to God also means that we are to walk in His precepts and run
in the way of His commandments. Negatively, we are not to be murmuring
rebels; positively, we are to be obedient children. We are required to be
submissive unto God’s Word, so that our thoughts are formed and our
ways regulated by it. There is not only a suffering of God’s will, but a
doing of it — an actual performance of duty. When we utter that petition
in the prayer which the Savior has given us, “Thy will be done,” something
more is meant than a pious acquiescence unto the pleasure of the Almighty:
it also signifies, may Thy will be performed by me. Subjection “unto the
Father of spirits,” then, is the practical owning of His Lordship.
Two reasons for such subjection are suggested in our text. First, because
the One with whom we have to do is our Father. O how profoundly
thankful we should be that the Lord God stands revealed to us as the
“Father” — our Father, because the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, and He rendered perfect obedience unto Him. It is but right and
meet that children should honor their parents by being in complete
subjection to them: not to do so is to ignore their relationship, despise their
authority, and slight their love. How much more ought we to be in
subjection unto our heavenly Father: there is nothing tyrannical about Him:
His commandments are not grievous: He has only our good at heart.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,
that we should be called the sons of God” (

1 John 3:1),
then let us earnestly endeavor to express our gratitude by dutifully walking
before Him as obedient children, and no matter how mysterious may be His
dealings with us, say with the Savior,
“The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”
(

John 18:11).
The particular title of God found in our text calls for a brief comment. It is
placed in antithesis from “fathers of our flesh,” which has reference to their
begetting of our bodies. True, our bodies also are a real creation on the
part of God, yet in connection therewith He is pleased to use human
instrumentalities. But in connection with the immaterial part of our beings,
God is the immediate and alone Creator of them. As the renowned Owen.63
said, “The soul is immediately created and infused; having no other father
but God Himself,” and rightly did that eminent theologian add, “This is the
fundamental reason of our perfect subjection unto God in all afflictions,
namely, that our very souls are His, the immediate product of His Divine
power, and under his rule alone. May He not do as He wills with His
own?” The expression “Father of spirits,” refutes, then, the error of
traducianists, who suppose that the soul, equally with the body, is
transmitted by our parents. In

Numbers 16:22 He is called “the God of
the spirits of all flesh” which refers to all men naturally; while the “Father
of spirits” in our text includes the new nature in the regenerate.
The second reason for our subjection to the Father is, because this is the
secret of true happiness, which is pointed out in the final words of our text
“and live.” The first meaning of those words is, “and be happy.” This is
clear from

Deuteronomy 5:33,
“Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath
commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you,
and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall
possess:”
observe the words “prolong your days” are added to “that ye may live,”
which obviously signifies “that ye may be happy” — compare

Exodus
10:17, where Pharaoh called the miseries of the plagues “this death.” Life
ceases to be life when we are wretched. It is the making of God’s will our
haven, which secures the true resting-place for the heart. The rebellious are
fretful and miserable, but
“great peace have they which love Thy law and nothing shall offend
them” (

Psalm 119:165).
“Take My yoke upon you,” said Christ, “and ye shall find rest unto your
souls.” Alas, the majority of professing Christians are so little in subjection
to God, they have just enough religion to make them miserable.
“Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and
live?” No doubt words of this verse point these to a designed contrast
from

Deuteronomy 21:18-21,
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey
the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when
they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his.64
father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the
elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place… And all the men
of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.”
“The increase of spiritual life in this world, and eternal life in the
world to come, is that whereunto they (the words “and live”) tend”
(John Owen)..65
CHAPTER 91
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:10)
Would any Christian in his right mind dare to pray, Let me not be afflicted,
no matter what good it should do me? And if he were unwilling and afraid
to pray thus, why should he murmur when it so falls out? Alas, what a wide
breach there is, usually, between our praying and the rest of our conduct.
Again; if our rescuer dislocated our shoulder when pulling us out of the
water in which we were drowning, would we be angry with him? Of course
not. Then why fret against the Lord when He afflicts the body in order to
better the soul? If God takes away outward comforts and fills us with
inward peace, if he removes our worldly wealth but imparts to us more of
the true riches, then, instead of having ground for complaint, we have an
abundant cause for thanksgiving and praise. Then why should I fear to
enter the dark shaft of tribulation if persuaded that it leads to the gold
mines of spiritual experience.
In Scripture, afflictions are compared to fire that purges away the dross
(

1 Peter 1:7), to the fan which drives away the chaff (

Matthew
3:12), to a pruning-hook which cuts off superfluous branches and makes
more fruitful the others that remain (

John 15:2), to physic that purges
away poisonous matter (

Isaiah 27:9), to plowing and harrowing the
ground that it may be prepared to receive good seed (Jerermiah 4:3). Then
why should we be so upset when God is pleased to use the fire upon us in
order to remove our dross, to employ the fan so as to winnow away the
chaff, to take the pruning-hook to lop off the superfluities of our souls, to
give us physic to purge out our corruptions and filth, to drive the plow into
us so as to break up our fallow ground and to destroy the weeds which
grow in our souls? Should we not rather rejoice that He will not leave us
alone in our carnality, but rather fit us to become partakers of His holiness?
A little child requires much coaxing (at times, something more!) in order to
make him take his medicine. He may be very ill, and mother may earnestly
assure him that the unpleasant potion will bring sure relief; but the little one.66
cries out, “I cannot take it, it is so nasty.” But adults, generally, need not
have the doctor argue and plead with them: they will swallow the bitterest
remedy if convinced that it will do them good. The application of this to
spiritual matters is obvious. Those Christians who are but spiritual babes,
fret and fume when called upon to endure Divine chastisement, knowing
not the gains they will receive if it be accepted in the right spirit. But those
who have grown in grace, and become men in Christ, who know that all
things work together for good to them that love God, and who have
learned by experience the precious fruits which issue from sanctified
afflictions, accept from God the bitterest cup, and thank Him for it.
But alas, many of God’s people are but infants experimentally, and need
much coaxing to reconcile them to the cup of trial. Therefore is it needful
to present to our consideration one argument after another. Such is the
case here in Hebrews 12: if one line of reasoning does not suffice, perhaps
another will. The Christian is very skeptical and takes much convincing.
We have heard a person say to one who claims he has done, or can do,
some remarkable thing, “You must show me before I will believe you.”
Most of us are very much like that in connection with spiritual things.
Though the Scriptures assure us, again and again, that chastisement
proceeds from our Father’s love, and is designed for our good, yet we are
slow, very slow, to really believe it. Therefore does the apostle here
proceed from one consideration to another so as to assure the hearts and
establish the faith of his afflicted brethren upon this important subject.
O that our hearts might be so taught by the Spirit, our understandings so
enlightened, our faith so strengthened by Him, that we would be more
grateful and increasingly thankful for the merciful discipline of our Father.
What a proof of His love is this, that in His chastening of us, His object is
to bring us nearer Himself and make us more like His blessed Son. The
more highly we prize health, the more willing are we to take that which
would cure our sickness; and the more we value holiness (which is the
health of our souls) the gladder shall we be for that which is a means to
increase the same in us. We are on a low plane of spiritual experience, if
we do nothing more than simply “bow” to God’s hand. Scripture says,
“Giving thanks always, for all things unto God and the Father in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (

Ephesians 5:20);
and again it exhorts us “Rejoice in the Lord alway” (

Philippians 4:4).
We are to “glory in tribulation” (

Romans 5:3), and we shall when we.67
perceive more clearly and fully what blessed fruits are brought forth under
the pruning knife.
“For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but
He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (v. 10). This
is a continuation of what was before us in the previous verse. A further
reason is given why Christians should be “in subjection unto” their
heavenly Father, when His correcting rod is laid upon them. Not only is it
becoming for them so to do, because of the relationship which exists
between them: but it is also meet they should act thus, because of the gains
they receive thereby. The consideration which the apostle now presents to
the attention of the afflicted saints is really a double one.
First, the chastisement we received from our earthly parents had reference
mainly to our good in this life, whereas the disciplinary dealings of our
heavenly Father looks forward to the life to come (

2 Corinthians 4:17).
Second, the chastisement of our earthly parents was often a matter of their
caprice and sometimes issued from irritability of temper, but the rod of our
heavenly Father is wielded by infinite goodness and wisdom, and has in
view our well being.
We regard the words “for they verily for a few days chastened us” as
referring not so much to the brief season of our childhood, but more to the
fact that our parents had only our temporal interests in view: whereas God
has our eternal welfare before Him. “The apostle seems to bring in this
circumstance to contrast the dealings of earthly parents with those of God.
One of the circumstances is, that the corrections of earthly parents had a
much less important object than those of God. They related to this life — a
life so brief that it may be said to continue but a “few days.” Yet, in order
to secure the benefit to be derived for so short a period from fatherly
correction, we submitted without murmuring. Much more cheerfully ought
we to submit to that discipline from the hand of our heavenly Father which
is designed to extend its benefits through eternity” (A. Barnes).
The added words “after their own pleasure” or “as seemed good” to them,
points another contrast between the disciplinary dealings of our earthly
parents and those of our heavenly Father. In their infirmity, sometimes the
rod was used upon us in a fit of anger, rather than from a loving desire to
reform our manners..68
“Meaning that it was sometimes clone arbitrarily, or under the
influence of passion. This is an additional reason why we should
submit to God. We submitted to our earthly parents, though their
correction was sometimes passionate, and was designed to gratify
their own pleasure rather than to promote our good. There is much
of this kind of punishment in families; but there in none of it under
the administration of God. ‘But He for our profit:’ never from
passion, from caprice, from the love of power or superiority, but
always for our good” (A. Barnes).
Now the particular contribution which our present verse makes to the
subject of chastisement is, the apostle here makes known the general end
or design of God in the same, namely “our profit.” And let it be pointed
out that whatsoever He purposes must surely come to pass, for He will
make the means He employs effectual unto the accomplishment of His end.
Many are the blessings comprehended and various are the fruits produced
through and by means of Divine chastisement. This word “for our profit” is
a very embracing one, including the development of our characters, the
enrichment of our spiritual lives, a closer conformity to the image of Christ.
The same truth is found again in the “that we might be partakers of His
holiness:” that our lusts might be mortified, our graces vivified, our souls
sanctified. Whatever be the form, degree, or duration of our afflictions, all
is ordered by infinite wisdom so as to secure this object. But to
particularize: the benefits of Divine chastisement —
1. It weans us from the world. One of the greatest surprises of the writer’s
Christian life in connection with his fellow-saints has been, not their
ignorance, nor even their inconsistencies, but their earthliness, their
reluctance to leave this world. As “strangers and pilgrims” we should be
longing and yearning for our Heavenly Home; as those who are away from
Him whom they love best, we should desire to “depart and be with Him”
(

Philippians 1:23). Paul did. Christ has promised to return for His
people, yet how few of them are daily crying, “Even so, come, Lord
Jesus.” How rarely we hear them saying, in the language of the mother of
Sisera, “Why is His chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of His
chariot?’’
“And all the trials here we see
Should make us long to be with Thee.”.69
Scripture speaks of this world as a “dry and thirsty land, where no water
is” (

Psalm 63:1), and God intends for us to prove this in our
experiences. His Word also affirms that this world is a “dark place” (

2
Peter 1:19), and He means for us to discover that this is so.
One would think that after the soul had once seen the King in His beauty, it
would henceforth discover no attractions elsewhere. one would suppose
that once we had quenched our thirst at the Fountain of living waters, we
would no more want to drink from the unsatisfying and polluted cisterns of
this world. Surely now that we have experienced a taste and foretaste of
Heaven itself, we shall be repelled and nauseated by the poor husks this
world has to offer. But alas! the “old man” is still in us, unchanged; and
though Divine grace subdues his activities, still he is very much alive. It is
because of this that we are called on to “crucify the flesh with its affections
and lusts.” And this is not only an unpalatable, but a very hard task.
Therefore does God in His mercy help us: help us by chastenings, which
serve to loosen the roots of our souls downward and tighten the anchor-hold
of our hearts Heavenward.
This God does in various ways. Sometimes He causes us to lose our
confidence in and draw us away from fellowship with worldings by
receiving cruel treatment at their hands. “Come out from among them, and
be ye separate” is the Lord’s word to His people. But they are slow to
heed; oftentimes they must be driven out. So with worldly pleasures: God
often makes the grapes of earthly joys bitter to our taste, so that we should
no longer seek after them. It is earthly disappointments and worldly
disillusionments which make us sigh for our Heavenly Home. While the
Hebrews enjoyed the land of Goshen they were content: hard and cruel
bondage was needed to make them ready to leave for the promised land.
We were once familiar with a Christian who had formed a habit of meeting
each worldly difficulty or trial to the flesh by saying, “This is only another
nail in my coffin.” But that is a very gloomy way of viewing things: rather
should the children of God say after each trial or affliction, “That severs
another strand in the rope which binds me to this world, and makes me
long all the more for Heaven.
2. It casts us back the more upon God. By nature we are filled with a spirit
of independency. The fallen sons of Adam are like wild asses’ colts.
Chastisement is designed to empty us of our self-sufficiency, to make us
feel weakness and helplessness. If “in their affliction they will seek Me.70
early” (

Hosea 5:15), then surely afflictions are for our “profit.” Trials
and troubles often drive us to our knees; sickness and sorrow make us seek
unto the Lord. It is very noticeable in the four Gospels how rarely men and
women that were in health and strength sought out Christ; it was trouble
and illness which brought them to the great Physician. A nobleman came to
Christ — why? Because his son was at the point of death. Jairus sought
out the Master — why? Because his little daughter was so low. The
Canaanitish woman interviewed the Lord Jesus — why? On behalf of her
tormented daughter. The sisters of Lazarus sent a message to the absent
Savior — why? Because their brother was sick.
Afflictions may be very bitter, but they are a fine tonic for the soul, and are
a medicine which God often uses on us. Most vividly is this illustrated in
Psalm 107 — read carefully verses 11 to 28. Note that it is when men are
“brought down,” when they are “afflicted,” when they are “at their wits’
end” that they “cry unto the Lord in their trouble.” Yes, it is “trouble”
which makes us turn unto the Lord, not in a mechanical and formal way,
but in deep earnestness. Remember that it is the “effectual fervent prayer of
a righteous man that availeth much.” When you observe that the fire in
your room is getting dull, you do not always put on more coal, but simply
stir with the poker; so God often uses the black poker of adversity in order
that the flames of devotion may burn more brightly.
Ah, my brethren, all of us delight in being made to lie down in the “green
pastures” and being led beside the “still waters;” yet it would not be for
God’s glory nor for our own highest good to luxuriate spiritually at all
times. And why not? Because our hearts would soon be more occupied
with the blessings rather than with the Blesser Himself. Oftentimes the
sheep have to be brought into the dry and desolate wilderness, that they
may be made more conscious of their dependency upon the Shepherd. May
we not discern here one reason why some saints so quickly lose their
assurance: they are occupied more with their graces or comfortable
feelings than they are with the Giver of them. God is a jealous God, and
will not tolerate idols in the hearts of His people. A sense of our
acceptance in Christ is indeed a blessed thing, yet it becomes a hindrance if
it be treasured more highly than the Savior Himself.
3. It makes the promises of God more precious to us. Trouble often acts on
us like a sharp knife which opens the truth of God to us and our hearts
unto the truth. Experience unlocks passages which were otherwise closed..71
There is many a text in the Bible which no commentator can helpfully
expound to a child of God: it must be interpreted by experience. Paul
wrote his profoundest epistles while in prison; John was “in tribulation” on
Patmos when he received the Revelation. If you go down into a deep well
or mine in the daytime, you will then see the shining of stars which were
not visible from the earth’s surface; so God often brings us low in order
that we may perceive the shining beauty of some of His comforting
assurances. Note how Jacob, in Genesis 32, pleaded God’s promises when
he heard that Esau was approaching with four hundred men! The promises
of resurrection mean far more unto Christians when some of their loved
ones have been removed by death.
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and
through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest
through the fire, thou shalt not be burned” (

Isaiah 43:2)
means far more to afflicted souls than it can to those who are not under the
rod. So, too, the many “fear not” promises are most valued when our
strength fails us and we are ready to sink under despair. As the late C.H.
Spurgeon was wont to say,
“There are some verses written, as it were, in a secret ink, which
must be held before the fire of adversity before they become
visible.”
There are many passages in Job, the Psalms, and the Lamentations of
Jeremiah which do not appeal to one while the sun is shining; but which, in
times of adversity, are like the welcome beams of the moon on a dark
night. It was his painful thorn in the flesh which taught Paul the blessedness
of that text,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perefct in
weakness” (

2 Corinthians 12:9).
4. It qualifies us to sympathize with others. If we have never trod the vale
of sorrow and affliction we are really unable to “weep with those that
weep.” There are some surgeons who would be more tender if they had
suffered from broken bones themselves. If we have never known much
trouble, we can be but poor comforters to others. Even of our Savior it is
written,.72
“For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted He is able to
succor them that are tempted” (

Hebrews 2:18).
Bunyan could never have written the book which he did, unless God had
permitted the Devil to tempt and buffet him severely for so many years.
How clearly is all this brought out in

2 Corinthians 1:4:
“Who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to
comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith
we ourselves are comforted of God.”
Luther frequently said, “Three things make a good preacher: prayer,
meditation, and temptation.”
5. It demonstrates to us the blessedness and sufficiency of Divine grace.
“My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is make perfect in
weakness” (

2 Corinthians 12:9).
But in order to prove this, we have to be brought into the place of severe
testing and trial, and made to feel our own incompetency and nothingness.
Brethren, if you have prospered in business all your lives, and have always
had an easy time financially, then it is probable you know very little about
God’s strength being perfected in your weakness. If you have been healthy
all your lives and have never suffered much weakness and pain, then you
are not likely to know much about the strength of God. If you have never
been visited with trying situations which bring you to your wits’ end, or by
heartrending bereavements, you may not have discovered much of the
sufficiency of Divine grace. You have read about it in books, or heard
others speak of it, but this is a very different thing from having an
experimental acquaintance of it for yourself. It is much tribulation which
brings out the sufficiency of God’s strength to support under the severest
trials, and demonstrates that His grace can sustain the heart under the
heaviest losses.
It is in the stormiest weather that a captain gives most heed to the steering
of his ship; so it is in seasons of stress and grief that Christians pay most
attention to,
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that we
may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”
(

Hebrews 4:16)..73
If Israel had journeyed directly to Canaan, they would have missed the
tender care of Jehovah in the wilderness. If Lazarus had not died, Martha
and Mary would not have received such a demonstration of Christ as the
Resurrection and the Life. And if you, my brother, my sister, had not been
cast into the furnace of affliction, you would not have known the nearness
and preciousness of His presence with you there. Yes, God intends us to
prove the reality and sufficiency of His grace.
6. It develops our spiritual graces. This is clearly set forth in that familiar
passage

Romans 5:3-5:
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh
patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope
maketh not ashamed.”
This “rejoicing” is not in tribulations considered in themselves, but because
the Christian knows they are appointed by his Father, and because of their
beneficial effects. Three of these effects or spiritual graces thus developed
are here mentioned.
First, tribulation worketh “patience.” Patience never thrives except under
buffetings and disappointments: it is not even called into exercise while
things are going smoothly and pleasantly. Sanctified tribulations call into
activity that strength and fortitude which is evidenced by a submissive
endurance of suffering. The patience here referred to signifies deliverance
from murmuring, refusing to take things into our own hands (which only
causes additional trouble), a contented waiting for God’s time of
deliverance, and a persevering continuance in the path of duty.
Second, patience worketh experience, that is a vital experience of the
reality of what we profess; a personal acquaintance with that which before
we knew only theoretically; an experience of the sufficiency of Divine
grace to support and sustain; an experience of God’s faithfulness, that He
is “a very present help in trouble”; an experience of the preciousness of
Christ, such as the three Hebrews had in the furnace. The Greek word for
“experience” also means “the obtaining of proof.” The patient submission
which tribulation works in the saint proves both to him and to his brethren
the reality of his trust in God: it makes manifest the fact that the faith
which he professes is genuine. Instead of his faith being overcome, it
triumphs. The test of a ship is to weather the storm; so it is with faith. Real
faith ever says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”.74
Third, experience worketh hope. This is a grace which anticipates the
future. While circumstances are as we like them, our outlook is mainly
confined to the present: but sorrows and trials make us long for the future
bliss.
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest… so the Lord led Israel”
(

Deuteronomy 32:11, 12).
God removes us from our comfortable resting places for the purpose of
teaching us to use the wings of hope.
7. It brings us into fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. The cross is the
symbol of Christian discipleship. Like the scars which the wounded soldier
prizes above all other distinctions, so our sufferings are the proof of our
oneness with Christ (

Romans 8:17). Not only so, they make us
appreciate the more what He endured for us. While we have plenty, we
cannot properly estimate or appreciate the poverty which our Savior
endured. While we enjoy a comfortable bed we cannot truly sympathize
with Him who “had not where to lay His head.” It is not till some familiar
friend, on whom we counted, has basely betrayed our trust, that we can
enter into something of what the Savior suffered through the perfidy of
Judas. It is only when some brother has denied you, that you begin to
understand what Christ felt, when Peter denied Him. As we, in some small
measure, obtain an experimental acquaintance with such trials, it makes
Christ increasingly precious to us, and enables us to appreciate the more all
that He went through on our behalf. In a coming day we are going to share
His throne; now we are privileged to taste His cross.
If, then, trials and tribulations, under God, produce such delightful fruits,
then welcome chastisements that are for “our profit.” Let the rains of
disappointment come if they water the plants of spiritual graces. Let the
winds of adversity blow if they serve to root more securely in grace the
trees of the Lord’s planting. Let the sun of prosperity be eclipsed if this
brings us into closer communion with the Light of life. Oh, brethren and
sisters, however distasteful they are to the flesh, chastisements are not to
be dreaded, but welcomed, for they are designed to make us “partakers of
God’s holiness.”.75
CHAPTER 92
DIVINE CHASTISEMENT
(

HEBREWS 12:11)
One reason, perhaps, why so little is written to-day upon Divine
chastisement, and why it so rarely forms the theme of the pulpit, is because
it suits not the false temper and sentiments of this superficial age. The great
majority of the preachers are men-pleasers, and carefully do they trim their
sails to the breezes of popular opinion. They are paid to speak “smooth
things” and not those which will disturb, to soothe consciences rather than
search them. That which is unpalatable, mournful, solemn, dread-inspiring,
is sedulously avoided, and attractive, cheerful, and comforting subjects are
substituted in their stead. Hence, not only is it now rare for the preacher to
dwell upon the eternal punishment of the wicked and bid the unsaved flee
from the wrath to come, but Christians hear very little about the Father’s
rod, and the groans it occasions, or the fruits it afterwards produces. Fifty
years ago a faithful servant of God wrote:
“One of the platitudes of the present day is, that religion is not a
gloomy, but a cheerful thing. Although it is easy to see what was
meant by him who first opposed this assertion, either to morbid and
self-assumed gloom, or to the ignorant representation of the world;
yet as it is generally understood, nothing can be less true. Blessed
are they that mourn. Woe unto you that laugh. Narrow is the way.
If any man will serve Me, let him take up his cross, and follow Me.
He that seeketh his life shall lose it. Although the Christian anoints
his head and washes his face, he is always fasting; the will has been
broken by God, by wounding or bereaving us in our most tender
point; the flesh is being constantly crucified. We are not born to be
happy either in this world or in our present condition, but the
reverse to be unhappy; nay, to try constantly to be dead to self and
the world, that the spirit may possess God, and rejoice in Him.
“As there is a false and morbid asceticism, so there is also a false
and pernicious tendency to cover a worldly and shallow method of.76
life under the phrase of ‘religion being joyous, and no enemy to
cheerfulness.’ To take a very simple and obvious instance. What is
meant by a ‘cheerful, pleasant Sunday?’ No doubt men have erred
on the side of strictness and legalism; but is a ‘cheerful Sunday’ one
in which there is much communion with God in prayer and
meditation on God’s Word, much anticipation of the joys of
Heaven in praise and fellowship with the brethren? Alas! too many
understand by a cheerful Sunday a day in which the spiritual
element is reduced to a minimum” (Adolph Saphir).
Alas, that conditions have become so much worse since then. The
attractions of the world, and everything which is pleasing to the flesh, have
been brought into thousands of “churches” (?) under the plea of being
“necessary if the young people are to be held.” Even in those places where
the bars have not thus been let down, where the grosser forms of
worldliness are not yet tolerated, the preaching is generally of such a
character that few are likely to be made uneasy by it. He who dwells on the
exceeding sinfulness of sin, who insists that God will not tolerate unjudged
sin even in His own people, but will surely visit it with heavy stripes, is a
“kill joy,” a “troubler of Israel,” a “Job’s comforter”; and if he persists in
enforcing the precepts, admonitions, warnings, and judgments of Holy
Writ, is likely to soon find all doors dosed against him. But better this, than
be a compromiser; better be deprived of all preaching engagements, than
miss the Master’s “Well done” in the Day to come.
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but
grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of
righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (verse 11).
In this verse the apostle concludes his discussion of that theme which is
now so unwelcome to the majority of professing Christians. Therein he
brings to a close all that he had said concerning those disciplinary
afflictions which an all-wise God brings upon His people in this life, His
gracious design in the same, and the duty incumbent upon them to receive
these in a right spirit. He sums up his argument by balancing the good over
against the evil, the future over against the present, the judgment of faith
over against the feelings of the flesh.
Our present text is added to what has been said in the previous verses for
the purpose of anticipating and removing an objection. After all the
comforting and encouraging statements made, namely, that chastisements.77
proceed not from enemies but from our Father, that they are sent not in
anger but in love, that they are designed not to crush but “for our profit”;
carnal sense and natural reason interposes an objection: “But we find no
joy under our afflictions, instead much sorrow. We do not feel that they are
for our profit; we cannot see how they can be so; therefore we are much
inclined to doubt what you have said.” The apostle grants the force of the
objection: that for the present, chastening does “seem to be grievous and
not joyous.” But he brings in a double limitation or qualification: in
reference to outward sense, it only “seems” so; in reference to time, this is
only for “the present.” Having made this concession, the apostle turns to
the objector and says, “Nevertheless.’’ He reminds him that, first, there is
an “afterward” beyond the present moment, to be borne in mind; second,
he presses on him the need of being “exercised thereby”; third, he assures
him that if he is so exercised “peaceable fruit” will be the happy issue.
There are four things told us in the text about chastisement as it is viewed
by human reason.
1. All that carnal reason can perceive in our chastenings is BUT SEEMING.
All that flesh and blood can discover about the nature and quality of Divine
afflictions is but their outward and superficial appearance. The eye of
reason is utterly incapable of discovering the virtue and value of sanctified
trials. How often we are deceived by mere “seeming”! This is true in the
natural sphere: appearances are proverbially deceptive. There are many
optical illusions. Have you not noticed some nights when the sun is sinking
in the west, that it is much bigger than at its zenith? Yet it is not so in
reality; it only “seems” to be so. Have you stood on the deck of a ship in
mid-ocean and, while gazing at the horizon, suddenly been startled by the
sight of land? — the outline of the coast, with the rising hills in the
background, there deafly defined? Yet after all, it was but “seeming”; it
was nothing but clouds. In like manner, you have read of a mirage seen by
travelers in the desert: away over the sands, they see in the distance green
trees and a shining pool of water; but this is only an optical delusion,
effected in some way by the atmosphere.
Now if this be so in connection with natural things, the “seeming” not
being the actual, the apparent not being the reality, how much more is it
true in connection with the things of God! Afflictions are not what they
“seem” to be. They appear to work for our ill, and not for our good; so
that we are inclined to say, “An enemy hath done this.” They seem to be
for our injury, rather than our “profit,” and we murmur and are cast down..78
So often fear distorts our vision; so often unbelief brings scales over our
eyes, and we exaggerate the dimensions of trials in the dark and dim light.
So often we are selfish, fond of our fleshly ease; and therefore spiritual
discernment falls to a low ebb. No, chastenings for the present do not seem
to be joyous, but “grievous”; but that is because we view them through our
natural senses and in the light of carnal reason.
2. Carnal reason judges afflictions in the light of the PRESENT. The
tendency with all of us is to estimate things in the light of the now. The
ungodly are ever ready to sacrifice their future interests for present
gratification. One of their favorite mottos is, “A bird in the hand is worth
two in the bush:” it may be to the slothful, but the enterprising and diligent
would rather be put to a little trouble and secure the two. Man is a very
shortsighted creature, and even the Christian is often dominated by the
same sentiments that regulate the wicked. The light of the now is generally
the worst in which to form a true estimate of things. We are too close to
them to obtain a right perspective, and see things in their proper
proportions. To view an oil painting to the best advantage, we need to step
back a few feet from it. The same principle applies to our lives. Proof of
this is found as we now look back upon that which is past. Today the
Christian discovers a meaning, a needs-be, a preciousness, in many a past
experience, and even disappointment, which he could not discern at the
time.
The case of Jacob is much to the point, and should guard us against
following his foolish example. After Joseph had been removed from his
doting father, and when he thought he had lost Simeon too, viewing things
in the light of “the present,” he petulantly said, “All these things are against
me” (

Genesis 42:36). Such is often the mournful plaint which issues
from our short-sighted unbelief. But later, Jacob discovered his mistake,
and found that all those things had been working together for good to
himself and his loved ones. Alas, we are so impatient and impetuous, so
occupied with the present, that we fail to look forward and by faith
anticipate the happy sequel. Then, too, the effects which afflictions have
upon the old man, disqualify us to estimate them aright. If my heart is
palpitating, if my mind is agitated, and my soul is cast down, then I am in
no fit state to judge the quality and blessedness of Divine afflictions. No,
chastenings for the present do not “seem to be joyous, but grievous;” that
is because we take such a shortsighted view of them and fail to look
forward with the eyes of faith and hope..79
3. To carnal reason afflictions never seem “joyous.” This logically follows
from what has been before us under the first two points. Because carnal
reason sees only the “seeming” of things, and because it estimates them
only in the light of “the present,” afflictions are not joyous. Nor does God
intend that, in themselves, they should be. If afflictions did “seem” to be
joyous, would they be chastisements at all? It would be of little use for an
earthly parent to whip his child in such a way as to produce only smiles.
Such would be merely a make-belief; no smart, no benefit. Solomon said,
“It is the blueness of the wound which maketh the heart better;” so if
Divine chastisements are not painful to the flesh and extort a groan and
cry, what good end would they serve? If God sent us trials such as we
wished, they would not be chastenings at all. No, afflictions do not “seem”
to be joyous.
They are not joyous in the form they assume. When the Lord smites, He
does so in a tender place, that we may feel the smart of it. They are not
joyous in the force of them. Oftentimes we are inclined to say, If the trial
had not been quite so severe, or the disappointment had not been so great,
I could have endured it. God puts just so much bitter herbs into our cup as
to make the draught unpleasant. They are not joyous in the time of them.
We always think they come at the wrong season. If it were left to our
choosing, they would never come; but if we must have them, we would
choose the time when they are the least grievous; and thus miss their
blessing. Nor are they joyous in the instruments used: “If it were an enemy,
then I could have borne it,” said David. That is what we all think. O if my
trial were not just that! Poverty I could endure, but not reproach and
slander. To have lost my own health would have been a hard blow, but I
could have borne it; but the removal of that dear child, the light of my eyes,
how can I ever rejoice again? Have you not heard brethren speak thus?
4. To carnal reason afflictions ever seem to be “grievous.” Probably the
most grievous part to the Christian is that he cannot see how much a loss
or trial can possibly benefit him. If he could thus see, he would rejoice.
Even here we must walk by faith and not by sight. But this is easier said
than done; yea, it can only be done by God’s enabling. Usually, the
Christian altogether fails to see why such a trouble is sent upon him; it
seems to work harm and not good. Why this financial loss, when he was
giving more to the Lord’s work? Why this breakdown in health, when he
was being most used in His service? Why this removal of a Sabbath school
teacher, just when he was most needed? why was my husband called away,.80
when the children most required him? Yes, such afflictions are indeed
grievous to the flesh.
But let it be pointed out that these reasonings are only “seeming.” The
Christian, by grace, eventually triumphs. Faith looks up at the cloud
(though it is often very late in doing so) and says, The chastisement was
not as severe as it might have been, certainly it was not as severe as I
deserved, and truly it was nothing in comparison to what the Savior
suffered for me. O let faith expel carnal reason, and say, “For our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory.” But note carefully that this is only
while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things
which are not seen” (

2 Corinthians 4:17, 18).
For much in the above four points the writer acknowledges his
indebtedness to a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon on the same verse.
“Nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness
unto them which are exercised thereby.” This is what the apostle sets over
against the estimate of carnal reason and the feelings of our natural senses.
Medicine may not be a pleasant thing to take, but if it be blest by God, the
renewed health it gives is good compensation. The pruned vine at the end
of the winter presents a sorry appearance to the eye, but its heavily-laden
branches in the autumn vindicate the gardener’s efforts. Did not the
“afterward” prove to Jacob that his doleful reasonings were quite
unwarranted? Job squirmed under the rod, as well he might, but was not
his end more prosperous than his beginning? Thank God for this
“Nevertheless afterward.”
Yet this “afterward” is also a very searching word: it is one which should
pierce and test each of us. Have we not all passed through sorrow? Can
any of us look back on the past without recalling seasons of deep and
heavy affliction? Has no sword pierced our souls? no painful sacrifice been
demanded of us? But, my reader, do these experiences belong to the past in
every sense? Have they gone, disappeared, without leaving any effects
behind them? No, that is impossible: we are either the better or the worse
because of them. Then ask yourself, What fruits have they produced? Have
your past experiences hardened, soured, frozen you? Or have they
softened, sweetened, mellowed you? Has pride been subdued, self-pleasing.81
been mortified, patience developed? How have afflictions, chastisements,
left us? What does the “afterward” reveal?
Not all men are the gainers by afflictions; nor are Christians so always.
Many seek to flee from trials and troubles, instead of being “exercised”
thereby. Others are callous and do not yield: as

Hebrews 12:5 intimates,
they “despised” the chastenings of the Lord. There are some who imagine
that, when visited with affliction, it is a display of courage if they refuse to
be affected. They count it weakness to mourn over losses and weep over
sorrows. But such an attitude is altogether un-Christian. Christ wept and
again and again we are told that He “groaned.” Such an attitude is also
foolish to the last degree, for it is calculated to counteract the very design
of afflictions, and only calls for severer ones to break our proud spirits. It is
no mark of weakness to acknowledge that we feel the strokes of an
Almighty arm.
It is the truest wisdom to humble ourselves beneath “the mighty hand of
God.” If we are among His people, He will mercifully compel us to
acknowledge that His chastenings are not to be despised and made light of.
He will — and O how easily He can do it — continue or increase our
afflictions until He tames our wild spirits, and brings us like obedient
children into subjection to Himself. What a warning is found in

Isaiah
9:9-11.
“And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitants of
Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are
fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are
cut down, but we will change them into cedars. Therefore the Lord
shall set up the Adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his
enemies together.”
This means that, because the people had hardened themselves under the
chastening hand of God, instead of being “exercised” thereby, that He sent
sorer afflictions upon them.
The ones benefited by the Father’s chastenings are they who are “exercised
thereby.” The Greek word for “exercised” was borrowed from the
gymnastic games. It had reference to the athlete stripping himself of his
outer clothing. Thus, this word in our text is almost parallel with the
“laying aside of every weight” in 5:1. If afflictions cause us to be stripped
of pride, sloth, selfishness, a revengeful spirit, then “fruit” will be.82
produced. It is only as we improve our chastenings, that we are gainers.
The natural effect of affliction on an unsanctified soul is either to irritate or
depress, which produces rebellion or sinking in despair. This is the result of
hardness of heart and unbelief. Even with regard to the Christian it is true
that, only as he views them as proceeding from his Father in order to bring
him into subjection, and as he is “exercised thereby,” he is truly profited.
1. The conscience needs to be “exercised.” There must be a turning unto
the Sender of our trials, and a seeking from Him of the meaning and
message of them.
“There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after
year; and David inquired of the Lord” (

2 Samuel 21:1)!
So should we when the providences of God frown upon us. There must be
an honest self-examination, a diligent scrutiny of our ways, to discover
what it is God is displeased with. Careful investigation will often show that
much of our supposed godly zeal in service is but the result of habit, or the
imitating of some eminent saint, instead of proceeding from the heart, and
being rendered “unto the Lord.”
2. Prayer has to be “exercised” or engaged in. It is true that painful
afflictions have a tendency to stifle the voice of supplication, that one who
is smarting under the rod feels little inclination to approach the Throne of
Grace, but this carnal disposition must be steadily resisted, and the help of
the Holy Spirit definitely sought. The heavier our load, the more depressed
our heart, the sorer our anguish, the greater our need to pray. God requires
to be sought unto for grace to submit to His dealings, for help to improve
the same, for Him to sanctify unto our good all that perplexes and
distresses us.
3. The grace of meekness must be “exercised,” for “a meek and quiet
spirit” is of “great price” in the sight of Him with whom we have to do
(

1 Peter 3:4). Meekness is the opposite of self-will and hardness of
heart. It is a pliability of soul, which is ready to be fashioned after the
Divine image. It is a holy submission, willing to be molded as the Heavenly
Potter determines. There can be no “peaceable fruit of righteousness” until
our wills are broken, and we have no mind of our own. How much we
need to heed that word of Christ’s,
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek”
(

Matthew 11:29)..83
4. Patience must be “exercised.” Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for
Him” (

Psalm 37:7): “wait” for His time of deliverance, for if we attempt
to deliver ourselves, we are very likely to plunge into deeper trials. Fruit is
not ripened in a day; nor do the benefits of chastisements appear
immediately. Patience must have her perfect work if the soul is to be
enriched by afflictions. In the interval of waiting, allow nothing to deter
your plodding perseveringly along the path of duty.
5. Faith must be “exercised.” God’s hand must be seen in every trial and
affliction if it is to be borne with meekness and patience. While we look no
further than the malice of Satan, or the jealousy, enmity, injustice of men,
the heart will be fretful and rebellious. But if we receive the cup from the
Father’s hand, our passions will be calmed and the inward tumult stilled.
Only by the exercise of faith will the soul be brought into a disposition to
quietly submit, and digest the lessons we are intended to learn.
6. Hope must be “exercised.” As faith looks upward and sees God’s hand
in the trial, hope is to look forward and anticipate the gains thereof. Hope
is a confident expectation of future good. It is the opposite of despair.
Hope lays hold of the promised “Afterward,” and thus it sustains and
cheers in the present. Hope assures the cast-down soul “I shall yet praise
Him for the help of His countenance” (

Psalm 42:5). “But the God of all
grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that
ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you”
(

1 Peter 5:10).
7. Love must be “exercised.” It is the Father’s love which chastens us
(verse 5); then ought not we to love Him in return for His care and patient
training of us? Instead of doubting His wisdom or questioning His
goodness, there should be an affectionate gratitude flowing out to the One
who is seeking naught but our welfare.
“We can never find any benefit in chastenings, unless we are
exercised by them, that is, unless all our graces are stirred up by
them to a holy, constant exercise” (John Owen)
— how different that, from the fatalistic inertia of many hyper-Calvinists!
What we have sought to bring out above is the fact that spiritual “fruit” is
not the natural or spontaneous effect of affliction. Nay, have we not
observed that few of those who suffer severe financial reverses, heavy
domestic bereavements, or personal bodily pain, are, spiritually, the gainers.84
thereby. Yea, do we need to look any further than ourselves, to perceive
how little we have learned by and profited from past trials? And the cause
is plain: we were not duly exercised thereby. May this word abide with
each of us for the future.
What is meant by “the peaceable fruit of righteousness”? If we took this
expression by itself, it would signify the effects of righteousness, the fruit
which righteousness itself brings forth. But in our text it is chastenings or
afflictions which are specifically mentioned as producing this fruit. It is the
Spirit tranquilizing and purifying the heart. “Righteousness” in our text is
parallel with “His holiness” in verse 10. It may be summed up in the
mortification of sin and the vivification of vital godliness. It is called the
“peaceable fruit” because it issues in the taming of our wild spirits, the
quieting of our restless hearts, the more firm anchoring of our souls. But
this only comes when we truly realize that it is the Father’s love which has
afflicted us. May the Spirit of God grant us all “exercised” hearts, so that
we shall daily search ourselves, examine our ways, and be stripped of all
that is displeasing to Him..85
CHAPTER 93
A CALL TO STEADFASTNESS
(

HEBREWS 12:12, 13)
The didactic (teaching) portions of Scripture are very much more than
abstract statements of truth: they are designed not only for the instructing
of the mind, but also for the influencing of the heart. This is far too little
recognized in our day, when the craving for information is so often
divorced from any serious concern as to the use to be made of the same.
This, no doubt, is one of the evil fruits borne by the modern school-methods,
where instead of seeking to draw out (the meaning of the word
“educate”) and de-velope the mind of the pupil, he is made to “cram” or fill
his head with a mass of facts and figures, most of which are of no service
to him in the later life. Not such is God’s method. His method of
instruction is to set before us moral and spiritual principles, and then show
us how to apply them in a practical way; inculcate a motive, and thereby
call into exercise our inward faculties. Hence, the test of Christian
knowledge is not how much we understand, but how far our knowledge is
affecting our lives.
It is one thing to possess a clear intellectual grasp of the doctrines of grace,
it is quite another to experience the grace of the doctrines in a spiritual
way. It is one thing to believe the Scriptures are the inspired and inerrant
Word of God, it is another for the soul to live under the awe of their
Divine authority, realizing that one day we shall be judged by them. It is
one thing to be convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the King of
kings and Lord of lords, it is another to surrender to His scepter and live in
personal subjection to Him. What does it profit me to be convinced that
God is omnipotent, unless I am learning to lean upon His mighty arm?
What avail is it to me that I am assured of God’s omniscience unless the
knowledge that His eye is ever upon me acts as a salutary restraint to my
actions? What does it advantage me to know that without holiness no man
shall see the Lord, unless I am making the acquirement of holiness my chief
concern and aim!.86
That which has been pointed out above has to do with no obscure and
intricate subject which lies far above the reach of the rank and file of the
common people, but is plain, self-evident, simple. Alas, that our hearts are
so little impressed by it and our consciences so rarely exercised over it.
When we measure ourselves by that standard, have we not all of us much
cause to hang our heads in shame? Our intellects are stored with Scripture
truth, but how little are our lives moulded thereby. Our doctrinal views are
sound and orthodox, but how little we know experimentally of “the truth
which is after godliness” (

Titus 1:1). Has not the Savior much ground
for saying to both writer and reader,
“Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
(

Luke 6:46).
O that we may be duly humbled over our sad failures.
The above reflections have been suggested by the use which the apostle
makes in our text of the subject he had been discussing in the previous
verses. His opening “Wherefore” denotes that he was now going to make a
practical application unto those whom he was writing to of the exposition
just given of the truth of Divine chastisement. In this we may see him
following out the course he pursued in all his epistles, and which the
servants of God are required to emulate today. No matter what was the
doctrine under consideration, the apostle always turned it to a practical
end, as his oft-repeated “Therefore” and “Wherefore” intimate. Was he
contending for the Christian’s emancipation from the ceremonial law, then
he adds,
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us
free” (

Galatians 5:1).
Was he opening up the glorious truth of resurrection, then he concludes
with
“therefore… be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the
work of the Lord” (

1 Corinthians 15:58).
Was he setting forth the blessed hope of Christ’s return, then he finishes
with
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words”
(

1 Thessalonians 4:18)..87
It is this which urgently needs to be laid to heart — the use we make of the
precious truths which the Most High has so graciously revealed to us. That
is (partly, at least) what the Savior had in mind when He said, “Take heed
therefore how ye hear” (

Luke 8:18) — see to it that your hearts are
duly affected, so that the truth will regulate all your conduct. It is not
sufficient that I assume a reverent demeanor when attending the means of
grace, that I pay close attention to what I hear: it is the assimilation of the
same, so that I go forth and live under the power thereof, which is the all-important
matter. The same is true of our reading; it is not the book which
adds to my store of information, or which entertains and thrills, but the one
which stirs me up to godly living, which proves the most helpful. So it is
with our response to the Scriptures, it is not how many difficult passages
do I have light upon, nor how many verses have I memorized, but how
many of its commands and percepts am I honestly endeavoring to obey.
This is the keynote struck by the apostle in the verses which are now to
engage our attention. He had thrown not a little light on the distressing
circumstances in which the Hebrews then found themselves, namely, the
bitter persecution they were encountering at the hands of their unbelieving
countrymen. He had pointed out that so far from their afflictions being
exceptional, and a warrantable ground for consternation, they were, in
some form or other, the common portion of all God’s people, while they
are left in this scene. He had set before them some most blessed truths,
which were well calculated to strengthen their faith, comfort their hearts,
and raise their drooping spirits. He had given an exposition of the
subjection of Divine chastisement, such as must bring peace and
consolation to all who mix faith therewith. He had silenced every objection
which could well be made against the duty to which he had called them.
And now he presses upon them the practical profit to which they must turn
the doctrine inculcated.
“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble
knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame
be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (verses 12,
13).
Here we have,
First, the conclusion drawn from the preceding premises.
Second, the several duties enjoined..88
Third, the reason by which they are enforced. The duties are expressed in
figurative language, yet in such terms as the meaning is not difficult to
perceive. The enforcing reason or motive for compliance is taken from the
evil effects which a non-compliance of one’s duty would have upon others,
which plainly inculcates the importance and value of personal example, and
the influence which it exerts upon our fellows.
“Wherefore” means, in view of what has been said: because of the
preceding considerations a certain course of conduct ought to follow.
There is, we believe, a double reference in this opening “wherefore,”
namely, an immediate and a remote one. Immediately, it connects with the
preceding verse, the most important word of which is “exercised.” The
apostle was alluding again to the well-known Grecian “Games.” In the
gymnasium, the instructor would challenge the youth to combat. He was an
experienced man, and knew how to strike, guard, wrestle. Many severe
blows would the combatants receive from him, but it was part of their
training, preparing them for their future appearance in the public contests.
The youth whose athletic frame was prepared for the coming great venture,
would boldly step forward, willing to be “exercised” by his trainer; but he
who shirked the trial and refused to encounter the master, received no help
at his hands; but the fault was entirely his own.
This, it seems to us, is the figure carried forward in our text; “Now no
chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless
afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which
are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down.” The
Christian who gives way before trial, who sinks under affliction, who sulks
or repines beneath persecution, will bring forth none of the “peaceable fruit
of righteousness.” If he “faints” under chastisement, if his hands become
idle and his legs no longer capable of supporting him, a profitable use
cannot be made of the tribulation through which he is called upon to pass.
Then let him pull himself together, gird up the loins of his mind and
“endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (

2 Timothy 2:3).
Let his attitude be, Now is the time of my training, so I will seek to play
the man; I will seek grace from God to muster all my faith and courage and
valiantly wrestle with whatever opposes and oppresses me.
More remotely, our opening “Wherefore” looks back unto all that has been
said in the previous verses. Hebrews 12 opens with a stirring call for God’s
people to persevere in the course of Christian duty, to go forward in the.89
spiritual life, no matter what impediments might stand in their way; to “run
with patience (or perseverance) the race which is set before us,” drawing
strength from the Christ for enablement (verses 1, 2). Then he anticipated
an objection: We are being sorely oppressed, tempted to renounce our
profession, hounded by our unbelieving brethren. To this he replies,
Consider your Master, who went before you in the same path of suffering
(verse 3). Bear in mind that your lot has not become extreme: ye have not
yet been called upon to experience a martyr’s death (verse 4). Furthermore,
you are losing sight of that scriptural exhortation, “My son, despise not
thou the chastening of the Lord” (verse 5). This led the apostle to open to
them, in a most precious manner, the whole subject of Divine chastisement.
Let us present a brief summary of the same.
The trials through which the children of God are called upon to pass are
not Divine punishments, but gracious discipline designed for their good.
We are expressly bidden “not to faint” beneath them (verse 5). The rod is
wielded not in wrath, but in tender solicitude, and is a manifestation not of
God’s anger but of His love (verse 6). Our duty then is to “endure”
chastening as becometh the children of God (verse 7). To be without
chastisement, so far from being an evidence of our spiritual sonship, would
demonstrate we were not sons at all (verse 8). Inasmuch as we gave
reverence to our earthly parents when they corrected us, how much more
ought we to be in subjection to our heavenly Father (verse 9). God’s
design in our afflictions is our “profit,” that by them we might become
increasingly “partakers of His holiness” in an experimental way. Though
these chastenings are unpleasant to flesh and blood, nevertheless “the
peaceable fruit of righteousness” issues therefrom when we are suitably
“exercised thereby” (verse 11).
Now from these considerations a very obvious conclusion is drawn, and by
them a bounden duty is enforced. In view of the “great cloud of witnesses”
by which we are encompassed (verse 1), seeing that the saints of other
days — in themselves as weak, as sinful, as much oppressed by the world
as we are — fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished their course,
let us gird ourselves for the contest and strain every effort to persevere in
the path of duty. In view of the fact that our Leader, the Captain of our
salvation, has left us such an example of heroic endurance (verse 3), let us
earnestly seek to follow His steps and acquit ourselves like men. Finally,
because God Himself is the Author and Regulator of our trials — the
severest of our chastenings proceed from a loving Father, seeking our.90
good — then let us not be cast down by the difficulties of the way nor
discouraged by the roughness of the path; but let us nerve ourselves to
steadfastness in the faith and fidelity to our Redeemer.
Thus the coherence of our opening “Wherefore” is perfectly obvious and
the duty it presses so plain that there cannot be misunderstanding. In view
of all the above-mentioned considerations, and particularly in view of the
fact that the most precious fruits issue from afflictions when we are duly
“exercised” by them, then let us not be dejected in our minds nor faint in
our spirits by reason thereof. As the champions in the public “Games” used
their hands and arms to the very best of their ability, and as the runners in
the races used their legs and knees to the best possible effect — and in case
their hands and knees began to fail and flag, exerted their wills to the
utmost to rouse up their members to renewed effort — so should we be
very courageous, zealous and active, and in case our hearts begin to fail us
through multiplied discouragements, we must marshal all our resolution
and strive prayerfully and manfully against giving way to despair.
“Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down.” The duty here enjoined is
set forth in figurative language, but the meaning is nonetheless obvious
because of the graphic metaphors used. The apostle transferred unto
members of our physical body the condition in which the faculties of our
souls are liable to fall under certain trials. For the hands to hang down and
the knees to become feeble are figurative expressions, denoting the
tendency to abandon the discharge of our Christian duty because of the
opposition encountered. For the hands of a boxer or fencer to hang down
means that his arms are become weary to the point of exhaustion; for the
knees to be feeble signifies that through the protracted exertions of the
runner his legs have been debilitated by their nervous energy being spent.
The spiritual reference is to a decay in the Christian’s courage and
resolution. Two evils produce this: despondency as to success — when
hope is gone effort ceases; weariness in the performance of duty.
This same figure is employed in other passages of Scripture. In

Ezekiel
7:16, 17 we read,
“But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the
mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every
one for his iniquity. All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be
as weak as water:”.91
here the reference is to that inertia which is produced by poignant
conviction of sin after a season of backsliding. Again, in

Ezekiel 21:7
we are told,
“When they shall say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou
shalt answer, For the tidings, because it cometh: and every heart
shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall fail,
and all knees shall be as weak as water:”
where we behold the paralyzing effects of consternation in view of the
tidings of sore judgment. But in our text the reference is to the
disheartenment caused by fierce opposition and persecution. Despair and
becoming weary of well doing are the two evils in all our afflictions which
we most need to guard against. It is failure at this point which has led to so
many scandalous backslidings and cursed apostasies. Such an exhortation
as the one before us intimates that the Hebrews had either already given
way to an enervating spirit of gloom or were in great danger of so doing.
Now
“It is the duty of all faithful ministers of the Gospel to consider
diligently what failures or temptations their flocks are liable or
exposed to, so as to apply suitable means for their preservation”
(John Owen).
This is what the apostle is seen doing here. In view of the lethargy of the
Hebrews he exhorts them to “lift up the hands which hang down, and the
feeble knees.” The word “lift up” signifies not simply to elevate, but to
“rectify” or set right again, restoring them to their proper state, so as to
apply them to duty. It was a call to steadfastness and resolute
perseverance: be not dejected in your minds nor faint in your spirits by
reason of the present distress, nor be so terrified of the threatening danger
as to give up hope and be completely overwhelmed. Under sore trial and
affliction, persecution and the prospect of yet sorer opposition, the
temptation is for the heart to sink within us and the path of duty to be
forsaken.
“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees:”
literally, “hands which are loose” or slack, dangling inert; “feeble knees” is
still stronger in the Greek, being almost the equivalent of palsied knees —
enervated knees which need bandages to brace them. In view of which he
calls them to arouse themselves, to stir up all their graces unto exercise, to.92
refuse taking the line of least resistance, to renew their courage and bear
up under their trials. Resolution will accomplish much to stimulate jaded
nerves and flagging energies. The Christian life, from start to finish is a
struggle, a fight, an unceasing warfare against foes within and without, and
only be who endures to the end shall receive the crown of life. To give way
to dejection is harmful, to sink into despair is dangerous, to quit the
discharge of our duties is the fore-runner of apostasy.
But the question arises how are we to set about this particular task? To say
that we are helpless in ourselves affords no encouragement; in fact to
affirm that the Christian is utterly impotent is to deny that there is any vital
difference between himself and those who are dead in sins. Christians in
their greatest weakness have some strength, some grace, some spiritual life;
and where there is some life, there is some ability to stir and move. And
God is pleased to assist where there is sincere endeavor. The believer is
responsible to arm his mind against discouragements by considering God’s
design in them, and the blessed fruits which issue from trials and afflictions
when we are duly exercised by them. Of what value is a clear intellectual
grasp of the nature and end of Divine chastisements unless it produces a
practical effect upon the heart and life? Let the distressed saint ponder
anew the blessed considerations set before him in

Hebrews 12:1-11 and
find in them motives and incentives unto renewed courage, fidelity and
perseverance.
Let the hope of ultimate victory nerve you. Look forward to the goal: the
determination to reach home is a powerful stimulus to a weary traveler.
Earnestly endeavor to counteract every disposition to faintness and
despondency by viewing your trials and persecutions as a part of God’s
discipline for your soul: then submit to them as such, and seek to get them
sanctified to your spiritual profit. Remember that you cannot fight with
hands hanging down, nor run the race set before us if your knees give way;
so summon all your resolution to remain steadfast in the discharge of every
duty God has appointed and assigned you. Rest in the love of your
heavenly Father, assured that all of the present distress is designed for your
ultimate good, and this will reinvigorate the soul. Finally, seek grace to lay
hold of and plead the promise, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew
their strength” (

Isaiah 40:31).
It is to be noted that this exhortation is couched abstractly. It is not “lift up
your hands,” which would restrict it individually; nor is it “lift up the hands.93
of those who are dejected,” which would limit the exhortation to a ministry
unto others. Worded as it is there is a double reference: it is a call to the
individual Christian to persevering activity, and it is an exhortation for him
to seek the well being of his fellow-Christians. That our text has a
reference to our seeking to encourage and strengthen fellow-pilgrims is
clear from a comparison of

Job 4:3, 4 and

Isaiah 35:3, 4, with which

1 Thessalonians 5:14 may be compared. The best way for the individual
Christian to strengthen the hands of his feeble fellows is by setting before
them a worthy example of faith, courage, and steadfastness. In addition, he
is to pray for them, speak words of encouragement, remind them of God’s
promises, relate to them His gracious dealings and powerful deliverances in
his own life.
“And make straight paths for your feet.” The previous verse concerns the
inward frame and spirit of the believer’s mind; this one has respect to his
outward conduct. As Barnes has well pointed out, the term used here
signifies “straight” horizontally, that is level and plain, all obstacles are to
be removed so that we do not stumble and fall — cf.

Proverbs 4:25-27.
The word for “paths” is derived from one meaning “a wheel” and signifies
here “the marks made by a wheel” — it is paths marked out for others,
leaving the tracks which may be followed by them. The reference, then, is
to the believer so manifesting his course that his fellows may see and
follow it. The Christian course is exemplary, that is, it is one which
impresses and influences others. How very careful should we be then as to
our conduct!
Here, then, is an exhortation unto the Christian to see well to his walk,
which means the regulating of all his actions by the revealed will of God, to
be obedient unto the Divine precepts, to follow not the ways and fashions
of an evil world, but to cleave to the narrow way, and turn not aside from
the Highway of Holiness.
“It is our duty not only to be found in the ways of God in general
but to take care that we walk carefully, circumspectly, uprightly
and diligently in them. Hereon depends our own peace, and all our
usefulness toward others. It is a sad thing when some men’s walk in
the ways of God shall deter others from them or turn them out of
them” (John Owen).
“And make straight paths for your feet.” A most timely word for us today
when iniquity abounds and the love of many waxes cold, when the poor.94
and afflicted in Zion stand in need of all the godly encouragement they can
obtain. We are surrounded by a “crooked generation,” both of professing
and profane, whose evil ways we are but too apt to learn; we are beset on
every hand by temptations to turn aside into what Bunyan termed “By-path
Meadow,” to enter paths which God has prohibited, to feed on pride and
indulge our lusts. How the heart of the mature Christian aches for the
lambs of Christ’s flock, and how it behooves him to walk softly and
carefully lest he put some stumbling-block in their way. Solemn indeed is
“As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall
lead them forth with the workers of iniquity” (

Psalm 125:5),
and also
“They have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein
shall not know peace” (

Isaiah 59:8).
“Lest that which is lame be turned out of the way.” The word “lest” is a
translation of two Greek words, “that not.” It is a word of caution and
prevention, warning each of us that carelessness as to our own walk is
likely to have an ill effect upon weaker Christians. The word “lame” is
transferred from the body to some defect of our graces which unfits the
soul for the discharge of Christian duty: one who is lame is ill-capacitated
to run in a race, and one who is lacking in courage, zeal, and perseverance
is ill-fitted to fight the good fight of faith. Walk carefully then, my brother,
if for no reason than for the sake of the feebler saints. Backslidden
Christians are the plague of the church: inconsistencies in God’s people
spread discouragements among weak believers.
There are always some “lame” sheep in God’s earthly flock. While there
are some Christians with strong and vigorous faith, so that they “mount up
with wings as eagles, run and are not weary,” and make steady progress in
practical holiness, all are not so highly favored. In most families of any size
there is one frail and sickly member; so it is in the various branches of the
Household of Faith. Some are constitutionally gloomy, temperamentally
vacillating, physically infirm, and these have a special claim upon the
strong. They are not to be snubbed and shunned: they need an example of
cheerfulness set before them, wise counsel given to them, their arms
supported by prayer and love’s solicitude for their good. Whatever is weak
in their faith and hope, whatever tends to dishearten and discourage them,
should be carefully attended to, so far as lies in our power. A stitch in time.95
saves nine: many a sheep might have been kept from falling into the ditch,
had one with a shepherd’s heart gone after it at the first sign of straying.
“But let it rather be healed.” “Heal” signifies to correct that which is amiss.
It is the recovering of a lapsed one which is here in view. Instead of
despising sickly Christians, exercise love’s sympathy toward them. While
we should be thankful if God has granted us healthy graces, we must
beware of presumption:
“If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such
an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also
be tempted” (

Galatians 6:1).
To those groaning under the burden of sin, tell them of the sufficiency of
Christ’s blood. To those fearful about the future, remind them of God’s
faithfulness. To those who are despondent, seek to cheer by citing some of
God’s precious promises. Study the holy art of speaking a word in season
to the needy. You will be of great value to the church if you develop a
spirit of compassion and the gift of lifting up those fallen by the wayside.”.96
CHAPTER 94
A CALL TO DILIGENCE
(

HEBREWS 12:14)
The connection between the verses which were before us on the last
occasion and that which is now to engage our attention is not apparent at
the first glance. There the apostle made a practical application to his
readers of the important considerations he had been setting before them in
the preceding verses, calling them unto the duty of steadfastness. Here
there is a lively exhortation unto the pursuit of peace and holiness. The
relation between these exhortations and those which follow, is more
intimate than a number of pearls strung together, rather is it more like that
of the several members of our physical body, which are vitally joined and
dependent upon one another. Failure to observe this fact results in loss, for
not only do we fail to appreciate the living connection of one part with
another, but we lose the motive and incentive which they mutually supply.
It is the business of the teacher to point this out, that we may be duly
affected thereby and rejoice together in the perfect handiwork of God.
“From his exhortation unto patient perseverance in the profession
of the Gospel under sufferings and affliction, the apostle proceeds
unto a prescription of practical duties; and although they are such
as are absolutely necessary in themselves at all times, yet they are
here peculiarly enjoined with respect to the same end, or our
constancy in professing the Gospel. For no light, no knowledge of
the truth, no resolution or courage, will preserve any man in his
profession, especially in times of trial, without a diligent attention
unto the duties of holiness and Gospel obedience. And he begins
with a precept, general and comprehensive of all others” (John
Owen).
The connection between

Hebrews 12:14, etc., and verses 12, 13, is
threefold..97
First, the diligent pursuit of peace toward our fellows and of holiness
toward God are timely aids unto perseverance in the faith and in
consequence, powerful means for preservation from apostasy. The one is
so closely joined to the other that the former cannot be realized without an
eager striving after the latter.
Second, inasmuch as love toward our neighbor (“peace,” with all that that
involves and includes) and love toward God (“holiness”) is the sum of our
duty, it is impossible that we should devote ourselves unto their cultivation
and exercise so long as we axe permitting afflictions and persecution to
paralyze the mind: the spirit of resolute determination must possess us
before we can develop our spiritual graces.
Third, oppression and suffering provide an opportunity for the exercise
and manifestation of our spiritual graces, and are to be improved by us to
this very end.
“If the children of God grow impatient under afflictions, they will
neither walk so quietly and peaceably towards men nor so piously
toward God as they should do” (Matthew Henry).
The first thing which needs to be borne in mind as we approach each verse
of this epistle is the special circumstances of those immediately addressed,
and to perceive the peculiar pertinency of the apostle’s instruction to those
who were so situated, for this will the better enable us to make a correct
application unto ourselves. Now the Hebrews were living among a people
where their own espousal of Christianity had produced a serious breach,
which had stirred up the fierce opposition of their fellow-countrymen. The
attitude of these Hebrews towards Christ was neither understood nor
appreciated by the unbelieving Jews; so far from it, they were regarded as
renegades and denounced as apostates from the faith of their fathers. Every
effort was made to poison their minds against the Gospel, and where this
failed, relentless persecution was brought to bear upon them. Hence, it was
by no means an easy matter for them to maintain the spirit of the Gospel
and live amicably with those who surrounded them; instead, they were
sorely tempted to entertain a bitter spirit toward those who troubled them
so unjustly, to retaliate and avenge their wrongs. Here, then, was the need
for them to be exhorted “follow peace with all men!”
Now while it be true that Christians are now, for the most part, spared the
severe suffering which those Hebrews were called upon to endure, yet.98
faithfulness to Christ is bound to incur the hostility of those who hate Him,
and will in some form or other issue in opposition. There is a radical
difference in nature between those treading the narrow way to Heaven and
those following the broad road to Hell. The character and conduct of the
former condemn and rile the self-pleasing disposition and flesh-indulging
ways of the latter. The children of the Devil have no love for the children
of God, and they delight in doing whatever they can to annoy and
aggravate them; and nothing gives them more pleasure than to see
successful their efforts to tempt them to compromise or stir up unto angry
retaliation. Thus it is a timely injunction for all believers, in any age and in
any country, to strive earnestly to live in peace with all men.
“Follow peace with all men.” This is a very humbling word that Christians
require to be told to do this. Its implication is clear: by nature men are
fractious, wrathful, revengeful creatures. That is one reason why Christ
declared “it must needs be that offenses come” (

Matthew 18:7) —
“must” because of the awful depravity of fallen human nature; yet forget
not that He at once added, “But woe to that man by whom the offense
cometh.” It is because of this contentious, envious, revengeful, spirit which
is in us, that we need the exhortation of our text, and in view of what is
recorded in Scripture, even of saints, its timeliness is the more apparent.
Have we not read of “the strife” between the herdsmen of Abraham and
Lot which caused the patriarch and his nephew to part asunder? Have we
not read of the discords and fightings between the tribes of Israel issuing in
their kingdom being rent in twain? Have we not read of the “contention”
between Paul and Barnabas which issued in their separating? These are
solemn warnings, danger-signals, which we all do well to take to heart.
“It is the duty of Christians to be at peace among themselves, to be
on their guard against all alienation of affection towards each other;
and there can be no doubt that the maintenance of this brotherly-kindness
is well fitted to promote steadfastness in the faith and
profession of the Gospel. But in the words before us there seems to
be a reference not so much to the peace which Christians should
endeavor to maintain among themselves, as that which they should
endeavor to preserve in reference to the world around them. They
are to ‘follow peace with all men.’
“They live amidst men whose modes of thinking, and feeling and
acting are very different from — are in many points directly.99
opposite to — theirs. They have been fairly warned, that ‘if they
would live godly in this world, they must suffer persecution.’ They
have been told that ‘if they were of the world, the world would love
its own; but because they are not of the world, therefore the world
hateth them.’ ‘In the world,’ says their Lord and Master, ‘ye shall
have tribulation.’ But this, so far from making them reckless as to
their behavior towards the men of the world, ought to have the
directly opposite effect. If the world persecute them, they must take
care that this persecution has in no degree been provoked by their
improper or imprudent behavior. They must do everything that lies
in their power, consistent with duty, to live in peace with their
ungodly neighbors. They must carefully abstain from injuring them;
they must endeavor to promote their happiness. They must do
everything but sin in order to prevent a quarrel.
“This is of great importance, both to themselves and to their
unbelieving brethren. A mind harassed by those feelings which are
almost inseparable from a state of discord is not by any means in
the fittest state for studying the doctrines, cherishing the feelings,
enjoying the comforts, performing the duties of Christianity; and,
on the other hand, the probability of our being useful to our
unbelieving brethren is greatly diminished when we cease to be on
good terms with them. As far as lies in us, then, if it be possible, we
are to ‘live peaceably with all men’” (John Brown, 1872).
“Follow peace with all men.” The Greek word for “follow” is a very
emphatical one, signifying an “earnest pursuit:” it is the eager chasing after
something which flies from one, being used of hunters and hounds after
game. The Christian is to spare no effort to live amicably with all men, and
no matter how contentious and unfriendly they may be, he is to strive and
overtake that which seeks to flee from him. Peace is one of the outstanding
graces which the Christian is called upon to exercise and manifest. All
things pertaining to the Church are denominated things of peace. God is
“the God of peace” (

Hebrews 13:20), Christ is “the Prince of peace”
(

Isaiah 9:6), a believer is designated “the son of peace” (Luke 10-6),
and Christians are bidden to have their
“feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace”
(

Ephesians 6:15)..100
In this term “follow,” or pursue, the apostle continues to preserve the
central figure of the entire passage, introduced in the first verse of our
chapter, of the running of a race: the same word is rendered “I press
forward” in

Philippians 3:14. Peace may be elusive and hard to capture,
nevertheless strive after it, run hard in the chase thereof, for it is well worth
overtaking. Spare no pains, strain every nerve to attain unto it. If this
exhortion be duly heeded by us then Christians are plainly forbidden to
embroil themselves or take any part in the strifes and quarrels of the world:
thus they are hereby forbidden to engage in politics, where there is little
else than envy, contention and anger. Still less may the Christian take any
part in war: there is not a single word in all the N.T. which warrants a
follower of the Prince of peace slaying his fellowmen.
“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it”
(

Psalm 34:14).
The word “follow” or pursue does not imply the actual obtainment of
peace: the most eager hunters and hounds often miss their prey.
Nevertheless, nothing short of our utmost endeavors are required of us. “If
it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men”
(

Romans 12:18): with fellow-Christians, with those who are strangers
to Christ (

Ephesians 2:19), with our enemies (

Matthew 5:44). Few
things more adorn and beautify a Christian profession than exercising and
manifesting the spirit of peace. Then let us prayerfully strive to avoid those
things which occasion strife. Remember the old adage that “It takes two to
make a quarrel:” therefore see to it that you provoke not others. Give no
encouragement to those who love contention; refrain from all argument —
the things of God are too holy: debating is a work of the flesh. To “follow
peace with all men” presupposes righteousness in our dealings with them,
for we most certainly are not entitled to expect them to treat us amicably
unless we give unto each his due, and treat others as we would have them
treat us.
Do not merely be placid when no one irritates you, but go out of your way
to be gracious unto those who oppose. Be not fretful if others fail to render
the respect which you consider to be your due. Do not be so ready to
“stand up for your rights,” but yield everything except truth and the
requirements of holiness.
“If we would follow peace, we must gird up our loins with the
girdle of forbearance: we must resolve that as we will not give.101
offense, so neither will take offense, and if offense be felt, we must
resolve to forgive” (C.H. Spurgeon).
Remember we cannot successfully “pursue peace” if the heavy burden of
pride be on our shoulder: pride ever stirs up strife. Nor can we “pursue
peace” if the spirit of envy fills the heart: envy is sure to see faults where
they exist not, and make trouble. Nor can we “pursue peace” if we are
loose-tongued, busybodies, talebearers.
Even when opposed, our duty is to be peaceful toward those who
persecute — a hard lesson, a high attainment, yet Divine grace (when
earnestly sought) is “sufficient” even here. Remember the example which
the Savior has left us: and cry mightily unto God for help to emulate the
same.
“When He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He
threatened not” (

1 Peter 2:23):
He prayed for God to forgive His very murderers.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing
one another in love” (

Ephesians 4:2).
Ah, there are the prerequisities for the procuring of peace — the lack of
which being the cause of so much confusion, strife and war. If love reigns
our skirts will be dear, for
“Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; doth not behave
itself unseemly; seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked;
thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all
things, endureth all things” (

1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
“Follow peace with all men.” This includes even more than we have
intimated above: the Christian is not only to be a peace-keeper, but he
should seek to be a peace-maker: such have the express benediction of
Christ —
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children
of God” (

Matthew 5:9).
Seek, then, to restore amicable relations between those who are at enmity
and be used of God as a medium of their reconciliation. Instead of fanning
the flames of dissension or driving the wedge of division further in,.102
endeavor to cool them by the water of the Word, and by a gracious
demeanor and wise counsel seek to smooth out difficulties and heal
wounds.
“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make
peace” (

James 3:18).
“Peaceable men do sow a seed that afterward will yield sheaves of
comfort into their own bosoms” (T. Manton).
“Follow peace with all men and holiness.” First, the cultivation of peace is
a great aid unto personal and practical holiness: where discontent, envy,
and strife dominate the heart, piety is choked. The two things are
inseparably connected: where love to our neigh-bout is lacking, love to
God will not be in exercise. The two tables of the law must not be
divorced: God will not accept our worship in the house of prayer while we
entertain in our heart the spirit of bitterness toward another (

Matthew
5:23, 24).
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he
that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love
God whom he hath not seen?” (

1 John 4:20).
O my reader, if we imagine that we are sincere in our quest after holiness
while striving not to live peaceably with all men, we are cherishing a vain
deceit.
“Some who have aimed at holiness have made the great mistake of
supposing it needful to be morose, contentious, faultfinding, and
censorious with everybody else. Their holiness has consisted of
negatives, protests, and oppositions for oppositions sake. Their
religion mainly lies in contrarieties and singularities; to them the
text offers this wise counsel, follow holiness, but also follow peace.
Courtesy is not inconsistent with faithfulness. It is not needful to be
savage in order to be sanctified. A bitter spirit is a poor companion
for a renewed heart. Let your determination principle be sweetened
by tenderness towards your fellow-men. Be resolute for the right,
but be also gentle, pitiful, courteous. Consider the meekness as well
as the boldness of Jesus. Follow peace, but not at the expense of
holiness. Follow holiness, but do not needlessly endanger peace”
(C.H. Spurgeon, on text, 1870)..103
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness.” By a harmless, kind, and useful
behavior toward their unbelieving neighbors the people of God are to
conduct themselves. They must avoid that which fosters bitterness and
strife, and make it manifest they are followers of the Prince of peace. Yet
in pursuing this most needful and inestimable policy there must be no
sacrifice of principle. While peace is a most precious commodity
nevertheless, like gold, it may be purchased too dearly.
“The wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable”
(

James 3:17).
Peace must not be severed from holiness by a compliance with any evil or a
neglect of any duty.
“First being by interpretation king of righteousness, and after that
also King of peace” (

Hebrews 7:2).
“Peace has special relation to man and his good, holiness to God
and His honor. These two may no more be severed than the two
tables of the law. Be sure then that peace lacks not this companion
of holiness: if they cannot stand together, let peace go and holiness
be cleaved unto” (W. Gouge).
There may be the former without the latter. Men may be so determined to
maintain peace that they compromise principle, sacrifice the truth, and
ignore the claims of God. Peace must never be sought after a price of
unfaithfulness to Christ. “Buy the truth and sell it not” (

Proverbs
23:23) is ever binding upon the Christian. Thus, important though it be to
“follow peace with all men,” it is still more important that we diligently
pursue “holiness.” Holiness is devotedness to God and that temper of mind
and course of conduct which agrees with the fact that we are “not our
own, but bought with a price.” Peace with men, then, is not to be
purchased at the expense of devotedness to God:
“infinitely better to have the whole world for our enemies and God
for our friend, than to have the whole world for our friends and
God for our enemy” (John Brown).
The Christian is not only to be diligent in his quest for peace, but he is to
be still more earnest in his pursuit after personal and practical holiness.
Seeking after the good will of our fellows must be subordinated unto
seeking the approbation of God. Our chief aim must be conformity to the.104
image of Christ. If He has delivered us from wrath to come, we must
endeavor by all that is within us to follow Him along the narrow way which
leadeth unto Life. If He be our Lord and Master, then He is to be
unreservedly obeyed. To “follow” holiness is to live like persons who are
devoted to God — to His glory, to His claims upon us, to His cause in this
world. It is to make it evident that we belong to Him. It is to separate
ourselves from all that is opposed to Him. It is to mortify the flesh, with its
affections and lusts. It is to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the
flesh and of the spirit” (

2 Corinthians 7:1). It is a life task from which
there is no discharge while we remain in the body.
To urge us the more after holiness, the apostle at once adds “without
which no man shall see the Lord” — “which” is in the singular number,
showing that the antecedent is “holiness.” The believer may fail to “follow
peace with all men,” and though he will suffer loss thereby and bring
himself under the chastening rod of his Father, yet this will not entail the
Loss of Heaven itself. But it is otherwise with holiness: unless we are made
partakers of the Divine nature, unless there be personal devotedness to
God, unless there be an earnest striving after conformity to His will, then
Heaven will never be reached. There is only one route which leads to the
Country of everlasting bliss, and that is the Highway of Holiness; and
unless (by grace) we tread the same, our course must inevitably terminate
in the caverns of eternal woe.
The negative here is fearfully emphatic: “without which (namely,
“holiness”) no man shall see the Lord” — in the Greek it is still stronger
the negative being threefold — “not, without, no man.” God Himself is
essentially, ineffably, infinitely holy, and only holy characters shall ever
“see” Him. Without holiness no man shall see Him: no, no matter how
orthodox his beliefs, how diligent his attendance upon the means of grace,
how liberal he may be in contributing to the cause, nor how zealous in
performing religious duties. How this searching word should make
everyone of us quail! Even though I be a preacher, devoting the whole of
my life to study and laboring for the good of souls, even though I be blest
with much light from the Word and be used of God in turning many from
Satan to Christ, yet without holiness — both inward and outward — I shall
never see the Lord. Unless the earnest pursuit of holiness occupy all my
powers, I am but a formal professor, having a name to live while being
spiritually dead..105
Without holiness men are strangers to God and cannot be admitted to His
fellowship, still less to His eternal habitation.
“Thus saith the Lord God; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor
uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into My sanctuary”
(

Ezekiel 44:9):
such as have no holiness within and without, in heart or in life, cannot be
admitted into the sanctuary. If God shut the door of His earthly sanctuary
against such as were strangers to holiness, will He not much more shut the
doors of His celestial tabernacle against those who are strangers to Christ?
“For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and
what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath
Christ with Belial?” (

2 Corinthians 6:14, 15).
Unholy persons have fellowship and are familiar with Satan:
“Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will
do” (

John 8:44);
and again
“The whole world lieth in the Wicked one” (

1 John 5:19).
It would be awful blasphemy to affirm that the thrice holy God would have
fellowship with those who are in covenant with the Devil. O make no
mistake upon this point, dear reader: if you are not walking after the Spirit,
you are walking after the flesh: if you are not living to please Christ, you
are living to please self; if you have not been delivered from the power of
Darkness, you cannot enjoy the Light. Listen to those piercing words of
the Redeemer,
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”
(

John 3:3),
and the new birth is holiness begun, it is the implantation of a principle of
holiness in the heart, which is the life task of the Christian to cultivate.
The “holiness” referred to in our text is not imputed holiness, for we
cannot be exhorted to “follow after” that! No, it is personal and practical
holiness, which is not attained by standing still, but by an earnest, diligent,
persistent pursuit after the same..106
“It will be well for us to remember that the religion of Jesus Christ
is not a matter of trifling, that the gaining of Heaven is not to be
achieved by a few half-hearted efforts; and if we will at the same
time recollect that all-sufficient succor is prepared for us in the
covenant of grace we shall be in a right state of mind: resolute, yet
humble, leaning upon the merits of Christ, and yet aiming at
personal holiness. I am persuaded that if self-righteousness be
deadly, self-indulgence is indeed ruinous. I desire to maintain
always a balance in my ministry, and while combating self-righteousness,
to war perpetually with loose living” (C.H.
Spurgeon).
But for the comfort of the poor and afflicted people of God, who find sin
their greatest burden and who grieve sorely over their paucity of holiness,
let it be pointed out that our text does not say “without the perfection of
holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Had it done so, we would not be
writing this article, for then the editor had been entirely without hope.
There is none upon earth who is fully conformed to God’s will. Practical
holiness is a matter of growth. In this life holiness is but infantile, and will
only be matured in glory. At present it exists more in the form of longings
and strivings, hungerings and efforts, rather than in realizations and
attainments. The very fact that the Christian is exhorted to “follow” or
pursue holiness, proves that he has not yet reached it.
“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” spiritually, not corporeally:
with an enlightened understanding and with love’s discernment, so as to
enjoy personal communion with Him.
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness,
we lie, and do not the truth” (

1 John 1:6):
how clear is that! “The pure in heart shall see God” (

Matthew 5:8): see
Him in His holy ordinances, see His blessed image reflected, though dimly,
by his saints, see Him by faith with the eyes of the heart, as Moses, who
“endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (

Hebrews 11:27);
and thus be prepared and capacitated to “see” Him in His unveiled glory in
the courts above. O to be able to truthfully say,
“As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be
satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (

Psalm 17:15)..107
How we should labor after holiness, using all the means appointed thereto,
since it is the medium for the soul’s vision of God..108
CHAPTER 95
A CALL TO EXAMINATION
(

HEBREWS 12:15)
We had first thought of giving a brief exposition of this verse at the close
of the preceding article. But we felt this would scarcely satisfy some of our
more critical readers. Nor is it our custom to dodge difficulties, and this
presents a real difficulty unto not a few. Those Arminians who are ready to
grasp at a straw have appealed to it in support of their favorite tenet
“falling from grace.” On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the
replies given by Calvinists thereon have often been unsatisfactory. It seems
therefore that a more careful consideration and fuller elucidation of its
contents are called for. Following, then, our usual practice, we shall
endeavor, as God assists, to bring out the meaning of its several terms and
apply them to our consciences and lives.
The following are the points upon which our attention needs to be
concentrated.
First, the connection between our present verse and its context.
Second, the duty enjoined: “looking diligently.”
Third, the danger to be avoided: “lest any man fail of the grace of
God.”
Fourth, the evil warned against: “lest any root of bitterness springing
up trouble you.”
Fifth, the resultant consequence if the evil be tolerated: “and thereby
many be defiled.” In considering these points it will have to be carefully
ascertained what it is about which we are here exhorted to be “looking
diligently.” What is signified by “lest any man fail of the grace of God,”
and if that be the correct translation, or whether the Greek requires us
to accept the marginal alternative of “falling from the grace of God.”.109
And finally, what is denoted by the “root of bitterness springing up.”
May wisdom be granted us from on High.
First, then, the connection between our present verse and its context. We
will first consider its more general and remote relation, and then its more
specific and immediate. The link between

Hebrews 12:15 and that
which precedes may be thus exhibited: if the afflictions which fidelity to
Christ occasion and the chastenings of the Father are not duly improved by
professing Christians they are almost certain to become a serious
stumbling-block in the way of personal piety, yea, a temptation to apostasy
itself. This, we believe, is the first reference in the “looking diligently.”
Unless professing Christians are duly “exercised” (verse 11) over God’s
disciplinary dealings with them, they are very apt to misconstrue them,
chafe against them, call into question the Divine goodness, and sink into a
state of despair, with its accompanying inertia.
What has just been pointed out above receives confirmation from the
verses which immediately follow, for verses 16 and 17 are obviously a
continuation of our present text. There we find a solemn exhortation
against apostasy itself, pointed by the awful case and example of Esau.
Here we are warned against that, which if neglected, has a fearful tendency
unto apostasy. Most of us know from painful experience how easily we
become discouraged when things do not go as we want, how ready we are
to “faint” (verse 5) when the rod of adversity is laid upon us, how real is
the temptation to compromise or forsake the path of duty altogether when
trials multiply or opposition and persecution is all that our best efforts meet
with. Real, then, is our need for heeding this exhortation “Looking
diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.”
It is unspeakably solemn to note that in the case of Esau his temptation to
sell his birthright — apostatize — was occasioned by his faintness, for we
are told that he said to Jacob,
“Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage, for I am faint”
(

Genesis 25:30).
And is it not when we are faint in our minds, cast down by the difficulties
of the way, disheartened by the lack of appreciation our efforts meet with,
and crushed by one trial on top of another, that Satan bids us give up the
fight of faith and “get what pleasure we can out of life” by indulging the
lusts of the flesh? Looked at thus our text points out the spring of apostasy.110
— “falling of the grace of God;” the nature of apostasy — a “root of
bitterness springing up;” and the result of apostasy — “many be defiled.”
Considering now the more specific and immediate connection of our verse
with its context.
First, unless the hands which hang down be lifted up and the feeble knees
strengthened (verse 12), there will be a “failing of the grace of God;” and
unless straight paths are made for our feet and that which is “lame” be
prevented from “turning out of the way” (verse 13), then a “root of
bitterness” (an apostate) will spring up, and in consequence, “many will be
defiled.”
Second, in verse 14 we are exhorted to “follow” two things, namely,
“peace” and “holiness;” while in verse 15 we are warned to avoid two
things, namely, “failing of the grace of God” and suffering “a root of
bitterness to spring up.” The opening “Looking diligently” clearly denotes
that our avoidance of the two evils of verse 15 turns or is dependent upon
our earnest pursuit of the spiritual graces inculcated in verse 14.
We are now ready to contemplate the duty which is here enjoined:
“looking diligently.” This is a call to examination: first, to self-examination.
Its immediate force is derived from the closing words of the preceding
verse, where the solemn and searching statement is made that “without
which (namely ‘holiness’) no man shall see the Lord.” No matter though I
am in fellowship with the people of God, a member of a scriptural church,
a regular attender upon the means of grace, a firm believer in all the
doctrines of the Word; yet, if I have never been sanctified by the Spirit of
God, if I am not diligently and earnestly cultivating practical holiness, both
of heart and life, then I shall never enter Heaven, and enjoy the beatific
vision. Hence the pertinency and urgency of this exhortation, “Looking
diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.” There is far too much at
stake to remain in uncertainty upon such a vital matter, and only the
religious trifler will disregard this imperative summons.
The call to careful self-examination receives its urgency from the very great
danger there is of self-deception. Sin darkens the understanding, so that
man is unable to perceive his real state before God. Satan “hath blinded the
minds of them which believe not” (

2 Corinthians 4:4). The deep-rooted
pride of our hearts makes us think the best of ourselves, so that if a
question is raised in our hearts, we are ever prone to give ourselves the.111
benefit of the doubt. A spirit of sloth possesses us by nature, so that we are
unwilling to go to the trouble which real self-examination calls for. Hence
the vast majority of religious professors remain with a head knowledge of
the Truth, with outward attention to forms and ceremonies, or resting on a
mere consent to the letter of some verse like

John 3:16, refusing to
“make their calling and election sure.”
God has warned us plainly in His Word that,
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes and yet is not
washed from their filthiness” (

Proverbs 30:12).
He has set before us those who say “I am rich, and increased with goods,
and have need of nothing,” and who know not that they are “wretched, and
miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (

Revelation 3:17). And let it
be duly noted that those were in church association, and that at a time
before the last of the apostles had left the earth. Christ has told us that
“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in
Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done
many wonderful works?” yea, that they affirm “we have eaten and drunk in
Thy presence” (

Luke 13:26); yet will He answer them
“I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity”
(

Matthew 7:23).
How such words as those should make each of us tremble! How it
behooves us to be “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of
God.” Alas that such words — written first to those who had been
addressed as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (3:1) —
should, for the most part, fall upon unheeding ears.
The fact is, that our diligence and honesty in self-examination will largely
be determined by the value which we set upon our soul and its eternal
interests. Alas, the vast majority of professing Christians today are far, far
more concerned about their bodies than their souls, about carnal pleasures
than spiritual fiches, about earthly comforts than heavenly consolations,
about the good opinion of their fellows rather than the approbation of God.
But a few — and O how few — are made serious, become in deadly earnest
to examine well their foundations and test every inch of the ground they
stand on. With them religion is not something to be taken up and laid down
according to their fitful moods. Where will they spend ETERNITY is their
all-absorbing concern. Every other interest in life sinks into utter.112
insignificance before the vital consideration of seeking to make sure that
they have “the root of the matter” in them. O my reader, can you be
satisfied with the cheap, easy-going religion of the day, which utterly
ignores the clamant call of the Son of God “Agonize to enter in at the strait
gate” (

Luke 13:24)?
Can you rest content with the “smooth things” now being proclaimed from
well nigh every pulpit, which assures those who are at emnity with God
they can become Christians more easily than a youth can join the army, or a
man become a ‘free mason’ or ‘odd fellow’? Can you follow the great
crowd who claim to have “received Christ as their personal Savior” when
no miracle of grace has been wrought in their hearts, while the Lord
Himself declares
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life,
and few there be that find it” (

Matthew 7:14)?
Dare you rest upon some “decision” made when you were deeply stirred by
some anecdotes addressed to your emotions? Have you nothing more than
some change in your religious views or some reformation in your outward
ways to show that you are “a new creature in Christ Jesus”? Slight not, we
beseech you, this pressing word, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of
the grace of God.” But the word “Looking diligently” has a wider
signification than self-examination: it also points out our duty toward each
other.
The Greek term means “overseeing,” exercising a jealous care for one
another. This seems to have misled Owen and several others who confined
the exhortation unto “the body of the church or society of the faithful” in
their mutual relation. But as Spurgeon pointed out on the text, “In the
church of God each one should be on his watchtower for himself and for
others. The first person who is likely to fail in the church is myself. Each
one ought to feel that: the beginning of the watch should therefore be at
home.” Our text is very similar to the exhortation found in

Hebrews
3:13, 14, which is first unto the individual and then to the assembly —
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of
unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another
daily.”
Earnestly endeavoring to look well unto my own going, it is then both my
duty and privilege to exercise watchfulness over others..113
“How many persons might be saved from backsliding by a little
oversight! If we would speak to the brother kindly and
considerately, when we think he is growing a little cold, we might
restore him. We need not always speak directly to him by way of
rebuke, but we may place a suggestive book in his way, or speak
generally upon the subject. Love can invent many ways of warning
a friend without making him angry, and a holy example will also
prove a great rebuke to sin. In the church we ought to bear one
another’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ, exercising the
office of bishops over one another, and watching lest any man fail
of the grace of God” (C.H. Spurgeon).
How little of this loving solicitude for the spiritual well-being of our
fellow-pilgrims is in evidence today! How little earnest and diligent praying
for one another! How little faithfulness in counseling, warning, exhorting!
Probably one principal reason for this is the hyper-touchiness of so many
professing Christians in this generation. No matter how tactfully the
counsel be tendered, how faithfully the warning be given, or how lovingly
the rebuke be administered; no matter though it be given by an experienced
senior to one he is on familiar terms with, yet in nine cases out of ten his
efforts are resented, and he is told — by attitude if not in words — to
“mind his own business.” Never mind, even if a single ear be gained and a
single soul helped, it is worth the disappointments of being repulsed by the
others. Only one leper out of the ten appreciated Christ’s kindness!
“Lest any man fail of the grace of God.” This is the clause which has
occasioned controversy: though really it affords no warrant for it, nor will
the Greek permit of the marginal rendering. The root word which is here
rendered “fail” occurs many times in the N.T., but never once has it the
force of “fall from.” It means “to lack” or “be deficient of.” In

Romans
3:23 it is rendered “come short of,” in

Luke 15:14 to “want,” in

2
Corinthians 12:11 “come behind,” in

Matthew 19:20 “lack,” in

Philippians 4:12 “suffer need,” in

Hebrews 11:37 to be “destitute.”
Thus there is no room for uncertainty as to the meaning of this exhortation:
“Looking diligently lest any man fail — come short of, be deficient in, lack
— the grace of God.”
But to what does “the grace of God” here refer? That is not quite so easy
to answer, for sometimes “grace” is to be regarded objectively, sometimes
subjectively; in some passages it refers to the free favor of God, in others.114
to His benevolent operation within the heart, in still others to the effects
produced thereby. In our present passage, it seems to the writer, to be used
more abstractly, having a comprehensive scope as it is applicable to widely
different cases. We feel it safest to regard the clause thus, for God’s
commandment is “exceeding broad” (

Psalm 119:96), and very often a
single word has a twofold or threefold reference, and therefore we need to
be constantly on our guard against limiting the meaning or restricting the
application of any utterance of Holy Writ. According to our light we will
endeavor to show some of the different cases to which this exhortation
belongs.
“By ‘the grace of God,’ God’s favor and acceptance in Christ, as it
is proposed and declared by the Gospel, is intended. Herein all
spiritual mercies and privileges, in adoption, justification,
sanctification and consolation, do consist. For these things,
proceeding from the love, grace, and goodness of God in Christ,
and being effects thereof, are called the grace of God. The attaining
and participation of these things, is that which in the faith and
profession of the Gospel, men aim at and design; without which,
both the one and the other are in vain. This grace, under all their
profession of the Gospel, men may fail of, and this is the evil
cautioned against” (John Owen).
Men may “fail of the grace of God,” then, by not submitting themselves to
the terms of the Gospel. Those terms are repugnant to the natural man:
they are distasteful to his carnal lusts, they are humbling to his pride. But it
is at the former of these two points that the majority “fail.” The Gospel
calls upon sinners to repent, and they cannot do that with sincerity unless
they throw down the weapons of their rebellion against God. The thrice
holy God will pardon no man so long as he is determined to please himself
and continue in a course of sinning. Again; the Gospel calls on sinners to
receive Christ Jesus as Lord: to give Him the throne of their hearts, to bow
to His scepter. The holy Redeemer will save no man who is unwilling for
Him to “rule over” him (

Luke 19:14).
Second, to “fail of the grace of God” is to be satisfied with something
short of Divine grace communicated to and ruling in the heart. It is to be
contented with a religious substitute for it. How many are deceived by “a
form of godliness” who know nothing of its “power” (

2 Timothy 3:5).
How many mistake a head-knowledge of the Truth for a miracle of grace.115
wrought in the heart. How many substitute outward forms and ceremonies
for an experimental acquaintance with the substance of them. How many
confuse an external reformation of life with the Divine regeneration and
transformation of the soul. Alas, of how very many does it have to be said,
“He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that
he cannot deliver his soul” (

Isaiah 44:20).
O how few there are who know “the grace of God in truth”
(

Colossians 1:5). Do you, my reader? Do you?
“Some have maintained an admirable character to all appearance all
their lives, and yet have failed of the grace of God because of some
secret sin. They persuaded even themselves that they were
believers, and yet they were not truly so; they had no inward
holiness, they allowed one sin to get the mastery, they indulged in
an unsanctified passion, and so, though they were laid in the grave
like sheep, they died with a false hope, and missed eternal life. This
is a most dreadful state to be in, and perhaps some of us are in it.
Let the prayer be breathed, ‘Search me, O God, and know my
heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any
wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Are ye
earnest in secret prayer? Do ye love the reading of the Bible? Have
ye the fear of God before your eyes? Do you really commune with
God? Do you truly love Christ? Ask yourselves these questions
often, for though we preach the free Gospel of Jesus Christ, I hope
as plainly as any, we feel it to be just as needful to set you on self-examination
and to excite in you a holy anxiety. It ought to be often
a question with you ‘Have I the grace of God, or do I fall short of
it? Am I a piece of rock crystal which is very like the diamond, but
yet is not diamond?’” (C.H. Spurgeon).
Third, multitudes “fail of the grace of God” by not persevering in the use
of the outward means. They are very earnest and zealous at first, but
become careless and slothful.
“There are some persons who for a time appear to possess the
grace of God, and for a while exhibit many outward evidences of
being Christians, but at last the temptation comes most suitable to
their depraved tastes, and they are carried away with it. They fail of
the grace of God. They appear to have attained it, but they fail at.116
last; like a man in business who makes money for a time, but fails in
the end. They fail of the grace of God — like an arrow shot from
the bow, which goes straight towards the target for a time, but
having too little impetus, fails to reach the mark. There are some
who did run well, what doth hinder them that they should not obey
the truth?” (C.H. Spurgeon).
Finally, genuine Christians themselves “fail of the grace of God” by not
improving that which God has already bestowed upon them. Faith has been
imparted to them, but how little they exercise it. There is an infinite fullness
in Christ for them, but how little do they draw upon it. Wondrous
privileges are theirs, but how little do they use them. Light has been
communicated to them, but how little do they walk in it. They fail to watch
and pray lest they enter into temptation (

Mark 14:38). They fail to
cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (

2
Corinthians 7:1). They fail to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the
Lord Jesus (

2 Peter 3:18). They fail to keep themselves from idols
(

1 John 5:21). They fail to keep themselves in the love of God (Jude
21). And by so failing, their peace is disturbed, their joy is diminished, their
testimony is marred, and frequent chastenings are brought upon them.
“Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.” This is the evil
warned against. Observe how abstractly this also is worded: it is not “lest
any root of bitterness spring up in you,” or “among you,” but simply
“springing up.” The reference, we believe, is again a double one: first to
the individual himself, and then to the corporate company. This second
“lest” is obviously related intimately to the first: if we “fail of the grace of
God” then “a root of bitterness springing up” is to be surely expected. Nor
can there be any doubt as to what is signified by this figure of a “root of
bitterness springing up” — the uprising of evil is evidently that which is in
view. This is what we are here to guard against: failure to do so will bring
“trouble” upon us and occasion a stumbling-block to others.
The first thing to be noted here is the expression “root of bitterness.” Now
the root of a tree is that part of it which is underground, hence the
reference is to that which is unseen. It points to indwelling sin, which
continues in a man even after he is regenerated. That is why the Christian is
exhorted,
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should
obey it in the lusts thereof” (

Romans 6:12)..117
And if that is to be obeyed, then it is imperative we heed the word
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life”
(

Proverbs 4:23).
Every stirring of sin within is to be resisted, every defiling effect of it
confessed to God. If the weeds be not kept down, the flowers and
vegetables will be choked. If the Christian fails in the work of mortification
then the cultivation of his graces will be arrested.
“Lest any root of bitterness springing up.” The “springing up” is the
appearance of its stalk above the ground. It is the open manifestion of sin
in the life, issuing from an unmortified lust in the soul, which is here in
view. What is unjudged before God in secret usually ends in becoming
open before men. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (

Numbers 32:23)
is a solemn word for each of us on this point. “Lest any root” emphasizes
the need of constant watchfulness against every sin, for many branches and
sprigs are ready to issue from the main trunk of indwelling corruption. Our
safeguards are to yield ourselves wholly to God without reserve at any
point, to be well instructed in practical godliness, to preserve a tender
conscience, to be more distrustful about ourselves, to cultivate closer daily
communion with God, to fix our affections upon things above.
“Lest any root of bitterness springing up.” By nature, sin is pleasant and
delightful to us, but in the end it “biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an
adder” (

Proverbs 23:32). Particularly is this the case with the Christian.
God will not long suffer him to indulge his lusts, without making him taste
the bitter consequences of the same. The lashings of his conscience, the
convictions of the Spirit, the wretchedness of his soul, will cause him to
say,
“He hath filled me with bitterness, He hath made me drunken with
wormwood” (

Lamentations 3:15).
As our text says, “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble.” That
which is contrary to God’s holiness and offends His majesty, He makes a
source of trouble to us, either in our minds, bodies, estates, or families.
“And many be defiled:” sin is like leaven — its influence spreads: “evil
communications corrupt good manners” (

1 Corinthians 15:33).
The second half of our text also refers to the local church: in it there is, no
doubt, an allusion to

Deuteronomy 29:18. Great watchfulness needs to.118
be exercised and a strict discipline maintained therein. Unregenerate
professors are ever seeking to creep into the assembly of the saints. If
God’s servants sleep, the Enemy will sow his tares among the wheat. When
the suspicion of church officers is aroused, prayer for discernment and
guidance is called for. Where the one suspected breaks out in corrupt
doctrine or in loose living, he is to be dealt with promptly. Delay is
dangerous. The allowance of a “little leaven” will soon corrupt the whole
lump. At no point does the local church fail more deplorably today than in
its refusal to maintain Scriptural discipline..119
CHAPTER 96
A WARNING AGAINST APOSTASY
(

HEBREWS 12:16, 17)
The verses which we are now to consider are among the most solemn to be
found in the Word of God. They present a most pointed warning against
apostasy. They bring before us what is to all tender consciences a terror-provoking
subject, namely, sin for which there is no forgiveness. It is
indeed to be deplored that recent writers have dealt with it like they do
with most matters — very superficially or quite erroneously. Either they
have limited themselves unto two or three passages, ignoring many others
directly relating to the theme, or they have wrongly affirmed that no one
can commit “the unpardonable sin” during this present dispensation. On the
other hand, most of the old writers seem to have devoted their efforts to
re-assuring weak and fearing Christians that they had not committed this
awful offense, rather than in making any attempt to define the character of
the transgression itself.
The subject is admittedly a difficult one, and we believe God has permitted
a measure of obscurity to rest upon it, and that in order to deter men from
rashly venturing too near the brink of this terrible precipice. It therefore
becomes us to approach it in fear and trembling, with modesty and
humility, seeking grace and wisdom from on High to deal with it in a
faithful, clear, and helpful manner. For this is no easy thing, if we are to
avoid error and preserve the balance of truth. Two extremes have to be
guarded against: a blunting of its fearful point so that the wicked would be
encouraged to continue trifling with God and sporting with their eternal
destiny, or failing to write with sufficient definiteness so that awakened and
contrite sinners would not be delivered from sinking into despair beneath
Satan’s lying misuse of it against them.
Before turning to the positive side it seems necessary to briefly point out
wherein they seriously err, who insist that no one ever sins beyond the
possibility of Divine pardon during this present era of grace. There are.120
quite a number of passages in the N.T. epistles which clearly show the
contrary. In

2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 we read,
“For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they
should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not
the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
In

Hebrews 6:4, 6 it is said of some that” it is impossible to renew them
again unto repentance.” In

Hebrews 10:26, 27 it is said,
“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of
the truth there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain
fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall
devour the adversaries;”
while in

1 John 5:16 we are expressly informed “there is a sin unto
death.” In our judgment each of these passages refers to a class of
offenders who have so grievously provoked God that their doom is
irrevocably sealed while they are yet here upon earth.
Against the testimony of the above scriptures an appeal has often been
made to, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
But the Word of God does not contradict itself, and it is an evil practice
which cannot be too strongly condemned to pit one passage against
another: any attempt to neutralize one text by another is handling the Truth
deceitfully. With regard to

1 John 1:7 three things need to be pointed
out.
First, the precious blood of Christ was never designed to cleanse from
every sin — was it designed to cleanse Judas from his betrayal of the
Savior! Its application is no wider than its impetration: its virtue does not
extend beyond the purpose for which it was shed.
Second, it does not say “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from
all sin;” instead, it is strictly qualified: “cleanseth us from all sin,” that is,
God’s own people. It is dishonest to appropriate these words to
unbelievers.
Third, the promise is further limited in the preceding clause, “But if we
walk in the light as He is in the light.”
Nor do we at all agree with those writers who, while allowing that “the
unpardonable sin” may be committed during this present dispensation, yet.121
affirm it is a very rare occurrence, a most exceptional thing, of which only
one or two isolated cases may be found. On the contrary, we believe that
the Scriptures themselves dearly intimate that many have been guilty of sins
for which there was no forgiveness either in this world or the world to
come. We say “sins,” for a careful and prolonged study of the subject has
convinced us that “the unpardonable sin” is not one particular act of
committing some specific offense, like maliciously ascribing to Satan the
works of the Holy Spirit (which, no doubt, is one form of it), but that it
varies considerably in different cases. Both of these conclusions of the
present writer will receive illustration and confirmation in what follows.
The first human being who was guilty of unpardonable sin was Cain. He
was a professor or outward worshipper of God, but because Abel’s
offering was accepted and his own rejected, he waxed angry. The Lord
condescended to expostulate with him, and went so far as to assure him
that if he did well he would not lose his pre-eminence as the firstborn. But
so far from doing well, he persisted in wickedness, and his enmity against
God was evidenced by his hatred of His child, ending in the murder of him.
Whereupon the Lord said unto him,
“The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.
And now art thou cursed from the earth… A fugitive and a
vagabond shalt thou be in the earth” (

Genesis 4:10-12).
To which Cain answered,
“Mine iniquity is greater than it may be forgiven”
(

Genesis 4:13, margin).
The record of Genesis 6 makes it clear that a whole generation of the
world’s inhabitants had transgressed beyond all hope of remedy or
forgiveness.
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every imagination of the thoughts if his heart was only evil
continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the
earth. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created
from the face of the earth” (

Genesis 6:5-7),
which was duly accomplished by the Flood. The whole of mankind in the
days of Nimrod sinned so grievously (

Romans 1:21-23) that “God gave.122
them up” (

Romans 1:24-26), for His Spirit “will not always strive with
men.”
A whole generation of the Hebrews were also guilty of “the great
trangression.” In

Exodus 23:20, 21, we read, “Behold, I send an Angel
before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which
I have prepared. Beware of Him, and obey His voice, provoke Him not; for
He will not pardon your transgressions: for My Name is in Him.” Alas they
heeded not this solemn word:
“our fathers would not obey, but thrust Him from them, and in their
hearts turned back into Egypt” (

Acts 7:39).
Consequently the Lord said,
“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do
always err in their heart, and they have not known My ways. So I
sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest”
(

Hebrews 3:10, 11).
It seems evident to the writer that there have been some in every age who
have gone beyond the bounds of Divine mercy. Passing by such individual
cases as Pharaoh, Balaam, and Saul, we would observe that the Pharisees
of Christ’s day — the bulk of them at least — were guilty of sin for which
there was no forgiveness. It is clear from

John 3:2 that they recognized
Him as “a Teacher come from God” and from

John 11:47 that they
could not gainsay His miracles. Nay more, it is plain from

Mark 12:7
that they knew the righteousness of His claims: “But those husbandmen
said among themselves, This is the Heir: come, let us kill Him.” Thus they
acted with their eyes wide open, sinning against their own confession,
against light and knowledge, against the strong conviction His miracles
produced, and against His holy life spread before them. Therefore did
Christ say to them,
“I go My way, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins:
whither I go, ye cannot come” (

John 8:21).
“Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not
have dominion over me; then shall I be upright, and I shall be
innocent from the great transgression” (

Psalm 119:13)..123
Here the unpardonable sin is denominated “the great transgression.” It is
called such because this is what a bold and audacious defiance of God
necessarily culminates in, unless sovereign grace intervenes.
“Presumptuous” sins are committed by those who, while professing God’s
name and avowing a claim upon His mercy, persist in a known course
contrary to His Word. Such rebels, presuming upon God’s patience and
goodness, are mocked by Him, being suffered to go beyond the bounds of
His forgiveness. It is also called “blasphemy against the Spirit”
(

Matthew 12:31), “resisting the Spirit” (

Acts 7:51), “doing despite
unto the Spirit of grace” (

Hebrews 10:29). The “new testament” or
“covenant” is “the ministration of the Spirit” (

2 Corinthians 3:8), which
far exceeds in glory the legal dispensation. To be guilty of the great
transgression is to sin willfully against and to speak maliciously of the Holy
Spirit, who is revealed and promised in the Gospel; it is a quenching of His
convictions, resisting His enlightenment, defying His authority.
It is called “a sin unto death” (

1 John 5:16) because its perpetrator is
now out of the reach of the promise of eternal life, having made the
Gospel, which is a proclamation of Divine grace unto those who will
submit themselves to its requirements, a “savor of death unto death” to
himself. He was convicted by it that he was legally dead, and because of his
impenitence, unbelief, hardheartedness, and determination to go on having
his own way, he is left spiritually dead. Unto others God grants
“repentance unto life,” (

Acts 11:18), but when once “sin unto death”
has been committed, it is “impossible to renew again unto repentance”
(

Hebrews 6:4-6). By his opposition to the Gospel and refusal to receive
Christ’s “yoke,” the guilty rebel has trampled under foot the blood of
God’s Son, and as that alone can procure forgiveness, there is now no
pardon available for him.
The very fact that it is designated “a sin unto death” rather than “the sin
unto death” confirms what we said in a previous paragraph, namely, that it
is not some specific offense but rather that the particular form it takes
varies in different cases. And herein we may perceive how the sovereignty
of God is exercised in connection therewith. God allows some to go to
greater lengths of wickedness than others: some evil-doers He cuts off in
youth, while other workers of iniquity are permitted to live unto old age.
Against some He is more quickly and more strongly provoked than others.
Some souls He abandons to themselves more readily than He does others.
It is this which renders the subject so unspeakably solemn: no man has any.124
means of knowing how soon he may cross the line which marks the limits
of God’s forebearance with him. To trifle with God is hazardous to the last
degree.
That the sovereignty of God is exercised in this matter appears very clearly
from the cases of those whom He is pleased to save. What fearful crimes
Manasseh was guilty of before Divine grace renewed him! What dreadful
sins Saul of Tarsus committed ere the Lord Jesus apprehended him! Let the
writer and the reader review their own unregenerate days: how dreadfully
did we provoke the Majesty on high; how long did we persevere in a
course of open rebellion; against what restraints, privileges, light and
knowledge, warnings and entreaties, did we act! How many of the godless
companions of our youth were cut off in their guilt, while we were spared.
Was it because our sins were less crimson? No, indeed; so far as we can
perceive, our sins were of a deeper dye than theirs. Then why did God save
us? and why were they sent to Hell? “Even so, Father, for so it seemed
good in Thy sight” must be the answer.
A sovereign God has drawn the line in every life which marks the parting
of the ways. When that line is reached by the individual, God does one of
two things with him: either He performs a miracle of grace so that he
becomes “a new creature in Christ Jesus,” or henceforth that individual is
abandoned by Him, given up to hardness of heart and final impenitency;
and which it is, depends entirely upon His own imperial pleasure. And none
can tell how near he may be to that line, for some reach it much earlier in
life than others — according as God sovereignly decreed. Therefore it is
the part of wisdom for each sinner to promptly heed that word “Seek ye
the Lord while he may be found” (

Isaiah 55:6), which plainly denotes
that soon it may be too late — as

Proverbs 1:28-31 and

Matthew
25:8-12 plainly show.
This solemn distinction which God makes between one case and another
was strikingly shadowed out under the law. We refer to a remarkable detail
concerning the jubilee year, a detail which seems to have escaped the
notice of those who have preached and written on the subject. Those in
Israel who, through poverty, had sold their possessions, had them restored
at the year of jubilee: see

Leviticus 25:25-28. That was a wondrous and
beautiful figure of the free grace of God towards His people in Christ, by
which, and not because of anything of their own, they are restored to the
Divine favor and given a title to the heavenly inheritance. But in connection.125
therewith there was an exception, designed by God, we doubt not, to
adumbrate that which we are here treating upon. That exception we will
briefly notice.
“If a man sell a dwelling-house in a walled city, then he may redeem
it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he
redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year,
then the house that is in the walled city shall be established forever
to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out
in the jubilee” (

Leviticus 25:29, 30).
We cannot now attempt an exposition of this interesting passage or dwell
upon its leading features. No part of the “land” could be sold outright (see
5:23), for that was the free gift of God’s bounty — there can be no failure
in Divine grace; but houses in the city were the result of their labor human
responsibility being in view. If the house was sold and not repurchased
within a year, it passed beyond the reach of redemption, its forfeiture being
irrevocable and irrecoverable! Symbolically, the “house” spoke of security
under the Divine covenant, for in all generations God in covenant has been
the “dwelling-place” of His people (

Psalm 90:1). To part with his house
typified a professor selling himself to work presumptuous wickedness
(

1 Kings 21:20), and so selling his soul, his God, his all. To such an one
the Spirit will never “proclaim liberty” of the Jubilee, for Satan holds him
fast, and Divine justice forbids his discharge: when God “shutteth up a
man, there can be no opening” (

Job 12:14).
In view of all that has been before us, how softly we should tread, how
careful we should be of not provoking the Holy One! How earnestly we
should pray to be kept back from “presumptuous sins”! How diligently
should the young improve their privileges: how they should heed that
warning,
“He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be
destroyed, and that without remedy” (

Proverbs 29:1)!
How careful we should be against adding sin to sin, lest we provoke God
to leave us unto final impenitency. Our only safeguard is to heed the voice
of the Lord without delay, lest he “swear in His wrath” that we “should not
enter into His rest”! How we need to beg God to write those words upon
our hearts,.126
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief,
in departing from the living God” (

Hebrews 3:12),
for there is no hope whatever for the apostate.
A word now unto those with tender consciences that fear they may have
committed sin for which there is no forgiveness. The trembling and contrite
sinner is the farthest from it. There is not one instance recorded in
Scripture where any who was guilty of “the great transgression” and had
been given up by God to inevitable destruction, ever repented of his sins,
or sought God’s mercy in Christ; instead, they all continued obstinate and
defiant, the implacable enemies of Christ and His ways unto the end. While
there be in the heart any sincere valuing of God’s approbation, any real
sense of His holiness which deters from trifling with Him, any genuine
purpose to turn unto Him and submit to His requirements, any true fearing
of His wrath, that soul has not been abandoned by Him. If you have a deep
desire to obtain an interest in Christ, or become a better Christian; if you
are deeply troubled over sin, if your heart grieves over its hardness, if you
yearn and pray for more tenderness of conscience, more yieldedness of
will, more love and obedience to Christ, then you have no cause to suspect
you have committed “the unpardonable sin.”
“Lest there by any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who, for
one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that
afterward when he would have inherited the blessing, he was
rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it
carefully with tears” (

Hebrews 12:16,17).
These verses continue what was before us in the preceding one, and
complete the series of exhortations begun in verse 12. As we pointed out at
the close of the previous article, the ultimate reference in verse 15 is first a
warning against that which if disregarded would end in apostasy, and
second, a caution against suffering one who evidences the symptoms of an
apostate to remain in the assembly — its language being an allusion unto

Deuteronomy 29:18. That warning and caution is now exemplified by
citing the fearful example of Esau, who, though born among the covenant
people and receiving (we doubt not) a pious upbringing, committed a sin
for which there was no forgiveness, and became an apostate.
First of all, two particular sins are here warned against: “fornication” and
“profanity,” each of which is “a root of bitterness,” which if permitted to.127
“spring up” will cause “trouble” to the guilty one and “defile many” with
whom he is associated. Both “fornication” and “profanity” are opposed
unto the holiness exhorted unto in verse 14. Fornication is a sin against the
second table of the Law, and profanity a breach of its first table. As in
verse 14 the apostle had enjoined the Hebrews to “follow peace” which has
respect to man and “holiness” which regards our relation to God, so now
he forbids two sins, the first of which would be committed against man, the
second against God. The two sins go together, for where a course of moral
uncleanness is followed, profanity almost always accompanies it; and on
the other hand, profane persons habitually think lightly of immorality. The
forsaking of either sin by sincere repentance is exceedingly rare.
The term “profane” has a more specific meaning and a wider application
than it is commonly accorded in our speech today.
“Holy things are said to be profaned when men take off the
veneration that is due unto them, and expose them to common use
or contempt. To ‘profane’ is to violate, to corrupt, to prostitute to
common use things sacred, either in their nature or by Divine
institution. A profane person is one that despiseth, sets light by, or
condemneth sacred things. Such as mock at religion, or who lightly
regard its promises and threatenings; who despise or neglect its
worship, who speak irreverently of its concerns, we call profane
persons, and such they are, and such the world is filled with at this
day. This profaneness is the last step of entrance into final apostasy.
When men, from professors of religion, become despisers of and
scoffers at it, their state is dangerous, if not irrevocable” (John
Owen).
An instance of this evil is given in Esau, and a fearfully solemn case his is,
one which would warn us not to put our trust in external privileges.
“He was the firstborn of Isaac, circumcised according to the law of
that ordinance, and partaker of all the worship of God in that holy
family; yet an outcast from the covenant of grace and the promise
thereof” (Owen).
The particular offense with which he is here charged is that “for one morsel
of meat” he “sold his birthright.” Now the birthright or privilege of the
firstborn carried with it the following things: the special blessing of his
father, a double portion of his goods, dominion over his brethren, and.128
priestly functions (

Numbers 3:41) when the father was absent from
home. The “birthright” was regarded as a very special thing, being typical
of the primogeniture of Christ, of the adoption of saints, and of a title to
the heavenly inheritance. All of this Esau despised.
The historical account of Esau’s sin is recorded in the closing verses of
Genesis 25: the heinousness of it is exhibited in our text. Esau preferred the
gratification of the flesh rather than the blessing of God. He relinquished all
claims to the privileges contained in and annexed to his being the firstborn,
for a trifling and temporary enjoyment of the body. Alas, how many there
are like him in the world today. What vast numbers prefer carnal pleasures
to spiritual joys, temporal advantages to eternal riches, physical
gratification to the soul’s salvation. By calling Esau “profane,” the Holy
Spirit reveals that he placed no higher value upon sacred things than he did
upon those which were common. That which he received at the price of his
wickedness is termed “meat,” to indicate that satisfying of the flesh was his
motive; and a “morsel,” to emphasize the paltriness of his choice.
The enormity of the sin of “profanity” is determined by the sacredness of
the objects to which it is opposed: let the reader carefully compare

Leviticus 18:21; 21:9;

Nehemiah 13:17;

Ezekiel 22:26. The
“profane” are guilty of trampling God’s pearls beneath their feet. To spurn
the Scriptures, to desecrate the Sabbath, to revile God’s servants, to
despise or ridicule the Gospel, to mock at the future state, are all so many
forms of this unspeakable wickedness. As helps against it we would
mention the need of being well instructed from the Word, so that we may
know what are “holy” things. To bring our hearts to realize the superlative
excellency of holiness. To meditate seriously and frequently upon God’s
indignation against those who slight what He highly esteems.
“For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited
the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance,
though he sought it carefully with tears” (verse 17).
This takes us back to the closing section of Genesis 27, where we learn the
consequences which his sin entailed. Isaac had pronounced the patriarchal
benediction upon Jacob, which, when his brother learned thereof deeply
agitated him: “He cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry” (

Genesis
27:34). It was then that his “tears” were shed: but they proceeded not from
anguish of heart because he had sinned so grievously against God, rather
did they flow from a sense of self-pity — they expressed his chagrin for the.129
consequences which his folly had produced. Similar are the lamentations of
probably ninety-nine out of a hundred so called “death-bed repentances.”
And such will be the “weeping and wailing” of those in Hell: not because
God was so slighted and wronged by them, but because of the eternal
suffering which their sins have justly resulted in.
Esau’s “tears” were of no avail: “he was rejected.” His appeal came too
late: Isaac had already bestowed the blessing upon Jacob. It was like an
Israelite seeking to recover his property eighteen months after he had sold
it: see again

Leviticus 25:30. Isaac, who was a prophet of God, His
mouthpiece, refused to be moved by Esau’s bitter wailing. In like manner,
the Lord says of those who have sinned away the day of grace
“They shall call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me
early, but they shall not find Me” (

Proverbs 1:28);
and
“Therefore will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither
will I have pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice,
yet will I not hear them” (

Ezekiel 8:18).
O what point that gives to the call
“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while
He is near” (

Isaiah 55:6).
Reader, if you have not yet genuinely responded to that call, do so at once;
delay is fraught with the utmost peril to your soul.
The apostle was here addressing professing Christians, and the fearful case
of Esau is set before them (and us!) as a warning against departing from
the Narrow Way, of exchanging the high privileges of the faithful for the
temporary advantages of a faithless world. The doom of the apostate is
irretrievable. To lightly esteem, and then despise, sacred things, will be
followed “afterward” by bitter regret and unavailing anguish. To reject the
terms of the Gospel in order to gratify the lusts of the flesh for a brief
season, and then suffer forever and ever in the Lake of Fire, is the height of
madness. No excuse could palliate Esau’s profanity, and nothing can
extenuate the wickedness of him who prefers the drudgery of Satan to the
freedom there is in Christ. Esau’s rejection by Isaac was the evidence of his.130
reprobation by God. May it please the Lord to use this article to search the
heart of every reader..131
CHAPTER 97
THE INFERIORITY OF JUDAISM
(

HEBREWS 12:18, 19)
As there are certain parts of a country which offer less attraction than
others unto tourists and sight-seers, so there are some portions of Scripture
which are of less interest to most readers and writers. As there are some
scenes in Nature which can be taken in at a glance while others invite a
repeated survey, so there are verses in each Epistle which afford less scope
than others unto the teacher. That is why almost every preacher has a
sermon on certain favorite texts, whereas other verses are neglected by
nearly all pulpits. But the expositor has not the same freedom to follow his
inclinations as the textual sermonizer: unless he shirks his duty, he must go
through a passage verse by verse, and clause by clause. Still more so is this
the case with one who essays to write a commentary upon a whole book of
the Bible: he is not free to pick and choose, nor yield to his personal
preferences, but must give the same attention and enlargement to one part
as to another.
The above reflections have occurred to the editor as he has pondered the
verses which next claim our consideration in Hebrews 12. Their contents
are not likely to make much appeal unto the ordinary reader, for there
seems little in them which would be relished either by those who have an
appetite for “strong meat” or by those preferring the “milk” of babes. Our
passage neither sets forth any of the “doctrine of grace” nor presents any
practical exhortation for the Christian life. Instead, it alludes to an
historical incident which was chiefly of interest to the Jews, and multiplies
details from the same which would be tedious unto the average churchgoer
of this untoward generation. Nevertheless, it is a part of God’s Word, and
as it lies in our immediate path through this Epistle we shall not ignore or
turn from it. As the Lord enables, we shall endeavor to give it the same
attention and space as what has preceded it.
The passage upon which we are about to enter (which reaches from

Hebrews 12:18 to the end of the chapter) has been variously interpreted.132
by different commentators. One class of more recent writers have, it seems
to us, been far more anxious to read into it their own pet theory regarding
the future, than to interpret these verses in accord with the theme of the
Epistle in which they are found. It would indeed be strange for the apostle
to introduce here a reference to some future “millennium:” the more so in
view of the fact that he has studiously avoided the use of the future tense
— note the emphatic “ye are come” (verse 22) and “but now” (verse 26).
If due attention be paid unto the main line of the apostle’s argument in this
treatise, then there should be no difficulty in arriving at a correct
understanding — of the substance of it, at least — of this portion of it.
As we pointed out so frequently in the earlier articles of this series, the
immediate and principal design of the apostle in this Epistle, was to prevail
with the Hebrews in persuading them unto a perseverance in their
profession of the Gospel, for therein they appear at that time to have been
greatly shaken. Therefore does he warn them, again and again, of the
various causes and occasions of backsliding. Principal among these were,
first, an evil heart of unbelief, the sin which did so easily beset them.
Second, an undue valuation of the excellency of Judaism and the Mosaical
church-state. Third, wavering under the afflictions and persecutions which
fidelity to the Gospel entailed. Fourth, prevalent lusts, such as profaneness
and fornication. Each of these we have considered in the preceding
sections.
The principal argument which the apostle had urged unto their constancy in
Christianity, was the superlative excellency, glory, and benefit of the
Gospel-state into which the Hebrews had been called. This he has
accomplished and proved by setting forth the person and office of its
Author, His priesthood and sacrifice, with all the spiritual worship and
privileges belonging thereto. Each of these he compared and contrasted
with the things that corresponded unto the same during the O.T.
dispensation. Thereby he set over against each other the type and the
antitype, the shadow and the substance, and by so doing made it
unmistakably evident that the new economy was immeasurably superior to
the old, that all the ordinances and institutions of the law were but
prefigurations of those spiritual realities which are now revealed by the
Gospel.
Having insisted so largely and so particularly on these things in the
preceding chapters and brought his arguments from them to a plain issue,.133
he now recapitulates them as a whole. In the passage which is now to
engage our attention the apostle presents a brief scheme of the two states
or economies (designated as “testaments” or “covenants”), balancing them
one against another, and thereby demonstrating the conclusive force of his
central argument and the exhortations which he had based upon it, unto
constancy and perseverance in the faith of the Gospel. It is no new
argument which he here proceeds with, nor is it a special amplification of
the warning pointed by the example of Esau; still less is it a departure from
his great theme by a sudden excursus into the realm of eschatology.
Instead, it is a forcible summary, under a new dress, of all he had
previously advanced.
The central design, then, of our passage as a whole, was to present one
more and final antithesis of Judaism and Christianity. The contrast here
drawn is virtually parallel with the one instituted in Galatians 4 between
Hagar and Sarah, the figure of two “mounts” being used instead of the two
women. The great honor and chief privilege of the Judaical Church-state
whereon all particular advantages did depend, was their coming to and
station in mount Sinai at the giving of the Law. It was there that Jehovah
revealed Himself with all the insignia of His awe-inspiring majesty. It was
there that they were taken into covenant with the Lord (Exodus 24), to be
His peculiar people above all the world. It was there that Israel was formed
into a national Church (

Acts 7:38). It was there that they had
committed unto them all the privileges of Divine worship. It is that very
glory which the Jews boast of to this day, and whereon they rest in their
rejection of the Gospel.
It was necessary, then, for the apostle to make direct reference unto that
upon which the unbelieving Hebrews based all their hopes, and to which
they were appealing in their efforts to get their believing brethren to
apostatize from Christ. His argument had neither been complete nor
conclusive unless he could undermine their confidence in the foundational
glory of Judaism, take off their hearts from unduly admiring, and show that
it had been succeeded by that which “excelleth.” He therefore directs
attention to those features in connection with the giving of the Law, which
so far from being calculated to win the affections, inspired with dread and
terror. He points out a number of items which by their very nature
intimated that the Divine communications vouchsafed at Sinai were not the
full and final unveiling of the Divine character, such as the souls of
awakening sinners longed for..134
Our introduction has been a somewhat lengthy one, though briefer than
that of J. Owen, which we have closely followed in the last paragraphs; yet
we deemed it necessary. The details of our present passage cannot be
viewed in their true perspective until they are rightly focused in the light of
our Epistle as a whole. The scope of the passage must first be determined,
before we are ready to examine its several members. This calls for time and
real study, yet only as this preliminary work is properly executed will we be
preserved from those errors which are inevitably fallen into when a passage
is treated hurriedly and superficially. This is only another way of saying
that, the foundation must be well and securely laid, if it is to bear
successfully the superstructure which is raised upon it. Alas that such
foundation-labor is so little appreciated today.
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and
that burned with fire” (v. 18).
The apostle here returns to his central theme by an easy and natural
transition. He had just been dehorting from back-sliding, pointed out by the
solemn case of Esau. Now he urges unto constancy by appealing to the
privileges they enjoyed. As Calvin well put it, “The higher the excellency of
Christ’s kingdom than the dispensation of Moses, and the more glorious
our calling than that of the ancient people, the more disgraceful and the
less excusable is our ingratitude, unless we embrace in a becoming manner
the great favor offered to us, and humbly adore the majesty of Christ which
is here made evident. And then, as God does not present Himself to us
clothed in terrors as He did formerly to the Jews, but lovingly and kindly
invites us to Himself, so the sin of ingratitude will be thus doubled, except
we willingly and in earnest respond to His gracious invitation.”
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched.” The principal
design which the apostle here had in hand was to set forth, in its most
attractive form (see verses 22-24), that evangelical state where-unto the
Hebrews had been called and into which they had entered. This he first
does negatively, by describing the Church-state under the O.T., from
which they had been delivered. Thus, before the “Ye are come” of verse
22, he introduces this “For ye are not come.” Two things were thereby
noted: that order or system to which their fathers belonged, but from which
they had been freed by their responding to the Gospel call. They were no
more concerned in all that dread and terror, and their consideration of that
fact supplied a powerful motive to their perseverance in the Christian faith..135
Freely granting that a great privilege was conferred on their fathers at
Sinai, the apostle observes “that it was done in such a way of dread and
terror, as that sundry things are manifest therein: as,
1. That there was no evidence in all that was done of God’s being
reconciled to them, in and by those things. The whole representation of
Him was of an absolute Sovereign and a severe Judge. Nothing
declared Him as a Father, gracious and merciful.
2. There was no intimation of any condescension from the exact
severity of what was required in the law or of any relief or pardon in
case of transgression.
3. There was no promise of grace in a way of aid or assistance for the
performance of what was required. Thunders, voices, earthquakes and
fire gave no signification of these things.
4. The whole was hereby nothing but a glorious ministration of death
and condemnation (as the apostle speaks:

2 Corinthians 3:7)
whence the conscience of sinners were forced to subscribe to their own
condemnation, as just and equal.
“5. God was here represented in all outward demonstrations of
infinite holiness, justice, severity and terrible majesty on the one
hand; and on the other, men in their lowest condition of sin, misery,
guilt and death. If there be not therefore something else to
interpose between God and men, somewhat to fill up the space
between infinite severity and inexpressible guilt, all this glorious
preparation was nothing but a theater set up for the pronouncing of
judgment and the sentence of eternal condemnation against sinners.
And on this consideration depends the force of the apostle’s
argument; and the due apprehension and declaration of, is a better
explanation of vv. 18-21 than the opening of the particular
expressions will amount to; yet they also must be explained.
“It is hence evident, that the Israelites in the station of Sinai, did
bear the persons of convicted sinners under the sentence of the law.
There might be many of them justified in their own persons by faith
in the promise; but as they stood and heard and received the law,
they represented sinners under the sentence of it, not yet relieved by
the Gospel. And this we may have respect to in our exposition, as
that which is that final intention of the apostle to declare, as is.136
manifest from the description which he gives of the Gospel-state,
and of those that are interested therein” (John Owen).
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched.” It is both
pathetic and amusing to read the various shifts made by some of the
commentators to “harmonize” the opening words of our text with what is
said in

Exodus 19:12, “Thou shalt set bounds unto the people round
about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount,
or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall surely be put
to death.” Some have pleaded that the little “not be touched” was
inadvertantly dropped by a copyist of the Greek manuscript. Others insist
our verse should be rendered, “Ye are come to a mount not to be
touched.” But the only “discrepancy” here is in the understanding of the
expositors. The apostle was not making a quotation from Exodus. but
rather describing, negatively, that order of things unto which the Gospel
had brought the believing Hebrews. In so doing, he shows the striking
contrast between it and the order of things connected with the giving of the
Law.
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched.” The simple
and evident meaning of this is: The Gospel has not brought you unto that
which is material and visible, palpable and touchable by the physical senses,
but only what is spiritual and can only be apprehended by faith. A “mount”
is a thing of the earth; whereas the glory of Christianity is entirely celestial.
The passage which most clearly interprets this clause is found in our Lord’s
discourse with the woman at the well:
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when
you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the
Father… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true
worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth”
(

John 4:21, 23).
Judaism was the Church’s kindergarten, in which its infantile members
were instructed, mainly, through their bodily senses. Christianity has
introduced a far superior order of things.
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched,” then, is a
figurative way of saying that Christ has opened a way into something
infinitely superior to a system which, as such, had nothing better than “a
worldly sanctuary” and “carnal ordinances” (

Hebrews 9:1, 10). The.137
Greek word for “come” in our text is that technical or religious term which
had been used repeatedly by the apostle in this Epistle to express a sacred
access or coming to God in His worship: see

Hebrews 4:16, 7:25, 10:1
— last clause “comers thereunto.” Mount Sinai was a material thing,
exposed to the outward senses, and was an emblem of the entire order of
things connected with Judaism. As such, it was in complete contrast from
that order of things brought in by Christ, which is wholly spiritually,
invisible, and celestial. The one was addressed to the bodily senses; the
other to the higher faculties of the soul. Spiritually speaking, Romanists
and all other Ritualists are occupied with “the mount that might be
touched”!
“And that burned with fire.” In their most literal sense those words allude
to what transpired at Sinai. In

Exodus 19:18 we read,
“And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord
descended upon it in fire.”
But it is with their figurative purport we are more concerned. In Scripture
“fire” is the symbol of Divine wrath and judgment. As we are told in

Deuteronomy 4:24, “The Lord thy God is a consuming fire, a jealous
God,” and the “jealousy” of God is, His holy severity against sin, not to
leave it unpunished. With respect unto the law which He there gave — for

Deuteronomy 33:2 declares “from His right hand went a fiery law” — it
signified its inexorable sternness and efficacy to destroy its transgressors.
Thus, the “fire” denoted the awful majesty of God as an inflexible Judge,
and the terror which His law strikes into the minds of its violators with
expectations of fiery indignation.
This was the first thing which the people beheld when they came to Sinai:
God as a “consuming fire” presented to their view! Thus it is in the
experience of those whom God saves. For many years, it may be, they lived
in a state of unconcern: they had no heart-affecting views of the majesty
and authority of God, and no pride-withering apprehensions of the
fearfulness of their guilt. But when the Spirit awakens them from the sleep
of death, gives them to realize Who it is with whom they have to do, and
whose anger burns against sin; when the Law is applied to their conscience,
convicting them of their innumerable offenses, their hearts are filled with
dread and misery as they perceive their undone condition. There the law
leaves them, and thence they must be consumed, unless they obtain
deliverance by Jesus Christ..138
And that was exactly what, by Divine grace, these believing Hebrews had
obtained. The Redeemer had “delivered them from the wrath to come”
(

1 Thessalonians 1:10). They were now as secure in Him as Noah was
in the ark. The fire of God’s wrath had spent itself on the person of their
Substitute. God was now reconciled to them, and henceforth they had an
inalienable standing before Him — not as trembling criminals, but as
accepted sons. To them the word was
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye
have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father” (

Romans 8:15).
No, as Christians, we have nothing more to do with the mount “that
burned with fire,” but only with “the Throne of Grace.” Hallelujah! Alas
that so many Christians are being robbed of their birthright. If Romanists
and Ritualists are guilty of being occupied with “the mount that might be
touched,” then those who are constantly presenting God before His people
in His dread majesty — instead of as a loving Father — are taking them
back to the mount “that burned with fire.”
“Nor unto blackness and darkness.” Here again the literal allusion is unto
the awe-inspiring phenomena which attended the giving of the law. There
was
“a thick cloud upon the mount,… mount Sinai was altogether on a
smoke” (

Exodus 19:16, 18).
Different commentators have resorted to various conjectures in their
efforts to “harmonize” the “blackness and darkness” with the “fire:” some
suggesting the one was followed by the other after an interval of time,
others supposing the “darkness” was over the camp and the “fire” at the
summit of the mount. But such theorizings are worthless in the face of

Deuteronomy 5:22-23,
“The Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the
midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness… ye heard
the voice out of the midst of the darkness, for the mountain did
burn with fire.”
The fact is this “fire” was supernatural: as that of Babylon’s furnace
burned not while the three Hebrews were in it (Daniel 3), this glowed not
— increasing the terror of its beholders because it emitted no light!.139
If the above explanation be deemed “far fetched,” we would appeal to the
corroborating correspondency in the experience of those who have been
saved. Was it not a fact that when we were shut up under guilt and terrified
by the representation of God’s severity against sin, we looked in vain for
anything in the Law which could yield relief? When the glory of God’s
holiness shined into your conscience and His law was applied in convicting
and condemning power, did you perceive His merciful design in the same?
No, indeed; at that time, His gracious purpose was covered with
“blackness,” and “darkness” filled your soul. You perceived not that the
law was His instrument for flaying your self-righteous hopes (

Romans
7:10) and “a schoolmaster unto Christ” (

Galatians 3:24). Your case
appeared hopeless; and despite the fiery power of the law, you knew not
how to “order your speech (before God) by reason of darkness” (

Job
37:19).
“And tempest:” under this term the apostle comprises the thundering,
lightnings, the earthquake which were on and in mount Sinai (

Exodus
19:16, 18) all of which symbolized the disquieting character of so much
that marked the Mosaic economy — in contrast from the peace and
assurance which the Gospel imparts to those who believingly appropriate
it. The order here agrees with the experience of those whom God saves.
First, there is an application of the “fiery law,” which burns and terrifies
the conscience.
Second, there is the blackness and darkness of despair which follows the
discovery of our lost condition.
Third, there is the agitation of mind and turmoil of heart in seeking help by
self-efforts and finding none. The soul has no light and knows not what to
do. The mind is in a tumult, for no escape from the law’s just course seems
possible. Not yet has Christ appeared to the distressed one.
“And the sound of a trumpet.” This too, we believe, was a supernatural
one, emitting ear-splitting tones, shrill and loud, designed to inspire both
awe and fear. It signified the near approach of God. It was to summon the
people before Him as their lawgiver and Judge (

Exodus 19:17). It was
the outward sign of the promulgation of the Law, for immediately upon the
sound of it, God spoke unto them. It was a pledge of the final judgment,
when all flesh shall be summoned before God to answer the terms of His
law. Experimentally, it is the imperative summons of the Word for the soul.140
to answer to God’s call. Those who neglect it, will have to answer for the
whole when they receive the final summons at the last day. Those who
answer it now, are brought into God’s presence in fear and trembling, who
then reveals to them Christ as an all-sufficient Savior.
“And the voice of words.” This is the seventh and final detail which the
apostle here noticed. The “voice of words” was articulate and intelligible,
in contrast from the dull roar of the thunder and the shrill tones of the
trumpet. Those “words” were the ten commandments, written afterward
on the two tables of stone: see

Deuteronomy 5:22 and the preceding
verses. Those “words” were uttered by the voice of the Lord God
Almighty (

Exodus 20:1), concerning which we are told,
“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of
majesty; the voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars” (

Psalm
29:4,5) etc.
It was God declaring unto His Church the eternal establishment of His
Law, that no alteration should be made in its commands or penalties, but
that all must be fulfilled.
“Which voice they that heard entreated that the words should not be
spoken to them any more.” This reveals the terror-stricken state of those
who were encamped before Sinai. There was that on every side which
inspired awe and dread: Nature itself convulsed and supernatural
phenomena attending the same. This was intended to show the people that
God had ascended His awful tribunal as a strict Judge. But that which filled
them with intolerable consternation was the voice of God Himself speaking
immediately to them. It was not that they refused to hear Him, but that
they desired Him to speak to them through Moses, the typical Mediator.
Experimentally, the sinner is overwhelmed when the voice of God in the
law comes in power to his conscience..141
CHAPTER 98
THE INFERIORITY OF JUDAISM
(

HEBREWS 12:20, 21)
The Divine law was, for the substance of it, originally written in the hearts
of mankind by God Himself, when their federal head and father was
created in His own image and likeness. But through the fall it was
considerably marred, as to its efficacious motions in the human heart. The
entrance of sin and the corruption of our nature largely silenced its
authoritative voice in the soul. Nevertheless, its unchanging demand and
dread penalty were secured in the consciences of Adam’s depraved
posterity. The law is so inlaid with the principles of our moral nature, so
engrafted on all the faculties of our souls, that none has been able to
completely get from under its power. Though the wicked find it utterly
contrary to their desires and designs, and continually threatening their
everlasting ruin, yet they cannot utterly cast off its yoke: see

Romans
2:14, 15. Hence it is that, even among the most degraded and savage
tribes, a knowledge of right and wrong, with some standard of conduct, is
preserved.
Not only was the impression of the Divine law upon the human heart
largely — though not totally — defaced by Adam’s apostasy, but from
Cain unto the Exodus succeeding generations more and more flouted its
authority, and disregarded its requirements in their common practice.
Therefore, when God took Israel into covenant relationship with Himself
and established them into a national Church, He restored to them His law,
in all its purity, majesty, and terror. This He did, not only to renew it as a
guide unto all righteousness and holiness, as the only rule of obedience
unto Himself and of right and equity amongst men, and also to be a check
unto sin by its commands and threatenings, but principally to declare in the
Church the eternal establishment of it, that no alteration should be made in
it, but that all must be fulfilled to the uttermost before any sinner can have
any acceptance with Him..142
As the Law was the original rule of obedience between God and mankind,
and as it had failed of its end through the entrance of sin, the Lord had
never revived and proclaimed it in so solemn a manner at Sinai, had it been
capable of any abrogation and alteration at any time. Nay, He then gave
many additional evidences of its perpetuity and abiding authority. It was
solely for the promulgation of His law that the presence of God appeared
on the mount, attended with such dreadful solemnity. The Ten
Commandments were the only communication which God then gave
directly unto the people themselves — those institutions which were to be
repealed at a later date (the ceremonial laws) were given through Moses!
Those ten commandments were spoken directly unto the whole nation with
a Voice that was great and terrible. Later, they were written by His own
finger on tables of stone. Thus did God confirm His law and evidence that
it was incapable of dissolution. How it has been established and fulfilled the
Epistle to the Romans makes known.
The different forms which the Lord’s appearances took in O.T. times were
always in accord with each distinct revelation of His mind and will. He
appeared to Abraham in the shape of a man (

Genesis 18:1, 2), because
He came to give promise of the Seed of blessing and to vouchsafe a
representation of the future incarnation. To Moses He appeared as a flame
in a bush which was not consumed (Exodus 3), because He would intimate
that all the fiery trials through which the Church should pass would not
consume it, and that because He was in it. To Joshua He appeared as a
man of war, with drawn sword in His hand (

Joshua 5:13), because He
would assure him of victory over all his enemies. But at Sinai His
appearing was surrounded by terrors, because He would represent the
severity of His law, with the inevitable and awful destruction of all those
who lay not hold of the promise for deliverance.
The place of this glorious and solemn appearing of the Lord was also full
of significance. It was neither in Egypt not yet in Canaan, but in the midst
of a great howling desert. Only those who have actually seen the place, can
form any adequate conception of the abject dreariness and desolation of the
scene. It was an absolute solitude, far removed from the habitation and
converse of man. Here the people could neither see nor hear anything but
God and themselves. There was no shelter or place of retirement: they
were brought out into the open, face to face with God. Therein He gave a
type and representation of the Great Judgment at the last day, when all
who are out of Christ will be brought face to face with their Judge, and will.143
behold nothing but the tokens of His wrath, and hear only the Law’s dread
sentence announcing their irrevocable doom.
Sinai was surrounded by a barren and fruitless wilderness, wherein there
was neither food nor water. Accurately does that depict the unregenerate
in a state of sin: the Law brings forth nothing in their lives which is
acceptable to God or really beneficial to the souls of men. The Mount itself
produced nothing but bushes and brambles, from which some scholars say
its name is derived. From a distance that vegetation makes an appearance
of some fruitfulness in the place, but when it be more closely examined it is
found that there is nothing except that which is fit for the fire. Thus it is
with sinners under the law. They seem to perform many works of
obedience, yea, such as they trust in and make their boast of; but when they
are weighed in the Divine balance, they are found to be but thorns and
briars, the dead works of those whose minds are enmity against God.
Nothing else can the law bring forth from those who are out of Christ:
“From Me is thy fruit found” (

Hosea 14:8) is His own avowal.
Nor was there any water in the desert of Horeb to make it fruitful. Pause,
my reader, and admire the “wondrous works” (

Psalm 145:5) of God.
When we are given eyes to see, we may discern the Creator’s handiwork as
plainly in the desolate wastes of Nature as in the fertile fields and gardens,
as truly in the barren and forbidding mountains as in the fruitful and
attractive valleys. He whose fingers had shaped the place where His Son
was crucified as “a place of a skull” (

Matthew 27:33), had diverted
from the desert of Horeb all rivers and streams. That water upon which the
people of God then lived, issued from the smitten rock (

Exodus 17:6),
for it is only through Christ that the Holy Spirit is given: see

John 7:28,
39,

Acts 2:33,

Titus 3:5, 6. They who reject Christ have not the
Spirit: see

Romans 8:9, Jude 19.
We may further observe that, the appearing of the Lord God at the giving
of the Law was on the top of a high mountain, and not in a plain: this
added to both the glory and the terror of it. This gave a striking
adumbration of the Throne of His majesty, high over the people, who were
far below at its base. As they looked up, they saw the mount above them
full of fire and smoke, the ground on which they stood quaking beneath
their feet, the air filled with thunderings and lightnings, with the piercing
blasts of the trumpet and the voice of the Lord Himself falling on their ears.
What other thought could fill their minds than that it was “a fearful thing”.144
to be summoned to judgment before the ineffably Holy One? O that the
preachers of our day could say with him who had experienced the reality of
Sinai in his own soul,
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”
(

2 Corinthians 5:11).
The Lord’s appearing on mount Sinai was only a temporary one — in
contrast with His “dwelling” in Zion (

Isaiah 8:18). This shadowed-forth
the fact that the economy there instituted was but a transient one — though
the Law there promulgated is eternal. Those, then, who turn unto Sinai for
salvation are left entirely unto themselves.
“God dwells no more on Sinai. Those who abide under the law (as
a covenant, A.W.P.) shall neither have His presence nor any
gracious pledge of it. And all these things are spoken to stir us up
to seek for an interest in that blessed Gospel-state which is here
proposed to us. And thus much we have seen already, that without
it there is neither relief from the cure of the law, nor acceptable
fruit of obedience, nor pledge of Divine favor to be obtained” (John
Owen, whom we have again followed closely in the above
paragraphs).
Before turning to the final lines in the graphic picture which the apostle
gave of the appearing of the Lord at Sinai, let us again remind ourselves of
his principal design in the same. The immediate end which the apostle had
before him, was to persuade the Hebrews to adhere closely to the Gospel,
his appeal being drawn from the evident fact of the superlative excellency
of it to the law. In particular, he was here enforcing his former exhortations
unto steadfastness under afflictions, to an upright walk in the ways of God,
to the following of peace with all men, and to persevere diligently that they
failed not of the grace of God. This he does by pointing out that ancient
order of things from which they had been delivered, for such is the force of
his opening words “ye are not come unto” etc. (verse 18).
“For they could not endure that which was commanded”
(verse 20).
Having mentioned in the preceding verses seven things which their fathers
came unto at Sinai, the apostle now describes the effects which those
startling phenomena produced upon them. The first was, the people
“entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more” (verse.145
19), the reason being “for they could not endure” it. The display of God’s
terrible majesty, the distance from Him they were required to maintain, and
the high spirituality of the Law then promulgated, with its fearful penalty
attending the least infraction of it, completely overwhelmed them. So it is
still: a view of God as a Judge, represented in fire and blackness, will fill
the souls of convicted sinners with dread and terror. No matter how boldly
and blatantly they have carried themselves, when the Spirit brings a
transgressor to that Mount, the stoutest heart will quake.
When God deals with men by the Law, He shuts them up to Himself and
their own conscience. As we pointed out in an earlier paragraph, God gave
the Law to Israel neither in Egypt nor in Canaan, but in a desert, a place of
absolute solitude, remote from the commerce of men. There the people
could neither see nor hear anything but God and themselves. There was no
shelter or place or retirement: they were brought out into the open, face to
face with Him with whom they had to do. So it is now: when God has
designs of mercy toward a sinner, when He takes him in hand, He brings
him out of all his retreats and refuges, and compels him to face the just
demands of His Law, and the unspeakable dreadful manner in which he has
hitherto disregarded its requirements and sought to hear not its
accusations.
When the Law is preached to sinners — alas in so many places today that
which gives “the knowledge of sin” (

Romans 3:20) is entirely omitted
— it usually falls upon the ears of those who promptly betake themselves
to various retreats and reliefs for evading its searching and terror-producing
message. They seek refuge in the concerns and amusements of
this life in order to crowd out serious and solemn thoughts of the life to
come. They listen to the bewitching promises of self-pleasing, “the
pleasures of sin for a season.” Or, they put far forward in their minds the
“evil day,” and take security in resolutions of repentance and reformation
before death shall come upon them. They have many other things to
engage their attention than to listen to the voice of the Law; at least, they
persuade themselves it is not yet necessary that they should seriously
hearken thereto.
But when God brings the sinner to the Mount, as He most certainly will,
either here or hereafter, all these pretenses and false comforts vanish, every
prop is knocked from under him: to hide away from his Judge is now
impossible..146
“Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the
plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the
waters shall overflow the hiding place” (

Isaiah 28:17).
Then it is that the sinner discovers that
“the bed is shorter than a man can stretch himself on it: the
covering narrower than he can wrap himself in it”
(

Isaiah 28:20).
He is forced out into the open: he is brought face to face with his Maker;
he is compelled to attend unto the voice of the Law. There is neither
escape nor relief for him. His conscience is now held to that which he can
neither endure nor avoid. He is made to come out from behind the trees, to
find his fig-leaves provide no covering (

Genesis 3:9-11).
As the stern and inexorable voice of the Law enters into his innermost
being,
“piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the
joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of
the heart” (

Hebrews 4:12),
the poor sinner is paralyzed with fear. The sight of the Divine Majesty on
His throne, overwhelms him: the terms and curse of the Law slay his every
hope. Now he experiences the truth of

Romans 7:9, 10,
“For I was alive (in my own estimation) without the law once; but
when the commandment came (applied in power to the conscience
by the Spirit) sin revived (became a living, raging, cursed reality)
and I died (to all expectation of winning God’s approval). And the
commandment, which was unto life, I found unto death.”
Like Israel before Sinai, the sinner cannot endure the voice of the Law.
The Law commands him, but provides no strength to meet its
requirements. It shows him his sins, but it reveals no Savior. He is
encompassed with terror and sees no way of escape from eternal death.
That is the very office of the Law in the hands of the Holy Spirit: to shatter
the sinner’s unconcern, to make him conscious of the claims of the holy
God, to convict him of his lifelong rebellion against Him, to strip him of the
rags of his self-righteousness, to slay all hope of self-help and self-.147
deliverance, to bring him to the realization that he is lost, utterly undone,
sentenced to death.
“Which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be
spoken to them any more; for they could not endure that which was
commanded” (

Hebrews 12:19, 20).
When the Holy Spirit applies the Law in power, the sinner’s own
conscience is obliged to acknowledge that his condemnation is just. And
there the Law leaves him: wretched, hopeless, terror-stricken. Unless he
flies for refuge to Christ he is lost forever.
Reader, suffer us please to make this a personal issue. Have you ever
experienced anything which corresponds, in substance, to what we have
said above? Have you ever heard the thunderings and felt the lightnings of
Sinai in your own soul? Have you, in your conscience, been brought face
to face with your Judge, and heard Him read the fearful record of your
transgressions? Have you received by the Law such a knowledge of sin
that you are painfully conscious that every faculty of your soul and every
member of your body is defiled and corrupt? Have you been driven out of
every refuge, and relief and brought into the presence of Him who is
ineffably holy and inflexibly just, who “will by no means clear the guilty”
(

Exodus 34:7)? Have you heard that dread sentence
“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are
written in the book of the law to do them” (

Galatians 3:10)?
Has it brought you down into the dust to cry, “I am lost: utterly, hopelessly
lost; there is nothing I can do to deliver myself”? The ground must be
ploughed before it can receive seed, and the heart must be broken up by
the Law before it is ready for the Gospel.
In addition to the other terror-producing elements connected with the
institution of Judaism, the apostle mentions two other features. “And if so
much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through
with a dart” (verse 20). To increase the reverence which was due to the
appearing of Jehovah on Sinai, the people were required to keep their
distance at the base of the mount, and were strictly forbidden an approach
beyond the bounds fixed to them. This command was confirmed by a
penalty, that every one who transgressed it should be put to death, as a
disobedient rebel, devoted to utter destruction. This restriction and its.148
sanction was also designed to produce in the people awe and terror of God
in His giving of the Law.
That to which the apostle referred is recorded in

Exodus 19:12, 13,
“Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not into the mount, or touch
the border of it: whosoever touchest the mount shall be surely put
to death: There shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be
stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not
live.”
As Owen well suggested, the prohibition respecting the cattle of the
Israelites not only made the more manifest the absolute inaccessibleness of
God in and by the Law, but also seemed to intimate the uncleanness of all
things which sinners possess, by virtue of their relation to them. Everything
that fallen man touches is defiled by him, and even
“the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord”
(

Proverbs 15:8).
The punishment of the man who defiantly touched the Mount was death by
stoning, that of a beast by stoning or being thrust through with a dart. In
either ease they were slain at a distance: no hand touched the one who had
offended. This emphasized the heinousness of the offense and the
execrableness of the offender: others must not be defiled by coming into
immediate contact with them — at what a distance ought we to keep
ourselves from everything which falls under the curse of the Law! How the
whole of this brings out the stern severity of the Law!
“If even an irrational animal was to be put to death in a manner
which marked it as un-clean — as something not to be touched —
what might rational offenders expect as the punishment of their
sins? and if the violation of a positive institution of this kind
involved consequences so fearful, what must be the result of
transgressing the moral requirements of the great Lawgiver?” (John
Brown).
“And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear
and quake” (verse 21).
The apostle now turns from the people themselves, and describes the effect
upon their leader of the terror-producing phenomena that attended the.149
institution of Judaism. Here was the very man who had dared, again and
again, to confront the powerful monarch of Egypt and make known to him
the demand of God, and later announced to his face the coming of plague
after plague. Here was the commander-in-chief of Israel’s hosts, who had
boldly led them through the Red Sea. He was a holy person, more eminent
in grace than all others of his time, for he was
“very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the
earth” (

Numbers 12:3).
Now if such a man was overcome with dread, how terrible must be the
severity and curse of the Divine Law!
Furthermore, let it be carefully borne in mind that Moses was no stranger
to the Lord Himself: not only was he accustomed to receive Divine
revelations, but he had previously beheld a representation of the Lord’s
presence at the bush. Moreover, he was the Divinely-appointed
intermediary, the mediator between God and the people at that time. Yet
none of these privileges exempted him from an overwhelming dread of the
terror of the Lord in the giving the Law. What a proof is this that the very
best of men cannot stand before God on the ground of their own
righteousness! How utterly vain are the hopes of those who think to be
saved by Moses (

John 9:28)! Surely if there be anything in all the
Scriptures which should turn us from resting on the Law for salvation, it is
the horror and terror of Moses on mount Sinai.
“And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and
quake.” The fact that there is no record given in the O.T. of this particular
item, occasions no difficulty whatever unto those who believe in the full
inspiration of Holy Writ. Nor is there any need for us to have recourse
unto the Romish theory of “unwritten tradition,” and suppose that a
knowledge of the terror of Moses had been orally preserved among the
Jews. That which had not been chronicled in the book of Exodus, was here
revealed to the apostle by the Holy Spirit Himself, and was now recorded
by him for the purpose of accentuating the awfulness of what occurred at
Sinai; and this, that the Hebrews should be increasingly thankful that
Divine grace had connected them with so different an order of things.
The scope and design of the whole of our passage should now be obvious
to the reader. The purpose of the apostle was to show again how inferior
Judaism was to Christianity. This he here does by taking us back to Sinai,.150
where Judaism was formally instituted by the appearing of Jehovah at the
giving of the law, and where the Mosaic economy was established by a
covenant based thereon. All the circumstances connected with its
institution were in most striking accord with the leading features and
characteristics of that dispensation. At that time the nation of Israel was in
a waste, howling wilderness, standing in speechless terror at the foot of the
Mount. There Jehovah manifested Himself in His awful holiness and
majesty, as Lawgiver and Judge; the people at a distance fenced off from
Him. How profoundly thankful should Christians be that they belong to a
much more mild and gracious order of things!
Sinai was “the mount that might be touched” — a symbol of that order of
things which was addressed to the outward senses. The “blackness and
darkness” which covered it was emblematic of the obscurity of spiritual
things under the Mosaic economy, a thick veil of types and shadows hiding
the substance and reality now revealed by the Gospel. The people being
fenced off at the base of the mount denoted that under Judaism they had no
way of approach and no access into the immediate presence of God. The
thunderings, lightnings and fire, expressed the wrath of God against all
who transgress His righteous Law. The “tempest” was a sign of the
instability and temporariness of that dispensation, in contrast with the
peace which Christ has made and the permanent and eternal order of things
which He has brought in. The utter consternation of Moses gave clear
proof that he was not the perfect and ultimate Mediator between God and
men. All of which plainly intimated the need for something else, something
better, something more suited unto lost sinners..151
CHAPTER 99
THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRISTIANITY
(

HEBREWS 12:22-24)
“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living
God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of
angels, to the general assembly; the Church of the firstborn, which
are written in Heaven; and to God the Judge of all, and to the
spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the
new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better
things than that of Abel” (

Hebrews 12:22-24).
In these verses the apostle completes the last great contrast which he draws
between Judaism and Christianity, in which he displays the immeasurable
superiority of the latter over the former. Though there may not be in them
much of personal interest to some of our readers, yet we feel it incumbent
upon us to give the same careful attention to this passage as we have to the
previous sections of this epistle.
The central design of the apostle in verses 18-24 was to convince the
believing Hebrews of the pre-eminence of the new covenant above the old,
that is, of the Gospel-economy over the Legal. To this end he first directed
attention to the awful phenomena which attended the institution of
Judaism, and now he sets before them the attractive features which
characterizes Christianity. Everything connected with the giving of the Law
was fearful and terrifying, but all that marks the Evangelical system is
blessed and winsome. The manifestation of the Divine presence at Sinai
though vivid and truly magnificent, was awe-inspiring, but the revelation of
His love and grace in the Gospel prompts to peace and joy. Those
pertained to things of the earth, these concern Heaven itself; those were
addressed to the senses of the body, these call into exercise the higher
faculties of the soul.
When going over verses 18-21 we sought to make clear the figurative
meaning of their contents. Though there be in them an allusion to historical.152
facts, yet it should be obvious that it is not with their literal signification the
apostle was chiefly concerned. As this may not be fully apparent to some of
our readers, we must labor the point a little — rendered the more
necessary by the gross and carnal ideas entertained by some Bible students.
Surely it is quite plain to any unbiased mind that when he said,
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and
that burned with fire” (verse 18)
the apostle had reference to something else than a mountain in Arabia.
There would be neither force nor even sense in telling Christians “Ye are
not come to mount Sinai” — why even of the Hebrew believers it is
improbable that any of them had ever seen it.
If, then, the words “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be
touched” refer not to any material mount, then they must intimate that
order of things which was formally inaugurated at Sinai, the moral features
of which were suitably symbolized and strikingly adumbrated by the
physical phenomena which attended the giving of the Law. This we sought
to show in the course of the two preceding articles. Now the same
principle of interpretation holds good and must be applied to the terms of
the passage upon which we are now entering. “But ye are come unto
mount Sion” no more has reference to a natural mountain than “We have
an altar” (

Hebrews 13:10) means that Christians have a tangible and
visible altar. Whatever future the earthly Sion may yet have, it is the
antitypical, the spiritual, the Heavenly Sion, which is here in view.
One of the hardest tasks which sometimes confronts the careful and honest
expositor of Holy Writ is to determine when its language is to be
understood literally and when it is to be regarded as figurative. Nor is this
always to be settled so easily as many suppose: the controversy upon the
meaning of our Lord’s words at the institution of the holy “Supper,” “This
is My body” shows otherwise. It had been a simple matter for Him to say
“This (bread) represents My body,” but He did not — why, is best known
to Himself. Nor does this example stand by any means alone: much of
Christ’s language was of a figurative character, and more than once His
own apostles failed to understand His purport — see

Matthew 16:5-7;

Mark 7:14-18;

John 4:31-34 and

John 21:22, 23.
No, it is by no means always an easy matter to determine when the
language of Scripture is to be regarded literally, and when it is to be.153
understood figuratively. In previous generations perhaps there was a
tendency to “spiritualize” too much: whether that be so or no, certainly the
pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme. How very often do we
hear it said, “The language of Scripture means just what it says, and says
just what it means”. Many believe that such a declaration is very honoring
to God’s Word, and suppose that anything to the contrary savors strongly
of “Modernism.” But, surely, a little reflection will soon indicate that such
a statement needs qualifying, for there is not a little of the language of
Scripture which must be understood other than literally.
To say nothing about many poetic expressions in the Psalms (such as “He
maketh me to lie down in green pastures”), and symbolic language in the
Prophets (like “then will I sprinkle clean water upon you… I will take away
the stony heart out of your flesh”), take such a saying of our Lord’s as this:
“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands, for My sake and the
Gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time,
houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children and
lands, with persecutions” (

Mark 10:29, 30)
— the impossibility of literalizing such a promise appears, for example, in
a man’s receiving or having a hundred mothers. Now if that statement is
not to be interpreted literally, why should an outcry be raised if the writer
presents good reasons for interpreting other verses figuratively?
After reading the above, some may be inclined to say, “All of this is very
bewildering and confusing.” Our reply is, Then you must have sat under
very superficial preaching. Any well-instructed scribe would have taught
you that there is great variety used in the language of Holy Writ, and often
much care and pains are required in order to ascertain its precise character.
That is one reason why God has graciously provided “teachers”
(

Ephesians 4:11) for His people. True, the path of duty is so plainly
defined for us that the wayfaring man (though a fool) need not err therein;
but that does not alter the fact that in order to ascertain the exact
significance of many particular expressions of Scripture, much prayer, and
comparing passage with passage, is called for. The Bible is not a lazy
man’s book, and the Holy Spirit has designedly put not a little therein to
stain the pride of men..154
Now much help is obtained upon this difficulty by recognizing that many of
the things which pertain to the new covenant are expressed in language
taken from the old, the antitype being presented under the phraseology of
the type. For instance, when Christ announced the free intercourse between
Heaven and earth which was to result from His mediation, He described it
to Nathanael in the words of Jacob’s vision:
“Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (

John 1:51)
— not that the Lord Jesus was ever to present the appearance of a ladder
for that purpose, such as the patriarch saw in his dream, but that spiritually
there would be a like medium of communication established and the agency
of a like intercourse maintained. In a similar manner, the death of Christ is
frequently spoken of under the terms of the Levitical sacrifices, while the
application of His atonement to the soul is called the “sprinkling of His
blood on the conscience.”
Not until we clearly perceive that most of that which pertains to the new
economy is exhibited to us under the images of the old, are we in the
position to understand much of the language found in the Prophets, and
many of the expressions employed by our Lord and His apostles. Thus,
Christ is spoken of as “our Passover” (

1 Corinthians 5:7) and as Priest
“after the order of Melchizedek” (

Hebrews 6:20). Paradise is described
as “Abraham’s bosom” (

Luke 16:22). The N.T. saints are referred to as
“the children of Abraham” (

Galatians 3:7) as “the Israel of God”
(

Galatians 6:16), as “the Circumcision” (

Philippians 3:3), as “a
chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people”
(

1 Peter 2:9), and that “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the
mother of us all” (

Galatians 4:26). Such terminology as this should
amply prepare us for “ye are come unto mount Sion,” and should remove
all uncertainty as to what is denoted thereby.
“But ye are come unto Mount Sion.” In these words the apostle
commences the second member of the comparison between Judaism and
Christianity, which completes the foundation on which he bases the great
exhortation found in verses 25-29. In the former member (verses 18-21) he
had described the state of the Israelitish people (and the Church in it) as
they existed under the Legal economy, taken from the terror-producing
character of the giving of the Law and the nature of its demands: “they
could not endure that which was commanded… and so terrible was the.155
sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.” But now the apostle
contrasted the blessed and glorious state into which believers have been
called by the Gospel, thereby making manifest how incomparably more
excellent was the new covenant in itself than the old, and, how infinitely
more beneficial are its privileges unto those whom Divine grace gives a
part therein. No less than eight of these privileges are here enumerated —
always the number of a new beginning.
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather
together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and
which are on earth; even in Him” (

Ephesians 1:10).
These words throw light on the passage now before us: all the spiritual
things of grace and glory, both in heaven and in earth, have been headed up
in Christ, so that they all now center in Him. By His mediatorial work the
Lord Jesus has repaired the great breach which the sin of Adam entailed.
Before sin entered the world there was perfect harmony between Heaven
and earth, man and angels uniting in hymning their glorious Creator:
together they formed one spiritual society of worshippers. But upon the
fall, that spiritual union was broken, and not only did the human race (in
their federal head) become alienated from God Himself, but they became
alienated from the holy spirits which surround His throne. But the last
Adam has restored the disruption which the first Adam’s sin produced, and
in reconciling His people to God, He has also brought them back into
fellowship with the angelic hosts.
Now because God has gathered together in one, recapitulated or headed
up, “all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are in earth,”
when we savingly “come” to Christ, we at the same time, “come” to all
that God has made to center in Him; or, in other words, we obtain an
interest or right in all that is headed up in Him. Let the reader seek to grasp
clearly this fact: it is because believers have been brought to Christ that
they “are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the
heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels!” By their
initiation into the Gospel state, Christians are also inducted into and given
access unto all these privileges. Christ and His mediation are specifically
mentioned at the close of the various privileges here listed (verse 24), to
teach us it is on that account we are interested in them and as the reason
for our being so interested..156
Yes, it is to Christ and Him alone (though not, of course, to the exclusion
of the Father and His eternal love or the Holy Spirit and His gracious
operations) that the Christian owes every blessing: his standing before
God, his new creation state, his induction into the society of the holy, his
eternal inheritance. It was by Christ that he was delivered from the
condemnation and curse of the law, with the unspeakable terror it caused
him. And it is by Christ that he has been brought to the antitypical Sion and
the heavenly Jerusalem. Not by anything he has done or will do are such
inestimable blessings made his. Observe how jealously the Spirit of Truth
has guarded this very point, in using the passive and not the active voice:
the verb is “ye are come” and not “ye have come.” The same fact is
emphasized again in

1 Peter 2:25 — “ye were as sheep going astray; but
are (not “have”) now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your
souls” — because of what the Spirit wrought in us, we being entirely
passive.
“But ye are come unto Mount Sion.” We need hardly say that this language
looks back to the “Zion” of the O.T., the variation in spelling being due to
the difference between the Hebrew and Greek. It is in fact to the O.T. we
must turn for light upon our present verse, and, as usual, the initial
reference is the one which supplies us with the needed key. The first time
that “Zion” is mentioned there is in

2 Samuel 5:6, 7,
“And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites the
inhabitants of the land… thinking David cannot come in hither.
Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the
city of David.”
The deeper significance of this appears when we carefully ponder its
setting: Zion was captured by David when Israel had been thoroughly tried
and found completely wanting. It occurred at a notable crisis in the history
of the nation, namely, after the priesthood had been deplorably corrupted
(

1 Samuel 2:22, 25) and after the king of their choice (Saul) had
reduced himself (

1 Samuel 28:7) and them (

1 Samuel 31:1, 7) to the
lowest degradation.
It was, then, at a time when Israel’s fortunes were at a low ebb, when they
were thoroughly disheartened, and when (because of their great
wickedness) they had the least reason to expect it, that God graciously
intervened. Just when Saul and Jonathan had been slain in battle, when the
Philistines triumphed and Israel had fled before them in dismay, the Lord.157
brought forth the man of His choice. David, whose name means the
“Beloved.” Up to this time the hill of Zion had been a continual menace to
Israel, but now David wrested it out of the hand of the Jebusites and made
it the stronghold of Jerusalem. On one of its eminences the temple was
erected, which was the dwelling place of Jehovah in the midst of His
people. “Zion,” then, stands for the highest revelation of Divine grace in
the O.T. times.
Zion lay to the south-west of Jerusalem, being the oldest and highest part
of that ancient city. It was outside of the city itself and separate from it,
though in Scripture frequently identified with it. Mount Zion had two
heads or peaks: Moriah on which the temple was erected, the seat of the
worship of God; and the other, whereon the palace of David was built, the
royal residence of the kings of Judah — a striking figure of the priestly and
kingly offices meeting in Christ. Zion, then, was situated in the best part of
the world — Canaan, the land which flowed with milk and honey; in the
best part of that land — in Judah’s portion; in the best part of his heritage
— Jerusalem; and in the best part of that metropolis — the highest point,
the “city of David.” Let the interested reader carefully ponder the following
passages and observe the precious things said of Zion:

Psalm 48:2, 3;
50:2; 132: 13, 14; 133:3.
“Zion is,
First, the place of God’s habitation, where He dwells forever:

Psalm 9:11;

76:2.
Second, it is the seat of the throne, reign and kingdom of Christ:

Psalm 2:6;

Isaiah 24:23.
Third, it is the object of Divine promises innumerable:

Psalm
125:1; 128:5, of Christ Himself:

Isaiah 59:20.
Fourth, thence did the Gospel proceed and the law of Christ come
forth:

Isaiah 40:9,

Micah 4:2.
Fifth, it was the object of God’s especial love, and the place of the
birth of His elect:

Psalm 87:2, 5.
Sixth, the joy of the whole earth:

Psalm 48:2.
Seventh, salvation and all blessings came forth out of Zion:

Psalm
14:7; 110:2; 128:5. Now these things were not spoken of nor.158
accomplished towards that Mount Zion which was in Jerusalem
absolutely, but only as it was typical of believers under the Gospel; so
the meaning of the apostle is, that by the Gospel believers do come to
that state wherein they have an interest in and a right to all the blessed
and glorious things that are spoken in the Scriptures concerning and to
Zion. All the privileges ascribed, all the promises made to it, are theirs.
Zion is the place of God’s especial gracious residence, of the throne of
Christ in His reign, the object of all promises. This is the first privilege
of believers under the Gospel. They come to Mount Zion, they are
interested in the promises of God recorded in the Scriptures made to
Zion; in all the love and care of God expressed towards it, in all the
spiritual glories assigned to it. The things spoken of it were never
accomplished in the earthly Zion, but only typically; spiritually, and in
their reality, they belong to believers under the new testament” (John
Owen).
The contrasts between Sinai and Sion were very marked. The former was
located in one of the dreariest and driest places on earth, a “howling
desert”; the other was situated in the midst of that land which flowed with
milk and honey. The one was ugly, barren, forbidding; the other was
“beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.” Sinai was enveloped in
“blackness and darkness,” while Sion signified “sunny” or “shone upon.”
God came down on Sinai for only a brief moment, but He dwells in Sion
“forever.” On the former He appeared in terrible majesty; in the other He is
manifested in grace and blessing. At Sinai the typical mediator trembled
and quaked; on Sion Christ is crowned with glory and honor.
“But ye are come to Mount Sion.” By this, then, we understand,
First, that in being brought to Christ, the believer comes to the antitypical,
the spiritual, Sion.
Second, more specifically, we understand by this expression that believers
are come to the Throne of Grace. Just as, originally, the historical Sion
was a menace to Israel, so while we were under the curse of the law God’s
throne was one of judgment. But, just as David (the “Beloved”) secured
Sion for Israel and it became the place of blessing, where God abode in
grace, so as the result of Christ’s work the Throne of Heaven has become
the Throne of Grace, He being Himself seated thereon..159
Third, in its wider scope, it signifies that believers have a right or title to
all the good and glorious things spoken of and to Sion in the O.T.
“And unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” by which
we understand Heaven itself, of which the earthly Jerusalem — the seat
and center of the worship of God — was the emblem. From earliest times
the saints were taught by the Holy Spirit to contemplate the future
blessedness of the righteous under the image of a splendid “City,” reared
on permanent foundations. Of Abraham it is declared,
“He looked for a city which hath foundation, whose Builder and
Maker is God” (

Hebrews 11:10).
The force of that statement is best perceived in the light of the previous
verse: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange
country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the
same promise.” Abraham was given to realize that Canaan was but a figure
of his everlasting heritage, and therefore did he look forward to (verse 10),
“seek” (verse 14), and “desire a better Country, that is, a heavenly” (verse
14). The eternal Abode of the blessed is there called both a “City” and a
“Country.”
Many are the allusions to this “City” in the Psalms and the Prophets: we
single out a few of the more prominent ones.
“There is a river (The Spirit), the streams (His graces) whereof
shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of
the Most High” (

Psalm 46:4).
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God,
in the mountain of His holiness” (

Psalm 48:1).
“Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God”
(

Psalm 87:3).
“He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of
habitation” (

Psalm 107:7).
“We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and
bulwarks” (

Isaiah 26:1)..160
It is to be noted that in several passages the “City” is mentioned with
particular reference to “Zion,” for we can only have access to God via the
Throne of Grace:

John 14:6.
The “City of the living God” intimates the nearness of the saints to God,
for Jerusalem was adjacent to Zion — their homes and dwellings were near
to His. This figure of the “city” is also found in “Ye are no more strangers
and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of
God” (

Ephesians 2:19) — see too

Revelation 3:12. It is designated
“the heavenly Jerusalem” in contrast from the earthly, the
“Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all”
(

Galatians 4:26).
It is referred to again in

Hebrews 13:14. A “city” is a place of
permanent residence, in contrast from the moving tent of the wilderness. In
Bible times a “city” was a place of safety, being surrounded by strong and
high walls; so in Heaven we shall be eternally secure from sin and Satan,
death and every enemy. A city is well stocked with provisions: so in
Heaven nothing is lacking which is good and blessed.
“But ye are come unto… the City of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem.” “The apostle herein prefers the privileges of the Gospel not
only above what the people were made partakers of at Sinai in the
wilderness, but also above all that they afterwards enjoyed in Jerusalem in
the land of Canaan. In the glory and privileges of that city the Hebrews
greatly boasted. But the apostle casts that city in the state wherein it then
was, into the same condition with Mount Sinai in Arabia, that is, under
bondage, as indeed it then was (

Galatians 4:25); and he opposeth
thereunto that ‘Jerusalem which is above,’ that is, this heavenly Jerusalem.
This the second privilege of the Gospel-state, wherein all the remaining
promises of the O.T. are transferred and made over to believers: whatever
is spoken of the city of God or of Jerusalem that is spiritual, that contains
in it the love or favor of God, it is all made theirs; faith can lay a claim to it
all.
“Believers are so ‘come’ to this city, as to be inhabitants, free
denizens, possessors of it, to whom all the fights, privileges, and
immunities of it do belong; and what is spoken of it in the Scripture
is a ground of faith to them, and a spring of consolation. For they
may with consolation make application of what is so spoken to.161
themselves in every condition. A ‘city’ is the only place of rest,
peace, safety and honor, among men in this world: to all these in
the spiritual sense we are brought by the Gospel. Whilst men are
under the law they are at Sinai — in a wilderness where is none of
these things; the souls of sinners can find no place of rest or safety
under the law. But we have all these things by the Gospel: rest in
Christ, peace with God, order in the communion of faith, safety in
Divine protection, and honor in our relation to God in Christ”
(John Owen)..162
CHAPTER 100
THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRISTIANITY
(

HEBREWS 12:22-24)
“But ye are come unto” etc. (verse 22). These words do not, in fact
cannot, mean, that in some mystical sense believers are “in spirit” projected
into the future, to something which will only be actualized in the future.
The Greek verb has a specific significance in this Epistle, as may be seen by
a careful reference to

Hebrews 4:16, 7:25, 11:6: “to come unto” here
means to approach as worshippers. In the verses now before us we are
shown the high dignity and honor of that spiritual worship which is the
privilege of Christians under the Gospel dispensation. When they meet
together in the name of the Lord Jesus, as His people, and with a due
observance of His holy institutions, they “are come unto,” have access to,
the eight privileges here enumerated: they draw nigh by faith to Heaven
itself, to the antitypical holy of holies. But this is possible only to spiritual
worshippers.
They who are strangers to experimental spirituality soon grow weary even
of the outward form of worship, unless their eyes are entertained with an
imposing ritual and their ears regaled by appealing music. This is the secret
of the pomp and pageantry of Romanism — now, alas, being more and
more imitated by professing Protestants; it is to attract and charm religious
worldlings. Ritualists quite obscure the simplicity and beauty of true
Gospel worship. Man in his natural estate is far too carnal to be pleased
with a worship in which there is nothing calculated to fire the imagination
and intoxicate the senses by means of tangible objects. But they who
worship in spirit and in truth can draw nigh to God more joyously in a
barn, and mingle their praises with the songs of Heaven, than if they were
in a cathedral.
How vast is the difference between that spiritual adoration which issues
from renewed hearts and that “form of godliness” which is associated with
altars and candles, choirs and surpliced ministers! Only that is acceptable to
God which is produced by the Holy Spirit through sinners washed in the.163
blood of the Lamb. Under grace-magnifying and Christ-exalting preaching,
the spiritual senses of real Christians are exercised; as they behold the
Savior’s glories in the glass of the Gospel, as they hear His voice, they
have an inward impression of His presence, they taste afresh of His
goodness, and His name is to them as ointment poured forth, perfuming
their spirits. In this joyous frame, their hearts are drawn Heavenwards, and
their songs of praise mingle with those of the holy angels and the spirits of
just men made perfect.
“But ye are come unto Mount Sion.” David, after having taken Mount
Zion from the Jebusites, made it the place of his residence, so that it
became “the city of the great king.” There he reigned and ruled, there he
issued his laws, and thence he extended the sway of his peaceful scepter
over the whole of the holy land. From that circumstance, Mount Zion
became the great type of the kingdom of God, of which the Lord Jesus
Christ is the Head and Sovereign. As David ruling upon Mount Zion in the
palace built there as his royal seat, issuing his commands which were
obeyed all over the land, so our blessed Redeemer has been exalted
according to God’s promise “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of
Zion” (

Psalm 2:6 and cf.

Hebrews 2:9); and there sitting as King in
Sion, issues His mandates and sways His peaceful scepter over the hearts
of His obedient people.
“And unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” Most of the
older writers understood these terms to refer to the Church, but we think
this is a mistake, for the Church is referred to, separately, in a later clause.
As pointed out in the preceding article, we regard this language as
signifying Heaven itself, as the residence of God and the eternal abode of
His people. “The living God” is the true and only God, the Triune Jehovah,
the Fountain of all life, the One who is “from everlasting to everlasting,”
without beginning or end: this title is given to each of the eternal Three —

Matthew 16:16,

1 Timothy 4:10,

2 Corinthians 6:16, cf.

1
Corinthians 3:16. As “Zion” was the seat of David’s throne, so “Jerusalem”
was the dwelling place of Jehovah in the midst of His covenant people.
“Jerusalem” signifies “the Vision of Peace,” and in Heaven the “sons of
peace” (

Luke 10:6) will behold the glory of God in the face of the
Prince of peace.
“And to an innumerable company of angels.” This is the third great
privilege enjoyed by the worshippers under the Christian economy: having.164
mentioned the place to which Divine grace has brought believers, the Holy
Spirit now described the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem. The angels,
who are worshippers of God and His Christ, are perhaps mentioned first
because they are in closer proximity to the Throne, because they are the
original denizens of Heaven, and because they are greatly in the majority.
The reference is, of course, to the holy angels who kept their first estate
and sinned not when some of their fellows apostatized. They are “the elect
angels” (

1 Timothy 5:21), and although they have not been redeemed
by the atoning blood of the Lamb, it appears highly probable that they were
confirmed in their standing by the incarnation of the Son, for God has
united in Christ both elect men and elect angels (

Ephesians 1:10), that
He might be “the Head of all principality and power” (

Colossians 2:10).
“Ye are come unto… an innumerable company of angels.” This sets before
us a further contrast between that which characterizes Christianity, and
what obtained under the Mosaic economy — that is, so far as the Israelitish
nation as a whole was concerned. It is clear from several passages that
“angels” were connected with the giving of the Law, when Judaism was
formally instituted. We read,
“the Lord came from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto them; He
shined from mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of
saints: from His right hand went a fiery law for them”
(

Deuteronomy 33:2):
and again,
“The chariots of God are twenty thousands, even thousands of
angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai” (

Psalm 68:17).
But while many “thousands” of the heavenly hosts attended Jehovah upon
Sinai, this was very different from the “innumerable company” with which
we are connected, namely the “ten thousand times ten thousand, and
thousands of thousands” of

Revelation 5:11. And even to the many
thousands of angels at Sinai the Nation did not “come”: instead, they were
fenced off at the foot of the mount.
Redeemed sinners who have fellowship with the Father and the Son by the
Holy Spirit, are of one spirit with all the heavenly hosts, for there is a union
of sentiment between them. Christians have been brought into a state of
amity and friendship with the holy angels: they are members of the same
family (

Ephesians 3:15), are united under the same Head (

Colossians.165
2:10), and joined together in the same worship (

Hebrews 1:6;

Revelation 5:9-14). We are “come unto” them by a spiritual relation,
entering into association with them, sharing the benefits of their kind
offices, for
“are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them
who shall be heirs of salvation?’’ (

Hebrews 1:14).
The angels are “fellow servants” with believers “that have the testimony of
Jesus” (

Revelation 19:10). Wondrous fact is this that sinners of the
earth, while here in this world, have communication with the angels in
Heaven, for they are constantly engaged in the same worship of God in
Christ as we are: Thus there is perfect oneness of accord between us.
As we pointed out in the preceding chapter, the Church’s spiritual union
with the holy angels — being united together in one spiritual society and
family — is due to the atoning work of Christ, who by putting away the
sins of His people has restored the breach made by Adam’s fall and
“reconciled all things unto Himself” (

Colossians 1:20). Hence we
believe that in the verse now before us there is not only a contrast drawn
between Judaism and Christianity, but that its ultimate reference is to the
immense difference brought in between the offense of the first Adam and
the righteousness of the last Adam. Upon the transgression of Adam we
read
“So He drove out the man: and He placed at the east of the garden
of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to
keep the way of the tree of life” (

Genesis 3:24).
There God made His “angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire”
(

Hebrews 1:7) to execute His vengeance against us; but now these
same angels are our associates in worship and service.
God is “the Lord of hosts” (

Psalm 46:7), myriads of holy celestial
creatures being in an attendance upon Him — “an innumerable company
of angels:” how this should help us to realize the majesty and grandeur of
that Kingdom into which Divine grace has brought us. In this expression
we may also discern a word to encourage our trembling hearts in
connection with our wrestling against the “hosts of wicked spirits”
(

Ephesians 6:12): numerous as are the forces of Satan assailing us, an.166
“innumerable company of angels” are defending us! This was the
blessed truth by which Elisha comforted his fearing servant “they
that be with us are more than they that be with them” (

2 Kings
6:16, 17).
“When the thought of Satan and his legions brings fear, we ought
to comfort ourselves with the assurance that more in number and
greater in power are the loving and watchful angels, who for
Christ’s sake regard us with the deepest interest and affection” (A.
Saphir).
Before turning to the next item a word should be said in refutation of the
blasphemous error of Romanists concerning our relation to the angels.
They teach that we are “come unto” the angels with our prayers, which is
one of their empty superstitions — there is not a word in Scriptures to
countenance such an idea. Though it be true that the angels are superior to
us in dignity and power, yet in communion with God we are their equals —
“fellow-servant’, (

Revelation 22:9), and, as Owen pointed out,
“Nothing can be more groundless than that fellow-servants should worship
one another” — the worshipping of angels is condemned in

Colossians
2:18,

Revelation 22:8, 9. Well did Owen also point out, “It is the
highest madness for any one to pretend himself to be the head of the
church, as the pope does, unless he assume also to himself to be the head
of all the angels in Heaven,” for we belong to the same holy society.
“To the general assembly.” This expression occasions some difficulty, for
in the first place it is not quite clear as to what the Spirit specifically alludes
unto. In the second place, the Greek word (pangueris, a compound one)
occurs nowhere else in the N.T., so that we are not able to obtain any help
from its usage in other passages. In the third place, it is not very easy to
decide whether this clause is to be linked with the one immediately
preceding or with the one following it. In its classical usage the Greek
word was employed in connection with a public convocation, when all the
people were gathered together to celebrate a public festival or solemnity.
Most of the commentators link this word with what follows: “To the
general assembly and church of the firstborn,” understanding the reference
to be unto the (“general”) union of believing Jews and believing Gentiles in
one Body. Personally, we think this is a mistake.
First, such language would be tautological, for if the “general assembly”
points to the middle wall of partition being broken down, and converted.167
Jews and Gentiles being joined together in one Body, that would be “the
Church.”
Second, the denomination “church of the firstborn” takes in the totality of
God’s elect and redeemed people of all ages.
Third, there is no “and” between the “innumerable company of angels”
and the “general assembly,” as there is in every other instance in these
verses where a new object is introduced. Personally, we regard this third
expression as in apposition (the placing together of two nouns, one of
which explains the other) to the former, thus: “unto an innumerable
company of angels — the general assembly.” There are various ranks and
orders among the angels: principalities and powers, thrones and dominions,
seraphim and cherubim, and the “general assembly” of them would be the
solemn convocation of all the angelic hosts before the throne of God —
compare
“A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand
thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten
thousand stood before Him: the judgment (a special convocation)
was set, and the books were opened” (

Daniel 7:10).
No doubt this amplifying expression (of the “innumerable company of
angels”) also emphasizes another contrast between the privileges of
Christianity and that which obtained under Judaism. Perhaps the
contrastive allusion is a double one. First, from the general assembly of
Israel at Sinai, when the whole of the nation was then formally assembled
together — in fear and trembling. Second, to the general assembly of all
the male Israelites three times in the year at the solemn feasts of the O.T.
Church (

Exodus 34:23,

Deuteronomy 16:16) which was called “the
great congregation” (

Psalm 22:25, 35:18, etc.) — in joy and praise. But
each of these were on earth, by men in the flesh; whereas Christians, in
their worship, unite with all the holy hosts of Heaven in blessing and
adoring the Triune God.
“And Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven”: that is, to the
entire company of God’s redeemed. “This is that church whereunto all the
promises do belong; the church built on the rock, against which the gates
of hell shall not prevail; the spouse, the body of Christ, the temple of God,
His habitation forever. This is the church which Christ loved and gave
Himself for, which He washed in His own blood, that He might sanctify.168
and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might
present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any
such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish (

Ephesians
5:25-27). This is the church out of which none can be saved, and whereof
no one member shall be lost” (John Owen).
This is the only place in the N.T. where the election of grace is designated
“the Church of the firstborn ones” (plural number in the Greek). Why so
here? For at least three reasons.
First, so as to identify the Church with Christ as the “Heir of all things”
(

Hebrews 1:2). The prominent idea associated with the “firstborn” in
Scripture is not that of priority, but rather excellency, dignity, dominion,
and right to the inheritance. This is clear from “Reuben, thou art my
firstborn,… the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power”
(

Genesis 49:3); and again “I will make Him My firstborn, higher than
the kings of the earth” (

Psalm 89:27). For the “firstborn” and the
“inheritance” see

Genesis 27:19, 28, 29 and cf.

Hebrews 12:16;

Deuteronomy 21:16;

1 Chronicles 5:1.
Second, this title intimates the Church’s glory is superior to that of the
celestial spirits: redeemed sinners and not fallen angels are God’s “firstborn
ones.”
Third, this points a further contrast from Judaism: Israel was God’s
“firstborn” (

Exodus 4:22) among the nations of the earth; but the
Church is His “firstborn” among the inhabitants of Heaven!
The Church is raised to the highest created dignity: superior privileges and
a nobler dignity of son-ship pertain to its members than to the holy angels.
This is solely due to their union with Christ, the original “Firstborn”:

Psalm 89:26, 27;

Romans 8:29;

Hebrews 1:6. Christians have
been made “kings and priests unto God” (

Revelation 1:6), which
compromises the whole right of the inheritance. The entire election of
grace, by God’s gratuitous adoption, are not only members of His family,
but “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (

Romans 8:17), and thus
given an inalienable title to the heavenly inheritance. This was equally true
of the saints of all generations from the foundation of the world, yet a
much clearer and fuller revelation thereof has been made under this
Christian economy: “which in other ages was not made known unto the.169
sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by
the Spirit” (

Ephesians 3:5).
“Which are written in Heaven,” announcing that they are genuine
Christians — in contrast from mere professors, whose names are recorded
only upon the church-scrolls of earth. Just as the registering of men’s
names on the rolls of corporations, etc., assures them of their right to the
privileges thereof (for example, to vote — which we believe is something
that no child of God should do), so our names being written in Heaven is
the guaranty of our title to the celestial heritage. It was to this Christ
referred when He said, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven”
(

Luke 10:20). The apostle Paul also speaks of those “whose names are
in the book of life” (

Philippians 4:3): that Book of Life (cf.

Revelation 3:5 and 13:8) is none other than the roll of God’s elect, in
His eternal immutable designation of them unto grace and glory. “Written
in Heaven” points another contrast from Judaism: the names of Jews (as
such) were only written upon the synagogue scrolls.
“And to God the Judge of all.” The reference here is not (as some recent
writers have supposed) unto the person of Christ, but rather unto God the
Father in His rectoral office as the high Governor of all. Does this seem to
spoil the harmony of the passage? had we not much preferred it to read
“and to God our Father”? No, coming to “God the Judge of all” in nowise
conflicts with the other privileges mentioned: it is a vastly different thing to
be brought before a judge to be tried and sentenced as a criminal, from
having a favorable access to him as our occasions and needs may require.
Such is the meaning here: we are come not only to the heavenly Jerusalem,
to an innumerable company of angels, to the Church, but also the supreme
Head of the heavenly society — the Author and End of it.
“And to God the Judge of all,” that is, the Majesty of Heaven itself. It was
God as Judge who appointed Christ to death, and it was God as Judge who
accepted His sacrifice and raised Him from the dead. To God as “Judge”
believers have been reconciled and by Him they were justified (

Romans
8:33). Concerning Christ our Exemplar, we read “when He suffered, He
threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously”
(

1 Peter 2:23). The apostle reminded the saints that “it is a righteous
thing for God (as “Judge”) to recompense tribulation to them that trouble
you” (

2 Thessalonians 1:6). Now it was as Judge that God ascended
His awful tribunal at Sinai, and that the people could not endure: but.170
Christians draw nigh to Him with holy boldness because His law has
nothing against them — the requirements of His justice were fully met by
Christ. How great is the privilege of that state which enables poor sinners,
called by the Gospel, to approach the Judge of all upon His “bench” or
throne without fear! Only by faith is this possible.
“And to the spirits of just men made perfect.” It is blessed to note that this
comes immediately after mention of “the Judge of all” — to show us the
saints had nothing to fear from Him,
“for there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in
Christ” (

Romans 8:1).
The reference is to the O.T. believers, who have passed through death: that
N.T. saints are “come” to them is clear from

Ephesians 2:19. Of course
that “made perfect” is relative and not absolute, for their resurrection and
full glorification is yet future. As Owen defined it:
First, they had reached the end of the race wherein they had been
engaged, with all the duties and difficulties, temptations and
tribulations connected therewith.
Second, they were completely delivered from sin and sorrow, labor and
trouble, which in this life they had been exposed to.
Third, they had now entered their rest and reward and were, according
to their present capacity, in the immediate presence of God and
perfectly happy.
“And to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant:” His personal name is
used here because it is in this character He saves His people from their
sins — compare our exposition of

9:15-17. Here again a contrast is
drawn from that which obtained under the old covenant. Moses was the
middle person between Israel and God: chosen by the people (

Exodus
20:19, etc.) and appointed by Him to declare His mind unto them; unto him
they were all baptized (

1 Corinthians 10:2). But Moses was merely a
man, a fallen descendant of Adam: he delivered God’s law to the people,
but was incapable of magnifying and making it honorable by a perfect
personal obedience. Nor was he that “surety” of the covenant unto God for
the people, as Christ was; he did not confirm the covenant by offering
himself as a sacrifice to God, nor could he give the people an interest in
heavenly privileges. How far short he came of Christ!.171
By being brought unto “Sion,” Christians are come to all the mercy, grace
and glory prepared in the new covenant and presented in the promises of it.
Herein lies the supreme blessedness and eternal security of the Church, that
its members are taken into such a covenant that they have a personal
interest in the Mediator of it, who is able to save them unto the uttermost.
This is the very substance and essence of Christian faith, that it has to do
with the Mediator of the new covenant, by whom alone we obtain
deliverance from the old covenant and the curse with which it is
accompanied. It is both the privilege and wisdom of faith to make use of
this “Mediator” in all our dealings with God: He it is who offers to God
our prayers and praises and brings down the favor of God upon His people.
“And to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of
Abel.” The blood of Christ is referred to thus in allusion unto the various
sprinklings of blood Divinely instituted under the old covenant, the three
most signal instances of which are recorded in

Exodus 12:22; 24:6-8;

Leviticus 16:14, the principal reference here being to Exodus 24, where
the old covenant was thus ratified. All of those instances were eminent
types of the redemption, justification and sanctification of the Church by
the blood of Christ. The specific thing denoted by the “sprinkling” (in
contrast from its “shedding”) is the application to believers of its virtues
and benefits. The more the Christian exercises repentance toward God and
faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, the more will he experience the peace-speaking
power of that precious blood in his conscience. The blood of
Christ “speaketh” to God as a powerful Advocate: urging the fulfillment of
the Mediator’s part of the everlasting covenant, His perfect satisfaction to
Divine justice, the full discharge from condemnation purchased for His
people.
The contrast here is very impressive: the blood of Abel called for
vengeance (

Genesis 4:10), whereas the blood of Christ calls for blessing
to be bestowed on those for whom it was shed. Even the blood of the
wicked if unrighteously shed, calls to God for it to be recompensed. But
Abel was a saint, the first martyr, and his blood cried according to the
worth that was in him, for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of
His saints.” If then the blood of a saint speaks so forcibly to God, how
infinitely more powerfully must the blood of “the King of saints”
(

Revelation 15:3) plead! If the blood of a single member of Christ’s
Body so speaks to God, what will the blood of the Head Himself!.172
Moreover, Abel’s blood only cried to God “from the ground,” where it
was shed, but Christ’s blood speaks in Heaven itself (

Hebrews 9:12)..173
CHAPTER 101
THE CALL TO HEAR
(

HEBREWS 12:25, 26)
“See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh: for if they escaped not
who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we
escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven”
(verse 25).
In these words we find the Holy Spirit moving the apostle to make a
practical application unto his readers of what he had just brought before
them in the previous verses. The degree or extent of the privileges enjoyed,
is the measure of our responsibility: the richer the blessing God grants us,
the deeper is our debt of obligation to Him.
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much
required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will
ask the more” (

Luke 12:48):
it was of this principle and fact the Hebrews were now reminded.
The apostle had just completed drawing his final contrast between Judaism
and Christianity (verses 18-24), in which he had again shown the
immeasurable superiority of the latter over the former, and now he uses
this as a basis for an exhortation unto faith and obedience, or faithfulness
and perseverance. Herein we have another example of the apostolic
method of ministry: all their teaching had a practical end in view. Their
aim was something more than enlightening the mind, namely, the moving
of the will and ordering of the walk. Alas that there is so little of this in
present-day teaching and preaching. The design of the pulpit now seems to
be entertaining the people, and rarely does it go further than instructing the
mind — that which searches the conscience or calls for the performance of
duty, that which is solemn and unpalatable to the flesh, is, for the most
part, studiously avoided. May it please the Lord to grant His servants all
needed grace for deliverance from a compliance with this “speak unto us
smooth things.”.174
The grander the revelation which God is pleased to make of Himself, the
more punctual the attendance and the fuller the response which He requires
from us. In the verses which are now before us we find the apostle
improving his argument by pointing out the weighty implications of it.
Therein he returns to his main design, which was to urge the professing
Hebrews unto steadfastness in their Christian course and conflict, and to
steadily resist the temptation to lapse back into Judaism. This deeply
important and most necessary exhortation he had urged upon them again
and again; see

Hebrews 2:1, 3; 3:12, 13; 4:1; 6:4-6; 10:26-29; 12:1, 15.
Therein the servant of God may learn another valuable lesson pointed to by
the example of the apostle, namely, how God requires him to go over the
same ground again and again where the practical duties of the Christian
are concerned, and hesitate not to frequently repeat the exhortations of
Holy Writ! This may not increase his popularity with men, but it will meet
with the Lord’s approval; and no faithful minister can have both!
“See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh.” The Greek word for “see” is
rendered “take heed” in

Hebrews 3:12; the word for “refuse” signifies
“deprecate” — do not disregard, still less reject. Now not only is this
argument based upon the statement made in the preceding verses, but the
motive for complying with it is to be drawn therefrom. It is because we
“are not come unto the mount that might be touched and that burned with
fire” (v. 18), that is, unto that order of things wherein the Divine
righteousness was so vividly displayed in judicial manifestion; but because
we “are come unto mount Sion,” which speaks of pure grace, that we are
now thus exhorted, for holiness ever becometh God’s house. It is in the
realization of God’s wondrous grace that the Christian is ever to find his
most effectual incentive unto a godly walk; see

Titus 2:11, 12.
“See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh,” which is the negative way of
saying “Hear Him” — Heed Him, by believing and yielding obedience to
what He says. This exhortation looks back to “I will raise them up a
Prophet, from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words
in His mouth: and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words
which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him”
(

Deuteronomy 18:18, 19); cf.

Acts 3:22; 7:37. This is what the
apostle now reminded the Hebrews of: take heed that ye hear Him, for if
you fail to, God will consume you with His wrath. A similar charge was
given by God after Christ became incarnate:.175
“This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye
Him” (

Matthew 17:5).
“This is the foundation of all Gospel faith and obedience, and the
formal reason of the condemnation of all unbelievers. God hath
given command unto all men to hear, that is, believe and obey His
Son Jesus Christ. By virtue thereof, He hath given command unto
others to preach the Gospel unto all individuals. They who believe
them, believe in Christ; and they who believe in Christ through
Him, believe in God (

1 Peter 1:21), so that their faith is
ultimately resolved into the authority of God Himself. And so they
who refuse them, who hear them not, do thereby refuse Christ
Himself; and by so doing, reject the authority of God, who hath
given this command to hear Him, and hath taken on Himself to
require it when it is neglected; which is the condemnation of all
unbelievers. This method, with respect unto faith and unbelief, is
declared and established by our Savior: ‘he that heareth you,
heareth Me; and He that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that
despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me:’

Luke 10:16” (John
Owen).
“See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh” — note carefully the present
tense: not “that spoke.” Christ is still speaking through His Gospel, by His
Spirit, and instrumentally through His own commissioned servants, calling
upon all who come under the sound of His voice to serve and obey Him.
There are many ways in which we may “refuse” to hear and heed Him.
First, by neglecting to read daily and diligently the Scriptures through
which He speaks.
Second, by failing to attend public preaching where His Word is
faithfully dispensed — if so be we live in a place where this holy
privilege is obtainable.
Third, by failing to comply with the terms of His Gospel and yield
ourselves unto His authority.
Fourth, by forsaking the Narrow Way of His commandments and
going back again to the world..176
Fifth, by abandoning the truth for error, which generally ends in total
apostasy. How we need to pray for an hearing ear, that is, for a
responsive heart and yielded will.
“For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth. much more
shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from
Heaven.” In these words the apostle continues to emphasize the contrast
which obtains between Judaism and Christianity. What we have here is an
echo from the keynote struck in the opening words of our epistle:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past
unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken
unto us by His Son” (

Hebrews 1:1, 2).
It is in the light of that statement our present verse is to be read and
interpreted. The Speaker throughout is one and the same, namely, God (the
Father), but the mouthpieces He employed differed greatly: under Judaism
He spoke through mere men, the “prophets,” but in connection with
Christianity He speaks in and by His own beloved “Son.”
This difference in the respective mouthpieces employed by God was in
accord with and indicative of the relative importance of the two revelations
given by Him. Judaism was but a religion for earth, and a temporary
arrangement for the time being: accordingly, human agents were God’s
instruments in connection therewith. But Christianity is a revelation which
concerns a heavenly calling, heavenly citizenship, a heavenly inheritance,
and exhibits eternal relations and realities: appropriately, then, was the
everlasting Son, “the Lord from Heaven,” the One by whom its grand
secrets were disclosed.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which
is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him”
(

John 1:18).
The primary reference there is a dispensational one. Under Judaism God
dwelt behind the veil; but under Christianity “we all with unveiled face”
behold, as in a glass, “the glory of the Lord” (

2 Corinthians 3:18).
Under the old covenant men were unable to go in to God; but under the
new covenant God has, in the person of Christ, come out to men.
But blessed and glorious as is the contrast between Judaism and
Christianity, equally solemn and terrible is the contrast between the.177
punishment meted out to those who refuse God’s revelation under each.
God speaks now from a higher throne than the one He assumed at Sinai:
that was on earth; the one He now occupies is in Heaven. Therefore it must
inevitably follow that the guilt of those who refuse to heed Him today is far
greater, and their punishment must be the more intolerable. Not only do
higher privileges involve increased obligations, but the failure to discharge
those added obligations necessarily incurs deeper guilt and a heavier
penalty. This is what the apostle presses here, as he had in
“For if the word spoken by angels (at Sinai) was steadfast, and
every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of
reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
(

Hebrews 2:2, 3).
If, then, we in any wise fear God’s vengeance or value His favor how it
behooves us to most seriously heed the grace proffered in the Gospel!
Though Christianity has in it far less of what is terrifying than had Judaism
and far more in it which exhibits the grace and mercy of God, nevertheless,
apostasy from the one cannot be less terrible in its consequences than was
apostasy from the other. There is as much to be dreaded in disregarding the
authoritative voice of God now as there was then; yea, as we have pointed
out, the rejection of His message through Christ involves a worse doom
than despising of His word through Moses and the prophets.
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or
three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall
he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of
God?” (

Hebrews 10:28, 29).
True, God does not now speak amid thunderings and lightnings, but rather
by a tender appeal to our hearts; yet the rejection of the latter is fraught
with more direful consequences than was the refusal of the former.
Alas that this weighty truth is so feebly apprehended today, and so little
emphasized by the pulpit. Is it not a fact that the idea now generally
prevailing is, that the God of the N.T. is far more amiable and benevolent
than the God of the O.T.? How far from the truth is this: “I change not”
(

Malachi 3:6) is the Lord’s express avowal. Moreover, it is under the
new covenant (and not the old) that we find the most awe-inspiring and
terror-provoking revelation of the righteous wrath of a sin-hating God. It
was not through Moses or the prophets, but by the Lord Jesus that the.178
everlasting fires of Hell were most vividly depicted: He it was who spoke
the plainest and the most frequently of that fearful place wherein there is
“wailing and gnashing of teeth.” If Christ was the One to most fully reveal
God’s love, He was also the One who most fully declared His wrath.
“They escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth.” No, even though
they had enjoyed such unparalleled privileges. They had been brought out
of the house of bondage, delivered from the enemy at the Red Sea, ate of
the heavenly manna and drank of the water from the smitten rock; yet we
are told
“But with many of them God was not well-pleased: for they were
overthrown in the wilderness” (

1 Corinthians 10:5).
The apostle had already reminded the Hebrews that it was of them God
had declared,
“They do always err in their heart, and they have not known My
ways. So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest”
(

Hebrews 3:10, 11).
And this was because “they refused Him that spake” to them. They were
disobedient at Sinai, where, so far from submitting to the Divine authority
to have “no other gods,” they made and worshipped the golden calf. They
were unbelieving at Kadesh Barnea, when they listened to the scepticism of
the ten spies.
“Much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh
from heaven.” Again we say, how greatly at variance with this is the idea
which now obtains so generally. The great majority of professing Christians
suppose there is much less danger of those bearing the name of the Lord
being severely dealt with under the milder regime of Christianity, than there
was for renegades in the days of Moses. But our text says, “much more
shall not we escape!” Though it be true that Christianity is essentially a
system of grace, nevertheless the requirements of holiness and the claims
of justice are not thereby set aside. The despisers of grace must be and will
be as surely punished as were the despisers of Law; yea, “much more” so
because their sin of refusal is more heinous. It is “the wrath of the Lamb”
(

Revelation 6:16) which the despisers of the Gospel — its invitations
and its requirements — will have to reckon with: so far as mount Sion
excels mount Sinai so will the punishment of Christ-scorners exceed that of
those who despised Moses..179
Ere passing on to our next verse we must anticipate a “difficulty” which
our passage is likely to raise in the minds of some readers: How are we to
harmonize the eternal security of the saints with this “much more shall not
we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven?” Alas,
that such a question needs answering: those who frame it betray a
lamentable ignorance of what the “security of saints” consists of. God has
never promised any man to preserve him in the path of self-will and self-pleasing.
Those who reach Heaven are they who follow (though stumbling
by and with many falls) the only path which leads there, namely, the
“Narrow Way” of self-denial. Or, to put it in another way, the only ones
who escape the everlasting buntings are they who heed Him that speaketh
from Heaven, for
“He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey
Him” (

Hebrews 5:9).
The writer believes firmly in the blessed truth of “the eternal security of the
saints,” but by no means all who profess to be Christians are “saints.” This
raises the question, how may I know whether or not I am a saint? The
answer is, By impartially examining myself in the light of Holy Writ and
ascertaining whether or no I possess the character and conduct of a
“saint.” The Lord Jesus said,
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”
(

John 10:27).
A “saint” or “sheep” of Christ, then is one who hears HIS voice above all
the siren voices of the world, above all the clamorings of the flesh, and
gives evidence that he does so by following Him, that is, by heeding His
commandments, being regulated by His will, submitting to His Lordship.
And to them, and to none other, Christ says,
“And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish,
neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (

John 10:28).
Should it be asked, But was not the apostle addressing the “saints,”
“sheep,” “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (

Hebrews
3:1) here in

Hebrews 12:25? And if so, why did he present before them
such an awful threat? First, these solemn words were addressed to all who
come under the sound of the Gospel, and the response made by the hearer
or reader serves as an admirable test. The proud and self-confident, who
rely wholly upon a profession made by them years ago, ignore it to their.180
own undoing, supposing those words have no application to them; whereas
the lowly and self-distrustful lay it to heart with trembling, and are thereby
preserved from the doom threatened. Second, in the preservation of His
people from destruction God uses warnings and threatenings, as well as
promises and assurances. He keeps His people in the Narrow Way by
causing them to heed such an exhortation as this,
“Be not high-minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural
branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (

Romans
11:20, 21).
What is meant by turning away from “Him that speaketh from Heaven”?
First, it describes the attitude of that large class who come under the
sound of the Gospel and dislike its exacting terms: Christ is far too holy to
suit their carnal hearts, His call for them “to forsake all and follow Him”
pleases not their corrupt nature; so He is “despised and rejected” by them.
Second, it depicts the conduct of the stony-ground hearers, who under the
emotional appeals of high-pressure evangelists “receive the Word with
joy,” yet have “no root” in themselves, and so they quickly “fall away:” the
scoffings of their godless companions or the appeal of worldly pleasures
are too strong for them to continue resisting.
Third, it denotes the lapse of those who having “escaped the pollutions of
the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are
again entangled therein and overcome” so that “the latter end is worse with
them than the beginning” (

2 Peter 2:20).
Fourth, it announces the apostasy of those who, under pressure of
persecution, renounce the Faith.
“Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised,
saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven”
(verse 26).
There are some points about this verse and the one immediately following
which are far from easy to elucidate, yet their main purport is not difficult
to determine. In ceasing to “speak on earth” and in now “speaking from
Heaven” God gave therein intimation that the old covenant had been
supplanted by the new: that He had done with Judaism and established the
“better thing” in its place. This was what the pious Hebrews found so hard.181
to perceive, for Judaism had been instituted by God Himself. Nevertheless,
He only designed it to fulfill a temporary purpose “until the time of
reformation” (

Hebrews 9:10), and that time had now arrived. It was to
demonstrate and establish this important fact that God moved His servant
to write this Epistle.
Once more we would call attention to the method employed: Paul did not
simply press his apostolic authority, though that had been sufficient of
itself; instead, he referred his readers to the written Word of God, quoting
from Haggai — in this too he has left an admirable example for all
ministers of the Gospel to follow: the words of God Himself are far more
weighty than any of ours. At every vital stage of his argument the apostle
had referred the Hebrews to the O.T. Scriptures. When he affirmed that
Christ was superior to the heavenly hosts, he quoted, “Let all the angels of
God worship Him” (

Hebrews 1:6). When he warned of the danger of
apostacy, he referred them to Psalm 95 (

Hebrews 3:7-11). When he
insisted that Christ’s priesthood excelled Aaron’s, he cited, “Thou art a
priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (

Hebrews 7:17). When
he declared that the old covenant was an imperfect and temporary one, he
reminded them that Jeremiah had foretold the “new covenant”
(

Hebrews 8:8-10).
When he dwelt upon Christ coming to earth with the express purpose of
supplanting all the Levitical sacrifices by offering Himself unto God, the
apostle showed that Psalm 40 had fore-announced (

Hebrews 10:5-7)
this very truth. When he called upon the Hebrews to walk by faith, he
quoted

Habakkuk 2:4, and then devoted the whole of the 11th chapter
to illustrate the fact that all of the O.T. saints had so walked. When he
admonished them for fainting under the chastening rod of God, he bade
them remember the exhortation of

Proverbs 3:11 (

Hebrews 12:5).
When he would prove to them the inferiority of Judaism to Christianity, he
dwelt upon the Exodus record of the terrifying phenomena which
accompanied the appearing of the Lord at Sinai, where He entered into
covenant with their fathers (

Hebrews 12:18-21). And now that he
affirmed that God no longer spake to them “on earth,” but rather “from
Heaven,” he appeals again to their own Scriptures to show this very
change had been Divinely predicted.
What an amazing knowledge of the Scriptures Paul possessed! and what a
splendid use he made of it! He did not entertain his hearers and readers.182
with anecdotes or by relating some of the sensational experiences through
which God had brought him, still less did he descend to “pleasantries” and
jokes in order to amuse them. No, he constantly brought them face to face
with the Holy Word of the thrice Holy God. And that, by grace, is the
unvarying policy we have sought to follow in this magazine: not only do
we sedulously avoid any cheapening of the glorious Gospel of Christ, but
we endeavor to furnish a proof text for every statement we make; for we
ask no one to believe any doctrine or perform any duty on our mere say-so.
Some may complain that there is “too much repetition” in our articles, or
that they are “too introspective,” or “too Calvinistic,” but their quarrel is
not with us, but with Him whose Word we expound and enforce.
“Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised,
saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven”
(verse 26).
The simplest and surest way of discovering the meaning of this verse and
the force of citing

Haggai 2:6, is to keep in mind the particular design
which the apostle had before him. That was twofold: to enforce the
exhortation he had just given in the previous verse, and to continue
emphasizing and demonstrating the superiority of Christianity over
Judaism. We will consider its terms, then, from each of these viewpoints.
First, Paul emphasizes the terribleness of turning away from God in Christ:
if He who “shook” the earth is to be feared, much more so is He who
“shakes” Heaven! Then let us beware of ignoring His voice: by inattention,
by unbelief, by disobedience, by apostasy.
“Whose voice then shook the earth” is a figurative reference to God’s
omnipotence, for His “voice” here has reference to the mighty power of
God in operation: let the reader carefully compare

Psalm 29:3-9, where
he will find the wondrous effects of Providence ascribed to the “voice” of
God. In particular, the apostle here alludes to the declaration of God’s
authority and the putting forth of His great strength at the time the Law
was given: Sinai itself was convulsed, so that “the whole mount quaked
greatly” (

Exodus 19:18). Yet more than the earthquake is included in
the words of our text: the entire commotion involved, with all the
particulars enumerated in

Hebrews 12:18-21, is comprehended therein.
It is designated “shook the earth” because it was all on the earth, and
involved only earthly things — it did not reach to Heaven and eternal
things..183
“But now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth
only, but also Heaven.” This clause has presented a hard riddle to the
commentators, and scarcely any two of them, ancient or modern, agree in
the solutions they have offered. Personally, we think they created their own
difficulties.
First, through failing to perceive that the “but now” is to be
understood in connection with the subject the apostle was then
discussing, and not as something God was then promising to make
good in the future.
Second, through failing to give proper attention and weight to the term
“promised,” which is surely enough to show that the final destruction
of this scene (when the doom of the wicked will be sealed) cannot be
the subject of which Haggai was prophesying.
Third, through a slavish adherence to literalism — recent writers
especially — which caused many to miss the meaning of “the earth”
and “Heaven” in this passage. But these are points of too much
importance to dismiss hurriedly, so we must leave their consideration
till the next article..184
CHAPTER 102
THE PASSING OF JUDAISM
(

HEBREWS 12:26, 27)
It is exceedingly difficult, if not quite impossible, for us to form any
adequate conception of the serious obstacles presented to the mind of a
pious Jew, when any one sought to persuade him that Judaism had been set
aside by God and that he must turn his own back upon it. No analogy or
parallel exists in our own experience. It was not merely that the Hebrews
were required to turn away from something which their ancestors had set
up, and around which twined all their own sentiments and affections of
national patriotism, but that they were called upon to abandon a religious
system that had been appointed and established by Jehovah Himself. That
institution, a theocracy, was unique, sharply distinguished from all the
idolatrous systems of the heathen. It was God’s outstanding witness in the
earth. It had been signally honored and favored by Him. It had existed for
no less than fifteen centuries, and even when Christ appeared, He
acknowledged the temple — the center and headquarters of Judaism — as
“My Father’s House.”
We cannot but admire the tender grace of God in the gentle and gradual
way in which He “broke the news” to His people, little by little preparing
their minds to receive the truth that His purpose in Judaism had been
completely accomplished. Intimations were given through the prophets that
the order of things with which they were connected would give place to
another and better. To the same effect the Lord Jesus dropped one hint
after another: as, for example, when He pointed out that the old bottles
were incapable of receiving the new wine, or when He declared, not that
which enters into a man defileth him (as the ceremonial law had taught!)
but that which issues from the heart, or when He announced “The hour
cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem,
worship the Father” (

John 4:21; and finally, when He solemnly affirmed
“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (

Matthew 23:38)..185
The rending of the temple veil by a Divine hand was full of deep meaning
for those who had eyes to see. The word given through Stephen that “the
Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (

Acts 7:48), was
another clear ray of heavenly light on the same subject. The conversion of
Saul of Tarsus, and the commissioning of him as an apostle to the Gentiles,
intimated the direction in which the stream of Divine mercy was now
flowing — it had burst the narrow banks of Judaism! The vision granted to
Peter (Acts 10) and his message to Cornelius (

v. 35), was a further
advance along the same line. The important decision of the apostles and
elders of the Church at Jerusalem in

Acts 15:23-29 not to bind the
ceremonial law upon the Gentile converts, was another radical step in the
same direction.
Yet Jerusalem still survived, the temple was yet intact, and its services
continued. Moreover, the leaders of the Nation had rejected Christ and
denounced Christianity as a device of Satan. Many of the Jewish Christians
were sorely puzzled and deeply exercised, for the Roman yoke had not
been removed. As yet the followers of Christ were but few in number, and
for the most part, poor and despised. The Hebrew believers were being
hotly persecuted by their unbelieving brethren, and God had made no
manifest interposition on their behalf. They were therefore almost ready to
conclude that, after all, they had made a dreadful mistake in forsaking the
religion of their fathers, and that the sore afflictions they were passing
through were a Divine judgment upon them. It was to allay their fears, to
more thoroughly instruct their minds, to establish their hearts, that God
moved the apostle to write this particular epistle to them — the great
theme of which is a display of the immeasurable superiority of Christianity
over Judaism, and its chief design being a call to perseverance and a
warning against apostasy.
But even in this epistle the apostle did not come right out and say plainly
“God has discarded Judaism.” No, the path of faith is never an easy one.
Faith can only thrive while it fights (

1 Timothy 6:12). There must be
that which deeply exercises the heart if the soul is to be kept in the place of
complete dependence upon God! Nevertheless, God always grants
sufficient light unto a truly exercised soul to indicate the path which is to
be followed; He always provides a foundation for faith to rest upon.
Though He may not remove the chief obstacle (as He did not for the
Hebrews while the temple still stood!) and grant a complete solution to our
difficulties, yet He graciously furnishes the humble soul sufficient help to.186
circumvent them. Thus it was in this epistle. Though no explicit statement
is made that God had done with Judaism, yet sufficient proof was furnished
that He had set up something better in its place. This comes out again and
again in almost every chapter, notably so in the passage now before us.
What has been pointed out in the last paragraph presents a principle and a
fact which it is deeply important for true Christians to lay hold of today.
Not a few of the Lord’s people are now confronted with similar problems,
which if not so acute as the Hebrews faced, are just as real to them:
problems relating to church-fellowship, baptism, the Lord’s supper,
Sabbath observance. For thirty years a situation existed in Israel which
produced two parties, neither of which could convince the other; and, as
usual, the larger party was in the wrong. On the one hand was the long-established
Judaism, which contained the great majority of the Nation; on
the other hand was the handful of God’s faithful servants with the few who
had sufficient grace to receive their teachings and walk by faith. Had the
latter been regulated by ancient custom, or by mere numbers, or by the
logic of circumstances (the outward providences of God), they had missed
God’s will for them and had “forsaken their own mercy” (

Jonah 2:8).
The little company of converted Hebrews who had left Judaism for Christ
were faced with a perplexing and trying situation. No doubt in the case of
many of them, their loved ones still adhered reverently and vigorously to
the religion of their fathers. Nor could either party convince the other of its
error by a simple and direct appeal to Holy Writ. Each side had some
Scripture to support it! Nowhere in the O.T. had God expressly said that
He would yet do away with Judaism, and nowhere in the N.T. had He
openly declared that He had now set Judaism aside. No, dear reader, that
is rarely God’s way! In like manner, Christendom is now divided on
various points both of doctrine and of duty, and each side is able to make
out a real “case” by an appeal to Scripture, and often, neither can cite one
decisive verse proving the other to be wrong. Yet one is wrong! Only by
earnestly waiting upon God individually can His mind be discovered.
But why has God ordered things thus? Why are not the Scriptures so
worded that there would be no room for controversy? To try our hearts.
The situation which confronted the converted Hebrews was a real test as to
whether they would be followers of men or pleasers of God. The self-righteous
Pharisees could appeal to a long-established system of religion in
justification of their rejection of Christ; and there are those in Christendom.187
today who vindicate their adherence to what God has never commanded
and which is dishonoring to His Son, by an appeal to a long line of godly
men who have believed and practiced these very things. When others seek
to show that an opposite course is required by Scripture, they profess to be
“unable to see” what is quite clear to simple and humble souls, and ask for
some verse which expressly forbids what they are doing; which is like
those who, in the face of His miracles, said, “If Thou be the Christ tell us
plainly” (

John 10:24).
No doubt it had made matters much easier for the Hebrews if the apostle
said plainly, “God has completely finished with Judaism:” that had “settled
the matter” for hesitating ones who were halting between two opinions —
and poor fallen human nature loves to have things so “settled” that there
may be an end to perturbation of mind and exercise of heart. Moreover, the
converted Hebrews would then have had a clear proof-text which must
have silenced those who differed from them — and we love to have a verse
which will close the mouths of those who agree not with us, do we not?
Or, God could have allowed the Romans to capture Jerusalem and destroy
the temple thirty years sooner than they did: that also had “settled the
matter” — yes, and left the Hebrews to walk by sight, instead of by faith!
Instead, He gave them this epistle, which called for prayer, study,
meditation, and for more prayer.
Let us now very briefly review the line of the apostle’s argument in

Hebrews 12:18 and onwards. First, he informs the believing Hebrews
“Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched” and which was
so “terrible” that even Moses quaked “exceedingly” (verses 18-21): no,
Divine mercy had delivered them from that system. Second, Paul assures
them “But ye are come unto mount Sion (verses 22-24): God had brought
them unto an order of things where the Throne of Grace predominated. It
is ever the Lord’s way to reserve the best wine for the last. Third, the
apostle reminds them that increased privileges involve additional
obligations, and that failure to discharge those obligations incurs greater
guilt; therefore does he urge them to take heed unto God speaking to them
in the person of Christ, warning them that failure so to do would bring
down upon them the Divine wrath more surely than did the disobedience of
Israel of old (verse 25).
“Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised, saying,
Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (verse 26). This.188
verse has occasioned much difficulty to the commentators, scarcely any
two of them (ancient or modern) agreeing in their interpretation of it.
Many of them suppose that the ultimate, if not the prime, reference in the
quotation here made from Haggai relates to the final destruction of the
earth and the heavens connected with it, as it is described in

2 Peter
3:10-12. But to suppose that Paul here made a declaration which
concerned the then far-distant future, is not only to break the unity of this
passage, but is to charge him with making a quotation which had no real
relevancy to the immediate subject he was discussing. In pondering

Hebrews 12:26-29 our first concern must be to trace the connection
with the context.
Now in the context the apostle had been treating of two things: the
immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism, and what this
involved concerning the responsibility of those who were the subjects of
this higher and grander revelation. These same two things are still before
the apostle in the closing verses of our chapter: he continued to show how
immeasurably the new covenant excels the old, and he continued to
enforce the pressing call which he had made in verse 25. First, he had
intimated the vast difference which obtained between the mouthpieces
which God employed in connection with the two revelations (verse 25):
namely, “Moses” (

Hebrews 10:28) and “His Son” (

Hebrews 1:2).
Second, he had shown the great disproportion between those two teachers,
by pointing out the respective positions they occupied (verse 25). “Moses’
seat” (

Matthew 23:2) was “on earth,” whereas Christ speaks as seated
upon His mediatorial throne “from Heaven.”
Two things were intimated by God in the different seats or positions
occupied by the messengers He had employed. First, inasmuch as He now
spake through the Son from Heaven, God denoted that He had finished
with Judaism, which was entirely a thing of the earth. Second, that
Christianity was of Divine origin, and had to do solely with celestial things.
From one angle, this call in

Hebrews 12:25 was very similar to that
exhortation
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on
things above, not on things on the earth” (

Colossians 3:1, 2)..189
Before their conversion, the affections of the Hebrews had been centred
upon the temple — notice how the disciples, just before the crucifixion,
came to Christ
“for to show Him the buildings of the temple” (

Matthew 24:1);
but they were to be “thrown down!” — Christ had returned to Heaven, and
thither their hearts must follow Him. Thus, the heavenly calling
(

Hebrews 3:1), heavenly citizenship (

Philippians 3:20), heavenly
inheritance (

1 Peter 1:4), instead of the earthly concerns of Judaism,
were now to engage the hearts and minds of the regenerate in Israel.
Next, in the verses now before us, the apostle brings out the vastly
different effects produced through the two messengers. This is the central
fact in verses 26, 27: the Voice “from Heaven” produced proportionately
greater results than did the voice which spake “on earth.” God through
Christ speaks more powerfully and effectually than He did through Moses.
Let us be careful not to lose sight of this general idea when pondering the
details. A much greater and more far-reaching “shaking” was produced by
the latter than was the case with the former. We believe that Matthew
Henry was on the fight track when he said, “It is by the Gospel from
heaven that God shook to pieces the civil and ecclesiastical state of the
Jewish nation, and introduced a new state of the church, that cannot be
removed, shall never be changed for any other on earth, but shall remain till
it be made perfect in heaven.” The apostle is still supplying proof that the
Hebrew believers were no longer connected with Judaism, but were come
to the antitypical Zion.
“Whose voice then shook the earth.” Here is the connecting link with the
context: the “then” referring to the instituting of Judaism. “But now He
hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also
heaven.” The “but now” is not so much a time-mark as it is an adverbial
expression, relating to the theme under immediate discussion, namely, the
establishment and super-excellency of Christianity. Thus, to show once
more the infinitely surpassing and glorious effects of power and majesty
which issued from the voice of Christ, speaking from heaven by the
Gospel, and so as to give a more lively representation of the same, the
apostle compares them with the greatly inferior effects that accompanied
the deliverance of the Law. As the right understanding of this “But now”
has an important bearing upon all that follows, we subjoin the comments of
another thereon..190
“The word now does not denote the period when the promise was
made, but the period to which the promise referred, which was
now, opposed to then when the Law was established. It was
equivalent to ‘But with regard to the present period, which is the
commencement of a new order of things, He has promised, saying.’
This use of the word now in the apostle’s writings is common:

Romans 3:21; 16:26 etc.” (John Brown).
There is, then, an opposition of the “But now” to what occurred at the
“then” at the beginning of the verse. It is to be carefully noted that Paul did
not say “He hath now promised,” i.e. that in the apostle’s day God had
announced He was going to do something in the far-distant future; instead,
it is “But now He hath promised:” the “now” relating to the fulfillment of
what Haggai had foretold, and not to some promise given through the
apostle.
“But now He hath promised, saying.” This “saying” which the apostle at
once quotes from Haggai he styles a “promise,” and that for at least three
reasons.
First, because what was but a prophecy in Haggai’s day had received
its actual accomplishment in the apostle’s time, in connection with the
establishment of Christianity.
Second, because this was therefore something for faith to lay hold of,
and that is what he was seeking to persuade the Hebrew believers to
do.
Third, to prevent any misconception on our part: had the apostle been
pointing out that the prophecy of Haggai contained a yet deeper
meaning and more ultimate reference, even to predicting the final
destruction of this world and all its works, he had surely been very far
from designating such an unparalleled Divine judgment as that, by the
term “promise!” A “promise” always refers to something that is good,
and never to a calamity!
“Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised, saying,
Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” Let us now
inquire, What is denoted by this “shaking” of earth and heaven? This is a
figure which is used in the O.T. quite frequently to express a great change,
produced by the providences and power of God in the affairs of men..191
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and
though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea”
(

Psalm 46:1, 2),
which is explained in “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He
uttered His voice, the earth melted” (verse 6).
“Thou hast made the earth to tremble: Thou hast broken it: heal the
breaches thereof, for it shaketh” (

Psalm 60:2):
what is signified by that metaphorical language is indicated in the next
verse, “Thou hast showed Thy people hard things: Thou hast made us to
drink the wine of astonishment.”
“Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out
of her place” (

Isaiah 13:13)
— language which signifies a tremendous commotion among the nations
— compare

Joel 3:16. Such vivid imagery is common in the Prophets.
“He stretched out His hand over the sea,” which is interpreted in the next
sentence “He shook the kingdoms” (

Isaiah 23:11).
“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste,
and turneth it upside down” (

Isaiah 24:1)
— words, we need hardly say, which are not to be taken literally. “At His
wrath the earth shall tremble,” explained in the following clause,
“and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation”
(

Jeremiah 10:10).
“Arise, contend thou with the mountains: and let the hills hear thy
voice. Hear ye O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and ye strong
foundations of the earth” (

Micah 6:1, 2):
such language is not to be understood literally, as the next clause shows
“For the Lord hath a controversy with His people.” “For the
powers of heaven shall be shaken” (

Luke 21:26).
Even Mr. Darby admitted (in his “Synopsis”), “This shaking of all things —
whether here (

Hebrews 12:26, 27) or in the analogous passage in 2.192
Peter — evidently goes beyond Judaism, but has peculiar application to
it” — italics ours.
“Whose voice then shook the earth.” The immediate reference is to Sinai at
the time the law was given. But, as we have seen, that material mount was
emblematic of the entire economy which was then established. Thus the
“shaking” of the “earth” denoted the great outward change which took
place in the days of Moses. The external state of Israel was then greatly
altered. They were organized into a kingdom and church-state (

Acts
7:38), into a theocracy. Yet glorious as was that change, it reached not to
“heaven,” that is to say, it affected not their inner man and was not
concerned with spiritual and eternal relations.
“The economy established at Sinai, viewed by itself, was a temporal
covenant with a worldly nation, referring to temporal promises, an
earthly inheritance, a worldly sanctuary, a typical priesthood, and
carnal ordinances” (J. Brown).
“But now (in relation to Christianity) He hath promised, saying, Yet once
more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” The careful reader will
observe that the prophet had said,
“I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry
land” (

Haggai 2:6),
whereas the apostle was moved by the Holy Spirit to word it — for the
sake of his emphasis — “I shake not the earth only, but also heaven,”
hence a shaking of both “earth” and “heaven” was here in view.
“The voice in heaven produces more extensive and more
permament effects. It shakes both earth and heaven — effects a
change both on the external and spiritual circumstances of those
who are under it; and it effects a permament change, which is to
admit of no radical essential change forever” (J. Brown).
Though a great change had been produced in connection with the giving of
the old covenant, a far greater change had been effected in the establishing
of the new covenant. That had affected but one nation only, and that,
merely in its external and temporal circumstances: this reaches unto God’s
people among all nations, and affects their spiritual and eternal interests. It
was reserved for God’s Son to bring this about, for in all things He must
have the preeminence. A much greater commotion and convulsion in.193
human affairs has been brought in by Immanuel, yea, it was then as though
the very universe was shaken to its center. In order to the establishing of
that kingdom of Christ’s which shall never be moved, there were
tremendous revolutions, both in connection with Judaism and the
idolatrous systems of the heathen — “These that have turned the world
upside down” (

Acts 17:6) was the charge preferred against the apostles.
Now as the great change in the temporal affairs of Israel at the instituting
of Judaism had been adumbrated by the quaking of Sinai, so the far greater
alterations introduced by the establishing of Christianity were also
shadowed forth in the various physical phenomena and angelic
appearances.
“At His birth a new star appeared in the heavens, which filled the
generality of men with amazement, and put those who were wise to
diligent inquiries about it. His birth was proclaimed by an angel
from heaven, and celebrated by ‘a multitude of the heavenly hosts.’
In His ministry the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit
descended on Him in the shape of a dove. These things may answer
that mighty work in heaven which is here intimated. On the earth,
wise men came from the east to inquire after Him; Herod and all
Jerusalem were shaken at the tidings of Him. In the discharge of
His work He wrought miracles in heaven and earth, sea and dry
land, on the whole creation of God. Wherefore in the first coming
of Christ the words had their literal accomplishment in an eminent
manner.
“Take the words metaphorically for great changes, commotions and
alterations in the world, and so also were they accomplished in Him
and His coming. No such alteration made in the world since the
creation of it as was then, and in what ensued thereon. All the
‘heavens’ of the world were then shaken, and after a while
removed: that is, all their gods and all their worship, which had
continued from time immemorial, which were the ‘heavens of the
people,’ were first shaken, and then utterly demolished. The ‘earth’
also was moved, shaken and changed: for all nations were stirred
up, some to inquire after Him, some to oppose Him, whereon great
concussions and commotions did ensue; till all the most noble parts
of it were made subject to Him..194
“But, as we observed before, it is the dealing of God with the
church, and the alteration which He would make in the state
thereof, concerning which the apostle treats. It is therefore the
‘heaven’ of Mosaic worship and that Judaical church-state, with the
‘earth’ of their political state belonging thereunto, that are here
intended. These were they that were ‘shaken’ at the coming of
Christ, and so shaken as shortly after to be removed and taken
away, for the introduction of the more heavenly worship of the
Gospel, and the immovable evangelical church-state. This was the
greatest commotion and alteration that God ever made in the
‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ of the church. This was far more great and
glorious than the shaking of the ‘earth’ at the giving of the law.
Wherefore, not to exclude the senses before mentioned, which are
consistent with this, and may be respected in the prophecy as
outward signs and indications of it, this is that which is principally
intended in the words, and which is proper to the argument in
hand” (John Owen).
“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those
things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things
which cannot be shaken may remain” (verse 27).
This is the apostle’s inspired commentary on Haggai’s prophecy. He points
out that the “yet once more” denoted there had previously been a great
change wrought in Israel’s fortunes, and also that now another radical
alteration had been made therein. He insists that the “shaking” was in order
to effect a removal of what was only transient, and that the great change
was only in order that that which is unchangeable might remain — that the
permanent might be fixedly established..195
CHAPTER 103
THE ESTABLISHING OF CHRISTIANITY
(

HEBREWS 12:27)
The Divine incarnation was not some sudden, isolated, and unexpected
event. The advent of our blessed Lord, and with it the dawn of
Christianity, marked a climax and consummation. The world was prepared
through long processes for the coming of the One and the preaching of the
other: from Eden to Bethlehem the centuries were preparing for the
appearing of Immanuel. As the processes of creation fitted the earth for
man to live upon it, so all history paved the way for the birth of the God-man.
The Holy Scriptures focused the Divine preparation in one race, yet
all peoples shared in the process: outside of the elect nation God was at
work, and all streams converged to a single center. The march of events
was both slow and complicated, yet eventually the stage was fully set and a
suitable background made for the appearing of the promised Savior.
“When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, born
of a woman” (

Galatians 4:4).
This signifies much more than that the time appointed by the Father had
now arrived when He would put an end to the Mosaic economy and
replace the shadows and types by the substance and Antitype. It denoted
that conditions were peculiarly suitable for the introduction of a new and
enlarged dispensation, that everything was now ripe for the execution of
God’s great purpose. All the foundations had been laid. The long night of
preparation had now run its course. The chrysalis was ready to burst its
bonds; the fields were white unto the harvest; the olive tree was ready for
the grafting of other branches into it (Romans 11). The “fullness of time”
intimates both ripeness of opportunity and consummation of need. The
advent of God’s Son to this earth and the proclamation of the Gospel far
and wide, not only introduced a new era, it also marked the climax of the
old..196
In its relation to the immediate context this expression, “the fullness of
time,” signifies that the Church on earth had been prepared for the coming
of God’s Son by having now outgrown the conditions of her childhood and
minority, making her feel the irksomeness of the bonds upon her and to
long for the liberty of maturity. The legal economy was merely a
“schoolmaster unto Christ,” and it had now served its purpose. The old
economy had decayed and waxed old, and was “ready to vanish away”
(

Hebrews 8:13). Aged Simeon was a representative of that godly
remnant who were “waiting for the Consolation of Israel,” for there was a
Divinely prepared company that then “looked for redemption in Jerusalem”
(

Luke 2:25, 38). The favored Nation as a whole had lost its liberty,
being under the yoke of the Romans, and seemed on the point of
relinquishing its mission; the need for the fulfillment of the Messianic
prophecies was real and pressing.
There was a remarkable combination of circumstances tending to prepare
the world for the Gospel, and a fearful climax in the world’s need of
redemption. The break up of old heathen faiths and the passing away of the
prejudices of antiquity, disposed men for a new revelation which was
spiritual, humane, non-provincial. The utter failure of Pagan religion from
immorality, and of Pagan philosophy from its impotency to cure that
immorality and the miseries it entailed, called loudly for some new Faith,
which should be both sure and powerful. The century immediately
preceding our Lord’s advent was probably the most remarkable in all
history. Everything was in a state of transition; old things were passing
away; the fruit of the ancient order was rotting upon the tree, though
without yielding the seeds of a new order. There were strange rumors
afloat of coming relief, and singular hopes stirred the hearts of men that
some Great One was about to appear and renovate the world.
“The fullness of time was come.” First, the world had reached its
climacteric of sin. History has given a faithful record of the terrible moral
conditions which obtained among men in the century that immediately
preceded our Lord’s advent. At Rome, which was then the metropolis of
the world, the Court of Caesar was steeped in luxury and licentiousness.
To provide amusement for his senators six hundred gladiators fought a
hand to hand conflict in the public theater. Not to be outdone, Pompey
turned five hundred lions into the arena to engage an equal number of his
braves, and “delicate ladies” sat applauding and gloating over the blood
that flowed. Children were the property of the state, to be disposed of as.197
was deemed best for the public interests. The aged and infirm were
banished to an island in the Tiber. Marriage was wholly a matter of sensual
caprice; divorce was so frequent, it was customary for women to count
them by the number of rings worn on their fingers. About two thirds of the
entire civilized world were slaves, their masters having absolute power
over them.
Conditions in Greece were even worse. Sensual indulgence and every
species of cruelty were carried to the highest pitch. Gluttony was an art.
Fornication was indulged without restraint. Parents were at liberty to
expose their children to perish from cold and hunger or to be eaten up by
wild beasts, such exposure being practiced frequently, and passed without
punishment or censure. Wars were carried on with the utmost ferocity: if
any of the vanquished escaped death, slavery of the most abject kind was
the only prospect before them; and in consequence, death was considered
preferable to capture.
“The dark places of the earth were filled with the habitations of
cruelty” (

Psalm 74:20).
The world had reached its climacteric of sin, and this provided a dark
background from which could shine forth the Light. Oftentimes a disease
cannot be treated until it “comes to a head.” In view of the above
conditions, the world was ready for the appearing of the great Physician.
“The fullness of time was come.” The world had reached its consummation
of want. It had been predicted of old that the Messiah should be “the
Desire of all nations:” to this end there must be a complete exposure of the
failure of all human plans for deliverance. This time had arrived when
Christ was born. Never before had the abject misery and need of humanity
been so apparent and so extensive. Philosophy had lost its power to satisfy
men, and the old religions were dead. The Greeks and Romans stood at the
head of the nations at the time our Lord appeared on earth, and the
religious state of those peoples in that age is too well known to require any
lengthy description of it. Polytheism and Pantheism were the popular
concepts: innumerable deities were worshipped, and to those gods were
attributed the most abominable characteristics. Human sacrifices were
frequently offered upon their altars.
Judaism was also fully ripe for the accomplishment of Messianic prophecy.
Sadduceeism had leavened the ruling classes and affected the nation with.198
rationalism and skepticism. Phariseeism, which represented the ideas and
ideals of the popular party, was too often only formal and hypocritical, and
at best was cold and hard, “binding heavy burdens” and laying on men’s
shoulders a load which they refused to touch with their fingers
(

Matthew 23:4). The nation was under the government of Rome, and
was thoroughly discouraged. Was there, then, no eye to pity, no arm to
save? Was God unmindful of the tragic condition of mankind? No, blessed
be His name, the “fullness of time was come:” a platform was then ready
on which the glories of Divine grace might be exhibited, and now arose
“the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings”
(

Malachi 4:2).
“The fullness of time was come.” The needed preparations were
completed, and the high-water mark was reached. Side by side with the
preliminary movements in Israel, Divine providence had also been at work
in heathendom, making ready the world for the dawn of Christianity.
Political conditions were singularly favorable for the coming of the Gospel.
Most of the then known earth was within the bounds of the Roman empire.
Everywhere the Romans went good roads were made, along which went
the soldier, and after him the merchant and scholar. In a short time
commercial intercourse fused various peoples. Previously, old national
distinctions had bound up religious prejudices, each country having its own
gods, and any attempt to foist a foreign religion upon a nation was bitterly
resented. But national barriers were now broken down by Roman prowess
and international intercourse, and religious exclusiveness was greatly
weakened. All of this facilitated the task of the missionaries of the Cross.
The Roman roads became highways for the evangelists, and Roman law
afforded them protection.
Parallel with the growth of the Roman empire was the spread of Grecian
culture. The Grecian tongue was the one most extensively used as the
language of learning: all educated people were supposed to understand it.
This was a most suitable medium by which the Christian messengers could
speak to a great multitude of peoples, without enduring the tedious delay
of learning new languages. In Syria, Egypt, Phrygia, and Italy, as well as
Greece and Asia Minor, the heralds of Christ could make themselves
understood everywhere by using the common tongue employed by all
teachers of that day. Moreover this language was so delicately modulated
as to surpass all other forms of speech in its capacity for expressing new.199
ideas. It was therefore exactly what was needed for the setting forth of a
new revelation to the world at large.
It was the same with Judaism. Now had arrived the time for the fulfillment
of its mission: the giving to the world of the O.T. Scriptures, and the
realization of the Hope which they presented. Judaism was to give birth to
Christianity: out of the old soil the new order was to spring. The position
of the Jews at that time wonderfully facilitated the spread of the Gospel,
for they were already dispersed abroad everywhere. In the days of
Augustus there were forty thousand Jews at Rome, and by the time of
Tiberius double that number. The Jewish synagogues furnished a means of
communication between Christian gospelers and the heathen world. A
synagogue was to be found in almost every town throughout the Roman
empire, and to it the evangelists first went; and thus a suitable language
was provided for communicating with all peoples, and centers of work
were to be found in every city.
In such a striking conjunction of favorable providences we cannot but
behold and admire the controlling hand of Him who worketh all things
after the counsel of His own will. They served to greatly lessen the severe
shock which the displacing of the old order of things and the introduction
of the new order was bound to bring, for the claims of Christ are of a very
radical nature and His demands revolutionizing. Even so, the establishing
of Christianity is spoken of as a shaking of “not the earth only, but also
heaven” (verse 26): though such language be figurative, nevertheless it
refers to that which was intensely real and drastic. Our assertion that the
last clause of verse 26 is not to be understood in a material sense (as is now
widely supposed), calls for some further expository remarks thereon,
particularly concerning its setting here, its original, and its connection.
At verse 25 the apostle began an exhortation which was based upon what
had been pointed out in verses 18-24, and which he re-enforces by
additional considerations. The exhortation consists of a call to hear and
heed God’s message to us through Christ. God is the Author of Old and
New Testaments alike: in the former He spoke through Moses and the
prophets; in the latter by the Son, His final Spokesman. The manifestation
which God made in Christ and the message He has given us through Him,
completes the revelation of His will. This final message was declared
neither by man nor angel, but by the only begotten Son. Then let us beware
of treating such a revelation in a manner ill-fitting its high character. The.200
superior dignity of the Messenger and the supreme importance of His
message must ensure severer punishment to those who despise and reject
Him.
The urgency of this call for us to hear Christ is intimated by pointing out
that since those who had disregarded God’s message through Moses
escaped not, a far worse punishment must be the portion of those who turn
a deaf ear unto Him speaking through the Son (verse 25). The superiority
of God’s revelation by the Son to the message given through Moses was
evidenced by the phenomena which attended each, and the different effects
which followed their appearing: the Voice “from heaven” (by Christ)
produced proportionately greater results than did the Voice which spake by
Moses, “on earth.” The Voice through each produced a “shaking,” but that
through the latter was far more extensive than that through the former
(verse 26). In proof of this declaration the apostle quoted and commented
upon a striking prediction found in Haggai, the pertinency and scope of
which we would now consider. For a better understanding thereof we will
turn to its original setting.
In chapter 1 Haggai rebukes the indifference of the Jewish remnant (who
had returned to Palestine from the Babylonish captivity) for their neglect to
rebuild God’s house. This stirred them up to proceed therewith. In chapter
2 the prophet comforts them. The rebuilding of the temple had then
proceeded far enough for it to be made manifest that in its outward glory it
was far inferior to Solomon’s. A great lamentation ensued, and the prophet
asks,
“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and
how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as
nothing?” (

Hebrews 2:3).
The people greatly feared that Jehovah had deserted them, and to re-assure
them Haggai declared,
“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong,
O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong all ye
people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you,
saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted
with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remaineth
among you: fear ye not” (

Hebrews 2:4, 5);.201
and then it was that he set before them the grand hope of the Messiah’s
appearing.
“For thus saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once, it is a little while and I
will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
And I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall
come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.
The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts.
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,
saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the
Lord of hosts” (

Haggai 2:6-9).
Here was a message of comfort to the sorrowing remnant of the prophet’s
day, and from it the apostle quotes in Hebrews 12.
The first thing we would note in the above prediction is the statement “a
little while and I will shake,” which makes it evident that the “shaking” did
not look forward to the final and universal convulsion of nature at the end
of time; rather was the reference to that which preceded and was
connected with the establishing of Christianity, which was comparatively
an impending event in Haggai’s day. Second, the “shaking” was not to
occur in the material world, but in the political and religious realms, as is
clear from the closing verses of this very chapter. “I will shake the heavens,
and the earth” (verse 21) is at once defined as “and I will overthrow the
throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the
heathen” (verse 22) — this commenced shortly afterwards, for the axe lay
at the root of the Persian empire. Third, there was the express promise that
the glory of the temple built in Haggai’s day should exceed that of
Solomon’s.
That third item needs to be very carefully weighed by us, for it is of great
importance. This was the chief point of comfort in Haggai’s prediction. His
fellows were deeply distressed (see

Ezra 3:12) at the comparative
meanness of the house of God which they were erecting, but he assures
them it should yet possess a glory that far excelled that of Solomon’s. That
greater glory was not a material one, but a spiritual: it was expressly said
to be the coming to it of “the Desire of all nations.” It was by the appearing
of the Messiah that the real “glory” would accrue unto the second temple,
and that must be while it still stood! Haggai’s temple was enlarged and
beautified by Herod three hundred years later, but the original structure
was never destroyed, so that it continued one and the same “house;” and to.202
it Christ came! The “little while,” then, of

Haggai 2:6 was parallel with
the “suddenly” of

Malachi 3:1.
The fourth and last thing was “and in this place will I give peace, saith the
Lord of hosts” (

Hebrews 2:9). That also was spiritual: referring to the
peace which Christ should make “through the blood of His cross”
(

Colossians 1:20) between God and His people, and the amity which
should be established between believing Jews and believing Gentiles (see

Ephesians 2:14-16) in the same worship of God. This was the principal
work of Christ: to put away sin (which was the cause of enmity and strife)
and to bring in peace. Finally, the manner in which all this was to be
effected was by a great “shaking,” not only in the midst of Israel, but also
among the Gentiles. Observe carefully the “yet once” of

Haggai 2:6:
there had been a great “shaking” when the first covenant was instituted,
but there would be a still greater at the establishing of the new covenant.
Thus the “yet once” signifies, first, once more; and secondly, once for all
— finally.
Now from the above prophecy of Haggai Paul quotes in

Hebrews
12:26. The apostle’s object was a double one: to supply additional proof
for the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, and to give further point to
the exhortation he had made in verse 25. Evidence is here given from the
O.T. to show that the voice of God speaking by Christ had produced far
greater effects than His word had through Moses. The contrasts, then,
between the old and new covenants, and the excelling of the latter over the
former, may be summed up thus: the one was connected with Sinai, the
other brings us unto Sion (verses 18-24); the one was inaugurated by
Moses, the other by the Son; the one was God speaking “on earth,” the
other “from heaven;” the one “shook the earth,” the other “heaven” itself
(verse 26); the one is “removed” the other “remains” (verse 27); therefore,
HEAR the Son!
How far astray, then, are those commentators who suppose that Haggai’s
prophecy refers to the final judgment at the last day, when the whole fabric
of nature shall shake and be removed!
First, such a terrifying event was altogether alien to the scope of Haggai’s
purpose, which was to comfort his sorrowing brethren.
Second, such a prediction had been entirely irrevelant to the apostle’s
scope, for he was comparing not the giving of the law with the Day of.203
Judgment, but the giving of the law with the promulgation of the Gospel by
Christ Himself; for his whole design was to exhibit the preeminence of the
Evangelical economy.
Third, nor would such dreadful doom be designated a “promise”
(

Hebrews 12:26).
Fourth, the apostle clearly intimated that Haggai’s prophecy was now
fulfilled (verse 28). Finally, there is no reason whatever why we should
regard the shaking of heaven and earth here as a literal one: it was spiritual
things of which the apostle was discoursing — such as issue in that
unshakable kingdom which believers receive in this world.
Let us admire the striking appropriateness of Haggai’s prophecy to the
purpose the apostle then had in hand. Haggai’s prediction concerned the
person and appearing of Christ: “The Desire of all nations shall come.”
There it was announced that God would do greater works than He had
performed in the days of Moses (

Haggai 2:5-7). God shook Egypt
before He gave the law, He shook Sinai at the giving of it, He shook the
surrounding nations (especially in Canaan) just after it. But in “a little
while” He would do greater things. The prophet’s design was to fix the
eyes of the Jews upon the first advent of Christ, which was their great
expectation, and to assure them that their temple would then possess a
glory far excelling that of Solomon’s. Meanwhile, God would overthrow
“the throne of kingdoms and destroy the strength of the heathen”
(verse 22),
as the forerunning signs of Christ’s advent during the short season which
intervened before His appearing.
How pertinent and well-suited, then, was Haggai’s prophecy to the subject
Paul was developing! That prediction had been fulfilled: Christ had come
and made good its terms: conclusive proof of this is found in the changing
of the verb — the prophet’s “I will shake” being altered to “I shake,” for
the apostle regarded the “shaking” as present and not future. A “promise”
had been given that a greater work of Divine power, grace and glory
should be wrought at the appearing of the Messiah than what took place in
connection with the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law, and this
was now accomplished. How clearly and how forcibly did this demonstrate
the pre-eminency of the new covenant above the old: so far as the glory of
the second temple excelled that of the first was Christianity superior to.204
Judaism! Finally, how well did this “shaking” of heaven intimate the
permamency and finality of Christianity, for the shaking was in order that
the unshakable might abide (verse 27).
It now remains for us to weigh the comment which the apostle made upon
this citation from Haggai:
“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those
things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things
which cannot be shaken may remain” (verse 27).
Incidentally, let it be pointed out that here we have a helpful illustration of
the province and task of the teacher: in expounding God’s Word he not
only compares passage with passage and defines the meaning of its terms,
but he also indicates what legitimate inferences and conclusions may be
drawn, what its statements imply as well as directly affirm. This is exactly
what the apostle does here: he argues that the word “once” (used by the
prophet) not only signified “once more,” but that it also denoted the setting
aside of the order of things previously existing.
There is a fullness in the words of Holy Writ which can only be discovered
by prolonged meditation and careful analysis. The prophecy of Haggai had
said nothing expressly about the “removing” of anything, yet what was not
stated explicitly was contained therein implicitly. The apostle insists that a
“removing” was implied in the terms of Haggai’s prediction. The very fact
that God had “shaken” the Mosaic economy to its very foundations — the
preaching and miracles of Christ (and later by His apostles) had caused
thousands to leave it, the Lord’s denunciation of the religion leaders and
His exposure of their hypocrisy had undermined the confidence of the
masses, while the rending of the temple veil by a Divine hand had clearly
and solemnly signified the end of the Levitical system — was plain
intimation that He was on the eve of setting the whole aside, and that, for
the purpose of setting up something better in its place; what that something
is, we must leave for our next chapter.
N.B. Had some of our twentieth century Christians been present they
would have taken issue with the apostle and said, “Paul, you are taking
undue liberties with the Word of God, which we cannot consent to. The
Holy Spirit through Haggai spoke of a “shaking,” whereas you change it to
“removing.” Had the apostle replied,.205
“I am simply pointing out what the prophet’s language clearly implies,
drawing an obvious inference from his statement.” The rejoinder would be,
“We do not need to do any reasoning upon the Word. Moreover, any
simple soul can see that shaking and removing are very different things,
and had the prophet meant the latter he would have said so, and not used
the former.” An expositor of Scripture often encounters such quibbling
today: it is worse than ignorance, for it deceives not a few into supposing
that such slavish adherence to the letter of Scripture (being occupied with
its sound, instead of seeking its sense) is honoring the same..206
CHAPTER 104
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
(

HEBREWS 12:28)
We hope that we made clear in the preceding articles the general idea
contained in the citation from the O.T. which the apostle made in

Hebrews 12:26, namely, that under the proclamation of the Gospel
there would be a more radical and far-reaching effect produced, than was
the case at the giving of the Law, thereby manifesting the superiority of the
one over the other. The more specific meaning of Haggai’s prediction
(

Hebrews 2:6) was that the Jewish church and state would be dissolved,
for both the ecclesiastical and civil spheres of Judaism (“heaven and earth”)
were “shaken.” Its wider significance comprehended the convulsions which
would be produced in heathendom (the “sea” of

Haggai 2:6, and cf.
verses 21, 22). The great design of God in the Divine incarnation was the
setting up of Christ’s kingdom, but before it could be properly established
there had to be a mighty shaking in order that the shadows in Judaism
might give place to the substance, and that sinners among the Gentiles be
made spiritual.
The appearing of the Messiah introduced and necessitated a total
dissolution of the entire Judaic economy: the Levitical institutions being
fulfilled in Christ, they had now served their purpose. This was solemnly
signified by the Divine rending of the temple veil, and forty years later by
the total destruction of the temple itself. But in the meanwhile it was
difficult to persuade the Hebrews that such was the case, and therefore did
the apostle clinch the argument he had made in 12:18-24 and the
exhortation he had given in verse 26 by quoting a proof-text from their
own Scriptures. Haggai’s language that the Lord would “shake the
heavens” referred, as we have seen, not to the starry heavens or celestial
planets, but to the Judaical constitution under the ceremonial law — called
the “heavens” because they typed out heavenly things! Ultimately God
would “shake” and remove all dominions, thrones and powers which were.207
opposed to the kingdom of Christ — as, for example, He later did the
Roman empire.
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved” (verse 28).
The design of the Holy Spirit in the whole of this passage (

Hebrews
12:18-29) was to enhance in the Hebrews’ estimation the supremacy and
excellency of Christ’s kingdom, which His Gospel has “brought to light,”
and of which the believers have been given the right and assurance, for it
was to make way for the establishment of Christ’s kingdom that those
mighty “shakings” occurred. Paul insists that God’s “shakings” were in
order to “remove” that which hindered the manifestation and development
of Christ’s kingdom. Here, then, is further proof that, so far from Haggai’s
prophecy looking forward to the universal convulsion of nature at the last
day, it has already had its fulfillment: believers now actually obtain the fruit
of that “shaking,” for they “receive” the unshakable kingdom, namely the
kingdom of Christ which cannot be moved. We trust this is now so plain to
the reader that further effort on our part to establish the same is
unnecessary.
But not only did the prophecy of Haggai announce the superiority of
Christianity over Judaism and the necessary setting aside of the one for the
other, but it also clearly intimated the finality of the Christian dispensation.
This is plain from the words of

Hebrews 12:27, “yet once more.”
According to modem dispensationalists Paul should have said, “yet twice
more,” for their view is, that just as the Mosaic dispensation was followed
by the Christian, so the Christian will be succeeded by a revived and
glorified Judaism in “the Millennium.” But “once more” means once only,
and then no more. Christianity is the final thing which God has for this
earth. The last great dispensational change was made when the Gospel was
given to all the world: hence Peter could say, “the end of all things is at
hand” (

1 Peter 4:7), for God has now spoken His last word to mankind.
Hence also John said, “It is the last hour” (

1 John 2:18), which had not
been true if another dispensation is to follow the one we are now in.
“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those
things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things
which cannot be shaken may remain” (verse 27).
Here the apostle explains Haggai’s “Yet once it is a little while (cf. the
“now” of

Hebrews 12:26) and I will shake the heavens” etc. When Paul
refers to the things shaken and removed “as of things that are made,” he.208
was far from adding a superfluous clause: it emphasized again the contrast
he was drawing. The phrase “as of things that are made” is elliptical,
needing the added words “made” (by hands) to bring out its sense.
Everything connected with Judaism was made by human hands: even the
tables of stone on which were inscribed the ten commandments, God
commanded Moses to “hew” (

Exodus 34:1), while the tabernacle and
all connected with it was to be “made” according to “the pattern” God
showed him (

Exodus 25:8, 9). In sharp and blessed contrast, the
immaterial and spiritual things of Christianity are “not made with hands”
(

2 Corinthians 5:1), but are “made without hands” (

Colossians 2:11).
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved let us have
grace whereby we may serve God.” The apostle here draws an inference
from what had just been pointed out concerning the shaking and removing
of Judaism and the establishing of Christianity.
First, here is a great privilege into which Christians have entered, namely,
a spiritual state under the rule of Jesus Christ — whom God hath anointed
and set as king upon His holy hill of Zion (

Psalm 2:6) — here called a
“kingdom.”
Second, the essential character of this kingdom, in contrast from all others,
namely its immoveability — its finality and permanency.
Third, the way of the believer’s participation of it: we “receive” it. “This
kingdom, then, is the rule of Christ in and over the Gospel-state of the
church, which the apostle hath proved to be more excellent than that of the
Law” (John Owen). This kingdom we must now consider.
At the beginning of human history God’s kingdom was realized on this
earth, so that there was no need to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” God’s
kingship was established in Eden, and all the blessings that flow from
subjection to His dominion were then enjoyed. The supremacy of God was
gladly and spontaneously acknowledged by all His creatures. But sin
entered, and a radical change ensued. Man repudiated the kingship of God,
for by transgressing His commandments Adam rejected His sovereignty.
By so doing, by heeding the suggestions of the Serpent, the “kingdom of
Satan” (

Matthew 12:26) was set up in this world. Shortly afterwards,
God established His mediatorial kingdom, Abel being its first subject.
Since the Fall there have been two great empires at work on this earth: the
“world” and “the kingdom of God.” Those who belong to the former own.209
not God; those who pertain to the latter, profess subjection to Him. In
O.T. times the Israelitish theocracy was the particular sphere of God’s
kingdom on earth, the domain where His authority was manifested in a
special way (

Judges 8:23,

1 Samuel 12:12,

Hosea 13:9, 10, etc.).
But subjection to Him, even there, was, on the part of the Nation as a
whole, but partial and brief. The time soon came when Jehovah had to say
to His servant,
“They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I
should not reign over them” (

1 Samuel 8:7).
Then it was that the Lord appointed human kings in Israel as His
representatives, for while the Sinaitic convenant (

Exodus 19:6)
continued in force Jehovah remained their King — it was the “King which
made a marriage feast for His Son” (

Matthew 22:2)! Though Saul,
David, and his successors, bore the regal character, and thus partly
obscured the Divine government, yet it was not abolished (see

2
Chronicles 13:8). The throne on which Solomon sat was called “The
throne of the kingdom of the Lord” (

1 Chronicles 28:5).
Through Israel’s prophets God announced that there should yet be a more
glorious display of His government than had been witnessed by their
fathers of old, and promised that His dominion would take a more spiritual
form in the establishing of the Messianic kingdom. This became the great
theme of the later predictions of the O.T., though the nature and character
of what was to come was necessarily depicted under the figures and forms
of those material things with which the people were familiar and by those
objects of Judaism which were most venerated by them. The setting up of
the spiritual and immoveable kingdom of Christ was the issue and goal of
all the prophets declared: see

Luke 1:69, 70 and cf.

Daniel 2:44.
“The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with
strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself: the world (i.e. the “world to
come” of

Hebrews 2:5, the new “world” brought in by Christ) also is
established, that it cannot be moved” (

Psalm 93:1, which is parallel
with “we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved” (

Hebrews
12:28).
But though it had been clearly revealed through the prophets that the Lord
Messiah would be a King and have a universal empire, yet the bulk of
Abraham’s natural descendants entertained a grossly mistaken conception
of the true design of Christ’s appearing and the real nature of His.210
kingdom, and this mistake produced a most pernicious influence upon their
tempers and conduct when the gracious purpose of His advent was
fulfilled. The sense which they affixed to the Messianic prophecies was one
that flattered their pride and fostered their carnality. Being ignorant of their
spiritual needs and puffed up with a false persuasion of their peculiar
interests in Jehovah’s favor on the ground of their fleshly descent from
Abraham (

John 8:39, 41), the lowly life and holy teaching and claims of
the Lord Jesus were bitterly opposed by them (

John 8:48, 59;

Luke
19:14).
Though God had made many announcements through Israel’s prophets that
the Messiah would occupy the regal office, yet clear intimation was given
that He would be very different from the monarchs of earth (

Isaiah
53:2). Though the Messiah’s dominion and reign had been described under
material symbols, yet was it made plain that His kingdom would not be “of
this world.” Through Zechariah it was announced,
“Behold, Thy King cometh unto thee: He is just and having
salvation: lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of
an ass” (

Hebrews 9:9).
How different was that from the imposing splendor assumed by earth’s
sovereigns! what a contrast was His ass from their magnificent chariots and
state-coaches! How plainly did the poverty and meanness of Christ’s regal
appearance intimate that His kingdom was not of a temporal kind! The
Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord of angels, disdained such things as are
highly esteemed among men.
The fatal mistake made by the Jews respecting the true nature of the
kingdom of the Messiah lay at the foundation of all the opposition with
which they treated Him, and of their own ultimate ruin. How it behooves
us, then, to prayerfully seek right views of Christ’s kingdom, and to resist
everything which tends to secularize His holy dominion, lest by corrupting
the Evangelical Economy we dishonor the blessed Redeemer, and be finally
punished as the enemies of His government. As the main cause of the Jews’
infidelity was their erroneous notion of a temporal kingdom of the
Messiah, so the principal source of the corruption of Christianity has been
the attempt made by Rome and her daughters to turn the spiritual kingdom
of Christ into a temporal one, by uniting church and state and seeking to
extend it by earthly means..211
In John’s Gospel (which gives the spiritual side of things more than do the
first three Gospels, being specially written to and for believers), there is a
most significant word after the account of our Lord’s regal entry into
Jerusalem on the back of an ass:
“These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when
Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were
written of Him” (

John 12:16).
So prejudiced were the apostles by the erroneous teaching of the Pharisees,
that even they did not rightly apprehend the nature of Christ’s kingdom till
after His ascension. They, too, were looking for a material kingdom,
expecting it to appear in external pomp and glory; and hence they were at a
complete loss to apprehend those scriptures which spoke of Christ’s
kingdom as of a mean and lowly appearance. Well did Matthew Henry say,
“The right understanding of the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom of its
powers, glories, and victories, would prevent our misinterpreting and
misapplying of the Scriptures that speak of it.”
Alas, how blind men still are as to what constitutes the true glory of
Christ’s kingdom, namely, that it is a spiritual one, advanced by spiritual
means, for spiritual persons, and unto spiritual ends. “To subdue hearts,
not to conquer kingdoms; to bestow the riches of His grace to poor and
needy sinners, not, like Solomon, to heap up gold and silver and precious
stones; to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him, not to
spread ruin and desolation over countless provinces (as did Ceasar,
Charlemagne, Napoleon — A.W.P.); to be surrounded with an army of
martyrs, not an army of soldiers; to hold a court where paupers, not
princes, are freely welcome” (J.C. Philpot). Only those favored with true
spiritual discernment will be able to perceive what the real honors and
glories of the Lamb consist of.
The Mediatorial King must of necessity have a kingdom: even at His birth
He was proclaimed as “Christ the Lord” (

Luke 2:11), and the first
inquiry made of Him was “where is He that is born King of the Jews?”
(

Matthew 2:2). Christ’s Kingship and kingdom follow from a twofold
cause. First, His sovereignty as God is essential to His Divine nature, being
underived, absolute, eternal, and unchanging. Second, His sovereignty as
Mediator is derived, being given to Him by the Father as the reward of His
obedience and sufferings. It has two distinct aspects: first, in its wider and
more general application it embraces all the universe; second, in its.212
narrower and more specific administration it is restricted to the Church, the
election of grace. In addition to these distinctions, it is important to note
Christ never affirmed that the setting up of His kingdom on this earth was
in any way dependent upon the attitude of the Jews toward Him: no, the
eternal purpose of God was never left contingent upon the conduct of
worms of the dust.
“When the Jews refused Jesus as the Messiah, He did not say that
the founding of the kingdom would be postponed until His second
coming, but He did say the kingdom should be taken from them and
given to the Gentiles!” (W. Masselink, “Why the Thousand
Years?”).
“Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures. The
Stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the Head of
the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from
you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof”
(

Matthew 21:42, 43).
Moreover, every passage in the epistles which speak of Christ’s kingdom
as a present reality, refutes the theory that His kingdom has been
postponed until His second advent: see

Colossians 1:13, Revelation l:9
— Christ’s kingdom existed in the days of John, and he was in it! Christ is
now “the Prince of the kings of the earth” (

Revelation 1:5). He has
already been “crowned with glory and honor” (

Hebrews 2:9).
In consequence of the entrance of sin, God has set up a kingdom in
antagonism to the kingdom of Satan. It is essentially different from the
kingdoms of the world, in its origin, nature, end, method of development
and continuance. It is essentially a kingdom of righteousness, and its
central principle is the loyalty of heart of its subjects to the King Himself. It
is not a democracy, but an absolute monarchy. The special agency for the
extension of it is the organized churches of Christ with their regular
ministry. By His providential operations the Lord Jesus is working in every
sphere and causing all the historic movements of peoples and nations,
civilized and uncivilized, to further its interests and advance its growth;
though at the time of such movements this is hidden from carnal sense. Its
consummation shall be ushered in by the return of the King, when His
servants shall be rewarded and His enemies slain..213
“There is but one kingdom or spiritual realm in which Christ reigns
forever, and which in the end shall be eternally glorious in the
perfect glory of her King; yet in Scripture there are three distinct
names used to set forth the excellencies and the blessedness of that
realm in various aspects, namely, the Kingdom, the Church, and the
City of God” (A. A. Hodge).
Of the three terms the word “kingdom” is the most flexible and has the
widest range in its N.T. usage. It designates, first, a sphere of rule, a realm
over which the government of Christ extends. It signifies, second, a reign
or the exercise of royal authority. It denotes, third, the benefits or blessings
which result from the benevolent exercise of Christ’s regal authority. “For
the kingdom of God is not meat and drink” — the reign of Christ does not
express itself in that kind of activity; “but righteousness and peace and joy
in the Holy Spirit” (

Romans 14:17) — these are the characteristics of
His realm.
That Christ’s kingdom is of an altogether different nature and character
from the kingdoms of this world is clear from His own teaching:
“But Jesus called them to Him, and saith unto them, Ye know that
they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise
lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon
them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be
great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever of you will
be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life
a ransom for many” (

Mark 10:42-45).
And again, “My kingdom is not of this world” (

John 18:36): observe
He did not say “My kingdom is not in this world,” but “not of it.” It is not
a provincial thing, nor a political institution; it is not regulated by territorial
or material considerations, nor is it governed by carnal policy; it is not
made up of unregenerate subjects, nor is it seeking mundane
aggrandizement. It is purely a spiritual regime, regulated by the Truth.
This is seen from the means He used at its first establishment, and His
appointments for its support and enlargement — not physical force, but
gracious overtures.
Some men who are fond of drawing innumerable distinctions and contrasts
under the guise of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” draw a sharp line.214
between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ. But this is clearly
confuted by “hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”
(

Ephesians 5:5), and again “the kingdoms of this world are become the
kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (

Revelation 11:15 and cf.
12:10). Its spiritual nature is plainly seen from Jehovah’s statement, “they
have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (

1 Samuel 8:7):
His throne and scepter was an invisible one. In like manner when the Jews
said of Christ, “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (

Luke
19:14), they intimated that they were unwilling to surrender their hearts to
His moral sway. So too when Paul said,
“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not
the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the
kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (

1 Corinthians
4:19, 20)
he obviously meant, “the spiritual power thereof felt in your hearts.”
The reign of Christ has a twofold application. First, He sustains the relation
of a gracious Sovereign to His redeemed people, ruling them in love,
maintaining their interests, supplying their needs, restraining their foes;
training them for His service now and for the glory awaiting them in
Heaven. Second, He is the moral Governor over the world, for however
unconscious they may be of His operations, all men are controlled by Him
and their schemings and actions over-ruled for His own ends. Even earth’s
potentates are obliged to obey His secret will: “by Me kings reign, and
princes decree justice” (

Proverbs 8:15); “The king’s heart is in the hand
of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will”
(

Proverbs 21:1). His government over the world, yea, over the entire
universe, is administered by a wisely adapted series of means, appointed
and directed by Him.
It is important to recognize this twofold scope of Christ’s reign. To the
Father He said,
“As Thou has given Him power over all flesh, that He should give
eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him” (

John 17:2).
The kingdom of Christ as it is spiritual and inward is peculiar to the elect,
but His kingdom as it is judicial and outward is universal. The two things
are distinguished again in Psalm 2: “Yet have I set My King upon My holy
hill of Zion” (verse 6), and “Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen.215
for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy
possession” (verse 8). Christ is not only “King of saints” (

Revelation
15:3), but He is also “King of nations” (

Jeremiah 10:7). He reigns over
all mankind, and those who do not submit themselves to Him as Redeemer,
shall yet stand before Him as Judge.
“Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shall dash them to
pieces like a potter’s vessel” (

Psalm 2:9):
this speaks of the judiciary acts of His power. Joseph in Egypt typed out
the same: the power of all the land was made over to him (

Genesis
41:43), but his brethren had a special claim upon his affections.
Now this kingdom of Christ, considered in its spiritual and inward aspect,
believers are said to “receive,” that is, they participate in its privileges and
blessings. As Christ’s kingdom is “not of the world” but “heavenly” (

2
Timothy 4:18), so its subjects are not of the world but heavenly. From the
Divine side, they enter by means of the Spirit’s quickening, for
“except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”
(

John 3:3).
From the human side, they enter when they throw down the weapons of
their rebellion and take Christ’s yoke upon them, for
“except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not
enter into the kingdom of heaven” (

Matthew 18:3).
It was when we transferred our allegiance from Satan to Christ that it
could be said,
“The Father hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath
translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (

Colossians
1:13).
They who have received the Gospel into an honest and good heart have
been admitted into and made participants of the kingdom of Christ.
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved.” In seeking
to define more closely the “we receiving,” let us remember the threefold
meaning of the term “kingdom.”
First, it signifies that we are admitted into that realm or sphere where
Christ is owned as Supreme..216
Second, it signifies that we have surrendered to the reign or scepter of
Christ, for Him to rule over our hearts and lives.
Third, it signifies that we now participate in the blessings of Christ’s
government. This word “receiving” also denotes that we have this kingdom
from Another:
“walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto His kingdom and
glory” (

1 Thessalonians 2:12);
“hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs
of the kingdom?” (

James 2:5);
“Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for
you from the foundation of the world” (

Matthew 25:34);
all bring out this thought.
In affirming that this is a kingdom “which cannot be moved” the apostle
emphasized once more the great superiority of Christianity over Judaism,
and also showed wherein the kingdom of Christ differs from all the
kingdoms of earth, which are subject to commotions and convulsions. This
“kingdom which cannot be moved” is but another name for “those things
which cannot be shaken” that “remain” of verse 27: it is the substance and
reality of what was typed out under the Mosaic economy.
“We have received a kingdom that shall never be moved, nor give
way to any new dispensation. The canon of Scripture is now
perfected, the Spirit of prophecy is ceased, the mystery of God is
finished: He hath put His last hand to it. The Gospel-church may be
made more large, more prosperous, more purified from contracted
pollution, but it shall never be altered for another dispensation; they
who perish under the Gospel, perish without remedy” (Matthew
Henry)..217
CHAPTER 105
THE FINAL WARNING
(

HEBREWS 12:28, 29)
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have
grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly
fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” A brief analysis of these verses
reveals the following weighty points.
First, the inestimable blessing which believers have been made the
recipients of: a kingdom which is eternal.
Second, the obligation devolving upon them: to serve God with true
veneration and pious devotedness.
Third, the warning by which this is pointed: because there can be no
escape from the Divine wrath which overtakes apostates. In his helpful
commentary J. Brown pointed out that
“to receive an immoveable kingdom is but another mode of
expressing what is meant by ‘ye are come to mount Sion’ (verse
22). It is another descriptive figurative mode of expressing that the
privileges and honors under the new covenant men obtain by the
faith of the truth as it is in Jesus.”
In support of this:
“they that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion: they shall never
be moved” (

Psalm 125:1).
Now there is a twofold “kingdom” which believers have “received:” a
kingdom of grace, which is set up in the heart of the saint, where Christ
reigns as supreme Sovereign, and a kingdom of glory, prepared for us in
Heaven, where we shall reign as kings with Christ forever. John Owen
insisted that the former only is here intended, Ezekiel Hopkins threw the
emphasis almost entirely upon the latter; personally we believe that both.218
are included, and shall expound it accordingly, condensing the main points
from each of these writers.
Christians are already possessors of the kingdom of grace, for Christ has
established His dominion over them. Though He sits personally upon the
Throne of heaven, yet He rules in believers by His spirit (who has received
commission from Him), and also by His Word energized in them by the
Spirit. The interest of believers in this kingdom is called their “receiving”
it, because they have it by gift or grant from their Father:

Luke 12:32.
First, they receive its doctrine, truth, and law: they own its reality and
submit to its authority:

Romans 6:17.
Second, they receive it in the light, grace, and spiritual benefits of it: they
enjoy its privileges of righteousness, peace, and joy:

Romans 14:17.
Third, they receive it in its dignities and securities: they are kings and
priests unto God (

Revelation 1:6), and so safe are they as to be “kept
by the power of God through faith” (

1 Peter 1:5).
Fourth, they receive it by a supernatural initiation into its spiritual
mysteries (

1 Corinthians 4:20), the glory of which is immediate access
to God and heart enjoyment of Him.
The privileges which Christians receive by their believing the Gospel are
inconceivably grand. They are in the kingdom, the kingdom of God and
Christ, a spiritual and heavenly kingdom; enriched with inexhaustible
treasures of spiritual and celestial blessings. Christians are not to be
measured by their outward appearance or worldly circumstances, but
rather by the interest they have in that kingdom which it was their Father’s
good pleasure to give them. It is therefore their privilege and duty to
conduct themselves and behave as those who have received such wondrous
privileges and high dignities from God Himself: far should they be from
envying poor millionaires and the godless potentates of this earth. Our
portion is infinitely superior to the baubles of time and sense. Though the
world knows us not, unto God we are “the excellent of the earth”
(

Psalm 16:3), the crown-jewels of His Son, those whom angels serve or
minister unto. O for grace to conduct ourselves as the sons and daughters
of the Almighty.
In what sense or senses has the believer “received” the kingdom of glory?.219
First, by the immutable Word of Promise. To the believer the promise of
God is as good security as the actual possession. The poor worldling
cannot understand this, and he regards the confidence of the Christian as
naught but fanaticism. But the simple trusting soul already possesses the
kingdom of glory because God has infallibly assured him “in black and
white” of the possession of it. It is the immutable Word of Promise which
gives him the right and title to the inheritance, and therefore as it now
belongs to him by right and title, he may well call it his. When God has
promised anything, it is all the same to a believer whether He saith it is
done or it shall be done.
Second, the believer has “received” the kingdom of glory by grace giving
him the earnest and firstfruits of it. The comforts and graces of the Spirit
are referred to again and again under these figures: appropriately so, for an
“earnest” is a part (an instalment) of what is agreed upon, and the
“firstfruits” are a sample and pledge of the coming harvest. Now grace and
glory are one and the same in essence, differing only in degree: grace is
Heaven brought down into the soul, glory is the soul conducted to Heaven.
Grace is glory commenced, glory is grace consummated. Probably one of
the meanings of “Light is sown for the righteous” (

Psalm 97:11) is, the
“light” of everlasting life and bliss is now in the graces of regenerated souls
as in their seed, and they shall certainly bud and blossom forth into perfect
fruitage.
Third, the believer has “received” the kingdom of glory by the realisation
of Jaith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things
not seen” (

Hebrews 11:1). Here is a spiritual grace which brings distant
things near and gives to the future a present reality. Faith brings into the
soul what lies altogether outside the reach of our natural senses. It is a
supernatural faculty which is quite beyond the ken of the natural man. Faith
beholds what the eye cannot see, it grasps that made without hands; it
supplies demonstration or proof of that which the infidel scoffs at.
Fourth, the believer has “received” the kingdom of glory by the embraces
of hope. In Scripture, the grace of “hope” is something far better than a
vague longing for something we do not yet possess: it is a sure
expectation, a definite assurance of what God has promised. Hope supplies
a present anticipation of the future realization. Faith believes, hope enjoys
those things which God has prepared for them that love Him. Therefore
hope is called the “anchor of the soul… which entereth into that within the.220
veil” (

Hebrews 6:19), for it lays hold on that glory which is there laid
up for us. Hope is the taster of our comforts, and excites the same delight
and complacency as the fruition itself will impart — the same in kind,
though not in degree.
The particular property of this kingdom which is here emphasized by the
Holy Spirit (in accordance with the thought of the context) is, that it
“cannot be moved”; therein does it differ from all other kingdoms — here,
as everywhere, does our blessed Redeemer have the” pre-eminence.” Owen
pointed out that. “No dominion ever so dreamed of eternity, as did the
Roman Empire; but it hath not only been shaken, but broken to pieces and
scattered like chaff before the wind: see

Daniel 2:44; 7:14, 27” — so
terribly so, that today, the closest students of history are unable to agree as
to its actual boundaries. But nothing like that shall ever happen to the
Savior’s dominion: therefore do we read of
“the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
(

2 Peter 1:11).
No internal decays can ruin it; no external opposition shall overthrow it.
Yet the language of our verse goes even further than that: God Himself
will not remove it.
“That which is here peculiarly intended is, that it is not obnoxious unto
such a shaking and removal as the church-state was under the old
covenant; that is, God Himself would never make any alteration in it, nor
ever introduce another church-state or worship. God hath put the last
hand, the hand of His only Son, unto all revelations and institutions. No
addition shall be made unto what He hath done, nor alteration in it: no
other way of calling, sanctifying, ruling, and saving of the church, shall
ever be appointed or admitted; for it is here called an immovable kingdom,
in opposition unto that church state of the Jews which God Himself first
shook, and then took away — for it was ordained only for a season” (John
Owen). Here again we perceive the superiority of Christianity over
Judaism: the one was mutable, the other immutable; the one was
evanescent, the other eternal; the one was founded by Moses, the other is
established by Him who is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
The fact that Christ’s kingdom is an “everlasting” one (

2 Peter 1:11),
that it shall “never be moved” (

Hebrews 12:28), and that “of His.221
kingdom there shall be no end” (

Luke 1:33), has occasioned difficulty
to some, in the light of
“then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the
kingdom to God, even the Father” (

1 Corinthians 15:24).
But the difficulty is at once removed if we bear in mind the distinctions
pointed out in our last article. The sovereign dominion which Christ has
over all creatures as a Divine person, is something of which He can never
divest Himself. Likewise, that dominion over His own people which
belongs to Him as the incarnate Son, is also eternal: He will remain forever
the Head and Husband of the Church; nor can He relinquish the
Mediatorial office. But that dominion to which He was exalted after His
resurrection, and which extends over all principalities and powers (

John
17:2,

Matthew 28:18), will be relinquished when its design is
accomplished: this is clearly seen in the remaining words of

1
Corinthians 15:24,
“When He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.”
Thus, the “kingdom” which Christ delivers up to the Father is that rule of
His over His enemies.
The immovability and eternality of Christ’s kingdom holds good of it
equally whether we consider it in its present grace aspect or its future glory
aspect, for we have received “a kingdom which cannot be moved.” The
kingdom of grace is so Divinely fixed in the heart of believers that all the
efforts of sin and all the attacks of Satan are unable to overthrow it: “the
foundation of God standeth sure” (

2 Timothy 2:19);
“being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a
good work in you will finish it” (

Philippians 1:6).
It is absolutely impossible that one of Christ’s sheep should perish: in the
day to come He will exclaim, “Behold I and the children which God hath
given Me” (

Hebrews 2:13). If this be true of the kingdom of grace, then
much more so of the kingdom of glory, when sin shall be no more and
Satan shall never again tempt the redeemed.
Now from the glorious nature of this “kingdom” the apostle proceeds to
draw an inference or point a practical conclusion: “Wherefore we receiving.222
a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may
serve God acceptably.” As J. Brown pointed out, to “receive a kingdom” is
to be invested with royalty, to be made kings and priests unto God
(

Revelation 1:6). Since, then, royalty is the most exalted form of human
life, the most dignified honor known upon earth, how it behooves us to
seek from God that aid which shall enable us to “walk worthy of the
vocation wherewith we are called.” Once again we are reminded of the
inseparable connection between privilege and duty, and the greater the
privilege the stronger the obligation to express our gratitude in a suitable
and becoming manner: not merely in emotional ecstasies or fulsome words,
but by obedience and worship, that we may “serve God acceptably with
reverence and godly fear.”
The commentators differ considerably as to what is denoted by “let us have
grace,” yet it seems to us, its meaning is quite simple and obvious. Its
signification may be ascertained by three considerations involved in what
immediately follows.
First, this “grace” is essential unto the serving of God “acceptably” and, as
we shall see, this “service” has a principal reference to our worshipping of
Him.
Second, this “grace” is the root from which proceeds “reverence and godly
fear,” so that it must point to something more than simple gratitude for
what God has already done for us — which is how many of the writers
limit it.
Third, this “grace” is imperative if we are not to be consumed by Divine
wrath — the “consuming fire” of verse 29. We therefore understand this
expression to mean, let us persevere in the faith and duties of the Gospel,
whereby we are alone enabled to offer acceptable worship to God; let us
endeavor after an increase of Divine aid and succor; let us strive after a
continual exercise of the grace He has given us; let us seek to bring our
hearts more and more under its sanctifying power.
We believe the key to our present passage is found in

Exodus 19:10,
11, 15. Under the old covenant the way and means in which Israel was to
make a solemn approach unto God in worship was specifically defined:
they were to reverently prepare themselves by purification from
uncleanness and separation from fleshly indulgences. That was an outward
adumbration of the spiritual purity which God now requires from us both.223
internally and externally. Because God has revealed Himself in Christ in a
far more glorious manner to us than He manifested Himself before Israel at
Sinai, we ought to earnestly endeavor after a more eminent preparation of
heart and sanctification of our whole persons in all our approaches to the
Most High. There must be in us the spiritual counterpart of what was
shadowed out in them ceremonially. The fear of God was wrought in Israel
by the terrors of His law: though our fear be of another kind, it ought to be
none the less real and effectual in us to its proper ends.
The great end in view is, that “we may serve God acceptably.” In this
particular epistle the Greek word used here signifies that service unto God
which consists in His worship, in prayer and praise, and the observance of
all the institutions of Divine worship. For example,
“in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not
make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the
conscience” (

Hebrews 9:9);
and again,
“We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve
the tabernacle” (

Hebrews 13:10);
while in 10:2 the word is actually rendered “worshippers.” Nor is this
meaning of the Greek word peculiar to the Hebrews epistle:
“She was a widow of about four score and four years, which
departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and
prayers night and day” (

Luke 2:37);
“who change the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the
creature more than the Creator” (

Romans 1:25).
The specific reference, then, is had unto the worship of God according to
the Gospel, as superseding the institutions under the old economy.
Needless to say, such worship cannot proceed from any who are not
walking in Gospel obedience.
Now it is in order to our being so fitted for the Divine service that we may
worship God “acceptably,” that the exhortation comes, “let us have
grace.” There is a double reference: that our persons may be acceptable,
and that our worship may be pleasing in His sight. An intimation is hereby
given that there may be a performance of the duties of Divine worship.224
when neither the persons who perform them, nor the duties themselves, are
accepted by Him. So it was with Cain and his sacrifice, as it is with all
hypocrites always. The principal things required unto this acceptance are,
first, that the persons of the worshippers be accepted in the Beloved.
Second, that the actual performance of worship must, in all the duties of it,
be in strict accord with what God (and none other) has appointed. Third,
that our spiritual graces be in actual exercise, for it is in and by this, in the
discharge of all our religious duties, that we give glory unto God. How can
our worship be pleasing unto Him if we be in a backslidden state?
That which is here specifically singled out as necessary unto our worship
being acceptable is, that we serve God “with reverence and godly fear.” As
John Owen wisely pointed out, these “may be learned best from what they
are opposed unto. For they are prescribed as contrary unto some such
defects and faults of Divine worship, as from which we ought to be
deterred, by the consideration of the holiness and severity of God as is
manifest from the next verse, ‘for our God is a consuming fire.’” The sins
from which we ought to be deterred by a consideration of these Divine
perfections are,
First, the want of a due sense of the awe-inspiring majesty of Him with
whom we have to do. God provided against this evil under the old
economy by the terror wrought in the people at the giving of the Law, by
the many restrictions interposed against their approaches to Him (none
being allowed to enter the holy of holies), and by all the outward
ceremonies appointed; and though all these are now removed, yet a deep
spiritual sense of God’s holiness and greatness should be retained in the
mind of all who draw nigh to Him in worship.
Second, the lack of a due sense of our own vileness, and our infinite
distance from God both in nature and state, which is always required to be
in us. The Lord will never accept the worship of a Pharisee: while we are
puffed up with a sense of our own importance and filled with self-righteousness
or self-complacency, He will not accept our approaches unto
Him. And nothing is more calculated to hide pride from us and fill our
hearts with a sense of our utter insignificance as a sight and realization of
the ineffable purity and high sovereignty of God. When Isaiah beheld Him
“high and lifted up,” he exclaimed “Woe is me! for I am undone”
(

Isaiah 6:5); when Job beheld the Almighty, he cried, “Behold, I am
vile” (

Job 40:4)..225
Third, carnal boldness in a formal performance of sacred duties, while
neglecting an earnest endeavor to exercise grace in them, which is
something which God abhors. O the daring impiety of worldly professors
taking upon their polluted lips the ineffable name of God, and offering unto
Him “the sacrifice of fools” (

Ecclesiastes 5:1). What a marvel it is that
He does not strike dead those blatant and presumptuous souls who vainly
attempt to deceive Him with their lip service while their hearts are far from
Him. It is to prevent these, and other like evils, that we are here exhorted
to worship God “with reverence and godly fear,” that is, with a holy
abasement of soul, having our minds awed by a sense of the infinite majesty
of God, our hearts humbled by a consciousness of our vileness and our
creaturely nothingness.
No exhortation in this epistle is more needed by our perverse generation
than this one. How this imperative requirement “with reverence and godly
fear” rebukes the cheap, flippant, irreverent “worship” (?) of the day. O
what unholy lightness and ungodly familiarity now marks the religion of
Christendom: many address the great Deity as though they were His
equals, and conduct themselves with far less decorum than they would
show in the presence of an earthly monarch. The omission of bowing the
head in silent prayer when we take our place in the congregation, the
vulgar glancing around, the unseemingly whispering and chattering, the
readiness to smile or laugh at any remarks of the preacher’s which may be
wrested, are all so many instances of this glaring and growing evil.
“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be
had in reverence of all about Him” (

Psalm 89:7).
The Greek word for “reverence” is rendered “shamefacedness” in

1
Timothy 2:9. This, in extraordinary instances, is called a “blushing,” a
“being ashamed,” a “confusion of face” (

Ezra 9:6;

Daniel 9:7); yet,
the essence of it, ought always to accompany us in the whole worship of
God. “Godly fear” is a holy awe of the soul when engaged in sacred duties,
and this from a consideration of the great danger there is of our sinful
miscarriages in the worship of God, and of His severity against such
heinous offenses. God will not be mocked. A serious soul is hereby moved
unto watchfulness and diligence not to provoke so great, so holy, so
jealous a God, by a neglect of that reverence and godly fear which He
requires in His service, and which is due unto Him on account of His.226
glorious perfections. If the seraphim veil their faces before Him (

Isaiah
6:2). how much more should we do so!
“For our God is a consuming fire” (verse 29). This is the reason given why
we must serve God with reverence and fear. The words are taken from

Deuteronomy 4:24, where they are used to deter Israel from idolatry,
for that is a sin God will not tolerate. The same description of God is here
applied by the apostle unto those lacking grace to worship Him with the
humility and awe which He demands. If we are graceless in our persons,
and devoid of reverence in our worship, God will deal with us accordingly.
As a fire consumes combustible matter cast into it, so God will destroy
sinners. The title “our God” denotes a covenant relationship, yet though
Christians are firmly assured of their interest in the everlasting covenant,
God requires them to have holy apprehensions of His majesty and terror:
see

2 Corinthians 5:10, 11.
The twin graces of love and fear, fear and love, should be jointly active in
the believer, and it is in preserving a balance between them that his spiritual
health largely consists. So it is here: observe the remarkable conjunction:
“our God,” in covenant relationship, our Father; and yet “a consuming
fire,” to be trembled at! The first is to prevent despair from considering
God’s ineffable purity and inflexible justice; the latter is to check a
presumptous irreverence unto which a one-sided occupation with His grace
and love might embolden us. Thus, the principal exhortation “let us have
grace whereby we may serve God acceptably” is urged by two widely
different motives: because we have “received a kingdom” and because God
is a “consuming fire.” Carnal reason would ask, If we have received a
kingdom which cannot be moved, why should we fear? But if God be such
“a consuming fire” how can we ever expect such a kingdom, since we are
but a stubble? But the Spirit-taught have no difficulty in perceiving why the
apostle joined together these two things.
The Christian’s interest in His favor, is no warrant for casting off a solemn
fear of God: though He has laid down His enmity against him, He has not
cast off His majesty and sovereignty over him.
“Even those who stand highest in the love and favor of God, and
have the fullest assurance thereof and of their interest in Him as
their God, ought, nothwithstanding, to fear Him as a sin-avenging
God and a consuming fire” (Ezekiel Hopkins, 1680)..227
Though God has taken His redeemed into intimate nearness to Himself, yet
He requires that they always retain a due apprehension of the majesty of
His person, the holiness of His nature, the severity of His justice, and the
ardent jealousy of His worship. If we truly dread falling under the guilt of
this awful sin of irreverence, our minds will be influenced unto godly fear.
The grace of fear is in nowise inconsistent with or an impediment to a
spirit of adoption, holy boldness, or godly rejoicing: see

Psalm 2:11,

Matthew 28:8,

Philippians 2:12.
“Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably,” for without it
there will be neither “reverence” nor “godly fear.” Without Divine aid and
unction we cannot serve God at all, for He accounts not that worship
which is offered by graceless persons. Without grace in actual operation
we cannot serve God acceptably, for it is in the exercise of faith and fear,
love and awe, that the very life and soul of spiritual worship consists. O
how earnestly do we need to seek an increase of Divine “grace” (

2
Corinthians 9:8; 12:9), and keep it operative in all duties of the worship of
God: that in view of His awful wrath, we may have a dread of displeasing
Him; in view of His majesty our hearts may be humbled; and in view of His
love, we may seek to honor, please and adore Him. “Sanctify the Lord of
hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread”
(

Isaiah 8:13 and cf.

Matthew 10:28)..228
CHAPTER 106
BROTHERLY LOVE
(

HEBREWS 13:1)
Most of the commentators regard the final chapter of Hebrews as an
appendix or postscript, containing sundry exhortations which have no
direct relation to the body of the epistle. Personally, we regard it as a
serious mistake, due to lack of perspicuity, to ignore the organic
connection between the central theme of the apostle and the various duties
which he here inculcates; rather do we agree with Owen that in these
closing verses there is exhibited an exemplification of “that Divine wisdom
wherewith he was actuated in writing of the whole, which the apostle Peter
refers to in

2 Peter 3:15” The more an anointed mind meditates on this
fact, with the faith and reverence which the Holy Scriptures call for, the
more will the Divine inspiration of this portion be revealed. It is a great pity
that so many writers become slack when they reach the final chapter of an
epistle, seeming to imagine that its contents are of less importance and
value than those of the earlier ones.
Unless we carefully bear in mind the order which the apostle was moved by
the Holy Spirit to follow in this treatise, we shall fail to learn some most
vital and valuable lessons concerning the proper method and manner of
setting forth the Truth of God before the souls of men. Not only is the
teacher of God’s Word to hold fast the system of doctrine contained
therein (introducing no speculations of his own), to preserve a due balance
of Truth (not allowing personal preference to make him a hobbyist), but in
order for his ministry to be most acceptable to God and profitable to his
hearers or readers he must adhere strictly to the order of Scripture; for if
the context and connections of a passage be ignored, there is great danger
of perverting it, for its proper emphasis is then lost and the chain of Truth
is broken. Let preachers especially attend closely to the remarks which
follow.
A careful reading through of our epistle at a single sitting will reveal the
fact that throughout the first twelve chapters not a single moral or.229
ecclesiastical duty is inculcated. It is true that here and there the apostle
breaks in upon the orderly development of his thesis, by urging an
exhortation unto obedience to God and perseverance in the faith, or by
interspersing a solemn warning against the fatal consequences of apostasy;
nevertheless, never once does he formally press upon the Hebrews any of
the duties enjoined by the second table of the Law — those were reserved
for his closing words. The course followed by the apostle was, first, to set
forth the glorious person, offices, and work of Christ, and then, having laid
a firm foundation for faith and obedience, to exhort unto evangelical and
moral duties. As we deem this a most essential consideration we subjoin a
paragraph from that master exegete, John Owen.
“He prescribes by his own example, as he also doth in most of his
other epistles, the true order and method of preaching the Gospel;
that is, first, to declare the mysteries of it, with the grace of God
therein, and then to improve it unto practical duties of obedience.
And they will be mistaken, who in this work propose unto
themselves any other method; and those most of all, who think one
part of it enough without the other. For as the declaration of
spiritual truths, without showing how they are the vital quickening
form of obedience, and without the application of them thereunto,
tends only unto that knowledge which puffeth up, but doth not
edify; so the pressing of moral duties, without a due declaration of
the grace of God in Christ Jesus, which alone enables us unto them,
and renders them acceptable unto God, with their necessary
dependence thereon, is but to deceive the souls of men, and lead
them out of the way and off from the Gospel.”
The Divine mysteries unfolded and the great doctrines expounded in the
Holy Scriptures are not mere abstractions addressed to the intellect, devoid
of valuable fruits and effects: where they are truly received into the soul
and there mixed with faith, they issue, first, in the heart being spiritually
molded thereby and drawn out God-wards, and second, they issue in
practical results man-ward. If the Gospel makes known the infinite love
and amazing grace of God in Christ, it also directs unto the performance of
spiritual and moral duties. So far from the Gospel freeing believers from
the duties required by the Law, it lays upon us additional obligations,
directs to their right performance, and supplies new and powerful motives
to their discharge..230
So much, then, for the general relation of the contents of Hebrews 13 to
what has preceded it; now for the more specific connection. So far from
there being a radical break between Hebrews 12 and 13 the closing verses
of the former and the opening ones of the latter are closely linked together.
There the apostle had mentioned the principal duties which believers are to
perform God-wards, namely, to “hear” (verse 25) and to “serve Him
acceptably” (verse 28); here, he tabulates those duties which are to be
performed man-wards. He begins with what is really the sum and substance
of all the rest, brotherly love: first, the loving of God with all our heart, and
then our neighbor as ourselves. Adolph Saphir pointed out another link of
connection which is not so evident at first sight: having just reminded the
Hebrews that “things that are made” shall be shaken and removed
(

Hebrews 12:27), he now exhorts them to “let that abide which is of
God, which is eternal, even love.”
“Let brotherly love continue” (

13:1). The first application in the case of
the Hebrews would be, See to it that your having become Christians does
not make you behave in a less kindly manner unto your brethren according
to the flesh, the Jews. True, they are occasioning great provocation by their
enmity and persecution, yet this does not warrant your retaliating in a like
spirit, rather does it provide opportunity for the exercise and manifestation
of Divine grace. Remember the example left by your Master: the Jews
treated Him most vilely, yet He bore patiently their revilings; yea continued
to seek their good — then do you follow His steps. Most blessedly did the
writer of this epistle emulate his Lord, and practice what he here
inculcated: see

Romans 9:1-3 and 10:1.
This lower application of our text holds good for any of us who may, in
our measure, be circumstanced similarly to the Hebrews. Since yielding
ourselves to the claims of the Lord Jesus, our relations and friends may
have turned against us, and, stirred up by Satan, are now opposing,
annoying, ill-treating us. In such a case the word comes to us “Let
brotherly love continue.” Avenge not yourself: answer not railing with
railing: but exercise a spirit of true benevolence, desiring and seeking only
their good.
“If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in
so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome
of evil, but overcome evil with good” (

Romans 12:20, 21)..231
“Let brotherly love continue.” The higher reference is, of course, to that
special and spiritual affection which is to be cultivated between and among
God’s children. “He calls love brotherly, not only to teach us that we
ought to be mutually united together by a peculiar and inward feeling of
love, but also that we may remember that we cannot be Christians without
loving the brethren, for he speaks of the love which the Household of Faith
ought to cultivate one towards another, as the Lord has bound them
closely together by the common bond of adoption” (John Calvin). Matthew
Henry well pointed out, “the spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love.” The
fruit of the Spirit is love (

Galatians 5:22). Faith worketh by love
(

Galatians 5:6).
“Everyone that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is
begotten of Him” (

1 John 5:1).
Love to the brethren is both the first indication and fruit of the Christian
life (

Acts 16:33) and the final aim and result of Divine grace (

2 Peter
1:7).
It is to be noted that these Hebrew believers were not exhorted “let us
have brotherly love,” but “let brotherly love continue.” Thus the apostle’s
language clearly supposes that they already had love for each other, that he
approvingly notices the same, and then calls upon them for a continuance
of it. Like his Master, Paul combines exhortation with commendation: let
all His servants do so wherever possible. He had already reminded them
“God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,
which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered
to the saints, and do minister” (

Hebrews 6:10);
and
“Ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly whilst ye were made
a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst
ye became companions of them that were so used” (

Hebrews
10:32, 33).
But the apostle felt there was danger of their brotherly love decaying, for
there were disputes among them concerning the ceremonies of the Mosaic
law, and wrangling over religious differences bodes ill for the health of
spiritual affection. He therefore puts them on their guard, and bids them
live and love as “brethren.”.232
“A love hath its foundation in relation. Where there is relation,
there is love, or there ought so to be; and where there is no
relation, there can be no love, properly so called. Hence it is here
mentioned with respect unto a brotherhood… This brotherhood is
religious: all believers have one Father (

Matthew 23:8,9), one
elder Brother (

Romans 8:29), who is not ashamed to call them
brethren (

Hebrews 2:11); have one spirit, and are called in one
hope of calling (

Ephesians 4:4), which being a spirit of adoption
interesteth them all in the same family (

Ephesians 3:14, 15)” —
John Owen.
Brotherly love we would define as that gracious bond which knits together
the hearts of God’s children; or more definitely, it is that spiritual and
affectionate solicitude which Christians have toward each other, manifested
by a desiring and endeavoring after their highest mutual interests. This duty
was enjoined upon His disciples by the Lord Jesus:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”
(

John 13:34).
It was to this word of Christ that His apostle referred in
“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but old
commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old
commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in
Him and in you” (

1 John 2:7, 8 and cf. 3:11).
Some have been puzzled by his “I write no new commandment unto you…
Again, a new commandment I write unto you,” yet the seeming ambiguity
is easily explained. When a statute is renewed under another administration
of government it is counted a “new” one. So it is in this case. That which
was required by the Law (

Leviticus 19:18) is repeated by the Gospel
(

John 15:12), so that absolutely speaking it is not a new, but an old
commandment. Yet relatively, it is “new,” because enforced by new
motives (

1 John 3:16) and a new Pattern (

1 John 4:10, 11). Thus,
“Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the
household of faith” (

Galatians 6:10),.233
because the latter have peculiar claims upon our affections, being created in
the same image, professing the same faith, and having the same infirmities.
The maintenance of brotherly love tends in various ways to the spiritual
blessing of the Church, the honor of the Gospel, and the comfort of
believers. The exercise thereof is the best testimony to the world of the
genuineness of our profession. The cultivation and manifestion of Christian
affection between the people of God is a far more weighty argument with
unbelievers than any apologetics.
Believers should conduct themselves toward each other in such a way that
no button or pin is needed to label them as brethren in Christ.
“By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love
one to another” (

John 13:35).
It should be made quite evident that their hearts are knit together by a bond
more
intimate, spiritual, and enduring than any which mere nature can produce.
Their deportment unto each other should be such as not only to mark them
as fellow disciples, but as Christ says, “My disciples” — reflecting His
love!
The exercise of brotherly love in not only a testimony unto the world, but it
is also an evidence to Christians themselves of their regeneration:
“We know that we have passed from death unto life because we
love the brethren” (

1 John 3:14).
There should be a word of comfort here for those poor saints whose souls
are cast down. At present they cannot “read their title clear to mansions in
the sky,” and are afraid to cry “Abba, Father” lest they be guilty of
presumption. But here is a door of hope opened to Christ’s little ones: you
may, dear reader, be afraid to affirm that you love God, but do you not
love His people? If you do, you must have been born again, and have in
you the same spiritual nature which is in them. But do I love them? Well,
do you relish their company, admire what you see of Christ in them, wish
them well, pray for them, and seek their good? If so, you certainly love
them.
But not only is the exercise of Christian love a testimony unto the world of
our Christian discipleship, and a sure evidence of our own regeneration,.234
but it is also that which delights God Himself. Of course it does! It is the
product of His own grace: the immediate fruit of His Spirit.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity!” (

Psalm 133:1)
is what the Lord Himself declares. This also comes out very sweetly in
Revelation 3. There we find one of the epistles addressed to the seven
churches which are in Asia, namely, the Philadelphian, the church of
“brotherly love,” for that is the meaning of the word “Philadelphia,” and in
that epistle there are no censures or rebukes: there was that there which
refreshed the heart of the Lord!
But our text refers not so much to the existence and exercise of brotherly
love, as it does to its maintenance: “Let brotherly love continue” or “abide
constant” as some render it, for the word includes the idea of enduring in
the face of difficulties and temptations. That which is enjoined is
perseverance in a pure and unselfish affection toward fellow-Christians.
Brotherly love is a tender plant which requires much attention: if it be not
watched and watered, it quickly wilts. It is an exotic, for it is not a native
of the soil of fallen human nature — “hateful and hating one another”
(

Titus 3:3) is a solemn description of what we were in our unregenerate
state. Yes, brotherly love is a very tender plant and quickly affected by the
cold air of unkindness, easily nipped by the frost of harsh words. If it is to
thrive, it must needs be carefully protected and diligently cultivated.
“Let brotherly love continue:” what a needful word is this! It was so at the
beginning, and therefore did the Lord God make it a fundamental in man’s
duty: “thou shalt love try neighbor as thyself.” O what strife and
bloodshed, suffering and sorrow had been avoided, had this commandment
been universally heeded. But alas, sin has domineered and dominated, and
where sin is regnant love is dormant. If we wish to obtain a better idea of
what sin is then contrast it with its opposite — God. Now God is spirit
(

John 4:24), God is light (

1 John 1:5), God is love (

1 John 4:8);
whereas sin is fleshly, sin is darkness, sin is hatred. But if we have enlisted
under the banner of Christ we are called unto a warfare against sin: against
fleshliness, against hatred. Then “let brotherly love continue.”
Yes, a most needful exhortation is this: not only because hatred so largely
sways the world, but also because of the state of Christendom. Two
hundred and fifty years ago John Owen wrote, “It (brotherly love) is, as.235
unto its luster and splendor, retired to Heaven, abiding in its power and
efficacious exercise only in some comers of the earth. Envy, wrath,
selfishness, love of the world, with coldness in all the concerns of religion,
have possessed the place of it. And in vain shall men wrangle and contend
about their differences in faith and worship, pretending to design the
advancement of religion by an imposition of their persuasions on others:
unless this holy love be again re-introduced among all those who profess
the name of Christ, all the concerns of religion will more and more run into
ruin. The very name of a brotherhood amongst Christians is a matter of
scorn and reproach, and all the consequents of such a relation are
despised.”
Nor are things any better today. O how little is brotherly love in evidence,
generally speaking, among professing Christians. Is not that tragic word of
Christ receiving its prophetic fulfillment:
“because iniquitiy shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”
(

Matthew 24:12).
But, my reader, Christ’s love has not changed, nor should oars:
“Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them
unto the end” (

John 13:1).
Alas, have not all of us reason to hang our heads in shame! Such an
exhortation as this is most needful today when there is such a wide
tendency to value light more highly than love, to esteem an understanding
of the mysteries of Faith above the drawing out our affections unto each
other. Here is a searching question which each of us should honestly face:
Is my love for the brethren keeping pace with my growing (intellectual)
knowledge of the Truth?
“Let brotherly love continue.” What a humbling word is this! One had
thought that those bound together by such intimate ties, fellow-members of
the Body of Christ, would spontaneously love each other, and make it their
constant aim to promote their interests. Ah, my reader, the Holy Spirit
deemed it requisite to call upon us to perform this duty. What sort of
creatures are we that still require to be thus exhorted! How this ought to
hide pride from us: surely we have little cause for self-complacency when
we need bidding to love one another! “Hateful and hating one another”
(

Titus 3:3): true, that was in our unregenerate days, nevertheless the
root of that “hatred” still remains in the believer, and unless it be judged.236
and mortified will greatly hinder the maintenance and exercise of Christian
affection.
“Let brotherly love continue.” What a solemn word is this! Is the reader
startled by that adjective? — a needful and humbling one, but scarcely a
“solemn.” Ah, have we forgotten the context? Look at the verse which
immediately precedes, and remember that when this epistle was first
written there were no chapter-breaks: 12:29 and 13:1 read consecutively,
without any hiatus — “our God is a consuming fire: let brotherly love
continue!” The fact these two verses are placed in immediate juxtaposition
strikes a most solemn note. Go back in your mind to the first pair of
brothers who ever walked this earth: did “brotherly love continue” with
them? Far otherwise: Cain hated and murdered his brother. And did not he
find our God to be “a consuming fire”? Most assuredly he did, as his own
words testify, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (

Genesis
4:13) — the wrath of God burned in his conscience, and he had a fearful
foretaste of Hell before he went there.
But it may be objected to what has just been said, The case of Cain and
Abel is scarcely a pertinent and appropriate one, for they were merely
natural brothers where as the text relates primarily to those who are
brethren spiritually. True, but the natural frequently adumbrates the
spiritual, and there is much in Genesis 4 which each Christian needs to take
to heart. However, let us pass on down the course of human history a few
centuries. Were not Abraham and Lot brethren spiritually? They were: then
did brotherly love continue between them? It did not: strife arose between
their herdsmen, and they separated (Genesis 13). Lot preferred the well-watered
plains and a home in Sodom to fellowship with the father of the
faithful. And what was the sequel? Did he find that “our God is a
consuming fire”? Witness the destruction of all his property in that city
when God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven! — another solemn
warning is that for us.
“Let brotherly love continue.” But what a gracious word is this! Consider
its implications: are they not similar to
“walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all
lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one
another in love” (

Ephesians 4:1, 2)?.237
That means we are to conduct ourselves not according to the dictates of
the flesh, but according to the requirements of grace. If grace has been
shown toward me, then surely I ought to be gracious to others. But that is
not always easy: not only has the root of “hatred” been left in me, but the
“flesh” still remains in my brethren! and there will be much in them to test
and try my love, otherwise there would be no need for this exhortation
“forbearing one another in love.” God has wisely so ordered this that our
love might rise above the mere amiability of nature. We are not merely to
govern our tempers, act courteously, be pleasant to one another, but bear
with infirmities and be ready to forgive a slight: “Love suffereth long, and
is kind” (

1 Corinthians 13:4).
“Let brotherly love continue.” What a comprehensive word is this! Had we
the ability to fully open it and space to bring out all that is included, it
would be necessary to quote a large percentage of the precepts of
Scripture. If brotherly love is to continue then we must exhort one another
daily, provoke unto good works, minister to each other in many different
ways. It includes far more than dwelling together in peace and harmony,
though unless that be present, other things cannot follow. It also involves a
godly concern for each other: see

Leviticus 19:17 and

1 John 5:2. It
also embraces our praying definitely for each other. Another practical form
of it is to write helpful spiritual letters to those now at a distance from us:
you once enjoyed sweet converse together, but Providence has divided
your paths: well, keep in touch via the post! “Let brotherly love continue.”
“Let brotherly love continue.” What a forcible word is this, by which we
mean, it should drive all of us to our knees! We are just as dependent upon
the Holy Spirit to call forth love into action as we are our faith: not only
toward God, but toward each other — “The Lord direct your hearts into
the love of God” (

2 Thessalonians 3:5). Observe the forcible emphasis
Christ placed upon this precept in His paschal discourse:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another”
(

John 13:34).
Ah, but the Savior did not deem that enough:
“This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have
loved you” (

John 15:12):
why that repetition? Nor did that suffice: “These things I command you,
that ye love one another” (

John 15:17). In an earlier paragraph we.238
reminded the reader that the Philadelphian church is the church of
“Brotherly love.” Have you observed the central exhortation in the epistle
addressed to that church:
“Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”?
(

Revelation 3:11).
“Let brotherly love continue.” What a Divine word is this. The love which
is here enjoined is a holy and spiritual one, made possible
“because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy
Spirit” (

Romans 5:5).
For until then there is naught but hatred. Love for the brethren is a love for
the image of God stamped upon their souls:
“every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth him also that is
begotten of Him” (

1 John 5:1).
No man can love another for the grace that is in his heart, unless grace be
in his own heart. It is natural to love those who are kind and generous to
us; it is supernatural to love those who are faithful and holy in their
dealings with us.
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of
mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have
a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on LOVE, which is the bond of
perfectness” (

Colossians 3:12-14)..239
CHAPTER 107
BROTHERLY LOVE
(

HEBREWS 13:1-3)
Brotherly love is that spiritual benevolence and affectionate solicitude
which Christians have one toward another, desiring and seeking their
highest interests. The varied characteristics of it are beautifully delineated
in 1 Corinthians 13. In the opening verse of Hebrews 13 the apostle
exhorts unto the maintenance of the same, “Let brotherly love continue.”
Negatively, that means, Let us be constantly on our guard against those
things which are likely to interrupt its flow. Positively, it signifies, Let us be
diligent in employing those means which are calculated to keep it in a
healthy state. It is along these two lines that our responsibility here is to be
discharged, and therefore it is of first importance that due heed be given
thereto. We therefore propose to point out some of the main hindrances
and obstacles to the continuance of brotherly love, and then mention some
of the aids and helps to the furtherance of the same. May the blessed Spirit
direct the writer’s thoughts and give the reader to lay to heart whatever is
of Himself.
The root hindrance to the exercise of brotherly love is self-love — to be so
occupied with number one that the interests of others are lost sight of. In

Proverbs 30:15 we read, “The horseleech hath two daughters crying
Give, give.” This repulsive creature has two forks in her tongue, which she
employs for gorging herself in the blood of her unhappy victim. Spiritually
the “horseleech” represents self-love and her two daughters are self-righteousness,
and self-pity. As the horseleech is never satisfied, often
continuing to gorge itself until it bursts, so self-love is never contented,
crying “Give, give.” All the blessings and mercies of God are perverted by
making them to minister unto self. Now the antidote for this evil spirit is
for the heart to be engaged with the example which Christ has left us. He
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister unto others. He pleased not
Himself, but ever “went about doing good.” He was tireless in relieving.240
distress and seeking the welfare of all with whom He came into contact.
Then
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”
(

Philippians 2:5).
If brotherly love is to continue self must be denied.
Inseparably connected with self-love is pride, and the fostering of pride is
fatal to the cultivation of brotherly affection. The majority, if not all, of the
petty grievances among Christians, are to be traced back to this evil root.
“Love suffereth long,” but pride is terribly impatient. “Love envieth not,”
but pride is intensely jealous. “Love seeketh not her own,” but pride ever
desires gratification. “Love seeketh not her own,” but pride demands
constant attention from others. “Love beareth all things,” but pride is
resentful of the slightest injury. “Love endureth all things,” but pride is
offended if a brother fails to greet him on the street. Pride must be
mortified if brotherly love is to flourish. Therefore the first injunction of
Christ to those who come unto Him for rest is, “Take My yoke upon you,
and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.”
Another great enemy to brotherly love is a sectarian spirit, and this evil is
far more widespread than many suppose. Our readers would be surprised if
they knew how often a sample copy of this magazine is despised by those
who have a reputation for being stalwarts in the Faith and as possessing a
relish for spiritual things, yet because this paper is not issued by their
denomination or “circle of fellowship” it is at once relegated to the waste-paper
basket. Alas, how frequently is a spirit of partisanship mistaken for
brotherly love: so long as a person “believes our doctrines” and is willing
to “join our church,” he is received with open arms. On the other hand, no
matter how sound in the faith a man may be, nor how godly his walk, if he
refuses to affiliate himself with some particular group of professing
Christians, he is looked upon with suspicion and given the cold shoulder.
But such things ought not to be: they betray a very low state of spirituality.
We are far from advocating the entering into familiar fellowship with every
one who claims to be a Christian — Scipture warns us to “lay hands
suddenly on no man” (

1 Timothy 5:22), for all is not gold that glitters;
and perhaps there never was a day in which empty profession abounded so
much as it does now. Yet there is a happy medium between being taken in
by every impostor who comes along, and refusing to believe that there are.241
any genuine saints left upon earth. Surely a tree may be known by its fruits.
When we meet with one in whom we can discern the image of Christ,
whether that one be a member of our party or not, there should our
affections be fixed.
“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to
the glory of God” (

Romans 15:7):
it is our bounden duty to love all whom Christ loves, It is utterly vain that
we boast of our orthodoxy or of the “light” we have, if brotherly love be
not shown by us to the feeblest member of Christ’s body who crosses our
path.
There are many other things which are serious obstacles to the maintenance
of brotherly love, yet we must not do more than barely mention them: the
love of the world; failure to mortify the lusts of the flesh in our souls; being
unduly wrapt up in the members of our own family, so that those related to
us by the blood of Christ have not that place in our affections which they
ought; ignorance of the directions in which it should be exercised and of
the proper duties which it calls for; forgetfulness of the foundation of it,
which is a mutual interest in the grace of God, that we are fellow-members
of the Household of Faith; a readiness to listen to idle gossip, which in
most instances, is a “giving place to the Devil,” who accuses the brethren
day and night. But there is one other serious hindrance to the continuance
of brotherly love which we will notice in a little more detail, namely,
impatience.
By impatience we mean a lack of forbearance. True brotherly love is a
reflection of God’s love for us, and He loves His people not for their native
attractiveness, but for Christ’s sake; and therefore does He love them in
spite of their ugliness and vileness. God is “longsuffering to us-ward” (

2
Peter 3:9), bearing with our crookedness, pardoning our iniquities, healing
our diseases, and His word to us is,
“Be ye therefore followers (emulators) of God, as dear children,
and walk in love” (

Ephesians 5:1, 2).
We are to love the saints for what we can see of Christ in them; yes, love
them, and for that reason — in spite of all their ignorance, perverseness,
ill-temper, obstinacy, fretfulness. It is the image of God in them not their
wealth, amiability, social position — which is the magnet that attracts a
renewed heart toward them..242
“Forbearing one another in love” (

Ephesians 4:2). False love is glad of
any specious excuse for throwing off the garb that sits so loosely and
uncomfortably upon it. Ahitophel was glad of a pretext to forsake David,
whom he hated in his heart, although with his mouth he continued to show
much love. “Forbearing one another in love:” that love which a little silence
or neglect can destroy never came from God, that love which a few blasts
of malice from the lips of a new acquaintance will wither, is not worth
possessing! Remember, dear brother, God suffers our love for one another
to be tried and tested — -as He does our faith — or there would be no
need for this exhortation “forbearing one another in love.” The most
spiritual Christian on earth is full of infirmities, and the best way of
enduring them is to frequently and honestly remind yourself that you also
are full of faults and failings.
John Owen pointed out that there are certain occasions (in addition to the
causes we have mentioned above) of the decay and loss of brotherly love.
“1. Differences in opinion and practice about things in religion
(unless these be of a vital nature they should not be allowed to
affect our love for each other, A.W.P.). 2. Un-suitableness of
natural tempers and inclinations. 3. Readiness to receive a sense of
appearing provocations. 4. Different and sometimes inconsistent
secular interests. 5. An abuse of spiritual gifts, by pride on the one
hand, or envy on the other. 6. Attempts for domination,
inconsistent in a fraternity; which are all to be watched against.”
We sincerely trust that the reader is not becoming weary of our lengthy
exposition of

Hebrews 13:1: the subject of which it treats is of such
deep practical importance that we feel one more aspect of it requires to be
considered. We shall therefore elaborate a little on some of the sub-headings
which Owen mentioned under the means of its preservation.
First, “An endeavor to grow and thrive in the principle of it, or the power
of adopting grace.” The three principal graces — faith, hope, love — can
only thrive in a healthy soul. Just so far as personal piety wanes will
brotherly love deteriorate. If close personal communion with Christ be
neglected, then there can be no real spiritual fellowship with His people.
Unless, then, my heart be kept warm in the love of God, affection toward
my brethren is sure to decay..243
Second, “A deep sense of the weight or moment of this duty, from the
especial instruction and command of Christ.” Only as the heart is deeply
impressed by the vital importance of the maintenance of brotherly love will
serious and constant efforts be made thereunto.
Third, “Of the trial which is connected thereunto, of the sincerity of our
grace and the truth of our sanctification, for ‘by this we know we have
passed from death unto life.’” This is indeed a weighty consideration: if
Christians were more concerned to obtain proof of their regeneration, they
would devote far closer attention to the cultivation of brotherly love, which
is one of the chief evidences of the new birth (

1 John 3:14). If I am at
outs with my brethren and am unconcerned about their temporal and
eternal interests, then I have no right to regard myself as a child of God.
Fourth, “A due consideration of the use, yea, the necessity of this duty to
the glory of God, and edification of the church.” The greater concern we
really have for the manifestative glory of God in this world, the more
zealous shall we be in seeking to promote the same by the increase of
brotherly love in our self and among the saints: the glory of God and the
welfare of His people are inseparably bound together.
Fifth, “Of that breach of union, loss of peace, discord and confusion,
which must and will ensue on the neglect of it.” Serious indeed are the
consequences of a decay of brotherly love, yea, fatal if the disease be not
arrested. Therefore does it behoove each of us to honestly and seriously
face the question, How far is my lack of brotherly love contributing unto
the spiritual decline in Christendom today? Sixth, “Constant watchfulness
against all those vicious habits of mind, in self-love, love of the world,
which are apt to impair it.” If that be faithfully attended to, it will prove
one of the most effectual of all the means for the cultivation of this grace.
Seventh, “Diligent heed that it be not impaired in its vital acts: such as are
patience, forbearance, readiness to forgive, unaptness to believe evil,
without which no other duties of it will be long continued. Eighth, fervent
prayer for supplies of grace enabling thereunto.”
After the opening exhortation of Hebrews 13 — which is fundamental to
the discharge of all mutual Christian duties — the Holy Spirit through the
apostle proceeds to point out some of the ways in which the existence and
continuance of brotherly love are to be evidenced. “Be not forgetful to
entertain strangers” (verse 2). Here is the first instance given, among
sundry particulars, in which the greatest of all the Christian graces is to be.244
exemplified. The duty which is inculcated is that of Christian hospitality.
That which was commanded under the old covenant is repeated under the
new:
“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one
born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were
strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”
(

Leviticus 19:34 and cf.

Deuteronomy 10:19, etc.).
The Greek worn for “entertain” is rendered “lodge” in

Acts 10:18, 23,
and

Acts 28:7.
There was a special urgency for pressing this duty by the apostles, arising
from the persecution of the Lord’s people in different places, which
resulted in their being driven from their own homes and forced to seek a
refuge abroad.
“At that time there was a great persecution against the church
which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad
throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles”
(

Acts 8:1)
— some traveled as far as “Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch” (

Acts
11:19). Therein did they obey the direction of Christ’s that “when they
persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (

Matthew 10:23),
removing to other parts where, for the present, peace obtained; for the
providence of God so directs things it is very rare that persecution prevails
universally — hence some places of quiet retirement are generally
available, at least for a season. Yet this being forced to leave their own
habitations required them to seek refuge among strangers, and this it is
which gives point to our present exhortation.
Moreover
“at that time there were sundry persons, especially of the converted
Hebrews, who went up and down from one city, yea, one nation,
unto another, on their own charges, to preach the Gospel. They
went forth for the sake of Christ, taking nothing of the Gentiles
unto whom they preached (3 John 7); and these were only brethren,
and not officers of any church. The reception, entertainment, and
assistance of these when they came unto any church or place as
strangers, the apostle celebrates and highly commends in his well-.245
beloved Gaius (3 John 5, 6). Such as these, when they came to
them as strangers, the apostle recommends unto the love and
charity of the Hebrews in a peculiar manner. And he who is not
ready to receive and entertain such persons, will manifest how little
concern he hath in the Gospel or the glory of Christ Himself” (John
Owen).
Though circumstances have altered (for the moment, for none can say how
soon the restraining hand of God may be partly withdrawn and His enemies
allowed to shed the blood of His people once more — such is even now
the case in some parts of the earth), yet the principle of this injunction is
still binding on all who bear the name of Christ. Not only are our hearts,
but our homes as well, to be opened unto such as are really needy:
“distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality”
(

Romans 12:13).
An eminent and spiritual scholar points out that “the original word hath
respect not so much to the exercise of the duty itself, as to the disposition,
readiness, and frame of mind which is required in it and to it. Hence the
Syriac renders it ‘the love of strangers,’ and that properly; but it is of such
a love as is effectual, and whose proper exercise consists in the
entertainment of them, which is the proper effect of love towards them.”
In Eastern countries, where they traveled almost barefoot, the washing of
the feet (

1 Timothy 5:10), as well as the setting before them of food and
giving lodgment for the night, would be included. The word for “strangers”
is not found in the Greek: literally it reads “of hospitality not be forgetful”
— be not unmindful of, grow not slack in, the discharge of this duty. It is
to be observed that one of the necessary qualifications of a bishop is that he
must be “a lover of hospitality” (

Titus 1:8). Just as worldings delight in
entertaining their relatives and friends, so the Lord’s people should be
eager and alert to render loving hospitality to homeless or stranded
Christians, and as

1 Peter 4:9 says “use hospitality one to another
without grudging.” The same applies, of course, to entertaining in our
homes traveling servants of God — rather than sending them to some hotel
to mingle with the ungodly.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained
angels unawares” (verse 2). The second clause is to be regarded as
supplying a motive for the discharge of this duty of Christian hospitality..246
Needless to say these added words do not signify that we may expect,
literally, to receive a similar honor, but it is mentioned for the purpose of
supplying encouragement. The apostle here reminds us that in former days
some had been richly rewarded for their diligent observance of this duty,
for they had been granted the holy privilege of receiving angels under the
appearance of men. How this consideration enforces our exhortation is
apparent: had there not been a readiness of mind unto this, a spirit of real
hospitality in their hearts, they had neglected the opportunity with which
Divine grace so highly favored them. Let us, then, seek to cultivate the
virtue of generosity: “the liberal deviseth liberal things” (

Isaiah 32:8).
“For thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The special
reference, no doubt, is unto the cases of Abraham (

Genesis 18:1-3) and
of Lot (

Genesis 19:1-3). We say “special reference” for the use of the
plural “some” is sufficient to bar us from ascribing it to them alone,
exclusively of all others. It is quite likely that in those ancient times, when
God so much used the ministry of angels unto His saints, that others of
them shared the same holy privilege. The real point for us in this allusion is
that the Lord will be no man’s debtor, that He honors those who honor
Him — whether they honor Him directly, or indirectly in the persons of His
people.
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,
which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered
to the saints and do minister” (

Hebrews 6:10).
This too is recorded for our encouragement and when we have discharged
the duty (as opportunity afforded — for God accepts the will for the
deed!), if in indigent circumstances we may plead this before Him.
The Scriptures are full of examples where the Spirit has joined together
duty and privilege, obedience and reward. Whenever we comply with such
commands, we may count upon God recompensing those who exercised
kindness unto His people. The cases of Rebekah (

Genesis 24:18, 19,
22), of Potiphar (

Genesis 39:5), of the Egyptian midwives (

Exodus
2:17, 20), of Rahab (

Joshua 6:25), of the widow of Zarephath (

1
Kings 17:15, 23), of the woman of Shunem (

2 Kings 4:8), of the
inhabitants of Melita (

Acts 28:2, 8, 9), all illustrate this. The resulting
gains will more than repay any expense we incur in befriending the saints.
Beautifully did Calvin point out that “not merely angels, but Christ
Himself, is received by us, when we receive the poor of the flock in His.247
name.” Solemn beyond words is the warning of

Matthew 25:41-43; but
inexpressibly blessed is

Matthew 25:34-36.
Compassion for the afflicted is the next thing exhorted unto: “Remember
them that are in bonds, as bound with them” (verse 3). Love to the
brethren is to manifest itself in sympathy for sufferers. Most reprehensible
and un-Christlike is that selfish callousness which says, I have troubles
enough of my own without concerning myself over those of other people.
Putting it on its lowest ground, such a spirit ministers no relief: the most
effectual method of getting away from our own sorrows is to seek out and
relieve others in distress. But nothing has a more beneficial tendency to
counteract our innate selfishness than a compliance with such exhortations
as the one here before us: to be occupied with the severer afflictions which
some of our brethren are experiencing will free our minds from the lighter
trials we may be passing through.
“Remember them that are in bonds.” The immediate reference is unto those
who had been deprived of their liberty for Christ’s sake, who had been cast
into prison. The “remember” signifies far more than to merely think of
them, including all the duties which their situation called for. It means,
first, feel for them, take to heart their case, have compassion toward them.
Our great High Priest is touched with the feeling of their infirmities
(

Hebrews 4:15), and so must we be. At best their food was coarse, their
beds hard, and the ties which bound them to their families had been rudely
sundered. Often they lay. cruelly fettered, in a dark and damp dungeon.
They felt their situation, their confinement, their separation from wife and
children; then identify yourself with them and have a feeling sense of what
they suffer. “Remember,” too, that but for the sovereignty of God, and His
restraining hand, you would be in the same condition as they!
But more: “remember” them in your prayers. Intercede for them, seeking
on their behalf grace from God, that they may meekly acquiesce to His
providential dealings, that their sufferings may be sanctified to their souls,
that the Most High will so overrule things that this Satanic opposition
against some of His saints may yet issue in the extension of His kingdom.
Finally, do unto them as you would wish them to do unto you were you in
their place. If you can obtain permission, visit them (

Matthew 25:36),
endeavor to comfort them, so far as practicable relieve their sufferings; and
leave no stone unturned to seek their lawful release. Divine providence so
regulates things that, as a rule, while some of the saints are in prison,.248
others of them still enjoy their liberty — thus allowing an opportunity for
the practical exercise of Christian sympathy.
“And them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the
body” (verse 3).
There is probably a double reference here: first, to those who were not
actually in prison, but who had been severely flogged, or were in sore
straits because heavy fines had been imposed on them. Second, to the
wives and children of those who had been imprisoned, and who would
suffer keen adversity now that the breadwinners were removed from them.
Such have a very real claim upon the sympathy of those who had escaped
the persecutions of the foes of the Gospel. If you are not in a financial
position to do much for them, then acquaint some of your richer brethren
with their case and endeavor to stir them up to supply their needs. “As
being yourselves also in the body” is a reminder that it may be your turn
next to experience such opposition.
John Owen, who lived in particularly stormy times (the days of Bunyan),
said,
“Whilst God is pleased to give grace and courage unto some to
suffer for the Gospel unto bonds, and to others to perform this duty
towards them, the church will be no loser by suffering. When some
are tried as unto their constancy in bonds, others are tried as unto
their sincerity in the discharge of the duties required of them. And
usually more fail in neglect of their duty towards sufferers, and so
fall from their profession, than do so fail under and on the account
of their sufferings.”
That the apostle Paul practiced what he preached is clear from
“Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn
not?” (

2 Corinthians 11:29).
For illustrations of the discharge of these duties see

Genesis 14:14,

Nehemiah 1:4,

Job 29:15, 16,

Jeremiah 38:7, etc. For solemn
warnings read

Job 19:14-16,

Proverbs 21:13,

Matthew 25:43,

James 2:13..249
We need hardly say that the principles of verse 3 are of general application
at all times and to all cases of suffering Christians. The same is summed up
in
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”
(

Galatians 6:2).
The sentiment of this verse has been beautifully expressed in the lines of
that hymn so precious in its hallowed memories:
“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear,
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.”
The Lord grant unto both writer and reader more of His grace so that we
shall
“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep”
(

Romans 12:15)..250
CHAPTER 108
MARRIAGE
(

HEBREWS 13:4)
From a prescription of duties towards others, the apostle next proceeds to
give directions unto those which concern ourselves, wherein our own
persons and walking are concerned. He does this in a prohibition of the
two most radical and comprehensive lusts of corrupt nature, namely,
uncleanness and covetousness: the first respecting the persons of men in a
peculiar manner, the other their conversation or conduct. Acts of moral
uncleanness are distinguishable from all other sins which are perpetrated in
external acts, in that they are immediately against a man’s self and his own
person (see

1 Corinthians 6:18), and therefore is chastity enforced
under the means for preserving the same, that is, marriage; while the
antidote for covetousness is given, namely, a spirit of contentment. The
connection between

Hebrews 13:4-6 and 13:1-3 is obvious: unless
uncleanness and covetousness be mortified there can be no real love
exercised unto the brethren.
As God hath knit the bones and sinews together for the strengthening of
our bodies, so He has ordained the joining of man and woman together in
wedlock for the strengthening of their lives, for “two are better than one”
(

Ecclesiastes 4:9); and therefore when God made the woman for the
man He said, “I will make him a help meet for him” (

Genesis 2:18),
showing that man is advantaged by having a wife. That such does not
actually prove to be the case in all instances is, for the most part at least, to
be attributed unto departure from the Divine precepts thereon. As this is a
subject of such vital moment, we deem it expedient to present a fairly
comprehensive outline of the teaching of Holy Writ upon it, especially for
the benefit of our young readers; though we trust we shall be enabled to
include that which will be helpful to older ones too.
It is perhaps a trite remark, yet none the less weighty for having been
uttered so often, that with the one exception of personal conversion,
marriage is the most momentous of all earthly events in the life of a man or.251
woman. It forms a bond of union which binds them until death. It brings
them into such intimate relations that they must either sweeten or embitter
each other’s existence. It entails circumstances and consequences which
are not less far-reaching than the endless ages of eternity. How essential it
is, then, that we should have the blessing of Heaven upon such a solemn
yet precious undertaking; and in order to this, how absolutely necessary it
is that we be subject to God and to His Word thereon. Far, far better to
remain single unto the end of our days, than to enter into the marriage state
without the Divine benediction upon it. The records of history and the facts
of observation bear abundant testimony to the truth of that remark.
Even those who look no further than the temporal happiness of individuals
and the welfare of existing society, are not insensible to the great
importance of our domestic relations, which the strongest affections of
nature secure, and which even our wants and weaknesses cement. We can
form no conception of social virtue or felicity, yea, no conception of
human society itself, which has not its foundation in the family. No matter
how excellent the constitution and laws of a country may be, or how vast
its resources and prosperity, there is no sure basis for social order, or
public as well as private virtue, until it be laid in the wise regulation of its
families. After all, a nation is but the aggregate of its families, and unless
there be good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and
daughters, there cannot possibly be good citizens. Therefore the present
decay of home life and family discipline threaten the stability of our nation
today far more severely than does any foreign hostility.
But the Scriptural view of the relative duties of the members of a Christian
household, portrays the prevailing effects in a most alarming manner, as
being dishonoring to God, disastrous to the spiritual condition of the
churches, and as raising up a most serious obstacle in the way of
evangelical progress. Sad beyond words is it to see that professing
Christians are themselves largely responsible for the lowering of marital
standards, the general disregard of domestic relations, and the rapid
disappearance of family discipline. As, then, marriage is the basis of the
home or family, it is incumbent on the writer to summon his readers to a
serious and prayerful consideration of the revealed will of God on this vital
theme. Though we can hardly hope to arrest the awful disease which is
now eating out the very vitals of our nation, yet if God is pleased to bless
this article to a few individuals our labor will not be in vain..252
We will begin by pointing out the exellency of wedlock: “Marriage is
honorable:” says our text, and it is so first of all because God Himself has
placed special honor upon it. All other ordinances or institutions (except
the Sabbath) were appointed of God by the medium of men or angels
(

Acts 7:35), but marriage was ordained immediately by the Lord
Himself — no man or angel brought the first wife to her husband
(

Genesis 2:22). Thus marriage had more Divine honor put upon it than
had all the other Divine institutions, because it was directly solemnized by
God Himself. Again; this was the first ordinance God instituted, yea, the
first thing He did after man and woman were created, and that, while they
were still in their unfallen state. Moreover, the place where their marriage
occurred shows the honorableness of this institution: whereas all other
institutions (save the Sabbath) were instituted outside of paradise, marriage
was solemnized in Eden itself! — intimating how happy they are that marry
in the Lord.
“God’s crowning creative act was the making of woman. At the close of
each creative day it is formally recorded that ‘God saw what He had made,
that it was good.’ But when Adam was made, it is explicitly recorded that
‘God saw it was not good that the man should be alone.’ As to man the
creative work lacked completeness, until, as all animals and even plants had
their mates, there should be found for Adam also an help, meet for him —
his counterpart and companion. Not till this want was met did God see the
work of the last creative day also to be good.
“This is the first great Scripture lesson on family life, and it should
be well learned… The Divine institution of marriage teaches that the
ideal state of both man and woman is not in separation but in
union, that each is meant and fitted for the other; and that God’s
ideal is such union, based on a pure and holy love, enduring for life,
exclusive of all rivalry or other partnership, and incapable of
alienation or unfaithfulness because it is a union in the Lord — a
holy wedlock of soul and spirit in mutual sympathy and affection”
(A.T. Pierson).
As God the Father honored the institution of marriage, so also did God the
Son.
First, by His being “born of a woman” (

Galatians 4:4)..253
Second, by His miracles, for the first supernatural sign that He wrought
was at the marriage of Cana in Galilee (

John 2:9), where He turned the
water into wine, thereby intimating that if Christ be present at your
wedding (i.e., if you “marry in the Lord”) your life shall be a joyous or
blessed one.
Third, by His parables, for He compared the kingdom of God unto a
marriage (

Matthew 22:2) and holiness to a “wedding garment”
(

Matthew 22:11). So also in His teaching: when the Pharisees sought to
ensnare Him on the subject of divorce, He set His imprimatur on the
original constitution, adding
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put
asunder” (

Matthew 19:4-6).
The institution of marriage has been still further honored by the Holy
Spirit, for He has used it as a figure of the union which exists between
Christ and the Church.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be
joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great
mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church”
(

Ephesians 5:31, 32).
The relation which obtains between the Redeemer and the redeemed is
likened, again and again, unto that which exists between a wedded man and
woman: Christ is the “Husband” (

Isaiah 54:5), the Church is the “Wife”
(

Revelation 21:9).
“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married
unto you” (

Jeremiah 3:14).
Thus, each person of the blessed Trinity has set His seal upon the
honorableness of the marriage state.
There is no doubt that in true marriage each party helps the other equally,
and in view of what has been pointed out above, any who venture to hold
or teach any other doctrine or philosophy join issue with the Most High.
This does not lay down a hard and fast rule that every man and woman is
obliged to enter into matrimony: there may be good and wise reasons for
abiding alone, adequate motives for remaining in the single state —
physical and moral, domestic and social. Nevertheless, a single life should.254
be regarded as abnormal and exceptional, rather than ideal. Any teaching
that leads men and women to think of the marriage bond as the sign of
bondage, and the sacrifice of all independence, to construe wifehood and
motherhood as drudgery and interference with woman’s higher destiny, any
public sentiment to cultivate celebacy as more desirable and honorable, or
to substitute anything else for marriage and home, not only invades God’s
ordinance, but opens the door to nameless crimes and threatens the very
foundations of society.
Now it is clear that marriage must have particular reasons for the
appointment of it. Three are given in Scripture.
First, for the propagation of children. This is its obvious and normal
purpose:
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God
created He him: male and female created He them”
(

Genesis 1:27)
— not both males or both females, but one male and one female; and to
make the design of this unmistakably plain God said, “Be fruitful and
multiply.” For this reason marriage is called “matrimony,” which signifies
motherage, because it results in virgins becoming mothers. Therefore it is
desirable that marriage be entered into at an early age, before the prime of
life be passed: twice in Scripture we read of “the wife of thy youth”
(

Proverbs 5:18;

Malachi 2:15). We have pointed out that the
propagation of children is the “normal” end of marriage; yet there are
special seasons of acute “distress” when

1 Corinthians 7:29 holds good.
Second, marriage is designed as a preventive of immorality:
“To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let
every woman have her own husband” (

1 Corinthians 7:2).
If any were exempted it might be supposed that kings would be given
dispensation — be-cause of the lack of a successor to the throne should his
wife be barren; yet the king is expressly forbidden a plurality of wives
(

Deuteronomy 17:17), showing that the endangering of a monarchy is
not sufficient to countervail the sin of adultery. For this cause a whore is
termed a “strange woman” (

Proverbs 2:16), showing that she should be
a stranger to us; and children born out of marriage are called “bastards,”.255
which (under the Law) were excluded from the congregation of the Lord
(

Deuteronomy 23:2).
The third purpose of marriage is for the avoiding of the inconveniences of
solitude, signified in the “it is not good that the man should be alone”
(

Genesis 2:18: as though the Lord had said, This life would be irksome
and miserable for man if no wife be given him for a companion:
“Woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another
to help him up” (

Ecclesiastes 4:10).
Someone has said, “like a turtle which has lost his mate, like one leg when
the other is cut off, like one wing when the other is clipped, so had man
been if woman had not been given to him.” Therefore for mutual society
and comfort God united man and woman that the cares and fears of this life
might be eased by the cheer and help of each other.
Let us next consider the choice of our mate.
First, the one selected for our life’s partner must be outside those degrees
of near kinship prohibited by the Divine law:

Leviticus 18:6-17.
Second, the Christian must wed a fellow Christian. From earliest times
God has commanded that
“the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be numbered among the
nations” (

Numbers 23:9).
His law unto Israel in connection with the Canaanites, was,
“Neither shalt thou make marriages with them: thy daughter thou
shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto
thy son” (

Deuteronomy 7:3 and cf.

Joshua 23:12).
How much more, then, must God require the separation of those who are
His people by a spiritual and heavenly tie than those who occupied only a
fleshly and earthly relation to Him.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”
(

2 Corinthians 6:14)
is the clarion order to His saints of this dispensation. Partnership of any
kind of one who is born again with one in a state of nature is here.256
prohibited, as is evident from the terms used in the next verse —
“fellowship, communion, concord, part, agreement.”
There are but two families in this world: the children of God and the
children of the Devil (

1 John 3:10). If, then, a daughter of God marries
a son of the Evil one she becomes a daughter-in-law to Satan! If a son of
God marries a daughter of Satan, he becomes a son-in-law to the Devil! By
such an infamous step an affinity is formed between one belonging to the
most High and one belonging to His arch-enemy. “Strong language!” yes,
but not too strong. O the dishonor done to Christ by such a union; O the
bitter reaping from such a sowing. In every case it is the poor believer who
suffers. Read the inspired histories of Samson, Solomon, and Ahab, and
see what followed their unholy alliances in wedlock. As well might an
athlete attach to himself a heavy weight and then expect to win a race, as
for one to progress spiritually after marrying a worldling.
Should any Christian reader be inclined or expect to become betrothed, the
first question for him or her to carefully weigh in the Lord’s presence is,
Will this union be with an unbeliever? For if you are really cognizant of and
heart and soul be impressed with the tremendous difference which God, in
His grace, has put between you and those who are — however attractive in
the flesh — yet in their sins, then you should have no difficulty in rejecting
every suggestion and proposal of making common cause with such. You
are “the righteousness of God” in Christ, but unbelievers are
“unrighteous”; you are “light in the Lord,” but they are darkness; you have
been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, but unbelievers are
under the power of Belial; you are a son of peace, whereas all unbelievers
are “children of wrath” (

Ephesians 2:3); therefore
“be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean; and I
will receive you” (

2 Corinthians 6:17).
The danger of forming such an alliance is before marriage, or even
betrothal, neither of which could be seriously entertained by any real
Christian unless the sweetness of fellowship with the Lord had been lost.
The affections must first be withdrawn from Christ before we can find
delight in social intimacy with those who are alienated from God, and
whose interests are confined to this world. The child of God who is
“keeping his heart with all diligence” will not, cannot, have a joy in
intimacies with the unregenerate. Alas, how often is the seeking or the
accepting of close friendship with unbelievers the first step to open.257
departure from Christ. The path which the Christian is called upon to tread
is indeed a narrow one, but if he attempts to widen it, or leave it for a
broader road, it must be in contravention of the Word of God, and to his or
her own irreparable damage and loss.
Third, “married… only in the Lord” (

1 Corinthians 7:39) goes much
further than prohibiting an unbeliever for a mate. Even among the children
of God there are many who would not be suitable to each other in such a
tie. A pretty face is an attraction, but O how vain to be governed in such a
serious undertaking by such a trifle. Earthly goods and social position have
their value here, yet how base and degrading to suffer them to control such
a solemn undertaking. O what watchfulness and prayerfulness is needed in
the regulation of our affections! Who fully understands the temperament
that will match mine? that will be able to bear patiently with my faults, be a
corrective to my tendencies, and a real help in my desire to live for Christ
in this world? How many make a fair show at the start, but turn out
wretchedly. Who can shield me from a host of evils which beset the
unwary, but God my Father?
“A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband” (

Proverbs 12:4):
a pious and competent wife is the most valuable of all God’s temporal
blessings: she is the special gift of His grace. “A prudent wife is from the
Lord” (

Proverbs 19:14), and He requires to be definitely and diligently
sought unto: see

Genesis 24:12. It is not sufficient to have the approval
of trusted friends and parents, valuable and even needful as that (generally)
is for our happiness; for though they are concerned for our welfare, yet
their wisdom is not sufficiently far-reaching. The One who appointed the
ordinance must needs be given the first place in it if we are to have His
blessing on it. Now prayer is never intended to be a substitute for the
proper discharge of our responsibilities: we are ever required to use care
and discretion, and must never act hurriedly and rashly. Our better
judgment is to regulate our emotion: in the body the head is placed over
the heart, and not the heart over the head!
“Whoso findeth a wife (a real one) findeth a good thing, and
obtaineth favor of the Lord” (

Proverbs 18:22):
“findeth” implies a definite quest. To direct us therein the Holy Spirit has
supplied two rules or qualifications..258
First, godliness, because our partner must be like Christ’s Spouse, pure
and holy.
Second, fitness, “a help, meet for him” (

Genesis 2:18), showing that a
wife cannot be a “help” unless she be “meet,” and for that she must have
much in common with her mate. If her huband be a laboring man, it would
be madness for him to choose a lazy woman; if he be a learned man, a
woman with no love of knowledge would be quite unsuited. Marriage is
called a “yoke,” and two cannot pull together if all the burden is to fall
upon one — as it would if one weak and sickly was the partner chosen.
Now for the benefit of our younger readers, let us point out some of the
marks by which a godly and fit mate may be identified.
First, the reputation: a good man commonly has a good name
(

Proverbs 22:1), none can accuse him of open sins.
Second, the countenance: our looks reveal our characters, and therefore
Scripture speaks of “proud looks” and “wanton looks,” —
“the show of their countenance doth witness against them”
(

Isaiah 3:9).
Third, the speech, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaketh:”
“the heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to
his lips” (

Proverbs 16:23);
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law
of kindness” (

Proverbs 31:26).
Fourth, the apparel: a modest woman is known by the modesty of her
attire. If the clothing be vulgar or showy the heart is vain.
Fifth, the company kept: birds of a feather flock together — a person may
be known by his or her associates.
A word of warning is, perhaps, not quite needless. No matter how carefully
and prayerfully one’s partner be selected, he will not find marriage a
perfect thing. Not that God did not make it perfect, but man has fallen
since, and the fall has marred everything. The apple may still be sweet, but
it has a worm inside. The rose has not lost its fragrance, but thorns grow
with it. Willingly or unwillingly, everywhere we must read the ruin which.259
sin has brought in. Then let us not dream of those faultless people which a
diseased fancy can picture and novelists portray. The most godly men and
women have their failings; and though such be easy to bear when there is
genuine love, yet they have to be borne.
A few brief remarks now on the home-life of the wedded couple. Light and
help will be obtained here if it be borne in mind that marriage pictures forth
the relation between Christ and His Church. This, then, involves three
things.
First, the attitude and actions of husband and wife are to be regulated by
love, for that is the cementing tie between Lord Jesus and His Spouse: a
holy love, sacrificial love, an enduring love which naught can sever. There
is nothing like love to make the wheels of home life run smoothly. The
husband sustains to his mate the same relation as does the Redeemer to the
redeemed, and hence the exhortation,
“Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church”
(

Ephesians 5:25):
with a hearty and constant love, ever seeking her good, ministering to her
needs, protecting and providing for her, bearing with her infirmities: thus
“giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as
being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not
hindered” (

1 Peter 3:7).
Second, the headship of the husband. “The head of the woman is the man”
(

1 Corinthians 11:3);
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head
of the Church” (

Ephesians 5:23).
Unless this Divine appointment be duly heeded there is sure to be
confusion. The household must have a leader, and God has committed its
rule unto the husband, holding him responsible for its orderly management;
and serious will be the loss if he shirks his duty and turns the reins of
government over to his wife. But this does not mean that Scripture gives
him license to be a domestic tyrant, treating his wife as a servant: his
dominion is to be exercised in love toward the one who is his consort.
“Likewise ye husbands dwell with them” (

1 Peter 3:7): seek their
society after the day’s labor is over. That Divine injunction plainly.260
condemns those who leave their wives and go abroad on the pretext of a
“call from God.”
Third, the subjection of the wife.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the
Lord” (

Ephesians 5:22):
there is only one exception to be made in the application of this rule,
namely when he commands what God forbids or forbids what God
commands.
“For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who
trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their
own husbands” (

1 Peter 3:5):
alas, how little of this spiritual “adornment” is evident today!
“Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters
ye are, so long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any
amazement” (

1 Peter 3:6):
willing and loving subjection to the husband, out of respect for the
authority of God, is what characterizes the daughters of Sarah. Where the
wife refuses to submit to her husband, the children are sure to defy their
parents — sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
We have space for only one other matter, which it is deeply important for
young husbands to heed.
“Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field;
and afterwards build thine house” (

Proverbs 24:27).
The point here is that the husband is not to think of owning his own house
before he can afford it. As Matthew Henry says,
“This is a rule of providence in the management of household
affairs. We must prefer necessities before luxuries, and not lay that
out for show which should be expended for the support of the
family.”
Alas, in this degenerate age so many young couples want to start where
their parents ended, and then feel they must imitate their godless neighbors.261
in various extravagancies. Never go into debt or purchase on the “credit
system:” “Owe no man anything” (

Romans 13:8)!
And now for a final word on our text. “Marriage is honorable in all” who
are called thereunto, no class of persons being precluded. This clearly gives
the lie to the pernicious teaching of Rome concerning the celibacy of the
clergy, as does also

1 Timothy 3:2, etc. “And the bed undefiled” not
only signifies fidelity to the marriage vow (

1 Thessalonians 4:4), but
that the conjugal act of intercourse is not polluting: in their unfallen state
Adam and Eve were bidden to “multiply;” yet moderation and sobriety is to
obtain here, as in all things. We do not believe in what is termed “birth
control,” but we do earnestly urge self-control, especially by the husband,
“But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” This is a most solemn
warning against unfaithfulness: those who live and die impenitently in these
sins will eternally perish (

Ephesians 5:5)..262
CHAPTER 109
COVETOUSNESS
(

HEBREWS 13:5)
In this chapter of Hebrews the apostle makes a practical application of the
theme of the epistle. Having set forth at length the amazing grace of God
toward His believing people by the provision He has made for them in the
Mediator and Surety of the covenant, having shown that they now have in
Christ the substance of all that was shadowed forth in the ceremonial law,
the tabernacle, and the priesthood of Israel, we now have pressed upon us
the responsibilities and obligations which devolve upon those who are the
favored recipients of those spiritual blessings.
First, that which is fundamental to the discharge of all Christian duties is
exhorted unto: the continuance of brotherly love (verse 1).
Second, instances are given in which this chief spiritual grace is to be
exemplified: in Christian hospitality (verse 2), and in compassion for the
afflicted (verse 3).
Third, prohibitions are made against the two most radical lusts of fallen
nature: moral uncleanness (verse 4) and covetousness (verse 5), for the
indulgence of these is fatal to the exercise of brotherly love.
Having in our last article dealt at length with the merciful provision which
God has made for the avoidance of moral uncleanness — the ordinance of
marriage — we now turn to the second great sin which is here dehorted
against, namely, covetousness.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content
with such things as ye have” (v. 5).
Here is an evil and its remedy set before us side by side, as was the case in
the previous verse, though there the remedy is given before that which it
counteracts. We will follow the order of the our present text and consider
first the vice which is here forbidden, before we contemplate the virtue.263
which is enjoined: yet it will be helpful to keep them both in mind, for the
latter casts light upon the former, enabling us to determine its exact nature
as nothing else will.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness.” The Greek word which
is here rendered “covetousness” is literally “lover of silver,” and the R.V.
renders our text “Be ye free from the love of money.” Now while it be true
that the love of money or worldly possessions is one of the principal forms
of covetousness, yet we are satisfied that the translation of the A.V. is to
be preferred here. The scope of the Greek verb is much wider than a
lusting after material riches. This appears from the only other verse in the
N.T. where this word occurs, namely,

1 Timothy 3:3, in a passage
which describes the qualifications of a bishop: “Not given to wine, no
striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.”
The very fact that a previous clause specifies “not greedy of filthy lucre”
makes it clear that “not covetous” includes more than “not a lover of
money.”
A comment or two also requires to be made upon the term “conversation.”
This word is limited today unto our speech with one another, but three
hundred years ago, when the A.V. was made, it had a much more
comprehensive meaning. Its latitude can be gathered from its employment
in the Scriptures. For example, in

1 Peter 3:2 we read, “while they
behold your chaste conversation:” note “behold” was not “hear!” The term
then has reference to behavior or deportment:
“But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all
manner of conversation” (

1 Peter 1:15).
It is not to be restricted to that which is external, but includes both
character and conduct. The Syriac renders our word “mind,” probably
because both covetousness and contentment are mental states.
“Let your conversation be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ”
(

Philippians 1:27):
this obviously means, Let your affections and actions correspond to the
revelation of Divine grace you have received; conduct yourself in such a
manner that those around will be impressed by the principles, motives, and
sentiments which govern you..264
So it is here in our text: let not covetousness rule your heart nor regulate
your life. But exactly what is “covetousness”? It is the opposite of
contentment, a being dissatisfied with our present lot and portion. It is an
over-eager desire for the things of this world. It is a lusting after what God
has forbidden or withheld from us, for we may crave, wrongly, after things
which are not evil or injurious in themselves. All abnormal and irregular
desires, all unholy and inordinate thoughts and affections, are
comprehended by this term. To covet is to think upon and hanker after
anything which my acquirement of would result in injury to my neighbor.
“We may desire that part of a man’s property which he is in-dined
to dispose of, if we mean to obtain it on equitable terms; but when
he chooses to keep, we must not covet. The poor man may desire
moderate relief from the rich, but he must not covet his affluence,
or repine even though he does not relieve him” (Thomas Scott).
Now some sins are more easily detected than others, and for the most part
condemned by those professing godliness. But covetousness is only too
often winked at, and some covetous persons are regarded as very
respectable people. Many professing Christians look upon covetousness as
quite a trifling matter, while the world applauds it as legitimate ambition, as
business shrewdness, as prudence, etc. All sorts of excuses are made for
this sin and plausible pretenses argued in its favor. It is indeed a very subtle
sin, which few are conscious of. In one of his sermons Spurgeon mentions
a prominent man who had a great many people come to him to make
confession, and this man observed that while different ones acknowledged
all sorts of outrageous crimes, he never had one who confessed to
covetousness. Few suspect that this is one of the prevailing iniquities of
their hearts, rather are they inclined to regard this vice as a virtue.
But the Holy Scriptures are very explicit on this subject. The Divine law
expressly declares,
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet
thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor
his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s (

Exodus
20:17).
“The covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth” (

Psalm 10:3). To His
disciples Christ said,.265
“Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth
not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (

Luke
12:15).
The votaries of Mammon are linked with “drunkards and adulterers,” and
such are excluded from the kingdom of God (

1 Corinthians 6:10). The
covetous are branded with the most detestable character of idolaters
(

Colossians 3:5) — no doubt this is because they who are ruled by this
lust adore their gold and put their trust in it, making a god of it. How we
need to pray,
“Incline mine heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness”
(

Psalm 119:36).
God’s Word also sets before us some fearfully solemn examples of the
judgments which fell upon covetous souls. The fall of our first parents
originated in covetousness, lusting after that which God had forbidden.
Thus the very frontispiece of Holy Writ exhibits the frightfulness of this sin.
See what covetousness did for Balaam: he “loved the wages of
unrighteousness” (

2 Peter 2:15) — the honors and wealth which Balak
promised were too attractive for him to resist. See what covetousness did
for Achan, who lusted after the forbidden silver and gold: he and his whole
family were stoned to death (Joshua 7). Look at Gehazi: lusting after the
money his master had refused, and in consequence, he and his seed were
smitten with leprosy (2 Kings 5). Consider the awful case of Judas, who
for thirty pieces of silver sold the Lord of glory. Remember the case of
Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). In view of these warnings shall we call this
worst of iniquities “a little sin”? Surely it is something to be trembled at!
Covetousness is an inordinate desire of the heart after the creature; which
is a fruit of man’s apostasy from the Lord. No longer finding in God the
supreme object of his soul’s delight and confidence, fallen man loves and
trusts in the creature (mere things) rather than the Creator. This takes on
many forms: men lust after honors, wealth, pleasures, knowledge, for
Scripture speaks of “the desires of the flesh and of the mind”
(

Ephesians 2:3), and of “filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (

2
Corinthians 7:1). It is the very nature of the depraved heart to hanker after
that which God has forbidden and to crave after what is evil, though this
spirit may be developed more strongly in some than in others; at any rate, a
larger measure of restraining grace is granted to one than to another. These
irregular desires and inordinate thoughts are the firstborn of our corrupt.266
nature, the first risings of indwelling sin, the beginnings of all
transgressions committed by us.
“Thou shalt not covet” (

Exodus 20:17).
“The commandment requires moderation in respect of all worldly
goods, submission to God, acquiescence in His will, love to His
commandments, and a reliance on Him for the daily supply of all
our wants as He sees good. This is right and reasonable, fit for God
to command and profitable for man to obey, the very temper and
felicity of Heaven itself. But it is so contrary to the desires of our
hearts by nature, and so superior to the actual attainments of the
best Christians on earth, that it is very difficult to persuade them
that God requires such perfection, and still more difficult to satisfy
them that it is indispensable to the happiness of rational creatures,
and most difficult of all to convince them that everything
inconsistent with this or short of it is sin; that it deserves the wrath
of God, and cannot be taken away, except by the mercy of God
through the atonement of Christ” (T. Scott).
The most common form of this sin is, of course, the love of money, the
lusting after more and more of material riches. This is evident in getting,
keeping, and spending.
First, in getting. To acquire wealth becomes the dominant passion of the
soul. An insatiable greed possesses the heart. This exists in varying degrees
in different persons, and is demonstrated in numerous ways. That we may
be quite practical let us mention one or two. Often this is manifested in a
greedy and grasping effort after inequitable profits and by paying an
unjustly small wage to employees, the chief design of its perpetrators being
to amass fortunes for their descendants. Yet often these very men hold
prominent positions in the churches and “make long prayers,” while
devouring widows’ houses and grinding the face of the poor. Alas, how the
Gospel is dishonored and the sanctuary defiled by such sanctimonious
wretches.
Again. Recently we read a faithful article wherein the writer took to task
the lies and deceptions practiced by many shopkeepers and their assistants
in palming off upon the public various forms of merchandise by
misrepresenting their quality and value; the writer concluding with a
solemn emphasis upon “all liars shall have their part in the lake which.267
burneth with fire and brimstone” (

Revelation 21:8). As he finished
reading the same, this writer asked himself the question, And how far is a
greedy and grasping public to blame? Who is largely responsible for this
commercial dishonesty? Who tempt the tradesmen to mark their wares as
“great bargains,” “prices much reduced?” Is it not the covetous
purchasers? How many today are possessed with an insatiable craving after
“bargains,” buying things “cheap,” without any conscientious consideration
of the real worth of the article: it is that which fosters so much fraud. Let
the Christian buy only what he needs, and when he needs it, and so far as
possible only from upright traders, and then he will be more willing to pay
according to the value received.
Second, covetousness evidences itself in keeping. There is a miserliness
which clings to money as a drowning man to a log. There is a hoarding up
for self which is entirely reprehensible. “There is one alone, and there is not
a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother; yet is there no end of all
his labor; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom
do I labor and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore
travail” (

Ecclesiastes 4:8). Yes, there are those who are utterly
unconcerned about their eternal interests, and labor day in and day out,
year after year, in order to add to what they have already accumulated, and
who begrudge purchasing for themselves the bare necessities of life. They
continue to amass money utterly regardless of Christ’s cause on earth or
the poor and needy among their fellow-men. There are still those the
language of whose actions is,
“I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I
bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul,
thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease; eat,
drink, be merry” (

Luke 12:18, 19).
Third, covetousness also manifests itself in spending. If there be those
who are niggardly, there are others who are wastrels. If there be those who
condemn the miser for his stinginess, often they are guilty in turn of
wreckless prodigality. That which ought to be saved for a rainy day, is used
to gratify a desire which covets some unnecessary object. But let us not be
misunderstood on these points. Neither the possession nor the retention of
wealth is wrong in itself, providing it be acquired honestly and preserved
with a justifiable motive. God is the One who “giveth thee power to get
wealth” (

Deuteronomy 8:18), and therefore is His goodness to be.268
acknowledged when He is pleased to prosper us in basket and in store. Yet
even then we need the exhortation, “If riches increase, set not thine heart
upon them” (

Psalm 62:10).
“Not slothful in business” (

Romans 12:11) is a Divine exhortation. So
also there is a prudence and thrift which is legitimate, as is clear from,
“There is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to
poverty” (

Proverbs 11:24).
So also it is a bounden duty to make provision for those who are
dependent upon us:
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his
own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”
(

1 Timothy 5:8).
It is easy to swing to the opposite extreme and become fanatical, and under
the guise of trusting God, tempt Him. To lay up for a rainy day is quite
permissible: see

Proverbs 6:6-8. Neither idleness nor extravagance are
to be condoned. Those who through indolence or prodigality waste their
substance and fail in business cannot be too severely censured, for they not
only impoverish themselves but injure others, becoming the pests of society
and a public burden.
Yet how difficult it is to strike the happy mean: to be provident without
being prodigal, to be “not slothful in business” and yet not bury ourselves
in it, to be thrifty without being miserly, to use this world and yet not abuse
it. How appropriate is the prayer,
“Remove from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor
riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and
deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal,
and take the name of my God in vain” (

Proverbs 30:8, 9).

Romans 7:7 shows that it is only as the Spirit applies the Law in power
to the conscience that we are taught to see the evil and feel the danger of
covetousness; as, at the same time, it serves to check an avaricious
disposition and curb inordinate fondness for the creature. That which most
effectually strikes at our innate selfishness is the love of God shed abroad
in the heart. A generous heart and a liberal hand should ever characterize
the Christian..269
A few words next upon the heinousness of covetousness. This evil lust
blinds the understanding and corrupts the judgment, so that it regards light
as darkness, and darkness as light.
“If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou
art my confidence; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great and
because mine hand had gotten much… This also was an iniquity to
be punished by the judge, for I should have denied the God that is
above” (

Job 31:24, 25, 28)
— how little this is realized by the guilty one! It is an insatiable lust, for
when covetousness rules, the heart is never satisfied:
“He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that
loveth abundance with increase” (

Ecclesiastes 5:10).
It is a devouring sin: “the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word”
(

Matthew 13:22).
So terrible is this sin and so great is its power that, one who is governed by
it will trample upon the claims of justice, as Ahab did in seizing the
vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21); he will disregard the call of charity, as
David did in taking the wife of Uriah (2 Samuel 11); he will stoop to the
most fearful lies, as did Ananias and Sapphira; he will defy the express
commandment of God, as Achan did; he will sell Christ, as Judas did. This
is the mother sin, for “the love of money is the root of all evil.” It is a
gnawing and fatal sin:
“But they that will be (are determined to be) rich fall into
temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts,
which drown men in destruction and perdition… which while some
have coveted after they have erred from the faith, and pierced
themselves through with many sorrows” (

1 Timothy 6:9, 10).
It is the working of this evil lust which lies at the root of very much of the
fearful Sabbath-desecration that is now so rife. It is the greed of gold
which causes the railways to run special excursions on the Lord’s day,
tempting people to leave the city for the country-side or the sea-beach. It is
the lure of lucre which prompts thousands of shops to be open seven days
in the week. It is the love of money which lies behind the Sunday editions
of the newspaper. How the nations of Christendom are heaping up to
themselves “wrath against the Day of Wrath!” God will not be mocked.270
with impugnity. Those who believe the Scriptures must perforce expect
that soon a far worse war than the last is likely to be sent as a scourge from
Heaven upon the present Sabbath profaners.
It was the spirit of covetousness which prompted Israel of old to disregard
the fourth commandment.
“In those days saw I in Jerusalem some treading winepresses on the
Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine,
grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought
into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in
the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also
therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold in the
Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem”
(

Nehemiah 13:15, 16).
Because of their Sabbath profanation, the sore judgment of God fell upon
the nation.
“Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them,
What evil is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not
your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us
and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath on Israel by pro-farting
the Sabbath” (

Nehemiah 13:17, 18):
“Hallow My Sabbaths and they shall be a sign between Me and you,
that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. Notwithstanding,
the children rebelled against Me: they walked not in My statutes
neither kept My judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall
even live in them: they polluted My Sabbaths: then I said, I will
pour out My fury upon them” (

Ezekiel 20:20, 21).
Thus, not only is covetousness a fearful sin in itself, but it is also the
prolific mother of other evils. In the poor, it works envy, discontent, and
fraud; in the rich, pride, luxury, and avarice. This vile lust unfits for the
performing of holy duties, preventing the exercise of those graces which
are necessary thereto. It exposes to manifold temptations, whereby we are
rendered an easy prey to many spiritual enemies. The more we yield to this
evil spirit, the more do we conduct ourselves as though we desired our
portion in this world, and look no further than present things, contrary to.271
“while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things
which are not seen” (

2 Corinthians 4:18).
It tends to cast contempt on the mercies which are ours and quenches the
spirit of thanksgiving. It turns the heart away from God:
“How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of
God!” (

Mark 10:23).
Let us now go deeper and solemnly observe the comprehensiveness of
God’s searching law, “Thou shalt not covet” (

Exodus 20:17). Light is
cast upon those words by, “I had not known sin, but by the Law; for I had
not known lust (‘concupiscence,’ margin) except the law had said, Thou
shalt not covet or “lust” (

Romans 7:7) — “concupiscence” is an evil
desire, an inordinate affection, a secret lusting after something. What the
apostle means is, I had never discovered my inward depravity unless the
Spirit had enlightened my understanding, convicted my conscience, and
made me feel the corruptions of my heart. Man ever looks on the outward
appearance — and as a Pharisee of the Pharisees Paul’s actions fully
conformed to the Law — but when the Spirit quickens a soul, he is made
to realize that God requires “Truth in the inward parts” (

Psalm 51:6)
and cries
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within
me” (

Psalm 51:10).
“Thou shalt not covet.” That which is here forbidden is concupiscence, or
those imaginations, thoughts, and desires, which precede the consent of the
will. Herein we may perceive the exalted holiness of the Divine Law — far
transcending all human codes — requiring inward purity. Herein, too, we
may recognize one of the fundamental errors of Romanists, who, following
the Pelagians, deny that these lustings are sinful until they are yielded to,
and who affirm that evil imaginations only become sinful when the mind
definitely assents to them. But the holy Law of God condemns that which
instigates unto what is forbidden, condemns that which inclines toward
what is unholy, and denounces that which inflames with cupidity. All
irregular desires are forbidden. Corrupt imaginations and unlawful
inclinations that precede the consent of the will are evil, being the seeds of
all other sins.
Again we say, Herein God’s Law differs from and is immeasurably superior
to all of man’s laws, for it takes note of and prohibits all the hidden desires.272
and secret lustings of the heart. It is this tenth commandment which, above
all others, discovers unto us our depravity and shows how very far short
we come of that perfection which the Law requires. There is first an evil
thought in the mind causing us to think of something which is not ours.
This is followed by a longing after or wishing for it. There is then an
inward delight by way of anticipating the pleasure that object will give; and
then, unless restraining grace intervenes, the outward act of sin is
committed — see

James 1:14, 15. The first evil thought is involuntary,
due to the mind’s being turned from good to evil, even though that evil be
simply lusting after a new but unnecessary hat! The longing is caused by
the heart’s being enticed by the delight promised. Then the consent of the
will is gained, and the mind plans how to gain the coveted object.
This concupiscence or evil lusting of the heart is called “the law of sin
which is in my members” (

Romans 7:23). It is what the older
theologians term “original sin,” being the fountain of evil within, corrupting
all our faculties. Discontent with our lot, envy of our neighbors, yea, even
the very “thought of foolishness is SIN” (

Proverbs 24:9). How high is
the standard set before us:
“Let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor;
and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, saith the
Lord” (

Zechariah 8:17).
Does the third commandment interdict any blasphemous oath upon the
lips? then the tenth prohibits any risings of the heart against God. Does the
fourth commandment interdict all unnecessary work on the Sabbath? then
the tenth condemns our saying “what a weariness is it.” Does the eighth
commandment interdict every act of theft? then the tenth prohibits our
desiring anything which is our neighbor’s.
But it is not until after a person is regenerate that he takes notice of the
inward motions of sin and takes cognizance of the state of his heart. Then
Satan will seek to persuade that he is not responsible for involuntary
thoughts (which come unbidden), that evil desires are beyond our control
— infirmities which are excusable. But God says to him
“Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of
life” (

Proverbs 4:23),
and makes him realize that every lusting after what He has forbidden or
withheld is a species of self-will. Therefore we are accountable to judge the.273
first inclination toward evil and resist the very earliest solicitations. The
fact that we discover so much within that is contrary to God’s holy
requirements should deeply humble us, and cause us to live more and more
out of self and upon Christ..274
CHAPTER 110
CONTENTMENT
(

HEBREWS 13:5, 6)
Discontent, though few appear to realize it, is sinful, a grievous offense
against the Most High. It is an impugning of His wisdom, a denial of His
goodness, a rising up of my will against His. To murmur at our lot is to
take issue with God’s sovereignty, quarrelling as it does with His
providence, and therefore, is a being guilty of high treason against the King
of the universe. Since God orders all the circumstances of human life, then
every person ought to be entirely satisfied with the state and situation in
which he is placed. One has no more excuse to grumble at his lot than has
another. This truth Paul instructed Timothy to press upon others:
“Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count their own
masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine
be not blasphemed” (

1 Timothy 6:1).
“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose
waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to
the wicked” (

Isaiah 57:20, 21).
The ungodly are total strangers to real contentment. No matter how much
they have, they are ever lusting after more. But God exhorts His people,
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content
with such things as ye have” (

Hebrews 13:5).
As it is their bounden duty to avoid the vice of covetousness, so it is their
personal responsibility to cultivate the virtue of contentment; and failure at
either point is culpable. The contentment here exhorted unto is something
other than a fatalistic indifference: it is a holy composure of mind, a resting
in the Lord, a being pleased with what pleases Him — satisfied with the
portion He has allotted. Anything short of this is evil..275
Discontent is contrary to our prayers, and therefore must be most
reprehensible. When we truly pray, we desire God to give or withhold, to
bestow or take away, according as will be most for His glory and our
highest good. Realizing that we know not what is best, we leave it with
God. In real prayer we submit our understandings to the Divine wisdom,
our wills to His good pleasure.
But to be dissatisfied with our lot and complain at our portion is to
exercise the very opposite spirit, indicating an unwillingness to be at God’s
disposal, and leaning to our own understanding as though we knew better
than He what was most conducive to our present and future well being.
This is a tempting of God and a grieving of His Holy Spirit, and has a
strong tendency to provoke Him to fight against us (

Isaiah 63:10).
When God does fight against us because of this sin, He often gives us what
we were discontented for the want of, but accompanies the same with
some sore affliction. For example, Rachel was in a most discontented frame
when she said to Jacob “Give me children, else I die” (

Genesis 30:1).
The sequel is very solemn: she had children, and died in childbirth: see

Genesis 35:16-18. Again, we are told that Israel
“lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the
desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their
soul” (

Psalm 106:14, 15).
These cases need to be taken to heart by us, for they are recorded for our
learning and warning. God takes note of the discontent of our hearts as
well as the murmuring of our lips.
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (

Ephesians 5:20)
is the standard which He has set before us.
Not only is discontent a grievous sin against God, but it unfits the Christian
for the discharge of holy duties, preventing the exercise of those graces
which are necessary in order thereunto. It silences the lips of supplication,
for how can a murmurer pray? It destroys the spirit of submission, for
complaining is a “fretting against the Lord.” It quenches faith, hope and
love. Discontent is the very essence of ingratitude, and therefore it stifles
the voice of thanksgiving. There cannot be any rest of soul until we quietly
resign our persons and portions to God’s good pleasure. Discontent.276
corrodes the strings of the heart, and therefore it arrests all happy
endeavor.
Discontent is usually over temporal matters, and this is a sad intimation
that material things are sought after more eagerly than are spiritual things.
It argues a lack of confidence in the care of our heavenly Father to provide
for us the things which are needed.
“Christian, let me ask thee this question, Didst thou give thyself to
Christ for temporal, or for eternal comforts? Didst thou enter upon
religion to save thine estate, or thy soul? Oh, why then shouldest
thou be so sad, when thine eternal happiness is so safe? For shame,
live like a child of God, an heir of Heaven, and let the world know,
that thy hopes and happiness are in a better world; that thou art
denied those acorns which thy Father giveth to His hogs, yet thou
hast the children’s bread, and expectest thine inheritance when thou
comest to age” (G. Swinnock, 1650).
What cause have we all to be deeply humbled over our sinful repinings, to
hang our heads with shame, and penitently confess the same unto God!
Yet notwithstanding both the sinfulness and injuriousness of discontent,
many raise various objections to excuse the same. Some will plead their
personal temperament in self-vindication, alleging that their natural temper
makes them uneasy and anxious, so that they are quite unable to submit
themselves unto the disposing providence of God. But, my dear reader, the
corruption of our nature and its proneness to sin is no excuse for, but
rather an aggravation of it, showing how much our hearts are opposed
unto God. The more we yield to our natural inclinations, the more power
they obtain over us. In such a case as the above we ought rather to be the
more importunate with God, begging Him for His grace to restrain the
inordinancy of our affections, to subdue our fears, and work in us
willingness to acquiesce to His sovereign pleasure.
Others attempt to justify their discontent and uneasy frame of spirit by
alleging that the injuries which others have done them ought to be
resented, and that not to manifest discontent under them would be to
encourage such people unto further insults and trampling upon them. To
this it may be replied that while we complain of injuries done to us by men,
and are prone to meditate revenge against them, we do not consider the.277
great dishonor that we bring to God, and how much we provoke Him. It is
written,
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses” (

Matthew 6:15).
Remember that
“What glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall
take it patiently? but if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it
patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye
called: Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example,
that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile
found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, reviled not again”
(

1 Peter 2:20-23).
Others seek to excuse their discontent by dwelling upon the magnitude of
their trials, saying that their burden is insupportable, so that they are
pressed out of measure, above their strength. Even so, none of our
afflictions are as great as our sins; and the more we complain, the heavier
do we make our burden. Others point to the altogether unexpectedness of
their trouble, that it came upon them when they were quite unprepared,
and that it is therefore more than flesh and blood can endure. But the
Christian should daily expect afflictions in this world, at least so far as not
to be unprovided for or think it strange he should be exercised by them
(

1 Peter 4:12). With some the drastic change from affluence to poverty
is so great they argue that it is impossible to bear up under it. But does not
God say, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (

2 Corinthians 12:9)?
Yet no excuses are to be allowed to set aside or modify this Divine
injunction, “Be content with such things as ye have.” But before
proceeding further let it be pointed out that contentment is not
incompatible with honest effort to enlarge the provision of earthly things
for ourselves and those dependent upon us, for God has given us six days
out of seven to be industrious. Idleness must not be allowed to cloak itself
under the guise of this grace: contentment and indolence are two vastly
different things.
“This contentment does not consist in a slothful neglect of the
business of life, nor of a real nor pretended apathy to worldly
interests. It is substantially a satisfaction with God as our portion
and with what He is pleased to appoint for us. It is opposed to.278
covetousness or the inordinate desire of wealth, and to unbelieving
anxiety — dissatisfaction with what is present, distrust as to what is
future” (John Brown).
Contentment is a tranquility of soul, a being satisfied with what God has
apportioned. It is the opposite of a grasping spirit which is never appeased,
with distrustful anxiety, with petulant murmurings. “It is a gracious
disposedness of mind, arising solely from trust in and satisfaction with God
alone, against all other things whatever appear to be evil” (John Owen). It
is our duty to have the scales of our heart so equally poised in all God’s
dealings with us as that they rise not in prosperity, nor sink in adversity. As
the tree bendeth this way or that with the wind, yet still keeps its place, so
we should yield according to the gales of Divine providence, yet still
remaining steadfast and retaining our piety. The more composure of mind
we preserve, the more shall we, on the one hand, “rejoice with trembling”
(

Psalm 2:11), and on the other, “faint not” when the chastening rod falls
upon us.
As this spiritual grace of contentment is so glorifying to God, and so
beneficial to ourselves, we will endeavor to mention some of the chief aids
thereto.
First, a realization of God’s goodness. A deep and fixed sense of His
benevolence greatly tends to quieten the heart when outward
circumstances are trying to us. If I have formed the habit of meditating
daily upon God’s fatherly care — and surely I am constantly surrounded by
proofs and tokens thereof — then I shall be less apt to chafe and fret when
His providences cross my will. Has He not assured me that
“all things work together for good to them that love God, to them
who are called according to His purpose” (

Romans 8:28)?
What more then can I ask? O to rest in His love. Surely He is entitled to
my confidence in His paternal solicitude. Remember that each murmur
implies unthankfulness. Complaining is the basest of ingratitude. If the
Lord provides for the ravens, will He overlook the needs of any of His
children? O ye of little faith!
Second, a steady realization of God’s omniscience. A deep and fixed
sense of His un-searchable wisdom is well calculated to allay our fears and
compose our minds when everything appears to be going wrong with our
circumstances. Settle it in your mind once for all, dear friend, that “the high.279
and lofty One” makes no mistakes. His understanding is infinite, and His
resources are without measure. He knows far better than we do what is for
our well being and what will best promote our ultimate interests. Then let
me not be found pitting my puny reason against the ways of the all-wise
Jehovah. It is naught but pride and self-will which complains at His
dealings with me. As another has said, “Now if one creature can and ought
to be governed by another that is more wise than himself — as the client by
his learned counsel, the patient by his skillful physician — much more
should we be satisfied with the unerring dispositions of God.” Remember
that complaining never relieves a single woe or lightens a single burden; it
is therefore most irrational.
Third, a steady realization of God’s supremacy. A deep and fixed sense of
His absolute sovereignty, His indisputable right to do as He pleases in the
ordering of all our affairs, should do much to subdue the spirit of rebellion
and silence our foolish and wicked murmurings. It is not the Almighty’s
pleasure to give unto all alike, but rather that some should have more and
others less:
“The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and
lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the
beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes” (

1 Samuel
2:7, 8).
Then quarrel not with the Most High because He distributes His gifts and
favors unequally; but rather seek grace that thy will may be brought into
subjection to His. It is written
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on
Thee” (

Isaiah 26:3).
Consider how many lack some of the good things which thou enjoyest.
“Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker…. Shall the clay say to
Him that fashioneth it, What maketh Thou?” (

Isaiah 45:9).
Fourth, a steady realization of our ill-deserts. A deep and fixed sense of
our utter unworthiness must do much to still our repinings when we are
tempted to complain of the absence of those things our hearts covet. If we
live under an habitual sense of our unworthiness, it will greatly reconcile us
to deprivations. If we daily remind ourselves that we have forfeited all.280
good and deserve all ill at the hands of God, then we shall heartily
acknowledge
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed”
(

Lamentations 3:22).
Nothing will more quickly compose the mind in the face of adversity and
nothing will so prevent the heart being puffed up by prosperity, than the
realization that “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies”
(

Genesis 32:10) of God. Just so far as we really preserve a sense of our
ill-deserts will we meekly submit to the allotments of Divine providence.
Every Christian cordially assents to the truth
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us
according to our iniquities” (

Psalm 103:10),
then why complain if God withholds from us what He grants to others?
Fifth, weanedness from the world. The more dead we are to the things of
time and sense, the less our hearts will crave them, and the smaller will be
our disappointment when we do not have them. This world is the great
impediment to the heavenly life, being the bait of the flesh and the snare of
Satan by which he turns souls from God. The lighter we hold the world’s
attractions, the more indifferent we are to either poverty or wealth, the
greater will be our contentment. God has promised to supply all our needs,
therefore
“having food and raiment let us be therewith content”
(

1 Timothy 6:8).
Superfluities are hindrances and not helps.
“Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and
trouble therewith” (

Proverbs 15:16).
Remember that the contented man is the only one who enjoys what he has.
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth”
(

Colossians 3:2).
Sixth, fellowship with God. The more we cultivate communion with Him
and are occupied with His perfections, the less shall we lust after the
baubles which have such a hold upon the ungodly. Walking with God.281
produces a peace and joy such as this poor world can neither give nor take
away.
“There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift
Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put
gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their
wine increased” (

Psalm 4:6, 7).
Walking in the way of God’s commands is a real antidote to discontent:
“Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall
offend them” (

Psalm 119:165).
Seventh, remembrance of what Christ suffered.
“For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners
against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds”
(

Hebrews 12:3).
When tempted to complain at your lot, meditate upon Him who when here
had not where to lay His head, who was constantly misunderstood by
friends and hated by innumerable enemies. Contemplation of the cross of
Christ is a wonderful composer of an agitated mind and a querulous spirit.
“Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never
leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Here is an enforcement of what has just gone
before, a reason for the duties enjoined, a motive supplied for the
performance of them. One of the Divine promises is quoted, which if it be
duly appropriated by us, we shall be dissuaded from covetousness and
persuaded to contentment. Resting on this Divine assurance will both
moderate our desires and alleviate our fears. “I will never leave thee nor
forsake thee” is a guarantee of God’s continual provision and protection,
and this rebukes all inordinate desires and condemns all anxious fears. The
evils are closely connected, for in most instances covetousness, in the
Christian, is rooted in a fear of want; while discontent generally arises from
a suspicion that our present portion will prove to be inadequate for the
supply of our needs. Each such disquietude is equally irrational and God-dishonoring.
Both covetousness and discontent proceed from unbelief. If I really trust
God, will I have any qualms about the future or tremble at the prospect of
starvation? Certainly not: the two things are incompatible, opposites — “I.282
will trust, and not be afraid” (

Isaiah 12:2). Thus the apostle’s argument
is clear and convincing: “Let your conversation be without covetousness;
be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave
thee nor forsake thee.” The “for He hath said” is more forcible than “for
God hath said:” it is the character of the One with whom we have to do
that is here held up to our view. “He has said” — who has? Why, One
whose power is omnipotent, whose wisdom is infinite, whose faithfulness is
inviolable, whose love is unchanging. “All the efficacy, power and comfort
of Divine promises arise from and are resolved into the excellencies of the
Divine nature. He hath said it who is truth, and cannot deceive” (John
Owen).
And what is it that He has said, which, if faith truly lays hold of, will
subdue covetousness and work contentment? This, “I will never leave thee
nor forsake thee.” God’s presence, God’s providence, God’s protection,
are here assured us. If due regard be paid to these inestimable blessings, the
heart will be kept in peace. What more would we have save a conscious
realization of the same? O for a felt sense of His presence, for a gracious
manifestation thereof to the soul. What were all the wealth, honors,
pleasures of the world worth, if He should totally and finally desert us! The
comfort of our soul does not depend upon outward provisions, so much as
on our appropriation and enjoyment of what is contained in the Divine
promises. If we rested more on them, we would crave less of this world’s
goods. What possible cause or ground for fear remains when God has
pledged us His continual presence and assistance?
“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” It is almost impossible to
reproduce in English the emphasis of the original, in which no less than five
negatives are used to increase the strength of the negation, according to
the Greek idiom. Perhaps the nearest approximation is to render it, “I will
never, no, never leave thee, nor ever forsake thee.” In view of such
assurance we should fear no want, dread no distress, nor have any
trepidation about the future. At no time, under any circumstances
conceivable or inconceivable, for any possible cause, will God utterly and
finally forsake one of His own. Then how safe they are! how impossible for
one of them to eternally perish! God has here graciously condescended to
give the utmost security to the faith of believers in all their difficulties and
trials. The continued presence of God with us ensures the continued supply
of every need..283
“For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” These words
were first spoken by Jehovah to the successor of Moses (

Joshua 1:5),
whose task it was to dispossess Canaan of all the heathen nations then
inhabiting it. The fact that the Holy Spirit moved the apostle to apply unto
Christians this promise made to Joshua, supplies clear proof that our
modern dispensationalists wrongly divide the Word of Truth. Their
practice of partitioning the Scriptures and their contention that what God
said under one dispensation does not apply to those living in another, is
here exposed as nothing less than an effort of Satan to rob God’s people of
a part of their rightful and needful portion. This precious promise of God
belongs as truly to me now as it did to Joshua of old. Let, then, this
principle be tenaciously held by us: the Divine promises which were made
upon special occasions to particular individuals are of general use for all
the members of the household of faith.
What has just been affirmed is so obvious that it should require no further
proof or illustration; but inasmuch as it is being repudiated in some
influential quarters today, we will labor the point a little. Are not the needs
of believers the same in one age as another? Is not God affected alike unto
all His children? — does He not bear them the same love? If, then, He
would not desert Joshua, then He will not any of us. Are not Christians
now under the same everlasting Covenant of Grace as were the O.T.
saints? then they have a common charter —
“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that
are afar off” (

Acts 2:39).
Let us not forget that
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our
learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures
might have hope” (

Romans 15:4).
“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear
what man shall do unto me” (verse 6). An inference is here drawn from the
promise just quoted: a double conclusion is reached — confidence in God
and courage against man. This intimates that we should make a varied and
manifold use of the Divine promises. This twofold conclusion is based
upon the character of the Promiser: because He is infinitely good, wise,
faithful, powerful, and because He changes not, we may boldly or
confidently declare with Abraham “God will provide” (

Genesis 22:8),.284
with Jonathan “there is no restraint to the Lord” (

1 Samuel 14:6), with
Jehoshaphat “None is able to withstand Thee” (

2 Chronicles 20:6), with
Paul “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (

Romans 8:31).
“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear
what man shall do unto me.” Once more the apostle confirms his argument
by a Divine testimony, for he quotes from

Psalm 118:6. In this citing of
David’s language, Christians are again taught the suitability of O.T.
language unto their own case, and the permissibility of appropriating the
same unto themselves: “we may boldly say” just what the Psalmist did! It
was in a time of sore distress that David expressed his confidence in the
Lord, at a time when it appeared that his enemies were ready to swallow
him up; but contrasting the omnipotency of Jehovah from the feebleness of
the creature, his heart was emboldened. The believer is weak and unstable
in himself, and constantly in need of assistance, but the Lord is ever ready
to take his part and render all needed aid.
“The Lord is my Helper” implies, as W. Gouge pointed out, “a willing
readiness and a ready willingness to afford us all needed succor.” Those
whom He forsakes not, He helps — both inwardly and outwardly. Note
carefully the change from “we may boldly say” to “the Lord is my Helper:”
general privileges are to be appropriated by us in particular.
“Man can do much: he can fine, imprison, banish, reduce to a
morsel of bread, yea, torture and put to death; yet as long as God is
with us and standeth for us, we may boldly say, ‘I will not fear what
man can do.’ Why? God will not see thee utterly perish. He can
give joy in sorrow, life in death” (Thomas Manton).
May the Lord graciously grant both writer and reader more faith in
Himself, more reliance upon His promises, more consciousness of His
presence, more assurance of His help, and then we shall enjoy more
deliverance from covetousness, discontent, and the fear of man..285
CHAPTER 111
MOTIVES TO FIDELITY
(

HEBREWS 13:7, 8)
In seeking to ascertain the meaning and scope of the verses which now
require our consideration due notice must be taken of their setting, and
that, in turn, weighed in the light of the epistle as a whole. In the immediate
context the apostle dehorts from covetousness and discontent, reminding
his readers that God had said “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
From that Divine promise he points out two conclusions which faith will
draw. First, “The Lord is my Helper.” The child of God is in urgent need of
an all-powerful Helper, for he has to contend with a mighty foe whose rage
knows no bounds. It is a great mercy when we are made conscious of our
helplessness, when our conceit is so subdued as to realize that without
Divine assistance defeat is certain. What peace and comfort it brings to the
heart when the believer is enabled to realize that the Lord is just as truly his
“Helper” when chastening him, as when delivering from trouble!
The Second inference which faith makes from the Divine promise is, “I will
not fear what man shall do unto me.” If the Lord will never leave nor
forsake me, then He must be” a very present help in trouble” (

Psalm
46:1). O what a difference it makes to the sorely-tried soul when he can
realize that God is not far away from him, but “at hand” (

Philippians
4:5). Yes, even if called upon to walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, he will be with me, and therefore will His rod and staff comfort me
(

Psalm 23:4). And since the believer’s Helper is none other than the
Almighty, no real harm or evil can possibly befall him. Why, then, should
he dread the creature? His worst enemy can do naught against him without
the Lord’s permission. The abiding presence of the Lord ensures the supply
of every need: therefore contentment should fill the heart. The abiding
presence of the Lord guarantees all-sufficient help, and therefore alarms at
man’s enmity should be removed.
Even in the more general exhortations of Hebrews 13 there is a tacit
recognition of the peculiar circumstances of the Hebrews, and more plainly.286
still is this implied in the language of verse 6. The Jewish Christians were
being opposed and persecuted by their unbelieving brethren, and the
temptation to apostatize was very real and pressing. “The fear of man
bringeth a snare” (

Proverbs 29:25). It did to Abraham, when he went
down to Egypt, and later on to Gerar, moving him to conceal Sarah’s real
relation to him. It did to the whole nation of Israel when they hearkened to
the report of the ten spies. It did to Peter, so much so that he denied his
Master. It did to Pilate, for when the Jews threatened him with “If thou let
this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend” (

John 19:12), he unwillingly
consented to Christ’s crucifixion. Fearfully solemn is that word,
“But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny
before My Father which is in Heaven” (

Matthew 10:33).
Now it is in view of the trying situation in which the Hebrew saints were
placed that we should consider our present passage. The apostle’s design
was to fortify them against temptations to apostatize, to encourage them
unto steadfastness in the Faith, to so establish them that even though they
should be called on to suffer a violent death, they would yet remain loyal to
Christ. Moreover, their enemies were not only intimidating them by open
oppression and threats of more dire persecution, but others under the guise
of being Christian teachers, were seeking to poison their minds with errors
that undermined the very foundations of the Gospel: it was to them that
Paul had reference in verse 9. Hence, in verses 7, 8 the apostle also calls
upon the Hebrews to maintain their profession of the Truth in opposition
to the lies of these Judaizers.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken
unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end
of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today,
and forever” (verses 7, 8).
A number of questions are raised by the terms of our passage. Who are the
rulers here mentioned? In what sense or way are they to be “remembered”?
What is signified by “following” their faith? What is denoted by the “end of
their conversation”? Wherein do these exhortations furnish motives unto
fidelity or steadfastness? Why affirm here the Savior’s immutability?
First of all it should be pointed out that the A.V. rendering of the opening
clause is misleading, and quite out of harmony with the remainder of the
verse. “Those which have the rule over you” is a single word in the Greek..287
It is a participle of the present tense, but is frequently used as a noun, as is
obviously the case here: “your rulers.” That their present rulers could not
be intended is quite apparent from several considerations.
First, because the Hebrews were called upon to “remember,” rather than
submit to them.
Second, because they are distinctly described as they “who have spoken
unto you the Word of God.”
Third, because they were such as had already received “the end of their
conversation” or conduct in this world. Finally, because there is a distinct
precept given with respect to their attitude toward their living rulers in
verse 17.
The reference is, of course, to the spiritual rulers, those who had
ministered to them God’s Word. The persons intended were the officers in
the Church, that is, those who guided and governed its affairs. “Overseers”
or “guides” is hardly definite or strong enough to bring out the force of the
original term, for while it signifies to lead or go before, it also denotes one
who is over others, being the word for “governor” in

Matthew 2:6 and

Acts 7:10. “Your leaders” would be better, though hardly as good as
the word actually used in the A.V. — your rulers. Those in view were the
apostles and prophets, the elders and pastors, who instructed the saints and
directed the government of the churches. No doubt the apostle was more
specifically alluding to such men as Stephen and James who had been
beheaded by Herod (

Acts 12:2), men who had sealed the Truth they
proclaimed by laying down their lives for it.
“Who have spoken unto you the Word of God”: that is the mark by which
Christian leaders are to be identified — the men whom God has graciously
called to ecclesiastical rule are gifted by Him to expound and enforce the
Scriptures, for the function of their office is not legislative, but
administrative. The Christian leader, though he possesses no arbitrary
power, nevertheless is to bear rule, and that, according to the Scriptures.
He is not called upon to invent new laws, but simply to declare the will and
apply the statutes of Zion’s King. There cannot be a properly ordered
household unless discipline be duly maintained. Alas, if one section of
those who profess to be the ministers of Christ have usurped His
prerogatives, exalting themselves into ecclesiastical despots, another class.288
have woefully failed to maintain the honor of His House, letting down the
bars and inaugurating a regime of lawlessness.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you
the Word of God.” By this criterion are we to test the ostensible “guides”
and religious leaders of the day.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they
are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the
world” (

1 John 4:1);
and never was there a time when we more urgently needed to measure men
by this standard.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions
and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and
avoid them” (

Romans 16:17).
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive
him not into your house, neither bid him God speed”
(

2 John 10)
— no matter how pleasing his personality, soothing his message, or
numerous his followers.
“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God”
(

John 3:34):
true of Christ perfectly, but characteristic of all whom He calls to the
sacred office of the ministry. To speak God’s Word is the grand duty of the
Christian teacher — not to indulge in philosophical or theological
speculation, nor to tickle the ears of men with sensational topics of the day.
The next thing singled out for mention in connection with these spiritual
rulers who had preached the Word of God, is their “faith,” which the
Hebrews were enjoined to “follow.” There is some difference of opinion
among the commentators as to exactly what is here referred to. “Faith” is a
term which has a varying scope in its N.T. usage, though its different
meanings are closely applied, and can usually be determined by the context.
First, “Faith” is the principle of trust whereby the heart turns to God and
rests upon His word, and by which we are, instrumentally, saved: “thy faith.289
hath made thee whole” (

Matthew 9:22), “by grace are ye saved through
faith” (

Ephesians 2:8).
Second, “faith” has reference to that which is to be believed, the Truth of
God, the Christian Creed: “exhorting them to continue in the Faith”
(

Acts 14:22), “the Word of Faith which we preach” (

Romans 10:8),
“contend for the Faith” (Jude 3).
Third, “faith” is used to designate the fruits and works that spring from it,
because it is their root: “brought us good tidings of your faith” (

1
Thessalonians 3:6), “show me thy faith” (

James 2:18), i.e., the effects of
it.
The term “faith” is used in still another sense.
Fourth, it signifies fidelity or faithfulness, as in the following passages:
“The weightier matters of the Law: judgment, mercy, and faith”
(

Matthew 23:23), “the faith of God” (

Romans 3:3), “the fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace… faith” or “faithfulness” as in the R.V.
(

Galatians 5:22). Personally we consider this last meaning of the term to
be primary, though not exclusive, significance in our present verse.
The reference is not only to the grace of faith which was in them, but to its
whole exercise in all that they did and suffered. Amid much
discouragement and bitter opposition those Christian leaders had not
fainted, but held on their way. Despite temptations to apostatize they had
persevered in their profession, remained loyal to Christ, continued to
minister unto His people, and had glorified God by laying down their lives
for the Gospel. Faithful to their Master, they were fruitful in his service to
the end of their course.
The last thing here mentioned of these spiritual rulers is “the end of their
conversation,” which is the most difficult to define with exactitude. The
Greek word here for “end” is not “telos” which signifies the finish or
conclusion of a thing, but “ekbasis” which literally means “a going up out
of.” It is found elsewhere in the N.T. only in

1 Corinthians 10:13, where
it is rendered “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above
that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape,
that ye may be able to bear it.”
“It is not therefore merely an end that is intended; nor doth the
word signify a common end, issue or event of things, but an end.290
accompanied with a deliverance from, and so a conquest over, such
difficulties and dangers as men were before exposed unto. These
persons, in the whole course of their conversation, were exercised
with difficulties, dangers and sufferings, all attempting to stop them
in their way, or to turn them out of it. But what did it all amount to,
what was the issue of their conflict? It was a blessed deliverance
from all troubles, and conquest over them” (John Owen).
“The end of their conversation,” then, has reference to their egress or exit
from this world of sin and sorrow. It was a deliverance from all their trials,
an honorable way of escape from all their difficulties and dangers, an
exodus from the land of their Enemy. Yet it seems to us that the particular
term used here by the Spirit is designed to carry our thoughts beyond this
present scene. What was before the mind of Paul himself as he announces
that the time of his departure was at hand? First, he declared, “I have
fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” and
then he added “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness” (

2 Timothy 4:7, 8). As we have said, “ekbasis” signified
a “going up out of:” thus the “end of their conversation” also meant a
being taken to be forever with the Lord, a sure though future resurrection,
and an unfading diadem of glory.
Corresponding to the three things said of their spiritual leaders, a threefold
exhortation is given to the Hebrews. They were required to “remember”
those who had spoken to them the Word of God,” they were bidden to
“follow” their faith, and they were enjoined to “consider” the end of their
conversation. “Remember” is another word that is given a comprehensive
meaning and scope in its Scriptural usage. It signifies that reverence and
submission which is due a superior, as in “Remember now thy Creator in
the days of thy youth” (

Ecclesiastes 12:1). It implies the holding fast of
what has been received, whether instruction, promises, or warnings:
“Remember, forget not, how thou provoked the Lord thy God to
wrath in the wilderness” (

Deuteronomy 9:7).
It means to recall that which has been forgotten:
“When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples
remembered that He had said this unto them, and they believed the
Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (

John 2:22).
It denotes to meditate upon, as in.291
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led
thee these forty years in the wilderness” (

Deuteronomy 8:2).
Here in our text the “remember” is used comprehensively, as comprising all
those duties of respect and esteem, of love and obedience, which they
owed to their departed teachers. Nor was such an exhortation needless.
Human nature is very fickle, and tragic it is to mark how quickly many a
faithful pastor is forgotten. Such forgetfulness is a species of ingratitude,
and therefore is sinful.
“Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom
delivered the city: yet no man remembered that same poor man”
(

Ecclesiastes 9:15)
— God taxes them with their forgetfulness! “Remember your leaders”
includes thankfulness to God for them, speaking well of them, putting into
practice their teaching. More specifically it means: treasure up in heart their
instructions; call to mind their counsels, warnings, exhortations; gratefully
meditate upon their untiring efforts to establish you in the Faith.
“Remember your rulers.” How fearfully has this precept been perverted!
What terrible superstitions have been invented and perpetrated in this
connection: such as religious celebrations on the anniversary of their death,
the dedication of “altars” and “chapels” unto their memory, the adoration
of their bones, with the ascription of miraculous cures to them; the offering
of prayers for them and to them. True, they are to be esteemed very highly
in love for their works’ sake (

1 Thessalonians 5:13), both while they are
with us and after God has removed them from us, but His servants are not
to be “remembered” with idolatrous veneration, nor to the dividing with
Christ any of those honors which belong alone unto Him. Not carnally, but
spiritually are they to be remembered in what they did and taught, so that
we are duly affected thereby.
It is at the point last mentioned we may perceive the pertinency of this
precept to the apostle’s design. His immediate purpose was to fortify them
against departure from the Faith. Hence, he bids them “remember your
rulers,” for if you bear steadily in mind their instruction, you will at once
perceive the error of the “divers and strange doctrines” which he warns
against in verse 9..292
“The sheep follow Him: for they know His voice, And a stranger
they will not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the
voice of strangers” (

John 10:4, 5):
that is the order — if we are heeding the true servants of Christ, we shall
neither be attracted nor deceived by the emissaries of Satan. Again; a
loving esteem of our teachers and a grateful remembrance of their devoted
and laborious efforts to get us established in the Truth, will make us
ashamed to go back on their instruction. Finally; to recall their
steadfastness will be an encouragement to us when encountering
opposition: they did not apostatize in the face of extreme peril — shall we
spurn the example they left us.
And what is the clear implication of this to present-day preachers? Is there
not here a searching word for heart and conscience? Is your ministry
worthy to be stored up in the hearer’s minds? Are your sermons worth
remembering? The humble-minded will be ready to answer No, there is
little or nothing in my simple and homely discourses deserving to be
treasured up. Ah, brother preacher, it is not clever analyses of difficult
passages which exhibit your mental acumen, nor lofty flights of language
which display your rhetorical powers, that is of lasting worth. Rather is it
that which makes sin to be more hated, God to be more feared, Christ to
be more highly valued, the path of duty more clearly defined, which is what
we are to aim to.
“Whose faith follow.” This is the next duty we owe unto our spiritual
leaders. It is closely allied to the former: we are to so “remember” them as
to be effectually influenced in our own conduct. The word for “follow”
signifies to imitate: it is used again in
“For yourselves know ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not
ourselves disorderly among you” (

2 Thessalonians 3:7).
“It is such a following as wherein we are fully conformed unto, and
do lively express, that which we are said to follow. So a scholar
may be said to follow his master, when, having attained all his arts
and sciences, he acts them in the same manner as his master did. So
are we to follow the faith of these guides” (John Owen).
This is the greatest honor which we can do them, and is far more pleasing
to God than erecting a marble monument to their memory or dedicating
some “church” unto their name..293
“Whose faith follow.” There are many who sit more or less regularly under
the ministry of God’s servants, and they approve of their doctrine, admire
their courage, speak well of them, but they do not carry out their principles
or emulate their example. The whole force of this second exhortation is
that we are to so “remember” our leaders as to be thereby influenced unto
the living of a holy life. To “follow” their faith means to ponder their trust
in God and pray for an increase of your own. Recall to mind their
instructions, and continue thou in the profession and practice of the
doctrine they inculcated. Meditate upon their lives, and so far as their
works corresponded to their words, imitate their conduct. Copy their
virtues, and not their eccentricities.
“No mere man, not the best of men, is to be our pattern or example
absolutely, or in all things. This honor is due unto Christ alone”
(John Owen).
“Whose faith follow.” The appropriateness of this exhortation to the
situation in which the Hebrews were is also obvious. It is a spiritual
stimulus rightly to “remember” our former leaders, for it makes them, in a
sense, present again with us. The faculty to recall the past is not only a
Divine gift and mercy, but it entails definite responsibilities. As we recall
the testimony and toil of our ministers, their loyalty to Christ and
devotedness to our interests, we are to be suitably affected thereby. When
encountering opposition, we should remember the much fiercer persecution
others have suffered before us. When tempted to compromise and sell the
Truth, we should think upon the unswerving fidelity of our fathers in the
Faith. Should we ever be under heavy pressure to apostatize, we must
weigh well the fact that the principles of the faith of our former leaders
were adequate to sustain their hearts, so that they met death with holy
composure, and seek grace to “hold the beginning of our confidence
steadfast unto the end.”
Once more we would pause and notice the solemn implication of this word
to those of us who are ministers of the Gospel. Next to pleasing the Lord
Himself, our chief care should be to set before our flock such an example
of faith and holiness, as that it will be their duty to remember and follow.
This is not optional, but obligatory, for God has bidden each of His
servants
“be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in
love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (

1 Timothy 4:12);.294
and again,
“In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine
uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be
condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed,
having no evil thing to say of you” (

Titus 2:7, 8).
Alas, how many of the present-day preachers set an example which if
followed by their hearers would lead them to perdition. O for grace to let
our light
“so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and
glorify our Father which is in Heaven” (

Matthew 5:16).
“Considering the end of their conversation.” Here is the third part of our
duty toward those whom God has placed in spiritual authority over us. It
signifies to observe diligently and thoroughly, so as to have the heart
suitably affected thereby. The word for “considering” occurs again only in

Acts 17:23, namely, when Paul “beheld” the gods that the Athenians
worshipped, so that “his spirit was stirred in him” (verse 16)! Literally, the
term signifies “looking up to.” The Hebrews were to recall the
“conversation” of their deceased teachers, their manner of life, which was
one of testimony and toil, fidelity to Christ and love for the souls of His
people: a “conversation” of devoted service in the face of many
discouragements and much opposition, sustained by trust in the living God;
and the Hebrews were to ponder and take courage and comfort from the
blessed end or issue of the same.
Thus the three parts of this exhortation are intimately related. The leaders
were to be “remembered” in such a manner as to be effectually influenced
by the example they had left; they were to be “followed” because their
fidelity was Divinely rewarded with a victorious exit from this world. In the
last clause the apostle presented a powerful motive to stir up the saints to
the discharge of the duty previously described. Consider their “end” that
yours may morally resemble it: you must adhere to their doctrine and
imitate their practice if you are to receive the victor’s crown.
“Consider what it (their “end”) came to: their faith failed not, their
hope did not perish, they were not disappointed, but had a blessed
end of their walk and course” (John Owen)..295
Sometimes God permits His servants today to bear witness to the
sufficiency of the principles of the Gospel to support and comfort on a
deathbed.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (verse 8).
We will not now attempt to sermonize upon this well-known and precious
verse, but rather give a brief exposition of it. The first thing to ponder is
the particular book in which this declaration is made, for that throws light
on its scope and meaning. Hebrews is the epistle which treats specifically
and at length with the great alteration made by God in His dealings with
the Church on earth, the revolution which was introduced by the
substituting of the new covenant for the old, the passing away of Judaism
and the inauguration of Christianity. This had involved many changes of a
radical character, a great “shaking” and “removing” (

Hebrews 12:27) of
“that which decayeth and waxeth old, ready to vanish away”
(

Hebrews 8:13).
It is in view of that our present verse is to be interpreted and enjoyed. The
temple is destroyed, the ceremonial law is gone, the Levitical priesthood is
no more; but Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, the Mediator between
God and His people, abides unchanged..296
CHAPTER 112
THE HEART ESTABLISHED
(

HEBREWS 13:8, 9)
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever” (verse 8). Sir
Rob. Anderson and others regarded this as a declaration of the Savior’s
Godhead, arguing that “The Same” is a Divine title taken from

Psalm
102:27, etc. But why, it may be asked, should the apostle break his line of
thought and introduce a formal affirmation of Christ’s Deity in the midst of
a series of exhortations? Such an interpretation destroys the unity of the
passage. Moreover, there was no need for this, for the Redeemer’s
Godhead had been clearly and fully established in the opening chapter of
the epistle. Nor was there any special reason for Paul, at this point, to insist
upon the essential immutability of Christ, and that the translators of the
A.V. did not so understand him is evident from their declining to add the
auxiliary verb: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today,” etc.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.” These words,
as was intimated in the final paragraph of the preceding article, are not to
be taken absolutely, but are to be regarded relatively; that is to say, they
are not to be considered by themselves alone, but in connection with the
precise place they occupy in the Sacred Canon. Every statement of
Scripture is positioned by Divine wisdom, and often we miss an important
key to interpretation when ignoring the particular location of a passage.
The verse before us illustrates the special theme of the book in which it is
found. The subject of the Hebrews’ letter is the immeasurable superiority
of Christianity over Judaism, and here is further demonstration of the fact.
Under Judaism, Aaron had been followed by Eleazer, and he, by Eli; but
our great High Priest abides forever. Israel’s prophets followed each other
on the stage of action; but our Prophet had no successor. So too there had
been a long line of kings; but Zion’s King is eternal.
“The apostle speaks not of the person of Christ absolutely, but with
respect unto His office and His discharge of it: he declares who and
what He is therein. He is ‘the same’ in His Divine person: eternal,.297
immutable, indeficient. Being so in Himself, He is so in His office
from first to last. Although diverse alterations were made in the
institutions of Divine worship, and there were many degrees and
parts of Divine revelation (

Hebrews 1:1), yet in and through
them all, Jesus Christ was still the same. In every state of the
church, in every condition of believers, He is the same unto them,
and will be so unto the consummation of all things; He is, He ever
was, all in all unto the Church. He is the Object, the Author and
Finisher of faith, the Preserver and Rewarder of all them that
believe, and that equally in all generations” (Condensed from John
Owen).
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.” How
thoughtlessly is this statement received by many! How carelessly is its
setting ignored by most sermonizers! Were we to take this declaration
absolutely it would involve us in inextricable difficulties. Ponder its terms
for a moment. Did your Lord undergo no radical change when He became
incarnate? Did He experience no great change at His resurrection? During
the days of His flesh, He was “The Man of sorrows:” is He so now after
His ascension? — one has but to ask the question to perceive its absurdity.
This statement, then, is to be understood with certain limitations; or rather,
it is to be interpreted in the light of its setting, and for that, not a novice,
but an experienced expositor is required. Let us consider it, then, in
connection with its context.
First, as has already been pointed out, it most blessedly illustrated the
special theme of this epistle, for in contrast from so much that was mutable
and transitory in Judaism, the Author of Christianity abides essentially the
same in all generations.
Second, verse 8 supplies an additional and most powerful motive to
fidelity. Some of their spiritual guides had already passed away, and in
those still left, time and change would swiftly work their sure effects; but
the great Head of the Church remained, being alive for evermore. Jesus
Christ was the One who had supported their deceased leaders, who had
passed through their trials victoriously, and if trusted in, He would sustain
them, for He was the same gracious and powerful Shepherd of the sheep.
He is for you, as for them, “the same” Object of faith, “the same” all-sufficient
Savior, “the same” effectual Intercessor. He is “the same” in His.298
loving design and covenant faithfulness. Then cleave to Him with
unshakeable confidence.
Third, the blessed declaration of verse 8 lays a foundation on which to
base the exhortation which immediately follows.
“The only way by which we can persevere in the right faith is to
hold to the foundation, and not in the slightest degree depart from
it, for he who holds not to Christ knows nothing but mere vanity,
though he may comprehend heaven and earth” (John Calvin).
The Lord Jesus is the same, therefore, be ye not unstable and fickle. Christ
is the same teacher: His doctrine does not vary, His will does not fluctuate,
nor His purpose alter; therefore should we remain steadfast in the Truth,
shunning novelties and refusing all innovations. It is only by “holding the
Head” (

Colossians 2:19), submitting to His will, receiving His doctrine,
obeying His precepts, that we shall be fortified against false teachers and
persevere unto the end.
Thus, verses 7-9 are intimately related and together form a complete
hortatory passage: so far as we have light thereon, we understand them to
mean: Hold fast to the testimony of your former leaders, for they proved
the sufficiency of the Truth they proclaimed; Christian doctrine does not
vary from day to day, for Jesus Christ is ever the same. The designation
used of Him at once intimates that He is not here contemplated so much as
the second Person in the Godhead, as the Mediator and Head of the
Church. He is the same in His identity (

Revelation 5:6), the same in His
offices, the same in His efficacy, the same in His will; therefore must we
refuse to be led away by those who teach anything different. The whole
passage is a strong dissuasion against vacillation. The Truth is fixed; the
Gospel is everlasting, therefore should we be
“steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”
(

1 Corinthians 15:58).
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines: for it is a
good thing that the heart be established with grace: not with meats,
which have not profited them that have been occupied therein”
(verse 9).
This is the point to which the apostle had been leading in the previous
verses: trust in Christ, and cleave to Him according to the instruction you.299
have received from your fathers in the Faith, and give not ear unto those
who would unsettle and seduce you. “Divers doctrines” are those which
differ from pure Christianity; “strange” doctrines are those which are
foreign or opposed to the Gospel. To be carried “about” by such is for the
mind to be unsettled thereby, producing an unsteadiness of conduct. To be
immune from this evil the heart has to be established with grace, which,
because of its deep importance, calls for a careful inquiry thereinto. “Not
with meats” has reference to the efforts of the Judaisers to graft the
ceremonial law on to the Gospel, a thing utterly unprofitable, yea, baneful.
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” It is to be duly
noted that the noun is in the plural number. This is in marked and designed
contrast from the revelation which God has given us. Truth is a perfect
unit, but error is multiform. There is but “one faith,” as there is but “one
Lord” (

Ephesians 4:5), namely, that which was once for all delivered to
the saints (Jude 3) in the revelation made of it by Christ and the apostles
(

Hebrews 2:3, 4). Hence, when the Truth is in view, it is always
“doctrine” in the singular number, as “the doctrine” (

John 7:17), “the
doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9) and see

Romans 16:17;

1 Timothy
4:16 etc. On the other hand, where error is referred to the plural number is
employed, as in “doctrines of men” (

Colossians 2:22), “doctrines of
demons” (

1 Timothy 4:1). The Truth of God is one uniform system and
chain of doctrine, which begins in God and ends in Him; but error is
inconsistent and manifold.
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” The very fact that
this dehortation was not only given verbally by the apostles to the
Christians of their own day, but is also preserved in the written Word of
God, clearly intimates that the people of God will always have to contend
against error unto the end of time. Christ Himself declared,
“Take heed that no man deceive you: for many shall come in My
name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (

Matthew
24:4, 5);
and the last of His apostles wrote
“try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false
prophets are gone out into the world” (

1 John 4:1).
How unfeignedly thankful we should be that God has put into our hands an
unfailing plummet by which we may measure every preacher and teacher..300
The doctrine of Christ changes not, and whatever proceeds not from it and
accords not with it, is alien to the faith of the Church and is to be refused
and rejected.
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” As this
dehortation concerned the Hebrew saints the reference was, of course, to
the Mosaic institutions, as the remainder of our verse denotes: “for it is a
good thing that the heart be established with grace: not with meats, which
have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” The Levitical law
made distinctions of meats, and things of a like nature, which the false
teachers were pressing with much zeal. It is plain from such passages as

Romans 14:13-23, 1 Corinthians 8, Galatians 4, etc., that determined
efforts were being made by the Enemy to corrupt the Gospel by attaching
to it parts of the ceremonialism of Judaism. When Paul says “which have
not profited them that have been occupied therein” he referred not to the
O.T. saints who had obeyed the Mosaic precepts, but to those who heeded
the errorists of his day.
The principle expressed in this dissuasion is as applicable to and as much
needed by the saints of each succeeding generation as it was by those
Hebrews. It is one of the marks of the Fall that man is fonder of that which
is material in religion, than he is of what is spiritual; he is most prone —
as history universally and sadly shows — to concentrate on trivialities
rather than upon essentials. He is more concerned about the details of
ordinances than he is of getting his heart established with grace. He will
lend a readier ear to novel “doctrines” than to a solid exposition of the
fundamentals of the Faith. He will contend zealously for things which
contribute nothing to his salvation nor conduce an iota unto true holiness.
And the only sure way of being delivered from this evil tendency, and of
being preserved from false doctrines, is to buy the Truth and sell it not, and
to have the heart established with grace.
“For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.” What is
denoted by this weighty expression? First, what is it for the heart to be
“established” and then how it is so established “with grace”? An established
heart is the opposite from one which is “carried about,” which term is used
again in,
“that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and
carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men”
(

Ephesians 4:14)..301
It is a poetic expression in allusion to sailing-ships and the impression of
the wind upon them. The figure is apt, and suggestive of the nature of
strange doctrines, the way in which they are spread, and their effects on the
minds of men. In themselves they are light and vain, “clouds which hold no
water” (Jude 12): there is nothing solid and substantial in them for the soul.
Those who would impose such doctrines on others, generally do so with
much bombast and blustering; unless we believe and practice such things,
we are denounced as heretics and unsaved (

Acts 15:1). The unlearned
and unstable are disturbed by them, carried out of their course, and are in
danger of making shipwreck of their faith. Hence, an “established heart” is
one which is rooted and grounded in the Truth, securely anchored in
Christ, rejoicing in God.
The word “grace” is vastly comprehensive and has various meanings in its
Scripture usage. Its grand, original, fundamental signification is to express
the free, eternal, and sovereign layout of God toward His people, for that
is the spring and source of all the gifts, benefits and blessings we receive
from Him. From this infinite fountain of the uncaused favor and special
love of God — which is the “good pleasure of His (immutable) will” —
proceed all the acts of His grace toward, in, and upon the elect.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not
according to our works, but according to His own purpose and
grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”
(

2 Timothy 1:9).
From that blessed ocean of grace proceed our personal and unconditional
election in Christ, our union unto Him, interest in Him, relation to Him,
together with our being blessed in Him with all spiritual blessings
(

Ephesians 1:3-6). We read of “the grace of God and the gift by grace”
(

Romans 5:15): the former of which must mean the favor of God in His
own heart towards us, in distinction from all the favors He bestows upon
us; while the latter signifies the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, as
flowing from the original grace in God.
The operations, breathings, and influences of the Holy Spirit in quickening,
enlightening, revealing and applying Christ to us, so that we are put into
actual enjoyment of Him and His salvation, are the outworkings of the
everlasting Covenant of Grace; therefore it is all of grace. The next most
common use of the term is inherent or indwelling grace, being used to
designate that supernatural work which is wrought in the Christian at his.302
regeneration, whereby he is made alive Godwards and is given a relish for
spiritual things: such passages as “He giveth more grace” (

James 4:6),
and “grow in grace” (

2 Peter 3:18) have respect to grace in the heart.
Then too the whole system of doctrine comprehended by “the Gospel” is
so designated, for when Paul said to the Galatians, “Whosoever of you are
justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace” (

Hebrews 5:4) he meant
they had forsaken the truth of grace. Among the less frequent uses of the
term we may note that its transforming effects age themselves called
“grace” (

Acts 11:23); gifts for preaching beal’ the title of “grace” (

2
Corinthians 6:1), as do those virtues wrought in us by the Spirit (

2
Corinthians 12:9, 10).
“For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.” By “grace”
in this verse we understand, first, the doctrine of grace, that is, the truth of
God’s free favor without us, in His own heart towards us, which is made
known to us in the Gospel (

Acts 20:24). Concerning this we read,
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all
men” (

Titus 2:11)
i.e. it has been revealed in His Gospel. The doctrine of grace is also styled,
“wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
the doctrine which is according to godliness” (

1 Timothy 6:3).\
The doctrine of grace includes all that sacred system of theology, all the
fundamentals of the everlasting Gospel of the blessed God, that grand
“mystery” of His mind and will which sets forth to us the complete counsel
and covenant of the Eternal Three, the record of God concerning His Son,
by which He declares that “he that believeth hath everlasting life.”
As the whole of the Gospel, with the great salvation contained in it, and the
blessings, consolations, privileges and promises of it, were fully, freely, and
impartially preached by the apostles, so it was attended with the Holy
Spirit sent down from Heaven to the minds and hearts of many who heard
it, so that they were brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord, and to a
true and actual closure with Him, by means of the Word of Truth. The
doctrine of grace as proclaimed by God’s accredited servants, and as
clothed with the power of the Spirit, is the Divinely appointed means of
turning the elect from darkness unto light, from power of Satan into the
kingdom of God’s dear Son (

Acts 26:18). Their understandings are
illumined to know from the Gospel that it is God’s will to save them.303
through the appointed Redeemer, and they are enabled to personally realize
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Second, it is most important and blessed for the heart to be “established”
with inherent grace: a fact which every one born of God must more or less
know and feel. Where the Holy Spirit of God dwells, there sin is known in
its guilt and felt in its power, while the effects of the Fall on all the faculties
of the soul are experienced. When the Spirit has revealed the super-excellency
of Christ, His all-sufficiency as a Savior, His suitableness as
such, this begets some longings after Him, thirstings for Him, desires to be
found in Him, and high prizings of His blood and righteousness. But many
there are who, though quickened and called of God, have not yet closed in
with Christ, cannot say He died for them, ‘know not that their sins are
pardoned. The Spirit has thus far wrought with them that they feel
themselves to be vile sinners, justly deserving of the wrath of God; yet they
cannot affirm that their names are written in Heaven.
They are emptied of all creature dependency and self-sufficiency. Their
hearts are broken and humbled with a true and thorough sight and sense of
sin. They have heard of Christ, and of His infinite tenderness and
compassion, love and mercy, to sinners like themselves. The Lord the
Spirit has brought them so far as to listen attentively to the preaching of
the Gospel and the searching of the Scriptures. Though they may be as
bruised reeds and smoking flax, incapable of expressing their wants to
God, or of describing their case to others, yet they find in the preaching of
Christ crucified that which suits them. Though they cannot yet confidently
say of Him “who loved me and gave Himself for me,” nevertheless they
wait on Him in his ordinances, longing for Him to arise upon them as the
Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings. And though such may be
called “seekers only,” “inquirers after Christ,” yet they are blessed:
“Blessed are all they that wait for Him” (

Isaiah 30:18); “let the heart of
them rejoice that seek the Lord” (

1 Chronicles 16:10). Upon such
persons the Lord, in His good time, causes His light of grace to break forth
more clearly, shining within them, causing their spiritual faculties to
expand, and be exercised more particularly upon “the mystery of the
Gospel” (

Ephesians 6:19) and the doctrine of grace. Thereby their
spiritual “senses” (

Hebrews 5:14) are brought to taste the sweetness of
Divine truth, to have a heart relish of it, to derive nourishment from it, to
perceive its spiritual excellency. In receiving and digesting it, they are
brought to find the doctrine of God’s free grace to be wholesome and.304
sustaining. By this means they are “nourished up” (

1 Timothy 4:6) unto
everlasting life. It is thus the Lord carries on His work in the souls of His
people. At regeneration they are filled with joy in Him, and sin is but little
felt within. But as the work of grace is deepened, they are made to see and
feel their depravity, and their peace is clouded by increasing discoveries of
their vileness, which makes way for a growing appreciation of grace.
Inherent grace, then, is a new nature or holy principle implanted by the
Spirit at the new birth. It consists in spiritual perceptions, inward
apprehensions, spiritual affections, in the souls of those who are born of
God, whereby they are fitted for Him and Divine things, enabled to take
holy delight in God, to have holy breathings after Him, to hunger and thirst
after righteousness, to yearn for a consciousness of Christ’s presence, to
have a spiritual appetite to feed upon Him as the Bread of Life. Thus, it is
most profitable for the saint to have his heart established with inherent
grace, for he is the personal subject of it, and it is for this reason that God’s
people in general are so fond of experimental preaching — the tracing out
of the work of the Spirit in their hearts — thereby enabling them to set to
their seal that God is true, that He has thus far wrought in them to the
praise and glory of His grace.
Nor is there any legality in this, for the work of the Spirit, in all its parts
and phases, flows as freely from the Covenant of grace as does the work of
Christ. Yea, we are expressly said to be
“saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
Spirit” (

Titus 3:5),
which is thus expressed to show that salvation depends equally upon the
distinct offices which the Eternal Three are engaged in on behalf of the
elect. It is helpful to converse at times with such as are experimentally
acquainted with God, and His Son Jesus Christ, and who hold communion
with Him by the Holy Spirit. Genuine Christian experience consists
principally in this: the Spirit is pleased to open the Scriptures unto us,
making them the ground of our faith, giving us to feel their power, making
the experience described in them our own, revealing Christ as set forth in
the Word to us, and filling our hearts with His love agreeably to what is
revealed of it in the Gospel.
The people of God need to be taught and brought to an acquaintance with
the real work of God within them, with His method of strengthening and.305
comforting them, that they may learn the grounds of spiritual assurance.
There is a needs be that the heart be established with grace as it respects
their ascertaining for themselves that a supernatural work is actually
wrought within them, that Christ is in them the hope of glory, that they
“know the grace of God in truth” (

Colossians 1:6), and that their
works are “wrought in God” (

John 3:21) as Christ expressed it. Let us
therefore diligently study the work of the Spirit within us, comparing it
with the written Word, and carefully distinguishing between natural and
spiritual affections, moral refinements and supernatural regeneration. Nor
let us forget that the grace of God within us is only discovered to us as the
Spirit shines upon His own work in our souls.
It is also good for the heart to be established with the grace as it respects
the doctrine of it: in the belief of the Father’s everlasting love, the Son’s
complete salvation, and the Spirit’s testimony thereof, which strengthens
the faith and confirms the hope of the Christian. Confidence before God
can be maintained on no other foundation than that of His grace. There are
seasons when the believer’s mind is filled with distress, when the guilt of
sin presses heavily on his conscience, when Satan is allowed to buffet him;
then it is that he is forced to cry “have respect to the Covenant” (

Psalm
74:20). There are seasons when he cannot pray except with groanings that
cannot be uttered, being cast down with soul burdens and conflicts, but
they only serve to prove to him the deep need of his heart being established
with the truth of grace.
Thus, for the heart to be “established with grace” signifies, first, the
doctrine of God’s free grace without us, in His own heart toward us; and
second, the blessed operations of the Spirit within us. When God’s free-grace
salvation is brought home to the heart by the Spirit, it produces
blessed fruits and consequences in the person to whom it becomes “the
power of God” (

Romans 1:16). It is of vast importance to hold forth a
clear profession of the doctrine of grace, and it is of incalculable worth to
be able to declare a genuine work of grace wrought in the heart by the
Spirit agreeably to the truth we profess. The doctrine of grace is the means,
in the hands of the Spirit, of begetting faith, promoting its growth, and
supporting it. Therefore there is a real need of God’s everlasting love and
Christ’s finished redemption being preached, though they be already
known, and their power felt in the heart, because our walk with God and
our confidence in Him receive all their encouragement therefrom..306
While it is certain that the head must be enlightened with the knowledge of
Truth before the heart can experience the virtue and efficacy of it, yet our
text speaks of “the heart” so as to emphasize the quickening and operative
power of Divine truth, when it is embraced and maintained in the soul. It is
good for the heart to be established with grace, for it promotes the
believer’s spiritual growth, secures his well-being, and greatly contributes
to his comfort. It is also a preservative against error, an antidote against
unbelief, and a choice cordial to revive the soul in seasons of distress.
N.B. For much in the second half of this chapter we are indebted to a valuable
sermon by S. E. Pierce..307
CHAPTER 113
THE CHRISTIAN’S ALTAR
(

HEBREWS 13:10)
There is a saying that “a man usually finds what he is looking for,” and
there is a sense in which that principle holds good of not a little consulting
of the Scriptures. Various kinds of people approach the Scriptures with the
object of finding something in them which will countenance their ideas, and
no matter how foolish and far-fetched those ideas may be, they generally
succeed in locating that which with some degree of plausibility supports
them — that is why the scoffer will often counter a quotation from God’s
Word with, “O you can prove anything from the Bible.” It matters not to
those who are determined to procure “proof” for their vagaries, that they
“wrest the Scriptures” (

2 Peter 3:16) either by detaching a sentence
from its context and giving it a meaning quite contrary to its setting, or by
interpreting literally that which is figurative, or giving a figurative meaning
to that which is literal.
Not only does practically every professedly Christian sect make a show of
producing Scriptural warrant for its peculiar beliefs and practices, so that
Universalists, Annihilationalists, Seventh-day Adventists, quote a list of
texts in proof of their errors, but others who do not claim to be “Christian”
appeal to the Bible in support of their delusions. It would probably surprise
some of our readers did they know how artfully (but wickedly) Spiritists
juggle with Holy Writ, appearing to adduce not a little in favor of
clairvoyance, clairaudience, trance-speaking, etc., while Theosophists have
the affrontery to say that reincarnation is plainly taught in the Bible; all of
which goes to show how fearfully fallen man may abuse God’s mercies and
profane that which is most sacred.
Nor are Romanists any exception. It is commonly supposed that they have
very little concern for Scripture, buttressing their superstitions by an appeal
to tradition and ancient customs. It is true that the rank and the of the
Papists are deprived of the Scriptures, and are satisfied with “the authority
of the church,” as sufficient justification for all they believe and do, but it is.308
a big mistake to suppose that her officers are incapable of making a
Scriptural defense of their positions. The writer of this article discovered
that more than a quarter of a century ago, in his first pastorate. Situated in
a mining-camp in Colorado, the only other “minister” in the country was a
Romish priest, with whom we got acquainted. He volunteered to give us
Scripture for every Popish dogma and practice, and when we put him to
the test (as we did, again and again), we were amazed and awed by the
subtle manner in which he mis-”appropriated” the Word. It was then we
learned the uselessness of “arguing” about Divine things.
The above thoughts have been suggested by the opening words of our
present passage: “We have an altar.” Most fearfully has this clause been
perverted by those who have given it a meaning and put it to a use wholly
foreign to the design of the Spirit in the passage from which it is taken.
Deceived by the mere sound of words, the affirmation has been boldly
made that not only did the Israelites in O.T. times have a literal and
material altar, but that “we,” Christians, also “have,” by Divine
appointment, “an altar,” that is, a material one of wood and stone, and
hence the “altar” and “high altar” in many “protestant churches.” But an
altar calls for a sacrifice, and hence the invention of “the mass” or “un-bloody
sacrifice of the flesh and blood of Christ” offered by the priests.
Many who do not go thus far, insist that the table used for the celebration
of the Lord’s supper should be designated “an altar,” and suppose that our
text authorizes them therein.
That such a conception as the one we have just mentioned is utterly
groundless and erroneous may quickly be demonstrated. In the first place,
whatever be signified by the “altar” in our passage, it is manifestly opposed
to, set in contrast from, the visible and material altar of Judaism, so much
so that they who officiated at the latter were debarred from feasting on the
former. In the second place, the Jewish altar, like everything else in the
tabernacle, was a shadow or type, and surely it would be placing a severe
strain upon the imagination to conclude that the brazen altar of old was but
a figure of a table now used in our “churches”! Third, sufficient has been
advanced by the apostle in the preceding chapters to make it unmistakably
plain that Christ Himself — in His person, office, and sacrificial work — is
the antitype and substance of all the tabernacle types! Finally, the Spirit
Himself has made it quite clear that our “altar” is a spiritual one, and that
the “sacrifice” we are to offer thereon is a spiritual one: see verse 15..309
“We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve
the tabernacle” (verse 10).
In seeking to ascertain the meaning of this verse, which has needlessly
perplexed and been made the occasion of much profitless controversy, it
will greatly simplify the expositor’s task if he bears in mind that the primary
aim of the Spirit throughout this epistle is to set forth the transcendent
excellency of Christ over all persons through whom God had, in times past,
spoken unto men, and in the vast superiority of His office and work over
all the institutions which had foreshadowed them under the old covenant.
As the incarnate Son, He is infinitely above all prophets and angels
(chapters 1 and 2). Moses, “the servant in the house of God” retires before
the presence of Christ “the Son over His own house” (chapter 3). So in
regard to all the Mosaic institutions: Christ fulfills everything which they
prefigured.
This is quite an elementary truth, yet is it one of basic importance, for error
at this point produces most pernicious and fatal consequences. The entire
system of worship that Jehovah appointed for Israel was of a typical
character, and the reality and substance of it is now found in Christ. He is
“the great High Priest” of whom the priests under the law, Aaron himself
not excepted, were but faint adumbrations. His very body is “the greater
and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands” (9:11). His was the
sacrifice which fully and forever accomplished that which all the Levitical
offerings proclaimed as necessary to redemption, but the repetition of
which clearly testified they had never effected. In like manner, Christ is the
grand Antitype of all the sacred vessels of the tabernacle: He is the true
Brazen-altar, Laver, Golden-altar of incense, Candlestick, Table of
shrewbread, Mercyseat, and Ark of the Covenant.
That the Lord Jesus is Himself the antitype of “the altar of burnt offering”
appears by comparing two of His own declarations:
“Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that
sanctifieth the gift?” (

Matthew 23:19);
“And for their sakes I sanctify Myself” (

John 17:19).
Both “the altar that sanctifieth the gift” and “the gift” itself meet in Him —
just as both the officiating priest and the sacrifice which he offered find
their fulfillment in Him. It seems strange that some able writers have quite
missed the point of

Matthew 23:19 when dealing with its fulfillment and.310
realization in the Lord Jesus. They have made “the altar” to be the wooden
cross to which the Savior was nailed, and that mistake has laid the
foundation for a more serious error. No, “the altar” on which “the gift”
was laid pointed to the Divine dignity of Christ’s glorious person, and it
was that which gave infinite worth to His sacrifice. It was for this reason
the Spirit dwelt at such length upon the unique glory of Christ’s person in
the earlier chapters of this epistle, before He opened to us His sacrificial
work.
What has just been pointed out above supplies the key to many a lovely
O.T. type. For instance, we are told that
“Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean
beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the
altar” (

Genesis 8:20).
Very blessed is that. The first act of Noah as he came forth from the ark on
to the purified earth was not to build a house for himself, but to erect that
which spoke of the person of Christ — for in all things He must have the
pre-eminence. On that altar Noah expressed his thanksgiving by presenting
his burnt offerings, teaching us that it is only by Christ we can acceptably
present to God our sacrifice of praise (

Hebrews 13:15). And we are
told that Noah’s offering was “a sweet savor unto the Lord,” and then we
read “and God blessed Noah and his sons” (

Genesis 9:1), for all
blessing comes to us through Christ.
“And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I
give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who
appeared unto him” (

Genesis 12:7).
That was equally blessed. This was the first act of Abraham after he had
left Chaldea, and then Haran where his progress had been delayed for a
season, and had now actually entered Canaan. The Lord appeared to him
here, as He had first done in Ur, and made promise of the land unto him
and his seed; and his response was to set up an altar. And again we read
“and he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of
Bethel, and pitched his tent between Bethel on the west, and Hai on
the east; and there he builded an altar unto the Lord”
(

Genesis 12:8)..311
How significant! Bethel means “the house of God,” while Hai signifies “a
heap of ruins.” It was between them that Abram pitched his tent —
emblematic of the pilgrim character of the saint while in this world, and
erected his altar — symbol of his dependence upon and worship of God. It
was to this same altar he returned after his failure in going down into
Egypt:

Genesis 13:3, 4.
Of Isaac we read,
“And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the
Lord” (

Genesis 26:25).
How beautifully that brings out another aspect of our type: here the “altar”
is the place of prayer, for it is only in the name of Christ — the antitype of
the altar — that we can present our petitions acceptably to God. Of Jacob
we read,
“And he erected there an altar, and called it God, the God of Israel”
(

Genesis 33:20).
That was immediately after his Divine deliverance from Esau and his four
hundred men — inti-mating that it is in and by Christ the believer is
eternally secure. Of Moses we read, that he
“built an altar, and called the name of it the Lord my Banner”
(

Exodus 17:15).
That was after Israel’s victory over the Amalekites — denoting that it is
only by Christ that believers can overcome their spiritual enemies.
“And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in
the morning, and builded an altar under the hill” (

Exodus 24:4)
— only by Christ is the Law magnified and honored.
But it is more especially upon the brazen altar in the tabernacle that our
attention needs to be concentrated. A description of it is supplied in

Exodus 27:1-8, though other passages should be carefully compared.
This altar occupied a place of first importance among the seven pieces of
the furniture in the tabernacle, for it was not only the largest of them all —
being almost big enough to hold the others — but it was placed “before the
door” (

Exodus 40:6), just inside the outer court (

Exodus 40:33),
and would thus be the first object to meet the eye of the worshipper as he.312
entered the sacred precincts. It was made of wood, but overlaid with brass,
so that it could withstand the action of fire, which was burning continually
upon it (

Leviticus 6:13). To it the sinner came with his Divinely-appointed
sacrifice, wherein the innocent was slain in the place of the
guilty. At this altar the high priest officiated on the great day of atonement
(Leviticus 16).
The brazen altar was the way of approach to God, for it was there that the
Lord promised to meet His people: “There I will meet with the children of
Israel” (

Exodus 29:43): how that reminds us of the Savior’s declaration
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the
Father, but by Me” (

John 14:6)!
This altar was really the basis of the whole Levitical system, for on it the
burnt offering, meal offering, peace offering, and sin offering were
presented to God. Blood was put upon its horns, sprinkled upon it, round
about it, and poured out at its base. It was the chief connecting-link
between the people and Jehovah, they being so identified with it that
certain parts of the offerings there presented to Him were eaten by them,
and hence we read
“Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the
sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (

1 Corinthians 10:18).
This was an altar for all Israel — and for none else! — and their jealousy
was promptly stirred if anything seemed to interfere with it. A striking
illustration of this is found in Joshua 22. There we read that the two and a
half tribe’s whose inheritance lay on the far side of Jordan erected an altar
— “a great altar to see to” (verse 10). When the other tribes heard of this,
they were greatly alarmed and severely censured them, for it appeared to
deny the unity of the Nation and to be a rival unto the altar for all the
people. They were only satisfied when the Reubenites assured them that
they had not built this altar by the Jordan to offer sacrifices thereon, but for
a witness (verse 27), declaring, “God forbid that we should rebel against
the Lord, and turn this day from following the Lord, to build an altar for
burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, besides the altar of the
Lord our God that is before His tabernacle’’ (verse 29).
We may see again the prominent place which was given to the altar by
Israel in the days of Ezra, for when they returned from the captivity, it was.313
the first thing they set up — thus signifying they could not approach God
or be connected with Him on any other ground.
“Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the
priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and
builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings
thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God”
(

Ezra 3:2).
In view of its significance, its importance, its hallowed associations, one
can readily imagine what it meant to a converted Jew to abandon the altar
of Judaism. Unto his unbelieving brethren he would necessarily appear as a
renegade of his fathers, an apostate from God, and a fool to himself. Their
taunt would be, In turning your back upon Judaism you have lost
everything: you have no altar! Why, you are worse off than the wretched
Samaritans, for they do have a place and system of worship on mount
Gerizim: whereas vou Christians have nothing! But here the apostle turns
the tables upon them: he affirms that not only do we “have an altar,” but it
was one which those who still identified themselves with the temple and its
services had no right to. In turning from Judaism to Christ the believing
Hebrew had left the shadow for the substance, the figure for the reality;
whereas those who despised and rejected Christ merely had that which was
become “weak and beggarly elements” (

Galatians 4:9).
The sad failure of the great mass of the Jews, under the Gospel-preaching
of the apostles, to turn their affections unto things above, where Christ had
passed within the veil, and their stubbornness in clinging to the tangible
system at Jerusalem, was something more than a peculiarity of that nation
— it exemplified the universal fondness of man for that which is material
in religion, and his disrelish of that which is strictly spiritual. In Judaism
there was much that was addressed to the sense, herein too lies the power
and secret of Rome’s success: the strength of its appeal to the natural man
lies in its sensuous show. Though Christians have no visible manifestation
of the Divine glory on earth to which they may draw near when they
worship, they do have access to the Throne of Grace in Heaven; but it is
only the truly regenerate who prefer the substance to the shadow.
“We have an altar.” Our altar, unlike that of Judaism, is inside the veil:
“whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus” (

Hebrews 6:20),
after that He had appeared here upon earth to put away sin by the sacrifice
of Himself. To the Christian comes the blessed exhortation,.314
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by
the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath
consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and
having a High Priest, over the house of God, let us draw near with
a true heart in full assurance of faith” (

Hebrews 10:19-22).
What a marvel of mercy, what a wonder of grace that poor fallen sinners,
through faith in Christ’s blood, may come into the presence of God
without a fear! On the ground of Christ’s infinite merits, such are welcome
there. The presence of Christ on High is the proof that our sins have been
put away, and in the joyous consciousness thereof we may approach God
as worshippers.
But the special aspect in which our text sets forth Christ as “the altar” of
His people, is to present Him as the One who furnishes them with that
spiritual meat which is needed for nourishment and sustenance in their
worship and service. The apostle had just said, “Be not carried about with
divers and strange doctrines: for it is a good thing that the heart be
established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that
have been occupied therein” (verse 9), and when he now adds “we have an
altar,” his obvious meaning is: we have in Christ the true altar, which
supplies us with “grace,” that better food which really establishes the heart
before God. In other words, the Holy Spirit here explains and declares the
fulfillment of those words of Christ
“My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed: he that
eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in
him” (

John 6:55, 56).
Let us now consider our verse a little closer in the light of its immediate
context: that there is an intimate connection between them is obvious, for
in verse 9 the apostle had spoken of “meats” and here he still refers to
“eating”! Of the one he had affirmed they “profited not,” concerning the
latter he mentions those who have “no right” thereto. Over against the
“meats which profited not” he had set that “grace” which establishes the
heart, and now he contrasts “the altar” from the defunct figures of Judaism.
As we have shown in the preceding article, to have the heart “established
with grace” signifies two things: first, to be weaned from self-righteousness
and creature dependence as to clearly apprehend that salvation from start
to finish is of the unmerited and unconditional favor of God; second, to
have the Spirit so shine upon His work within that as we diligently examine.315
the same and carefully compare it with the experience of saints as described
in the Scriptures, we may be definitely assured that we are born of God.
Having affirmed the vast superiority of the heart being established with
grace over being occupied with “meats” — which expression referred
directly to the Mosaical distinctions between clean and unclean articles of
diet, but in its wider signification was a part put for the whole ceremonial
system — the apostle now declares that the Christian is provided with far
more excellent food for the soul. The striking force of this is only apparent
by a careful study of the Levitical types and by closely following the
apostle’s argument in the verses which immediately succeed our text. The
Jewish altar had not only typed out Christ offering Himself as a sacrifice to
God for the sins of His people, but it had also foreshadowed Him as the
life-sustenance of the true worshippers of God. How remarkably full were
the O.T. types, and how much we lose by ignoring the same and confining
our reading to the N.T. — no wonder so much in Hebrews seems to be
obscure and of little interest to the Gentile.
Of many of the offerings which were laid on the tabernacle altar only parts
of them were consumed by the fire, the remaining portions being reserved
as food for the priests, or for the offerer and his friends — this food being
regarded as particularly sacred, and the eating of it as a great religious
privilege. For instance, we read,
“This is the law of the meal offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it
before the Lord, before the altar. And he shall take of it his handful,
of the flour of the meal offering, and of the oil thereof, and all the
frankincense which is upon the meal offering, and shall burn it upon
the altar for a sweet savor, the memorial of it, unto the Lord. And
the remainder thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: with
unleavened bread shall it be eaten in the holy place” (

Leviticus
6:14-16).
“This is the law of the trespass offering: it is most holy…. Every male
among the priests shall eat thereof….
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving
shall be eaten the same day that it is offered” (

Leviticus
7:1,6,15)
“And the Lord said unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the
charge of Mine heave offerings… In the most holy place shalt thou.316
eat it: every male shall eat it; it shall be holy unto thee”
(

Numbers 18:8-10).
But the Christian has spiritual food far more holy and precious than any
Israelite ever had, or even Aaron the high priest was permitted to taste.
Christ is our food, the “Bread of life” to our souls. He is not only our
sacrifice but our sustenance; He has not only propitiated God, but He is the
nourishment of His people. It is true that we should by faith, feed upon
Him when remembering His death in the way appointed, yet there is no
reference in our text to “the Lord’s supper,” nor is “the Lord’s table” ever
called an “altar” in Scripture. Moreover it is our blessed privilege to feed
upon Christ not only at “Communion seasons,” but constantly. And herein
appears again the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism.
Israel according to the flesh partook only of the symbols, whereas we have
the Reality. They had only certain parts of the offerings — as it were the
crumbs from God’s table; whereas we feed with Him on the fatted calf
itself. They ate of the sacrifices only occasionally, whereas Christ is our
daily food.
“We have an altar,” namely, Christ, and He is the only altar which God
owns, and the only one which must be recognized by us. For almost
nineteen centuries — since God employed the Romans to destroy
Jerusalem — the Jews have been without an altar, and are so to this day.
For Romanists to invent an altar, and make it both the foundation and
center of their entire idolatrous system, is the height of presumption, and a
fearful insult to Christ and the sufficiency of His sacrifice. If those “which
serve the tabernacle” — they who continued officiating at Jerusalem in the
days when the apostle wrote this epistle — had “no right” to “eat” of the
Christian’s altar, that is, enjoy and derive benefit from the person and
sacrifice of Christ, then, how much less have the pope and his satellites any
title to the benefits of Christ while they so wickedly usurp His place and
prerogative. That the Lord Jesus Himself is our “altar” as well as
interceding High Priest also appears from,
“Another angel (Christ as ‘the Angel of the Covenant’) came and
stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto
Him much incense, that He should offer it with the prayers of all
saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne”
(

Revelation 8:3)!.317
CHAPTER 114
CHRIST OUR SIN OFFERING
(

HEBREWS 13:11, 12)
In the verses at which we have now arrived the apostle once more sets
before us the O.T. shadow and the N.T. substance, which emphasizes the
importance and necessity of diligently comparing one portion of the
Scriptures with another, and particularly those sections which record those
ordinances that God gave unto Israel wherein the person, office and work
of His Son were so vividly, so blessedly, and so fully foreshadowed. The
study of the types, when conducted soberly and reverently, yields a rich
return. Its evidential value is of great worth, for it affords an unmistakable
demonstration of the Divine authorship of the Scriptures, and when the
Holy Spirit is pleased to reveal bow that type and antitype fit in to each
other more perfectly than hand and glove, then the hidden harmony of the
different parts of the Word is unveiled to us: the minute analogies, the
numerous points of agreement between the one and the other, make it
manifest that one presiding Mind controlled the whole.
The comparing of type with antitype also brings out the wondrous unity of
the Scriptures, showing that beneath incidental diversity there has ever
been an essential oneness in God’s dealings with His people. Nothing so
convincingly exposes the principal error of the Dispensationalists than this
particular branch of study. The immediate design and use of the types was
to exhibit unto God’s people under the old covenant those vital and
fundamental elements of Truth which are common alike to all
dispensations, but which have received their plainest discovery under the
new covenant. By means of material symbols a fitting portrayal was made
of things to come, suitably paving the way for their introduction. The
ultimate spiritual realities appeared first only in prospect or existed but in
embryo. Under the Levitical instructions God caused there to be shadowed
forth in parabolic representation the whole work of redemption by means
of a vivid appeal to the senses: “The law having a shadow of good things
to come” (

Hebrews 10:1)..318
The passage just quoted warrants the assertion that a spiritual study of the
O.T. types also affords a valuable aid to the interpretation of much in the
N.T. Just as the doctrine expounded in the Epistles rests upon and is
illustrated by the central facts recorded in the Gospels, so much in both
Gospels and Epistles can only be fully appreciated in the light of the O.T.
Scriptures. It is to be deplored that so many Christians find the second half
of Exodus and the whole of Leviticus little more than a record of
meaningless and effete ceremonial rites. If the preacher would take his
“illustrations” of Gospel truths from the types, (instead of searching secular
history for “suitable anecdotes”), he would not only honor the Scriptures,
but stir up and direct the interest of his spiritual hearers in those portions of
the Word now so generally neglected. Christ is set forth as conspicuously
in Leviticus as He is in John’s Gospel, for “in the volume of the Book” it is
written of Him.
The pity is that many of the more sober-minded and spiritual among God’s
people have been prejudiced against the study of the types, and the
valuable use of them in interpreting the N.T., by the untimely efforts of
unqualified novices. The types were never designed by the Holy Spirit to
provide a field in which young men might give free play to their
imagination, or exercise their carnal ingenuity so as to bring out a mystical
meaning to the most prosaic facts, and startle their unlearned hearers by
giving to trifles a farfetched significance. The wild allegorizing of Origen in
the past should serve as a lasting warning. There are essential principles
and fixed rules of interpreting the types which are never to be ignored. The
interpreter must concentrate his attention upon central truths and basic
principles, and not occupy his thoughts with petty agreements and fanciful
analogies. The central and all-important subjects exemplified in the types
are sin and salvation, the purifying of the soul, and the dedication of the
heart and life to God.
Again; familiarity with the types and the spiritual principles they exemplify
is a great help to the right understanding of prophecy. A type necessarily
possesses something of a prophetical character, for it is a symbolical
promise of the ultimate thing yet to appear, and hence it is not at all
surprising that in announcing things to come the prophets, to a large
extent, availed themselves of the characters and events of past history,
making them the images of a nobler future. In the prospective delineations
which are given us in Scripture respecting the final issues of Christ’s
kingdom among men, while the foundation of all lies in His own.319
mediatorial office and work, yet it is through the personages and
ordinances of the old covenant that things to come are shadowed forth.
Thus, Moses spoke of the Messiah as a Prophet like unto himself
(

Deuteronomy 18:18). David announced Him as Priest after the order
of Melchizedek (Psalm 110), while Malachi predicted His forerunner under
the name of Elijah (

Malachi 3:1, 4:5). Herein are valuable hints for our
guidance, and if they be duly observed there will be no more excuse for
interpreting “the Son of David” (

Matthew 1:1) in a carnal sense, than
for literalizing the “we have an altar” of

Hebrews 13:10.
From what has been pointed out above on the manifold value of the types
— which might be indefinitely amplified, especially the last point — it
should be quite evident that they greatly err who look upon the types as a
mere kindergarten, designed only for the infancy of the Church. The very
fact that the Holy Spirit has preserved a record of them in the imperishable
Word of Truth, is clear intimation that they possess far more than a local
use and temporary purpose. The mind of God and the circumstances of the
fallen creature are substantially the same in all ages, while the spiritual
needs of the saints are the same now as they were four thousand years ago,
and were the same then as they are today. If, then, the wisdom of God
placed His people of old under a course of instruction through the types, it
is our folly and loss if we despise the same today. A mathematician still has
use for the elementary principles of arithmetic, as a trained musician scorns
not the rudimentary scales.
The basic principles underlying the types were made use of by Christ at the
dawn of the N.T. era, thus intimating that the fundamental methods
employed by God are the same in all generations. Every miracle the Lord
Jesus performed was a type in history, for on the outward and visible plane
of Nature He displayed the Divine power and work which He came here to
accomplish in the higher realm of Grace. In every act of healing men’s
bodily diseases, there was an adumbration to the eye of sense of that
salvation which He would provide for the healing of the soul. In the
demands which He made upon those whom He healed, a revelation was
given of the principles by which His salvation may be procured by us. The
facts of the Gospels are the key to the truths of the Epistles, and the types
of the O.T. are the key to the facts of the Gospel. Thus, one part of
Scripture is made dependent on the other, just as no member of our body is
independent of its fellow-members..320
“For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the
sanctuary by the high priest for sin. are burned without the camp.
Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His
own blood, suffered without the gate” (verses 11, 12).
In these verses the apostle supplies a striking illustration and confirmation
of what he had just previously affirmed. In the preceding verse he had
declared that Christ is the altar of His people — the antitype of all that had
been shadowed out by the typical altars of O.T. times — which, as we
showed, signifies not only that Christ is their atoning sacrifice unto God,
but that He is also the sustenance, the food, for His people. Then followed
the solemn statement that those who stubbornly and unbelievingly
continued to adhere unto Judaism, deprived themselves of the blessings
enjoyed by Christians.
As we have so often pointed out, the Hebrew saints were being urged to
return unto the Divinely-instituted religion of their fathers. In verse 9 the
apostle presents to them two further dissausives. First, he assured them
they now possess the Antitype of all the types of Judaism: why, then, be
tempted by the shadows when they possessed the Substance! Second, he
solemnly affirms that those who still clung to Judaism cut themselves off
from the Christian privileges: they had “no right,” no Divine title to “eat”
or partake of them. The application of this principle to us today is obvious.
The same two-fold argument should suffice to draw off our hearts from
doting upon ritualistic rites and performances: possessing Christ as our
great High Priest, having access to the Throne of Grace, such things as
bowing to the east, elevating the offering (collection), candles, incense,
pictures, images, are needless and worthless, and if the heart be set on
them and a saving value be ascribed to them, they effectually exclude us
from an interest in Christ’s salvation.
In the preceding article we showed how strikingly and blessedly the O.T.
types pointed to Christ as the nourishment of His people: only parts of the
sacrifices were burnt upon the altar, other portions thereof being allotted to
the priests or the offerer and his family. But there was a notable exception
to this, unto which the apostle now directs our attention. “For the bodies
of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high
priest for sin, are burned without the camp.” The reference is unto the sin
offerings. These were slain on the altar in the outer court, but their blood
was carried inside the tabernacle and sprinkled before or upon the throne.321
of Jehovah, while their carcasses were utterly consumed outside the camp.
This was, of course, while Israel were sojourners in the wilderness and
lived in tents but the same order was observed after they entered Canaan
and the temple was built in Jerusalem — the bodies of the sin offerings
being carried out beyond the walls of the city to be consumed there.
The apostle was referring to such passages as

Leviticus 4:1-12, where
provision was made for an atonement when a priest had unwittingly sinned
against any of the commandments of the Lord. He was to bring a bullock
unto the door of the tabernacle for a sin offering, lay his hand upon its head
(as an act of identification, to denote that the doom awaiting it was what
he deserved), and kill it before the Lord. Its blood was then to be brought
into the tabernacle and sprinkled seven times before the Lord, before the
veil of the sanctuary, and upon the horns of the incense altar, and the
remainder thereof poured out at the base of the brazen altar. The richest
portions of the animal were then burned upon the altar, but the remainder
of it was carried forth “without the camp,” and there utterly consumed by
fire. The same order was followed when the whole congregation sinned
through ignorance (

Leviticus 4:12-21), the account closing with “He
shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned
the first bullock: it is a sin offering.” The reader may also compare

Numbers 19:3, 9.
But there is no doubt that the apostle was alluding more particularly unto
the chief sin offering which was offered on the annual day of atonement,
when propitiation was made for all the sins of Israel once a year, described
at length in Leviticus 16. Concerning the blood of this sacrifice we read,
“And he (the high priest) shall take of the blood of the bullock and sprinkle
it with his finger upon the mercyseat eastward, and before the mercyseat
shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times” (verse 14).
Regarding the bodies of those beasts used on this occasion we are told,
“and the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering,
whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one
carry forth without the camp: and they shall burn in the fire their skins and
their flesh, and their dung” (verse 27). These passages, then, make it quite
clear to which particular class of sacrifices the apostle was referring in

Hebrews 13:10, 11..322
The question now arises, Wherein lies the relevancy of this allusion to
these passages in Leviticus in our present text? What was the apostle’s
particular design in referring to the sin offerings? It was twofold.
First, to substantiate his assertion that they who served the tabernacle had
“no right to eat” of the Christian’s altar — i.e., had no title to partake of
the benefits of Christ, who has, as our next verse shows, died as a sin
offering. There was a Divine prohibition which expressly forbade any
feeding upon the same:
“And no sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the
tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place,
shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire” (

Leviticus 6:30).
Those, then, who clung to Judaism were cut off from the Antitype’s sin
offering.
Second, to exhibit the superiority of Christianity: those who trust in Christ
eat His flesh and drink His blood (

John 6:54-56).
But let us dwell for a moment on the spiritual significance of this particular
detail in the type. It presents to us that feature in the sufferings of Christ
which is the most solemn of all to contemplate, namely, His being made sin
for His people and enduring the penal wrath of God. “Outside the camp”
was the place where the leper was compelled to dwell (

Leviticus
13:46), it was the place where criminals were condemned and slain
(

Leviticus 24:14 and cf.

Joshua 7:25,

1 Kings 21:13,

Acts
7:58), it was the place where the defiled were put (

Numbers 5:3), it
was the place where filth was deposited (

Deuteronomy 23:12-14). And
that was the place, dear Christian reader, that the incarnate Son, the Holy
One of God, entered for you and for me! O the unspeakable humiliation
when He suffered Himself to be “numbered with the transgressors”
(

Isaiah 53:12). O the unutterable mystery of the Blessed One “being
made a curse for us” (

Galatians 3:13). O the unspeakable anguish when
the sword of Divine justice smote Him (

Zechariah 13:7), and God
forsook Him (

Matthew 27:46).
Yet let it be emphatically insisted upon that Christ remained, personally and
essentially, the Untainted One, even when the fearful load of the sins of His
people was laid upon Him. This very point was carefully guarded by God
— ever jealous of the honor of His son — in the types, yea, in the sin
offerings themselves..323
First, the blood of the sin offering was carried within the sanctuary itself
and sprinkled before the Lord (

Leviticus 4:6), which was not done with
any other offering.
Second, “the fat that covereth the inwards” of the animal was burned upon
the altar (

Leviticus 4:8-10), yea, “for a sweet savor unto the Lord,”
intimating that God still beheld that in His Son with which He was well
pleased even while He was bearing the sins of His people.
Third, it was expressly enjoined that the carcase of the bullock should be
carried forth “without the camp unto a clean place” (

Leviticus 4:12),
signifying it was still holy unto the Lord, and not a polluted thing.
Christ was
“as pure, as holy, and as precious in the sight of God whilst
groaning under the infliction of damnatory wrath on the accursed
tree, as when He was in the bosom of the Father before all worlds
— the very same moment in which He was ‘bruised’ and ‘made a
curse’ for us, being also that in which He offered Himself for us ‘an
offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.’ Never
was the character of Jesus exhibited in more transcendent
excellency; never were His relations to God and to man maintained
in greater perfectness than during the time that He suffered for us
on the Tree. Never did the Father more delight in and appreciate
the excellency of the Son of His love; never did the Son more love
and honor and delight in the Father than when He uttered that bitter
cry ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ The very
circumstances which placed Jesus, outwardly, in the extreme of
distance from Heaven and from God, only proved that there was an
essential nearness — an everlasting moral nearness, which not even
the fact of His being the Bearer of damnatory wrath could for one
moment alter” (B.W. Newton).
The immediate reason why none of the Israelites, not even the high priest,
was allowed to eat any portion of the sin offering, and why its carcass was
burnt outside the camp rather than upon the altar, seems to lie in the
distinctive nature and special design of this offering. Had the priest eaten of
any portion thereof, that had given it the character of a peace offering, and
had the whole been consumed upon the altar it had too closely resembled
the burnt offering. But, as we have pointed out before, the ultimate reason.324
and deeper design was to denote that Judaism had to be abandoned before
one could “eat” or derive benefit from the Christian’s “altar.” Herein lies
the superiority of Christianity, that we are permitted to feed upon a
Sacrifice of the highest and holiest kind, receiving therefrom those
blessings and benefits which Christ has procured for His people by the
shedding of His precious blood.
The apostle, then, has furnished clear proof of what he had asserted in vv.
9, 10, and that from the O.T. Scriptures themselves. There he had said, “it
is good that the heart be established with grace,” which means for the mind
to have such a fixed persuasion of the Truth as to enjoy peace with God,
without which there can be no real and solid tranquility. Then the apostle
had said, “Not with meats, which have not profited them that have been
occupied therein,” which must be understood in the light of the previous
clause: the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical law were altogether
inadequate for justification and peace with God. Moreover, that sacrifice
which made atonement for sin provided no food for those who offered it,
and the heart cannot be established before God where sins are not remitted.
“Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own
blood, suffered without the gate.” Here is the Christian’s altar, here is the
all-sufficient sacrifice offered once for all upon it, and here is the blessed
effect thereof, his sanctification. The opening “wherefore” of this verse
called for the line of thought developed in the opening paragraphs of this
article. It intimated that it was for the express purpose of meeting the
requirements of the O.T. types that the Lord Jesus was “lead as a lamb to
the slaughter” and suffered the horrible ignominy of being cast out of the
holy city and put to death in the place where the worst of criminals were
executed. What honor did the Substance now place upon the shadows! A
wide field of study is here suggested to us, and a reverent and patient
survey of it will well repay our efforts.
How frequently in the four Gospels has the Holy Spirit assigned as the
reason for what Christ did “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” That
expression is not to be restricted to Christ’s design in accomplishing the
terms of Messianic prophecy — though, of course, that is included — for it
also and often has reference to His so acting in order that the types which
foreshadowed Him might be realized. The will of God concerning the
Mediator had been intimated in the legal institutions, for in them a
prefiguration was made of what Christ should do and suffer, and His.325
perfect obedience to the Father moved Him unto a compliance therewith.
Consequently, the fuller be our knowledge of the types, the more shall we
be able to understand the recorded details of our Savior’s earthly life
(particularly of His last week), and the more can we appreciate the motive
which actuated Him — complete subjection to the will of the One who had
sent Him. That particular which the Holy Spirit notes in our text is but one
illustration from many, if we take the trouble to search them out.
“The complete answering and fulfilling of all types in the person
and office of Christ, testifieth the sameness and immutability of the
counsel of God in the whole work of the redemption and salvation
of the Church, notwithstanding all the outward changes that have
been in the institutions of Divine worship” (John Owen).
But it did something else too: it left the unbelieving Jews without excuse:
Christ’s implicit compliance with the types, His complete and perfect
production of all that had been foreshadowed of Him, furnished the most
indubitable demonstration that He was the promised Messiah, and
therefore His rejection by the Nation at large sealed their doom, and was
the reason why, a little later, God destroyed their sanctuary, city, and
heritage.
“Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own
blood, suffered without the gate.” Christ Himself is the all-sufficient sin-offering
of His people. Just as all the iniquities, transgressions and sins of
natural Israel were, in a figure, transferred to the typical offering
(

Leviticus 16:21), so all the iniquities, transgressions and sins of the
spiritual Israel were imputed to their Surety (

Isaiah 53:6, 7, 11, 12).
Just as the goat bearing the iniquities of natural Israel was sent away “into
a land not inhabited” (

Leviticus 16:22), so
“as far as the east is from the west, so far hath Christ removed our
transgression from us” (

Psalm 103:12).
And just as “on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to
cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord”
(

Leviticus 16:30), so “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth
us from all sin (

1 John 1:7).
Observe that in strict keeping with the fact that the Redeemer is here
contemplated as the antitypical Sin-offering, He is referred to simply as
“Jesus,” and not “Jesus Christ” as in verses 8, 21, still less “our Lord.326
Jesus” as in 5:20. He is not alluded to in these different ways at random,
nor for the mere purpose of variation. Not so does the Holy Spirit order
His speech: there is nothing haphazard in His language. The various
designations accorded the Savior in the Word are selected with Divine
propriety, and nothing affords a more striking evidence of the verbal
inspiration of the Scriptures than the unerring precision with which they are
used. “Jesus” is His personal name as man (

Matthew 1:21); “Christ” is
His official title, as the One anointed of God (

Matthew 16:16, 20);
while “The Lord Jesus” points to His exalted status and authority (

John
13:13,

Acts 2:36). When “Jesus” is used alone, it is either for the
special purpose of identification (as in

Acts 1:11), or to emphasize the
infinite depths of humiliation into which the Son of God descended.
“Wherefore (in fulfillment of the types which had defined the path He
should tread), Jesus also (the Antitype, the Just who had entered the place
of the unjust, the infinitely Glorious One who had descended into such
unfathomable depths of degradation), that He might sanctify the people
with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” This was the particular
feature made most prominent in the type, for the sin-offering was not only
slain, and its carcass taken outside the camp, but there is was utterly
consumed. It spoke of Christ as the Sin-bearer enduring the fiery
indignation of a sin-hating God, suffering His penal wrath. It spoke of
Christ offering Himself to God as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, to
make atonement for them, for His blood was shed, and blood was never
employed under the types except to make atonement (

Leviticus 17:11).
It is, then, by the voluntary and vicarious blood-shedding of their
Covenant-head, and by that alone, believers are sanctified.
“That He might sanctify the people.” Ponder carefully, my reader, the
definiteness of the language here used. Scripture knows nothing of a
vague, general, undeterminable and futile shedding of the precious blood of
the Lamb. No indeed: it had a predestined, specific, and invincible end in
view. That blood was not shed for the whole human race at large (a
considerable portion of which was already in Hell when Christ died!), but
for “the people,” each of whom are sanctified by it. It was for “the sheep”
He laid down His life (

John 10:11). It was to gather together in one
“the children of God that were scattered abroad” that He was slain
(

John 11:51, 52). It was for “His friends” He endured the cross
(

John 15:13). It was for the Church He gave Himself (

Ephesians
5:25)..327
CHAPTER 115
OUTSIDE THE CAMP
(

HEBREWS 13:12, 13)
Were it not so pathetic and tragic, it would be most amusing if we could
obtain and read a complete record of the manner in which our text has been
employed by various individuals and groups during the last four hundred
years — to go no farther back. The reader would thereby be supplied with
a striking illustration of the fact that “There is no new thing under the sun”
(

Ecclesiastes 1:9) and see how frequently history repeats itself. He
would learn too how easily simple souls were beguiled by a plausible
tongue and how successfully Satan deceives the unwary by the very letter
of Scripture. He would discover how the different divisive movements in
the ecclesiastical realm — whether in Poland, Germany, Great Britain, or
the U.S.A. — all started in much the same way, followed the same course,
and, we might add, met with a similar disappointing sequel. To be
forewarned is to be forearmed: it is because the rank and the of the people
do so little reading, and are so ignorant of religious history, that they so
readily fall a prey to those with high spiritual pretensions.

Hebrews 13:13 has ever been a great favorite with those who started
“Come out” movements. It has been used, or rather misused, again and
again by ambitious Diotrephes, who desired to head some new party or
cause. It has been made a sop for the conscience’ by many a little group of
discontented and disgruntled souls, who because of some grievance
(fancied or real) against their religious leaders, church, or denomination,
forsook them, and set up an independent banner of their own. It is a verse
which has been called into the service of all separatists, who urged all
whose confidence they could gain to turn away from — not the secular
world, but their fellow-Christians, on the ground of trifling differences.
That which these men urged their dupes to forsake was denounced as the
God-abandoned and apostate “Camp,” while the criticism they have (often
justly) met with for their pharisaic conduct, has been smugly interpreted as
“bearing Christ’s reproach.”.328
In his most interesting and instructive work, “The Laws of Ecclesiastical
Polity” — a standard work which long found a place in all well-furnished
libraries — Richard Hooker, three hundred years ago, described the tactics
followed by the Separatist leaders who preceded or were contemporaneous
with him. We will give here a very brief digest of the same.
First, in seeking to win the people’s attention unto their “cause,” these
would-be Separatists, loudly proclaimed the faults and failings of those in
high places, magnifying and reproving the same with much severity, and
thereby obtaining the reputation of great faithfulness, spiritual discernment,
love of holiness.
Second, those faults and corruptions which have their roots in human
frailty, are attributed to an unscriptural and evil ecclesiastical government,
whereby they are regarded as possessing much wisdom in determining the
cause of those sins they denounce: whereas in reality, the very failures they
decry will adhere to any form of government which may be established.
Third, having thus obtained such sway in the hearts of their hearers, these
men now propose their own form of church government (or whatever else
they are pleased to designate their scheme or system), declaring with a
great blowing of trumpets that it is the only sovereign remedy for the evils
which poor Christendom is groaning under, embellishing the same with an
ear-tickling name or designation.
Fourth, they now “interpret” (?) the Scriptures in such a way that
everything in them is made to favor their discipline, and discredit the
contrary.
Fifth, then they seek to persuade the credulous that they have been favored
with a special illumination of the Spirit, whereby they are able to discern
these things in the Word, while others reading it perceive them not.
Sixth, assured that they are led by the Spirit
“This hath bred high terms of separation between such and the rest
of the world, whereby the one sort are termed, The brethren, The
godly, and so forth; the other, worldlings, time-servers, pleasers of
men not of God” (Hooker, Volume 1, page 106)..329
Finally, the deceived are now easily drawn to become ardent propagators
of their new tenets, zealous proselytizers, seeking to persuade others to
leave the apostate “Camp” and join them on “the true scriptural ground.”
“Let any man of contrary opinion open his mouth to persuade them,
and they close their ears: his reasons they weigh not, all is answered
with ‘We are of God, He that knoweth God heareth us’ (

1 John
4:6), as for the rest, ye are of the world” (Hooker).
Such was the policy pursued by the “Fifth Monarchy men,” the
“Brownists,’ Thos. Cartwright and his following in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Such too was the course taken by John Kelly in
Ireland, Alex. Campbell in Kentucky, more than a century ago — the latter
founding “the Christian Church,” denouncing all others as unscriptural. So
that Mr. J.N. Darby followed a well-trodden path!
“Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His
reproach.” After mentioning the Christian’s altar and the suffering and
offering of Christ thereon, the apostle now draws an exhortation unto that
duty which is the basis of our whole Christian profession. There are five
things in this brief text which call for prayerful consideration.
First, the exact force of its “therefore” — requiring us to ascertain the
relation of our text to its setting.
Second, what is signified here by “the camp,” both as it concerned the
Hebrews and as it respects us to-day.
Third, in what sense we are to go forth from it.
Fourth, how in so doing we go unto Christ.
Fifth, by what means this duty is to be discharged.
“Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp.” The duty which is
here enjoined on the believer is drawn from what had just been declared:
“Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His
own blood, suffered without the gate” (verse 12).
There were one or two points in that verse which we reserved for
consideration in this article. First, with regard to the meaning of “sanctify.”
We cannot agree with those commentators (among them some for whom
we have a high regard) that would here restrict it to “expiate:” we see no.330
reason for this narrowing of its force. Personally, we consider the term has
as wide a signification here as elsewhere in Scripture: by His perfect
oblation Christ has separated His people from the world, purified them
from all their iniquities, consecrated them to God, so that they stand before
Him in all the acceptableness of their Head.
Many words have a wider scope in Scripture than in ordinary usage, and
the expositor needs to be constantly on his guard against narrowing the
meaning of important terms. It is blessedly true that at the cross the
believer’s Surety expiated all his sins, that is, cancelled their guilt, by
making reparation to the Law; but it is the effects of that which are here in
view. The sanctification of His people was the grand object which Christ
had in view in becoming incarnate, and that He steadily pursued
throughout the whole of His life and sufferings. The Church is now
cleansed, set apart, and adorned by His atoning sacrifice. Christ sustained
all the transgressions of His people, made atonement for them, removed
the same from before God, and washed them from all defilement by His
soul travail, bloody sweat, and death; and in consequence, they now stand
before the Eye of infinite justice and holiness as everlastingly righteous,
and pure.
Herein we may behold once more the outstanding excellency of
Christianity above Judaism — something which we must ever be on the
lookout for if we are not to miss the principal design of the Spirit in this
epistle. These verses abound in details which exhibit the privileges of the
new covenant as far surpassing those of the old. First, we have that
“establishing of the heart” before God (verse 9) which the natural Israel
possessed not. Second, we have “an altar” furnishing the highest and
holiest sacrifice of all (verse 10), which they had no right or title to partake
of: their sin offerings were burned, not eaten (verse 11). Third, we have an
effectual and abiding sanctification of our souls before God, whereas they
had a sanctification which was but external and evanescent “to the
(ceremonial) purifying of the flesh” (

Hebrews 9:13). Fourth, Jesus has
sanctified the people “with His own blood” (verse 12), which was
something that the high priests of Judaism could never do — they offered
to God the blood of others, even that of animals.
A further word now on the fact that the Savior “suffered without the gate,”
that is, outside of the city of Jerusalem which answered to the camp in the.331
wilderness, wherein the tabernacle was first set up. Sundry things were
represented thereby.
First, this signified that He was not only a sacrifice for sin, but was being
punished for sins, dealt with as a malefactor and dying that death which by
Divine institution was a sign of the curse (

Galatians 3:13).
“They took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross
went forth (out of Jerusalem) into a place called the place of a
skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified
Him, and two with Him” (

John 19:16-18).
This was done by the malice of the Jews, yet their wickedness was “by the
determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (

Acts 2:23), so that it
might appear Christ is the true sin-offering. Thus, God made the hatred of
Satan and his agents to subserve His purpose and accomplish His own will
— how the knowledge of this should comfort us when the wicked are
plotting against us!
Second, in ordaining that His Son should be put to death outside the city
of Jerusalem, symbolic intimation was thereby given by God to the Jews
that He had put an end to all sacrificing in the temple, so far as their
acceptance by Him was concerned: now that Christ Himself was laid on the
altar, there was no longer any need for those offerings which prefigured
Him. The shadow and the substance could not stand together: for the
Levitical sacrifices to be continued after Christ’s death would denote either
that He had not come, or that His offering was not sufficient to obtain
salvation. Third, Christ’s going forth out of Jerusalem signified the end of
the church-state of the Jews, and therefore as He left the city, He
announced their destruction: see

Luke 23:28-30. Very solemn was this:
Christ was no longer “in the Church” of the Jews (

Acts 7:38), their
house was now left unto them desolate (

Matthew 23:38). If, then, a Jew
desired to partake of the benefits of the Messiah, he too must leave the
camp — the whole temple system.
What a depth and breadth of meaning there is to every action of our
blessed Redeemer! what important truths they illustrated and exemplified!
How much we lose by failing to meditate upon the details of our Lord’s
passion! In addition to what had been pointed out above, we may observe,
fourth, that Christ’s offering Himself as a sin offering to God outside
Jerusalem, clearly shows that His sacrifice and its benefits were not.332
confined to the elect among the Jews, but extended equally unto the
chosen remnant from the Gentiles. It was, then, yet another sign that “the
middle wall of partition” was now broken down, that the barrier which had
for so long existed between Judaism and the world no more existed. As

1 John 2:2 declared, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for
ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” — for an exposition of
which see our booklet on “The Atonement.”
Thus, the force of the “therefore” in our text is not difficult to determine:
because Jesus Himself “suffered without the gate, let us go forth therefore
unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” But to make it still
more simple for the reader to comprehend, let us divide the “therefore”
into its component parts.
First and more generally, because Christ has left us an example, let us
follow His steps.
Second, since we partake of the food of our altar, let us use the
strength therefrom in a way pleasing and glorifying to Christ.
Third and more specifically, if the Son of God was willing to suffer the
ignominy of being cast out of Jerusalem in order to bear our doom,
surely it would ill-become the sons of God if they were unwilling to go
forth and bear His reproach!
Fourth, if Christ in obedience to God took the place of being scorned
and hated by men, shall we in disobedience to Him seek to be esteemed
and flattered by His enemies?
Fifth, because Christ has “sanctified” us, let us evidence our separation
from the ungodly.
“Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His
reproach.” The second thing requiring our careful consideration here is
what is meant by “the camp.” “The apostle, in all this epistle, hath respect
unto the original institution of the Jewish church-state and worship in the
wilderness. Therefore he confines his discourse to the tabernacle and the
services of it, without any mention of the temple or the city wherein it was
built, though all that he speaks be equally applicable unto them. Now the
camp in the wilderness was that space of ground which was taken up by
the tents of the people, as they were regularly pitched about the tabernacle.
Out of this compass the bodies of the beasts for the sin-offerings were.333
carried and burned. Hereunto afterwards answered the city of Jerusalem, as
is evident in this place; for whereas in the foregoing verse, Christ is said to
suffer ‘without the gate,’ here He is said to be ‘without the camp’: these
being all one and the same as to the purpose of the apostle” (John Owen).
“The camp” of Israel, then, and later the city of Jerusalem, was the seat and
center of the political and religious life of the Jewish church. To be in “the
camp” was to have a right unto all the advantages and privileges of the
commonwealth of Israel (

Ephesians 2:12) and the Divine service of the
tabernacle. For to forfeit that right, for any cause, for a season, meant that
the offender was taken out of the camp:

Leviticus 14:3; 24:14;

Numbers 5:2; 12:15. Now it was in that camp that Christ had been
“despised and rejected” by the Nation. It was concerning that camp He had
solemnly declared, “your house is left unto you desolate” (

Matthew
23:38). It was from that camp He had suffered Himself to be conducted,
when He went forth to the Cross. Thus, at the time our epistle was written,
“the camp” signified an apostate Judaism, which would have none of
Christ, which hated and anathematized Him; and, in consequence, it was
the place abandoned by God, given up by Him to destruction — for a
generation later it ceased to be, even in a material and outward way.
But Judaism as such has long since passed away, what, then, is its present
counterpart? The question should not be difficult to decide, though it
meets with varied answers. Some say “the camp” is Romanism, and call
attention to the many striking points of analogy between it and Judaism.
Some say it is “the dead and carnal professing church” — from which, of
course, their denomination is an exception. Others insist that it is “all the
man-made sects and systems of Christendom,” from which they have
withdrawn, only to set up another system of their own, even more
pharisaical than those they denounce. But a single consideration is
sufficient to dispose of all such vagaries — which have, in the past, misled
the writer. Is Christ Himself hated and anathematised by either Rome or
the deadest and most erroneous portions of Protestantism? The answer is,
NO. We must turn to other scriptures (like

Revelation 18:4 and

2
Timothy 3:5) to learn God’s will for us concerning Romanism or the carnal
sects, for

Hebrews 13:13 cannot be fairly applied to either of them. The
very name of Christ was abhorred by Judaism, it is not so by either Rome
or degenerate Protestantism..334
Let us not be misunderstood at this point. We are not here expressing our
views on the whole subject of the Christian’s separation from what is
dishonoring to Christ, nor are we holding a brief for the Papacy and her
daughters. Admittedly Christendom is in a far worse state today than it was
a century ago, and there is very much going on in it with which the
follower of the Lord Jesus should have no fellowship; but that is a totally
different thing from withdrawing from a company where there are many of
God’s people and where all the fundamentals of the Truth were faithfully
pro-claimed — think of denouncing Spurgeon’s Tabernacle as a part of
“Babylon,” and refusing to allow those to “break bread” who occasionally
attended its services! No; our present object is to define what “the camp”
of

Hebrews 13:13 actually signifies, and then to show how erroneously
that term has been applied to something radically different.
As we have said above “the camp” was that degenerate Judaism which had
hounded the Lord of glory to death, and which could not be appeased by
anything less than putting Him to death as a base malefactor and
blasphemer. It is readily conceded that not only may numerous points of
analogy be drawn between Judaism and Romanism, but that large sections
of degenerate Protestantism now have many things in common with it. But
it was not its law, its priesthood, its ceremonialism, nor even its
corruptions which caused God to give up Jerusalem unto destruction. The
“camp” from which the apostle bade his readers “go forth” was a Judaism
which had not only rejected Jesus as the Christ of God, denied that He was
risen from the dead, but which also insisted that He was a vile impostor,
and reviled His very name. But so far as we are aware, there is not a single
church or company upon earth that professes to be “Christian” of whom
that can be said!
The fact is, there is nothing upon earth today which exactly duplicates the
Judaistic “camp” of the apostle’s time. Yet there is that which essentially
corresponds to it, even though externally it differs somewhat therefrom;
and that is the world — the secular and profane world. Concerning it we
read, “the whole world lieth in the Wicked one” (

1 John 5:19). Those
who comprise it are unregenerate, unholy, ungodly. It is true that one of
the effects of Christianity has been to cast a veneer of morality and
religious respectability over large sections of the world; though that veneer
is now getting very thin. It is true that in some circles of it, it is still
fashionable to feign respect for Divine things, yet, if the exacting claims of
God be pressed upon them, it soon becomes apparent that the carnal mind.335
is enmity against Him. But for the most part, Christ is openly hated by the
masses, and His name fearfully blasphemed by them. And there it is that we
are plainly told,
“the friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever
therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”
(

James 4:4).
Our next consideration is, In what sense is the Christian to “go forth” from
the camp, i.e., from that which is avowedly and actively hostile to Christ?
This question needs to be carefully considered, for here too the language of
our text has been sadly wrested. Let us bring the point to a definite issue: is
it a corporeal or a mental act which is here enjoined? is it by the body or
the soul that the duty is performed? is it by our feet or our hearts that
obedience is rendered? In other words, is it a “literal” or a metaphorical
forsaking of the world which God requires from us? Those who made the
serious mistake of supposing that it is the former, have betaken themselves
to monasteries and convents. The explanatory and qualifying words of the
apostle “for then (if separation from the wicked were to be taken
absolutely) must ye needs go out of the world” (

1 Corinthians 5:10)
shows the error of this; contrary also would it be to the spirit of the Lord’s
prayer,
“I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world”
(

John 17:15).
Let us consider the case of the Jews in the apostle’s time. When one of
them savingly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ was he required to
“literally” or physically get out of Jerusalem? No indeed: even the apostles
themselves continued to abide there (

Acts 8:1)! It was not a local
departure which was intended — though a little later that was necessary if
their lives were to be preserved (

Luke 21:30-32); rather was it a moral
and religious going forth from the camp.
“There was nothing that these Hebrews did more value and more
tenaciously adhere unto, than that political and religious interest in
the commonwealth of Israel. They could not understand how all the
glorious privileges granted of old unto that church and people,
should so cease as that they ought to forsake them. Hereon most of
them continued in their unbelief of the Gospel, many would have
mixed the doctrine of it with their old ceremonies, and the best of.336
them found no small difficulty in their renunciation. But the apostle
shows them, that by the suffering of Christ without the gate or
camp, this they were called unto” (John Owen).
The application of this principle unto us today is not difficult to perceive. It
may be stated thus: God requires us to forego and renounce all advantages
and privileges — whether social, financial, political, or religious — which
are inconsistent with an interest in Christ, communion with Him, or fidelity
to His cause. An illustration of this is furnished in

Philippians 3:4-10:
those things which Saul of Tarsus had formerly counted gain — his Jewish
birth and orthodoxy, his pharisaic strictness and righteousness, his
persecution of the Church — he now “counted loss for Christ.” The same
thing obtains now in heathendom: when a Parsee, Buddhist, Mohammedan
(or a Jew, or a Romanist) is truly converted, he has to turn his back upon,
relinquish those things which he had hitherto most highly venerated. Love
to Christ moves him to now hate those things which are directly opposed
to Him.
Now for the fourth point in our text: by going forth from the camp we go
“unto Him,” or, conversely, by going forth unto Christ we go outside the
camp. The two things are inseparable: they are convertible terms. We
cannot go unto, without going from, and we cannot go “from” without
going “unto.” This is exactly what conversion is: a turning round, a right-about
face. It is the heart turning from Satan to God, from sin to holiness,
from things below to things above, from “the camp” unto Christ. That
which is opposed to the Lord Jesus is renounced for His sake. The world is
left, and He is followed. Self-righteousness is dropped that an band may lay
hold of His atoning sacrifice. To “go forth unto Him” is to betake
ourselves to Christ in His office as the Prophet, Priest, and King of His
Church, and thereby find acceptance with God. It is to cleave unto and
own Him under the contempt and opposition of those who despise and
reject Him.
To go forth unto Christ without the camp, then, signifies for us to be so
enlightened by the Spirit as for the eyes of our understanding to see Him as
the promised Messiah, the only Mediator between God and men; to behold
the One whom the Jews and Gentiles condemned to a malefactor’s death,
as the all-sufficient Savior. It is for the heart to be attracted by the supernal
excellencies of His person, to be won by Him, the soul perceiving Him to
be “the Fairest of ten thousand.” It is for the will to be brought into.337
subjection of Him, so that His yoke is gladly accepted and His scepter
readily submitted to. In a word, it is to heartily approve of Him whom the
world still hates, becoming His humble follower, His willing disciple, and
gladly enduring for His sake all the ridicule and persecution which fidelity
to Him and His cause entails. Like the Gadarenes of old, the professing
world now says to Him “Depart out of our coasts” (

Mark 5:17), but
those who go forth unto Him exclaim, “my Beloved is mine, and I am His”
(

Song of Solomon 2:16)..338
CHAPTER 116
OUTSIDE THE CAMP
(

HEBREWS 13:13, 14)
In the preceding article we endeavored to make clear to the reader exactly
what was “the camp” from which the apostle exhorted the Hebrews to go
forth. The more accurately a term be defined, the less likelihood of its
being wrongly employed. It was at this point the present writer failed in an
article which appeared in an issue nearly ten years ago — many a sound
sermon has been marred by heading it with the wrong text. Dwelling upon
many of the incidental analogies which exist between much that now
obtains in Christendom and that which marked Judaism of old, we failed to
concentrate upon that which was essential and fundamental, and hence,
made a wrong application of this particular term “the camp.” That which
made the Judaism of Paul’s day to differ so radically from its worst state in
the times of the prophets, was, that it had hated, rejected, and murdered
the incarnate Son of God.
It is that particular point, the Jews’ casting out of Christ, anathematizing
Him, condemning Him to a malefactor’s death, which must guide us when
seeking to identify the modem counterpart of that “camp.” There is, really,
no exact replica on earth today of that Judaism which crucified the Lord
Jesus: certainly neither Romanism — blasphemous and horrible as are
many of its dogmas and practices — nor the most degenerate branches of
Protestantism — rotten as some of them are in doctrine and works — can
rightly be designated the present-day “camp.” No, as we pointed out
previously, that which most closely resembles it, that which in principle is
essentially like thereto, is the secular, profane world. Its unregenerate and
ungodly members do not profess to love Christ: the very mention of Him is
hateful to them: they desire to banish Him entirely from their schemes and
thoughts — except when they take His holy name in vain.
Next, we sought to show in what sense the Lord requires His people to go
forth “outside the camp,” that is, separate themselves from the ungodly,
from those who hate and revile Christ. This, as we saw, is not to be.339
understood “literally” or physically, but metaphorically or morally. It is not
a local withdrawal from the world, but a religious and spiritual one. In
other words, God does not bid His people be fanatics and lead the lives of
hermits. Taking refuge in monasteries and convents is the Devil’s
perversion of this important practical truth. No; the Christian is still left in
the world, but he must not be of it. Its policy and maxims must not regulate
him, its pleasures and attractions must not capture his heart, its friendship
must not be sought; its politics are no concern of his. In heart and soul-interests
he is a stranger here, and is to conduct himself as a pilgrim passing
through this scene — “using this world, but not abusing it” (

1
Corinthians 7:31).
Then we pointed out that in going forth from the camp the Christian goes
unto Christ: it is the two-foldness of act which the word “conversion”
connotes. Yet it is not without reason that the Holy Spirit has worded our
text as it is: there is a particular emphasis in it which requires to be noted.
It is not, “Let us go forth therefore without the camp unto Him,” but “unto
Him without the camp.” The difference is something more than verbal. It
stresses the fact that Christ Himself must be the grand object before the
heart, and then the poor baubles of this world will not possess much
attraction for us. If He is not, then, though we may become aesthetes, there
will be no contentment, still less joy: our case would be like that of many of
the Israelites who had “gone forth” from Egypt, yet continued to lust after
its fleshpots.
To go forth unto Christ without the camp means for the believer to make a
complete break from his former manner of life, to renounce every thing
which is opposed to Christ, to relinquish whatever would hinder
communion with Him. In a word, the exhortation of our text is only
another way of presenting that declaration of our Lord,
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross, and follow Me” (

Matthew 16:24).
Sin must be mortified, the flesh with its affections and lusts crucified, the
world forsaken, and the example which Christ has left us diligently
followed. So, then, going forth unto Him outside the camp is not a single
act, done once for all at conversion, but an habitual thing, a constant
attitude of life. The cross must be taken up by the Christian “daily:”

Luke 9:23..340
Obedience to this injunction involves “bearing Christ’s reproach.” The
believer is called unto fellowship with Christ: fellowship now with His
sufferings (

Philippians 3:10), in the future with His glory. That
“reproach” assumes different forms and has various degrees in different
locations and periods, according as God is pleased to restrain the enmity of
the wicked against His people. But in every age and in every place it has
been verified that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution” (

2 Timothy 3:12). That “persecution,” that “reproach” of
Christ may be cruel afflictions such as the early Christians experienced; or
it may take the milder form of sneers, ridicule, and ostracism, which
sensitive souls feel keenly. As Christ declared,
“The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted
Me, they will also persecute you” (

John 15:20).
One reason why God permits this, is because His people are so prone to
flirt with the world, and if we will not separate from them, He often causes
them to give us the cold shoulder and appose us.
The flesh shrinks from and desires to escape such opposition. It is natural
for us to want to be well thought of and nicely treated by every one. But
let the shrinking Christian call to mind what his Master endured for his
sake. In the types, the sin-offering was burned without the camp — far off
from the holy of holies where Jehovah had His seat — to represent the
sinner’s final separation from God, his being cast into “the outer darkness,”
there to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. And Christ endured the
equivalent of that on the cross, during those three hours of awful darkness.
He bore the fearful load of His people’s sins, and was deprived of the
comforts of God’s presence. For Christ it meant entering the place of
distance from God, but for us to “go forth without the camp” means going
“unto Him”; for Him it entailed enduring the curse, for us it involves
naught but Divine blessing! Then let us cleave to Him despite the world’s
scorn, and stand by His cause on earth no matter what the cost to us.
But let us now consider by what means this duty of going forth unto Christ
is discharged. As we pointed out in the preceding article, it is an act of the
soul rather than of the body which is here in view. But to particularize.
First, the soul of the believer goes forth to Christ by prayer, for real prayer
is the breathing of the heart after Him and turning unto Him. Its first cry is
“Lord, save me, I perish.” There is the daily request for Him to make.341
Himself more real to the heart, to grant us closer communion with Himself,
and to remove those things which hinder the same. There is the asking Him
to teach us how to draw from His fullness, to make us more obedient, to
conform us more fully to His holy image.
“Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth: for Thy love is
better than wine” (

Song of Solomon 1:2)
is the language of one whose heart is “going forth unto Christ outside the
camp” — seeking from Him that which is infinitely superior to the best this
poor world affords.
Second, it is the motion of faith. Christ is the grand Object of faith, and He
can only be known and enjoyed now by faith. It was so at our first
conversion; it is so throughout the entire Christian course. “The life which
I now live in the flesh,” said the apostle,
“I live by the faith of the Son of God (faith in Him), who loved me,
and gave Himself for me” (

Galatians 2:20).
When faith is inactive, there is no going forth of the soul unto Christ, no
real prayer, no communion with Him. But when faith is operative the heart
turns unto Him as instinctively as the needle of the compass does unto the
north. When faith is sickly and listless the things of this world gain power
over us: either its pleasures attract, or its cares distract us. But when faith
is healthy and vigorous, the soul “mounts up with wings as eagles” and
“runs and is not weary.” It is faith which makes Christ real and precious to
the soul. Then let us be more diligent in guarding against those things
which weaken and quench it.
Third, going forth unto Christ outside the camp is the act of hope. This is
the particular spiritual grace which keeps the heart of the believer from
falling into abject despair. There are times when he is sorely tried and
dismayed: sin rages within, the accusations of the holy Law sting his
conscience, and Satan tries hard to make him believe that all is lost — that
having abused his privileges, sinned against much light, turned Divine grace
into lasciviousness, there is no remedy. So it seems to the cast-down soul:
pray he cannot, and as he reads the Scriptures, instead of finding comfort
every page condemns him. Then the Spirit applies some promise, and a
little encouragement follows: but conscience still smites, and he groans.
Now it is that hope acts: Christ had mercy on the leper, the publican, the
dying thief; He is full of compassion, I will cast myself afresh on His pity..342
So too hope looks beyond this scene — with all its disappointments,
sorrows, and sufferings — and anticipates the time when we shall be
“forever with the Lord.”
Fourth, going forth unto Christ without the camp is also the work of love.
The love of God which the Spirit sheds abroad in the hearts of the
regenerate is something more than beautiful sentiment: it is an operative
principle. Love yearns for the company of the beloved: it cannot find
satisfaction elsewhere. Christ is not to be met with in worldly circles, and
therefore when the heart of the believer is in a healthy state, it seeks unto
its Beloved outside the same. A word from His lips, a smile from His face,
an embrace from His arms, is prized above rubies. To sit at His feet and
drink from the fountain of His love, is better than heaps of silver and gold.
Christ is precious to those whose sins have been removed by His blood,
and their affections “go forth” unto Him — not so fervently and frequently
as they should, or as they desire; nevertheless, there are seasons in the life
of every Christian when he is permitted to lean his head upon the Savior’s
bosom. Christ’s love to His own attracts their love to Him.
Fifth, going forth unto Christ outside the camp is the surrender of the will
to Him. There is a change of masters: service to the prince of this world is
renounced, and the Lordship of Christ accepted. There is an enlisting under
His banner, a putting on of His uniform, a submission to His captaincy, and
we act according to His will. How different is all of this from what many
suppose our text signifies! One may identify himself with those who claim
to have gone forth from “all the man-made sects and systems,” and yet the
heart be quite dead toward God. Or, one may belong to the most orthodox
church, subscribe to its doctrines, adopt their language, echo its groans,
and have not a spark of grace in the heart. One may separate from all the
world’s politics, pastimes and pleasures, and have no love for Christ. There
must be the exercise of faith, the stirrings of hope, the actings of love, the
surrender of the will, and walking in the path of obedience, in order to
meet the terms of our text.
“For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come”
(verse 14).
Four questions are suggested by these words: what is their relation to the
preceding verse? what is signified by “no continuing city”? what is the
“one to come” that we seek? how or in what way do we seek it? That there
is a close connection between verse14 and the previous one is obvious.343
from its opening word. Now that connection is twofold: first, verse14
supplies two further reasons to enforce the duty specified in verse 13 —
additional to those implied in verses 10-12; second, verse 14 may also be
regarded as explaining and amplifying the language of verse 13.
The connection of verse 14 with verse 13 will be more apparent as we turn
to the second question and consider what is signified by “For here have we
no continuing city.” Obviously, the “city” is used here metaphorically, as a
figure of that which is strong and stable: it is that which provides refuge
and rest to the great majority of earth’s inhabitants. “Change and decay in
all around I see” said the poet: there is nothing lasting, durable, dependable
in this world. In

Genesis 4:17 we read that Cain “builded a city,” and
where is it? — destroyed thousands of years ago by the Flood. Thebes,
Nineveh, Babylon were all powerful and imposing cities in their day, but
where are they now? they no longer exist, yea, their very site is disputed.
Such is this world, my reader: “the fashion of this world passeth away”
(

1 Corinthians 7:31), and one day “the earth also and the works that are
therein shall be burned up” (

2 Peter 3:10).
The things of this earth are transitory: that which the natural man values so
highly, and sells his soul to obtain, soon vanishes away. All that is mundane
is unstable and uncertain: that is the meaning, in brief, of “here have we no
continuing city.” There is however an emphasis in these words which we
must not miss: it is not simply “here there is no continuing city” but “here
have we’’ none — something which can be predicated of none but
believers. True, the worldling has none in reality, but in his imagination, his
plans, his affections, he has — he sets his heart upon the things of this
world and acts as though he would enjoy them always:
“Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever,
and their dwelling-places to all generations: they call their lands
after their own names” (

Psalm 49:11).
And how is the instability of everything mundane to affect and influence
the Christian? Thus: he is to renounce them in his heart — leave “the
camp” — that is the connection with verse 13.
“For here have we no continuing city” (verse 14).
“A city is the center of men’s interests and privileges, the residence
and seat of their conversation. Hereby are they freed from the
condition of strangers and pilgrims; and have all that rest and.344
security in this world they are capable. For those who have no
higher aims nor ends than this world, a city is their all. Now it is not
said of believers absolutely that they belonged to no city, had none
that was theirs in common with other men; for our apostle himself
pleaded that he was a citizen of no mean city. This is intimated, as
we shall see, in the restriction of the assertion: a continuing city.
But it is spoken on other accounts” (John Owen).
What those “other accounts” are we shall see presently, meanwhile we will
consider the more general meaning.
In His providential dealings with them, God often gives His people painful
reminders of the fact that “here have we no continuing city.” We are prone
to be at ease in Zion, to fix our hearts on things below, to settle down in
this world. We like to feel that we are anchored for a while at least, and
make our plans accordingly. But God blows upon our schemes and
compels us to take up the stakes of our tents, saying,
“Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest; because it is
polluted” (

Micah 2:10).
A significant word on this is found in,
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young,
spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her
wings; so the Lord alone did lead him” (

Deuteronomy 32:11,
12).
Ah, my reader, it is not a pleasant experience to have our earthly “nest”
stirred up, to have our rest disturbed, and be obliged to change our abode;
but as that is essential if the eaglets are to be taught to use their wings, so it
is necessary for the Christian if he is to live as a stranger and pilgrim in this
scene.
God has called His people unto fellowship with Christ, and that means
something more than participating in His life and receiving His peace and
joy: it also involves entering into His experiences — enduring the wrath of
God alone excepted.
“When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and
the sheep follow Him” (

John 10:4)..345
That denotes two things: that we are not called to tread any path which He
did not Himself, traverse, and that we are to experience something of His
sorrows: are they which have continued with Me in My temptations” or
“trials” (

Luke 22:28).
Now what was Christ’s experience in this word? Even as a child He had no
rest here: His parents had to carry Him down into Egypt in order to escape
the malice of Herod. Trace the record of His earthly ministry, and how
long do we find Him abiding in one place? He was constantly on the move.
“Jesus therefore being wearied with His journey sat thus on the
well” (

John 4:6),
and in some form or other His people are required to drink from that same
cup. If the Lord of glory “had not where to lay His head” when in this
world, shall we deem it strange that God so often disturbs our rest?
But let us now consider the more specific meaning of our text.
First, the Christian has no city on earth which is the center of Divine
worship, whereunto it is confined, as had been the case with Judaism.
Herein the apostle points another contrast. After the Israelites had
wandered for many years in the wilderness, they were brought to rest in
Canaan, where Jerusalem became their grand center, and of that city the
Jews had for long boasted. But it was not to continue, for within ten years
of the writing of this epistle, that city was destroyed. How this verse gives
the lie to the pretentions of Rome! No, the Christian has something far
better than an insecure and non-continuing city on earth, even the Father’s
House, with its many mansions, eternal in the heavens!
Second, the believer has no city on earth which supplies him with those
things which are his ultimate aim: deliverance from all his enemies, an end
to all his trials, an eternal resting-place. His “commonwealth” or
“citizenship” is “in Heaven” (

Philippians 3:20 R.V.).
The Christian does not regard this world as his fixed abode or final home.
This is what gives point to the preceding exhortation and explains the force
of the opening “For” in verse 14. The fact that everything here is unstable
and uncertain should spur the Christian to go forth from the camp — in his
heart renounce the world. And further, it should make him willing to “bear
the reproach of Christ,” even though that involves being driven from his.346
birthplace and compelled to wander about without any fixed residence on
earth. Finally, it gives point, as we shall see, to the last clause of our text.
“But we seek one to come” (verse 14). In view of what has been before us,
it is quite clear that the “one,” the City, that we seek, is Heaven itself,
various aspects of which are suggested by the figure here used of it. It is an
abiding, heavenly, everlasting “City,” which the believer seeks, and the
same is referred to again and again in this epistle — in contrast from the
temporal and transitory nature of Judaism — under various terms and
figures. This “City” is the same as the “better and enduring substance” in
Heaven of

Hebrews 10:34. It is that “Heavenly Country” of

Hebrews 11:16. It is “the City of the living God” of

Hebrews 12:22,
the seat and center of Divine worship. It is the same as “those things which
cannot be shaken” of

Hebrews 12:27. It is “the Kingdom which cannot
be moved,” in its final form, of

Hebrews 12:28. It is the “Inheritance
incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven
for us” (

1 Peter 1:4).
An earlier reference to this grand object of the believer’s desire and quest
was before us in
“he looked for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and
Maker is God” (

Hebrews 11:10).
Those “foundations” are,
First, the everlasting good-will and pleasure of God toward His people,
which is the basis of all His dealings with them.
Second, God’s foreordination, whereby He predestined His elect unto
eternal glory, concerning which we are told
“The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: The Lord
knoweth them that are His” (

2 Timothy 2:19).
Third, the Everlasting Covenant of free, rich, and sovereign Grace, which
God entered into with the Head and Surety of the elect, and which is
“ordered in all things and sure.”
Fourth, the infinite merits and purchase of Christ, for
“other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus
Christ” (

1 Corinthians 3:11)..347
Fifth, the whole being confirmed by and resting upon the immutable
stability of God’s promise and oath:

Hebrews 6:17-20.
In addition to the few brief remarks we made upon the signification of this
figure of the “City” when expounding

Hebrews 11:10, we may note the
following — bearing in mind those characteristics of a “city” which
specially obtained in ancient times.
First, a city was a place of safety and security:
“let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and
for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem”
(

Jeremiah 35:11).
In Heaven there will be no wicked men to persecute, no Devil to tempt.
Second, a city is compact, being the concentration of numerous houses and
homes. So of Heaven Christ declared that in it are “many mansions.” There
will dwell together forever the myriads of holy angels and the entire
Church of God.
Third, in a city is stored all manner of provisions and needful commodities;
so in Heaven there is nothing lacking to minister unto the delights of its
inhabitants.
Finally, as a “city” on earth is the center of the world’s interests and
privileges, the resting-place of travelers and those who go abroad, so
Heaven will be the grand Terminal to the wanderings and journeyings of
the Christian. His pilgrimage is ended, for Home is reached. On earth he
was a stranger and sojourner, but now he has reached the Father’s House.
There he will meet with no hardships, encounter none to whom he is a
hated foreigner, and no longer have to earn his daily bread by the sweat of
his brow. Unbroken rest, perfect freedom, unassailable security, congenial
society, inconceivable delights, are now his portion forever. Faith then
gives place to sight, hope to fruition, grace is swallowed up in glory, and
we are “forever with the Lord,” beholding His glory, bathing in the ocean
of His love.
How the anticipation of this should make us set our affection on things
above, spur us on to run the race before us, cause us to drop every weight
which hinders us in running! How the consideration and contemplation of
that “City” should work powerfully in us to look and long, and prepare us.348
for the same! This brings us to ponder for a moment the meaning of “but
we seek one to come.” This, of course, does not signify that the believer is
searching after that which is unknown, but endeavoring to obtain it. It is
the treading of that Narrow Way which leads to Heaven, and that with
diligence and desire, which is hereby denoted. “And God hath prepared a
city of rest for us, so it is our duty continually to endeavor the attainment
of it, in the ways of His appointment. The main business of believers in this
world is diligently to seek after the attainments of eternal rest with God,
and this is the character whereby they may be known” (John Owen).
Here, then, is the use which the believer makes of the uncertainty and
instability of everything in this world: his heart is fixed on the Home above,
and to get safely there is his great concern. The word “seek” in our text is a
very strong one: it is used in, “after all these things (the material necessities
of this life) do the Gentiles seek” (

Matthew 6:32) — i.e., seek with
concentrated purpose, earnest effort, untiring zeal. The same word is also
rendered “labor” in

Hebrews 4:11: the Christian deems no task too
arduous, no sacrifice too much, no loss too great, if he may but “win
Christ” (

Philippians 3:8). He knows that Heaven will richly compensate
him for all the toils and troubles of the journey which lead thither.
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God,
and he shall go no more out” (

Revelation 3:12)..349
CHAPTER 117
THE CHRISTIAN’S SACRIFICES
(

HEBREWS 13:15, 16)
The verses which are now to engage our attention are closely related with
those which immediately precede, as is intimated by the “therefore.” The
links of connection may be set forth thus.
First, “We have an Altar” (verse 10); what use are we to make of it? the
answer is, offer sacrifice thereon.
Second, Jesus has sanctified His people “with His own blood” (verse 12).
What is to be their response? the answer is, draw night to God as joyous
worshippers.
Third, we must go forth unto Christ “without the camp.” What then, is to
be our attitude towards those who despise and reject Him? The answer is,
not one of malice, but benevolence, doing good unto all as we have
opportunity and occasion. Such, in brief, is the relation between our
present portion and its context.
Calvin suggested, we believe rightly, that the apostle here anticipated an
objection which might have been made against what he had previously
advanced. In saying that Jesus “suffered without the gate” (verse 11), plain
intimation was given that God had done with, abandoned Judaism as such.
In bidding Hebrew believers to go forth unto Christ “without the camp,”
the Holy Spirit signified they must now turn their backs upon the temple
and its service. But this presented a serious difficulty: all the sacrifices —
those of thanksgiving as well as those of expiation — were inseparably
connected with the temple system, therefore it followed that if the temple
was to be deserted, the sacrifices also must have ceased. It was to meet this
difficulty, and to make known the superior privileges of Christianity, that
the apostle penned our text.
If the Christian was debarred from offering any sacrifice to God, then he
would occupy an inferior position and be deprived of a privilege which the.350
Jews of old enjoyed, for sacrifices were instituted for the purpose of
celebrating God’s worship. The apostle therefore shows that another kind
of sacrifice remains for us to offer, which is no less pleasing to God than
those which He appointed of old, even the praise of our lips. Here we are
taught what is the legitimate way of worshipping God under the new
covenant, which presents another striking contrast from that which
obtained under the old. As our “Altar” is not one of wood or stone, brass
or gold, but Christ Himself, so our “sacrifices” are not the fruits of the
ground or the firstlings of our herds, but the adoration of our hearts and
the devotion of our lives. The contrast, then, is between the outward and
ceremonial and the inward and spiritual.
The Jews offered to God a slain lamb each morning and evening, and on
certain special days bullocks and rams; but the Christian is to present unto
God a continual sacrifice of thanksgiving. This brings before us a most
interesting and blessed subject, namely, those sacrifices of the Christian
with which God is well pleased. The first of these was mentioned by David:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite
heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (

Psalm 51:17).
“When the heart mourns for sins God is better pleased than when
the bullock bleeds beneath the axe. ‘A broken heart’ is an
expression implying deep sorrow, embittering the very life; it
carries in it the idea of all but killing anguish in that region which is
so vital as to be the very source of life. A heart crushed is, to God,
a fragrant heart. Men condemn those who are contemptible in their
own eyes, but the Lord seeth not as man seeth. He despises what
man esteems, and values that which they despise. Never yet has
God spurned a lowly, weeping penitent” (C.H. Spurgeon).
John Owen pointed out that there were two things in connection with the
O.T. sacrifices: the slaying and shedding of the blood of the beast, and
then the actual offering of it upon the altar. Both of these were required in
order to the completing of a sacrifice. On the one hand, the mere killing of
the animal was no sacrifice unless its blood was placed upon the altar; and
on the other hand, no blood could be presented there to God until it had
been actually shed. Corresponding to these, there is a twofold spiritual
sacrifice in connection with the Christian profession. The first is what has
just been made reference to in the paragraph above: the broken heart and
contrite spirit of the believer. That signifies evangelical repentance and.351
mortification, or the crucifixion of the flesh, which is the Christian’s first
sacrifice, answering to the death of the beast before the altar.
The second sacrifice which the believer presents unto God is his offering of
Christ each day. This is done by an act of faith — which is ever preceded
by repentance, just as we must feel ourselves to be desperately sick before
we send for the physician. As the awakened sinner is convicted of sin and
mourns for it before God, pride and self-righteousness are subdued, and he
is able to appreciate the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the
(elect) world. Christ appears to him as exactly suited to his case and need.
He perceives that He was wounded for his transgressions and bruised for
his iniquities. He perceives that Christ took his place and endured the penal
wrath of God on his behalf. Therefore does he now lay hold of him by faith
and present the atoning sacrifice of Christ to God as the only ground of his
acceptance. And as he begins, so he continues. A daily sense of defilement
leads to a daily pleading of Christ’s blood before the throne of grace. There
is first the appropriating of Christ, and then the presenting of Him to God
as the basis of acceptance.
Now it is this laying hold of Christ and the offering of Him to God in the
arms of faith which corresponds to the second thing in connection with the
tabernacle (and temple) sacrifices of old. As the fire fell upon the oblation
placed upon the altar, incense was mingled therewith, so that the whole
yielded a “sweet savor unto God.” Just as the mere slaying of the animal
was not sufficient — its blood must be laid upon the altar and fragrant
incense be offered therewith; so the Christian’s sacrifice of a broken and
contrite heart will not by itself secure the favor of God. Essential as
repentance is, it cannot purchase anything from God. The broken heart
must lay hold of Christ, exercise faith in His blood (

Romans 3:25), and
plead His merits before God. Only then will our sacrifice of a contrite
spirit be a “sweet smelling savor” unto Him.
The third sacrifice which the Christian presents unto God is himself.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye
present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,
which is your reasonable service” (

Romans 12:1).
That is an act of consecration. It is the recognition and acknowledgement
that I am no longer my own, that I have been bought with a price, that I am
the purchased property of Another. Hence, of the primitive saints we read.352
that they “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (

2 Corinthians 8:5),
surrendering themselves to His scepter, taking upon themselves His yoke,
henceforth to live to His glory; that as they had formerly served sin and
pleased self, now they would serve God and seek only His honor. As Christ
gave Himself for us, we now give ourselves back again to Him. Hereby
alone can we know that we are saved: not only by believing in Christ for
the forgiveness of sins, but by yielding ourselves up to His government, as
living sacrifices for His use.
The fourth sacrifice of the Christian is that mentioned in our text, namely,
“the fruit of our lips”; but before taking up the same let us say a few words
on the order of what has now been before us. There can be no acceptable
sacrifice of praise until we have offered ourselves unto God as those that
are alive from the dead, for as

Psalm 115:17 declares, “The dead praise
not the Lord.” No, those who are yet in their sins cannot praise God, for
they have no love for Him and no delight in Him. The heart must first be
made right before it is attuned to make melody unto Him. God accepts not
the lip service of those whose hearts are estranged from Him. Of old He
complained
“This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do
honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me” (

Isaiah
29:13),
and as Christ affirmed “in vain do they worship” Him (

Matthew 15:8).
Such hypocrisy is hateful to Him.
Nor can any man present himself acceptably to God until he has believingly
embraced Christ. No matter how willing I am to live honestly in the future,
satisfaction must be made for the debts contracted in the past; and nothing
but the atoning work of Christ can satisfy the just demands which the Law
has against us. Again; how can I serve in the King’s presence unless I be
suitably attired? and nothing short of the robe of righteousness which
Christ purchased for His people can gratify God’s holy eye. Again; how
could God Himself accept from me service which is utterly unworthy of
His notice and that is constantly defiled by the corrupt nature still within
me, unless it were presented in the meritorious name of the Mediator and
cleansed by His precious blood. We must, then, accept Christ’s sacrifice
before God will accept ours; God’s rejection of Cain’s offering is clear
proof thereof..353
Equally evident is it, yet not so clearly perceived today by a defectively-visioned
Christendom, that no sinner can really accept Christ’s sacrifice
until his heart be broken by a felt sense of his grievous offenses against a
gracious God, and until his spirit be truly contrite before Him. The heart
must be emptied of sin before there is room for the Savior. The heart must
renounce this evil world before a holy Christ will occupy it. It is a moral
impossibility for one who is still in love with his lusts and the willing
servant of the Devil to appropriate Christ and present Him to God for his
acceptance. Thus, the order of the Christian’s sacrifices is unchanging.
First, we bow in the dust before God in the spirit of genuine repentance;
then we appropriate Christ as His gracious provision, and present Him to
God for the obtaining of His favor. Then we yield ourselves to Him
unreservedly as His purchased property; and then we render praise and
thanksgiving for His amazing grace toward us.
“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name”
(verse 15).
This is an exhortation to duty, by way of inference from what was declared
concerning the Redeemer and the sanctification of the people by His
sufferings. Therein we are shown what use we are to make of our Altar,
namely, offer sacrifice. The worship which the Christian presents unto God
is the sacrifice of praise. Nothing is more pleasing unto Him, and nothing is
more honoring to Him, than the praise of a renewed heart. Has He not
declared,
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me”? (

Psalm 50:23).
How thankful for that statement should those believers be who feel
themselves to be poor and feeble. Had God said, whoso shall create a
world, or even whoso shall preach wonderful sermons and be a successful
winner of souls, or whoso shall give a huge sum of money to missions, they
might well despair. But “whoso offereth praise” opens a wide door of
entrance to every believer.
And have not the redeemed abundant cause for praising God! First,
because He has granted them a vital and experimental knowledge of
Himself. How the excellencies of God’s being, character and attributes,
thrill, as well as awe, the souls of the saints! Glance for a moment at Psalm
145, which is entitled a “Psalm of Praise.” David begins with “I will extol.354
Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever. Every
day will I bless Thee, and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever. Great is
the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (verses 1-3). In the verses that follow,
one perfection of God after another passes in review and stirs the soul to
adoration. His “mighty acts” (verse 4), the “glorious honor of His majesty”
(verse 5), His “greatness” (verse 6), His “great goodness” and
“righteousness” (verse 7), His “fullness of compassion” and “great mercy”
(verse 8), His “power” (verse 11), the “glorious majesty of His kingdom”
(verse 12), His everlasting “dominion” (verse 13), His providential
blessings (verses 14-17), His dealings in grace with His own (verses 18,
19), His preserving them (verse 20). No wonder the Psalmist closed with,
“my mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His
holy name for ever and ever.”
If the Psalms be full of suitable petitions for us to present unto God in
prayer, and if they contain language well fitted for the lips of the sobbing
penitent, yet they also abound in expressions of gladsome worship.
“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises unto our King, sing
praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with
understanding” (

Psalm 47:6, 7).
What vehemency of soul is expressed there! Four times over in one verse
the Psalmist called upon himself (and us) to render praise unto the Lord,
and not merely to utter it, but to “sing” the same out of an overflowing
heart. In another place the note of praise is carried to yet a higher pitch:
“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice ye righteous; and shout for joy, all
ye that are upright in heart” (

Psalm 32:11).
Not in any formal and perfunctory manner is the great God to be praised,
but heartily, joyously, merrily.
“Sing forth the honor of His name: make His praise glorious”
(

Psalm 66:2).
Then let us offer Him nothing less than glorious praise.
The “therefore” of our text intimates an additional reason why we should
praise God: because of Christ and His so great salvation. For our sakes the
Beloved of the Father took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made
under the Law. For our sakes the Lord of glory, entered into unfathomable.355
depths of shame and humiliation, so that He cried “I am a worm and no
man” (

Psalm 22:6). For our sakes He bowed His back to the cruel
smiter and offered His blessed face to those who plucked off the hair. For
our sakes He entered into conflict with the Prince of Darkness, and the
pains of death. For our sakes He endured the awful curse of the Law, and
for three hours was forsaken by God. No Christian reader can reverently
contemplate such mysteries and marvels without being stirred to the depths
of his soul. And then, as he seeks to contemplate what the shame and
sufferings of Christ have secured for him, “Thanks be unto God for His
unspeakable Gift,” must be the fervent exclamation of his heart.
And observe well, dear reader, how God has allotted to Christ the position
of chief honor in connection with our subject. “By Him (the One
mentioned in verses 12, 13) let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God.” As
the Lord Jesus Himself declared,
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the
Father but by Me” (

John 14:6).
The saints can no more draw nigh unto God apart from Christ, than the
sinner can: we are as dependent upon His mediation to render our worship
acceptable to God, as we were at first for obtaining the forgiveness of our
sins. As our great High Priest Christ is the “Minister of the Sanctuary”
(

Hebrews 8:2). He meets us, as it were, at the door of the heavenly
temple, and we place our spiritual sacrifices in His hands, that He may, in
the sweet fragrance of His merits and perfections, present them for God’s
acceptance.
“Another Angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden
censer; and there was given unto Him much incense, that He should
offer it with the prayers of all saints” (

Revelation 8:3).
At every point God has made us dependent upon Christ, the Mediator.
Only by Him can we offer acceptable sacrifices unto God.
First, because it is through Christ’s bloodshedding, and that alone, that our
persons have been sanctified, or made acceptable to God — note how in

Genesis 4:4 Jehovah had respect first to Abel himself, and then to his
offering!.356
Second, because it is through Christ’s atonement, and that alone, that a
new and living way has been opened for us into God’s presence: see

Hebrews 10:19-21.
Third, because He bears “the iniquity of our holy things” (fulfilling the
type in

Exodus 28:38), that is, through His perfect oblation our
imperfect offerings are received by God: His merits and intercession cancel
their defects.
Fourth, because as the Head of the Church, He ministers before God on
behalf of its members, presenting their worship before Him. Thus, “By
Him” signifies, under His guidance, through His mediation, and by our
pleading His merits for acceptance with God.
What has just been before us supplies further proof of what was pointed
out in an earlier paragraph, namely, that it is impossible for the
unregenerate to worship God acceptably.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord”
(

Proverbs 15:8).
And why? Not only because he is utterly sinful in himself, but because
there is no Mediator to come between him and God. This is brought out
strikingly in the O. T. types. Not a single “song” is recorded in the book of
Genesis. In Eden our first parents were fitted to sing unto their Creator,
and join the angels in ascribing glory and thanksgiving to the Lord. But
after the Fall, sinners could only praise on the ground of redeeming grace,
and it is not until Exodus is reached that we have the grand type of
redemption. That book opens with Israel in Egypt, groaning and crying in
the house of bondage. Next, the paschal lamb was slain, Egypt was left
behind, the Red Sea was crossed, and on its farther shore they looked back
and saw all their enemies drowned: “Then sang Moses and the children of
Israel” (

Exodus 15:1). Praise, then, is on the ground of redemption.
“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise.” Every word of Holy
Writ is inspired of God, and throughout, its language is chosen with Divine
discrimination. Therefore it behooves us to carefully weigh each of its
terms, or we shall miss their finer shades of meaning. Here is a case in
point: it is not “let us render praise unto God,” but “let us offer a sacrifice
of praise.” Christ has made His people “kings and priests unto God”
(

Revelation 1:6), and here they are called upon to exercise their priestly
functions. Thus we are instructed to make a right use of our “Altar” (verse.357
10). We are not only partakers of its privileges, but we are to discharge its
duties, by bringing our sacrifices thereto. The same aspect of truth is seen
again in

1 Peter 2:5, where we read that believers are “an holy
priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus
Christ.” Yes, offered “unto God” and not to angels or saints; and,
acceptable “by Jesus Christ,” and not the Virgin Mary!
This particular expression “let us offer a sacrifice of praise to God” not
only emphasizes the fact that in their worship believers act in priestly
capacity, but it also signifies that we now have the substance of what was
shadowed forth by the Levitical rites. It also denotes that the Christian
ought to be as particular and diligent in the discharge of his evangelical
duties as the Jew was in the performing of his ceremonial obligations. As
he was required to bring an offering that was without physical defect, so
we must bring to God the very best that our hearts can supply: “Bless the
Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Content
not thyself with offering to God a few formal utterances of thanksgiving,
still less hurry through thy worship as a task you are glad to get finished;
but strive after reality, fervency, and joy in the same.
When the worshipping Israelite approached the tabernacle or temple, he
did not come empty-handed, but brought with him a thank-offering. Then
“let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God.” When the saints come together
for public worship, it should be not only for the object of having their
empty vessels filled and their hungry souls fed, but with the definite
purpose of offering to God that which will please Him. The more closely
we walk with God, and the more intimate be our communion with Him, the
easier the performance of this pleasant duty. The more we delight
ourselves in the Lord and regale our souls by the contemplation of His
perfections, the more spontaneous, fervent, and constant, will be our
worship of Him. The more we cultivate the habit of seeing God’s hand in
everything, and are grateful to Him for temporal blessings, the more will
the spirit of thanksgiving possess our hearts and find expression in songs of
praise.
This sacrifice of praise is here designated “the fruit of our lips,” which is a
quotation from

Hosea 14:2, where backsliding Israel vows that in return
for God’s receiving them graciously, they will render to Him “the calves of
their lips” — the Hebrew word for “calves” being the same as for “praise.”
The expression “fruit of our lips” may at first strike us as strange, but a.358
little reflection will reveal its propriety.

Isaiah 6:5, 6 serves to open its
meaning. By nature our “lips” are unclean:
“Their throat is an open sepulcher, with their tongues they have
used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is
full of cursing and bitterness” (

Romans 3:13, 14).
But by God’s applying to us the virtues of Christ’s atonement, our lips are
cleansed, and should henceforth be used in praising Him. “Fruit” is a living
thing: the product of the Holy Spirit. When, through backsliding, the heart
has cooled toward God and the music of joy has been silenced, cry unto
Him
“O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy
praise” (

Psalm 51:15).
This “sacrifice of praise” is to be offered unto God not merely on the
Sabbath, but “continually.” Have we not more cause to praise God than to
pray? Surely, for we have many things to thank Him for, which we never
ask for. Who ever prayed for His election, for godly parents, for their care
of us in helpless infancy, for their affection, for their faithfulness in training
us the way we should go! Does not God daily heap upon us in favors
beyond that we are able to ask or think? Therefore we should be more in
praising God than in petitioning Him.
“With thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”
(

Philippians 4:6):
ah, is it not our failure in the former which explains why we are so often
denied in the latter?
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving”
(

Colossians 4:2);
“with thanksgiving” is as much a command as is the “continue in prayer.”
“It is good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises
unto Thy name, O most High” (

Psalm 92:1).
Yes, it is not only glorifying to God, but it is beneficial to the soul, To
cultivate the habit of praising God will preserve the believer from many
evils. The trials of life are more cheerfully borne if the spirit of thankfulness
to God be kept lively in the heart. A man cannot be miserable while he is.359
joyful, and nothing promotes joy so much as a heart constantly exercised in
praising God. The apostles forgot their smarting backs in the Philippian
dungeon as they “sang praise unto God” (

Acts 16:25). The happiest
soul we have ever met was a sister in a London garret (before the days of
old-age pensions), who had neither eaten meat or fruit nor had a glass of
milk for years past, but was continually praising the Lord.
Mary was offering to God a sacrifice of praise when she exclaimed
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God
my Savior” (

Luke 1:46, 47).
That was no mechanical act, but the spontaneous outburst of a heart
delighting itself in the Lord. It is not enough that the believer should feel
adoring emotions in his soul: they must be expressed by his mouth — that
is one reason why the sacrifice of praise is defined in our text as “the fruit
of our lips.” Vocal, articulated praise, is what becomes those who have
received the gift of speech: that is why the saints of all ages have expressed
their worship in holy songs and psalms. None of us sing as much as we
should — how often the worldling shames us I Then let us say with David
“I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth
all Thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in Thee: I will
sing praise to Thy name, O Thou Most High” (

Psalm 9:1, 2)..360
CHAPTER 118
THE CHRISTIAN’S SACRIFICES
(

HEBREWS 13:15, 16)
From the eighth verse onwards (of Hebrews 13) the apostle is engaged in
setting forth those spiritual duties of worship of which God Himself is the
Object. Therein a series of contrasts are drawn between what obtained
under the old covenant and that which pertains to the new. The Christian’s
privileges greatly excel those which belonged to Judaism as such. These
superior blessings have been considered by us as we have passed from
verse to verse. What is before us in verse 15 supplies a further
exemplification of this general principle. The Levitical rites required God’s
earthly people to provide material offerings: but the Christian’s “sacrifices”
are entirely spiritual in their character. The Israelitish worshipper could not
offer his sacrifices to God directly, but had to allow the priests to officiate
for him: whereas Christians have themselves been made priests unto God,
and therefore may sacrifice to Him immediately. The praise-sacrifices
under the Law were only presented at particular times and places (cf. the
“Feasts” of Leviticus 23): but the Christian may, through Christ, offer a
sacrifice to God anywhere, at any time — “continually.”
“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (verse 15). More is
implied than is expressed. The language of this verse is restricted to the
duties of worship and our oral praising of God therein, yet we know full
well that He accepts not thanksgiving from us unless it be accompanied by
what good old Matthew Henry called “thanksgiving.” Thus it is the entire
compass of evangelical obedience to God which is comprehended here.
Those who have been dedicated to Him by the blood of Christ are under
the deepest obligations to please and honor Him. The nature of Gospel
obedience consists in thanksgivings for Christ and grace by Him, and
therefore the whole of it may be suitably designated “a sacrifice of praise.”
Gratitude and adoration axe the animating principles of all acceptable.361
service. Every act and duty of faith has in it the nature of a sacrifice to
God, wherein He is well-pleased.
John Owen suggests a threefold reason for the particular language in which
the Christian’s duty of obedience is here expressed.
“1st. The great obligation that is upon us of continual thankfulness and
praise to God on account of Christ’s atonement. The sum and glory of
our Christian profession, is, that it is the only way of praising and
glorifying God for His love and grace in the person and mediation of
Christ.
2nd. This obligation to praise succeeding in the room of all terrifying
legal constraints to obedience, alters the nature of that obedience from
what was required under and by the Law.
3rd. Where the heart is not prepared for and disposed to this
fundamental duty of praising God for the death and oblation of Christ,
no other duty or act of obedience is accepted with God.”
In bidding us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, two things
are denoted: freedom from the limitations of time and place as were
appointed under Judaism, and diligent perseverance and constancy therein.
To abound in fervent praise unto God is the abiding duty of the Christian.
But for that there must be the regular exercise of faith. Calling into
question the promises of God quenches the spirit of worship; doubts snap
the strings of our harps; unbelief is the deadly enemy of praise. To praise
God continually requires us to be in daily communion with Him. It is not
to be wondered at that the joy of many believers is so sickly, when we
consider how little fellowship they have with the Lord: if there be so little
heat around the bulb of their thermometer, how can the mercury rise
higher! To praise God “continually” we must cultivate perpetual gratitude,
and surely that should not be difficult!
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in
my mouth” (

Psalm 34:1):
at no lower standard than that must we aim. How this meets the lament
made by so many Christians. “There seems so very little I can do to express
my gratitude unto the Lord.” Ah, my brother, you may not be gifted with
talents to exercise in public, you may not have much money to give to
God’s cause, but what is to withhold your offering unto Him a sacrifice of.362
praise, and that “continually”! Is not this God’s due? Did Spurgeon express
it too strongly when he said, “Praise is the rent which God requires for the
use of His mercies.” Then shall we rob God? Shall we withhold that in
which He delights? Does not God give us abundant cause to praise Him
“continually”!
“To show forth Thy loving kindness in the morning, and Thy
faithfulness every night” (

Psalm 92:2).
“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my
God while I have my being” (

Psalm 104:33).
What a word is that for the aged and infirm Christian! Ah, dear reader,
your eyes may have become so dim that you can scarcely read the Sacred
page any more, your strength may have become too feeble for you to walk
to the house of prayer, but your lips can still articulate and express
thanksgiving!
“I will be glad and rejoice in Thy mercy: for Thou hast considered
my trouble” (

Psalm 31:7):
rejoice in His pardoning mercy, preserving mercy, providing mercy.
“Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can show forth all
His praise?” (

Psalm 106:2).
Well did Goodwin close his reflections upon the Psalms of praise by
saying,
“My brother, let us pray for such a heart as this, that the saints of
the O.T. may not shame us who are Christians under the New.”
It is striking to note that the Hebrew word “bara” signifies “to create,”
while “barak” means “to praise,” intimating that the praising of God is the
chief end of our creation. Though nothing can be added to God’s essential
glory, yet praise promotes His manifestative glory, for it exalts Him before
others. In this manner the angels glorify Him for they are the choristers of
Heaven, trumpeting forth His praise. An old writer quaintly pointed out
that believers are the “temples” of God, and when their tongues are
praising Him, their spiritual “organs” are then sounding forth. We read that
the saints in Heaven have “harps” in their hands (

Revelation 14:2),
which are emblems of praise. Alas, that so often our harps are “hung on
the willows” (

Psalm 137:2), and murmurings and complaints are all that.363
issue from our mouths. O my reader, be more earnest and diligent in
seeking for grace to enable thee to be praising God continually.
“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such
sacrifices God is well-pleased” (verse 16).
Here is the fifth sacrifice which the Christian is to offer unto God, namely,
that of ministering to others, for all the acts and duties of love may fitly be
termed “sacrifices.” In the previous verse the apostle has shown the great
obligation Godwards which the sanctification of the Church by the blood of
Christ places upon its members, but here he makes known what influence it
ought to have upon our conduct manwards. Thus, he turns from the first
table of the Law to the second, and insists that if redemption places us
under additional obligations to love God with all our hearts, it likewise
supplies added reasons why we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
The first word of verse 16 is a connective, but the commentators differ as
to how it should be translated. Calvin’s annotators insist it should be
rendered “And”; John Owen suggested “Moreover”; our translators
preferred “But.” There is no material difference in these variants: if “but”
be retained, it is not to be taken as exceptional, as though it introduced
something adverse unto what had previously been presented. It is clearly a
continuation, or an addition to the duty mentioned in verse 15. As some
might think that the entire duty of the Christian was comprehended in
rendering to God that homage and devotion to which He is justly entitled,
and that while we attend to that, nothing else need concern us, the apostle
added “But” — notwithstanding the diligence required in the former duty
— forget not to do good unto men and minister to their needs.
Herein we may perceive once more how carefully the Scriptures preserve
the balance of truth at every point. The Divine Law is a unit, yet was it
written upon two tables of stone, and the one must never be exalted to the
disparagement of the other. True, there is an order to be observed: God
Himself ever has the first claim upon our hearts, time and strength;
nevertheless our fellow-creatures, and particularly our fellow-believers,
also have real claims upon us, which we must not ignore. To disregard the
second table of the Law, is not only to inflict an injury upon our neighbors,
but it is to disobey and therefore to displease God Himself. There is an
harmony in obedience, and a failure in any one point disturbs the whole, as
is evident from

James 2:10, 11. It is for this reason, then, that our verse
closes with, “for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.”.364
It was at this very point that Israel failed so often under the old covenant.
Instead of treating their servants considerately, they imposed upon them;
instead of ministering to the widow, they robbed her; instead of relieving
the poor, they oppressed them. Nevertheless, they were very strict in
keeping up their worship of Jehovah! A striking example of this is recorded
in the first half of Isaiah 58. The prophet was bidden to cry aloud and spare
not, but to show the people their sins. They had sought God “daily,”
“forsook not His ordinances,” yea, took “delight” in approaching Him
(verse 2). They were diligent in “fasting,” yet God accepted not their
worship, saying
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of
wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go
free, and that ye break every yoke? Is is not to deal thy bread to the
hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide
not thyself from thine own flesh” (verses 6, 7).
Another solemn example is found in Zechariah 7. God challenges them by
asking, “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even
those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me?” (verse 5).
Then the prophet cried, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute
true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother;
and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor;
and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart” (verses
9, 10). What a strange anomaly human nature presents! How glaring its
inconsistencies! Punctilious in the performances of public worship, yet
utterly remiss in attending to private duties! Diligent and zealous in
keeping the fasts and feasts of the Lord, yet regardless of the needs and
cries of their destitute fellows! How is such to be accounted for? Easily: it
bolsters up self-righteousness, feeds the idea that the favor of God can be
purchased by the creature, and causes such pharisees to be looked up to for
their “holiness” (?) by certain superficial people.
Hence it is that the duties of benevolence inculcated in our text are
preceded by “forget not,” intimating there is a more than ordinary
proneness in professors of the Gospel to neglect them. It is a sinful neglect
which is here prohibited. John Owen suggested four reasons or vicious
habits of mind from which such forgetfulness proceeds..365
First, “an undue trust unto religious duties, as in many barren professors,”
by which he means those who set a high value upon their religious acts and
think to win Heaven thereby. How many there be who contribute liberally
to “the church” and yet under-pay their employees and overcharge their
customers! — the gifts of such are a stench in God’s nostrils.
Second, “from vain pleas and pretences against duties attended with
trouble and charge.” It is much easier and pleasanter to go to the house of
prayer and sing God’s praises, than it is to enter the dwellings of the poor
and personally wait upon those who are sick. It costs less to put a coin in
the collection-plate than it does to feed and clothe the destitute.
Third, “a want of that goodness of nature and disposition which effectual
grace will produce.” The spirit of Christ in the heart will produce
consideration and concern for others, and counteract our innate selfishness;
but where Christ is absent, the Devil rules the heart.
Fourth, “A want of that compassion toward sufferers, which is required of
them that are still in the body: verse 3.” May God preserve us from all
religion that hardens and produces callousness, stifling even “natural
affection.”
“But to do good and to communicate forget not.”
“It is the duty of Christians to express their gratitude to God for
His goodness to them, through Christ Jesus, by doing good: i.e., by
performing acts of beneficence — in feeding the hungry, clothing
the naked, relieving the distressed; and in this way communicating
to their poor and afflicted brethren of the blessings Providence has
conferred on them. While the terms are of that general kind as to
express beneficence and the communication of benefits generally, it
seems probable that the apostle had a direct reference to doing
good by communicating to others those blessings for which they
were especially bound to give thanks. It is the duty of Christians to
do good to their fellow-men by communicating to them, so far as
this is competent to them, those heavenly and spiritual blessings for
which they are bound continually to give thanks to God” (John
Brown).
“But to do good and to communicate forget not.” That which is here
inculcated is the sacrifice of love unto our fellows. Two words are used to.366
set forth this duty. First, “do good” which concerns the whole course of
our lives, especially with regard to others. Three things are included.
First, a gracious propensity or readiness of mind thereto: “the liberal
deviseth liberal things” (

Isaiah 32:8): he does not wait till he is asked,
but seeks to be on the alert and anticipate the needs of others.
Second, the actual exercise of this benevolent inclination, in all those ways
which will be useful and helpful, spiritually and temporally, to mankind.
Idealizing and theorizing is not sufficient: there must be the acting out of
good will.
Third, by buying up all occasions and opportunities for the exercise of
compassion and loving-kindness to others.
A spirit of philanthropy and benevolence is to he manifested by well-doing.
It is not enough to be good; we must do good.
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in
deed and in truth” (

1 John 3:18).
“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which
by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good
works and alms deeds which she did” (

Acts 9:36):
her charitable actions are called “good works” because they were profitable
and did good to others. Nor is this ministering to the wants of others to be
confined unto the members of our own family, or even the limits of our
denomination.
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,
especially unto those who are of the household of faith”
(

Galatians 6:10)
— therein the spirit of Christianity differs from the narrow and clannish
spirit of all other religions. God does good unto all men, and we are to be
“emulators of Him as dear children” (

Ephesians 5:1).
“But to do good and to communicate forget not.” Christians are “created
in Christ Jesus unto good works” (

Ephesians 2:10), regeneration
capacitating them thereunto. Christ gave Himself for us that we should be a
people who are “zealous of good works” (

Titus 2:14), for by them we
honor Him and adorn our profession. No matter what self-sacrifice they.367
entail, nor how ungrateful be the beneficiaries, we are to be diligent and
persevering in helping all we can: “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well
doing” (

2 Thessalonians 3:13).
“For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to
silence the ignorance of foolish men” (

1 Peter 2:15).
And even though our well doing fails to silence the criticism of those who
believe not, yea, if our perseverance therein brings down upon us increased
opposition and persecution, yet it is written,
“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God
commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a
faithful Creator” (

1 Peter 4:19).
The second term used here in connection with the sacrifice of charity is
“communicate,” which means passing on to others what God has entrusted
to us, according as their necessities do require. Literally, the Greek word
signifies “having something in common with others.” It is the actual
exercise of that pity for the poor and indigent which is required of us in the
distribution of good things unto them, according to our ability. This is an
important evangelical duty which the Scriptures repeatedly charge us with:
the glory of God, the salvation of our souls, and the honor of our
profession, are highly concerned therein. It is striking to note that when he
commended the Corinthians for their liberal contributions to the poor saints
at Jerusalem, the apostle declared that
“they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of
Christ” (

2 Corinthians 9:13)
— obedience to the command in our text is required by the Gospel!
John Owen rightly pointed out that “To be negligent herein is to despise
the wisdom of God in the disposal of the lots and conditions of His own
children in the world in so great variety, as He hath done always, and will
always continue to do.” What light that throws on those providential
dispensations of God which are often so mysterious and exercising to the
hearts of many of His people! Here is an important reason intimated why
God blesses a few of His saints with considerable of this world’s goods and
why many of them have scarcely any at all: it is to provide opportunity and
occasion for the exercise of those graces in them which their several
conditions call for. By the unequal distribution of His material mercies, the.368
rich have opportunity for thankfulness, charity, and bounty; while the poor
are called upon to exercise patience, submission, trust, and humility. Where
those graces are mutually exercised, there is beauty, order, and harmony,
and a revenue of glory unto God.
Christians are rarely more sensible of God’s goodness to them than when
giving and receiving in a proper manner. He that gives aright feels the
power of Divine grace at work in his heart, and he who receives aright is
very conscious of Divine love and care in such supplies: God is near to
both. Consequently, to be selfishly callous on the one hand, or proudly
independent and scornful of charity on the other, is to impugn the wisdom
of God in His disposal of the varied temporal circumstances of His people.
No man is rich or poor merely for himself, but rather to occupy that place
in the social order of things which God has designed unto His own glory.
From what has been before us we may see how that many even of those
who believe not are the temporal gainers by the death of Christ and the
fruits thereof in the lives of His people.
Many and varied are the motives which Scripture employs to persuade the
saint unto this duty of ministering unto the needy of His fellows.
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that
which he hath given will He pay him again” (

Proverbs 19:17).
Do we really believe this? Do we act as though we did? The Lord allows
none to lose by being generous, but repays him with interest one way or
another, either to him or his posterity.
“He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack; but he that hideth his
eyes shall have many a curse” (

Proverbs 28:27):
the selfish man exposes himself to the ill-will of those whom he callously
ignores, and brings himself under the providential curse of God.
“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the Law (on this
matter), even his prayer shall be abomination” (

Proverbs 28:9)
— bear that in mind, dear reader, if you wish to have and retain the ear of
God.
“Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down,
and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your.369
bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be
measured to you again” (

Luke 6:38).
What an inducement is that! how it should stimulate unto liberality those
who by nature have a miserly disposition.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (

Matthew
5:16):
how that should encourage us in the performing of good works!
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly;
and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (

2
Corinthians 9:6):
the writer has lived long enough to see many striking examples of both of
these classes.
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with
power: who went about doing good” (

Acts 10:38).
He was ever thinking of others and ministering to them: feeding the
hungry, healing the sick, relieving the distressed; and He has left us an
example that we should follow His steps.
Let it be pointed out, however, that God requires us to use discretion and
discrimination in the bestowments of charity. There is a class of shiftless
idlers who are ever ready to impose upon the compassionate and generous
hearted, and make the benevolence of others a reason for their own
indolence. It is positively wrong to encourage those who seek to subsist on
the liberality of others, instead of earning their own bread. Indiscriminate
giving often does more harm than good. It is our bounden duty to go to the
trouble of properly investigating each case on its own merits, instead of
allowing our sentiment to override our judgment. God Himself has said,
“This we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither
should he eat” (

2 Thessalonians 3:10),
and it is sinful for us to negative that by giving money to able-bodied
loafers.
“For with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.” Whatever benefits the
Christian bestows on others God regards them as done to Himself, and.370
honors them with the name of “sacrifices.” What gracious condescension
on His part, that He should dignify our worthless works as to pronounce
them holy and sacred things, acceptable to Himself! Rightly, then, did
Calvin point out, “When, therefore, love does not prevail among us, we not
only rob men of their right, but God Himself, who has by a solemn
sentence dedicated to Himself what He has commanded to be done to
men.” How this consideration ought to stir us up to the exercise of
kindness towards our neighbor. The more we do so, the more pleasure do
we give unto Him to whom we are infinitely indebted. Withhold not thy
hand, then, from that which delights thy God.
“For with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.” There is a twofold emphasis
in the word “such.”
First, it implies a contrast, denoting that God no longer required those
ancient sacrifices which He had enjoined until an abrogation of the old
covenant. Herein was a clear intimation that Judaism had been set
aside.
Second, it graciously stresses the fact that, though we deem our feeble
praises and charitable works as too poor to be worthy of notice or
mention, God Himself regards those very things as acts of worship that
meet with His hearty approbation.
A beautiful illustration of what has just been pointed out is found in
Philippians 4. The Philippian saints had sent a gift to the apostle Paul,
which he not only gratefully acknowledged, but declared that the same was
“an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to
God” (verse 18).
“Beyond this the highest aspirations of a Christian cannot go. It is
all he can wish; it is above all that he can think. To have the
approbation of good men is delightful; to have the approbation of
our own conscience is more delightful still; but to have the
approbation of God, this is surely the highest recompense a
creature can reach. This approbation is very strongly expressed in
the Word: ‘God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of
love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have
ministered to the saints, and do minister’ (

Hebrews 6:10). It will
be still more illustriously displayed when the Son appears in the
glory of the Father, and in the presence of an assembled universe.371
proclaims to those who, as a token of gratitude to God for the
blessings of salvation, have done good and communicated: ‘For I
was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave
Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye
clothed Me… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me:’

Matthew 25:35-
40” (John Brown)..372
CHAPTER 119
CHRISTIAN RULERS
(

HEBREWS 13:17)
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for
they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they
may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for
you” (verse 17).
It is quite clear from the balance of the verse that its opening words have
reference to religious leaders, and not to civil rulers. Adolph Saphir, who
was very far from being a “Nicolaitan” was right when he declared:
“Verses 7 and 17 show that there was a stated ministry, that there were
recognized and regular teachers and pastors in the congregation, whose
gifts not only, but whose office was acknowledged.” It is impossible that
any unprejudiced and impartial mind should attentively consider the terms
and implications of these verses and come to any other conclusion. The
principle of subordination is absolutely essential to the well-being of any
society that is to be rightly ordered and conducted — adumbrated even in
the organization of our bodies.
In our text the Holy Spirit sets forth the third great duty which is required
in our Christian profession, on account of the sacrifice of Christ and our
sanctification by His blood. Most comprehensive and all-inclusive are the
exhortations found in verses 15-17. The first respects our spiritual
obligation, Godwards, rendering unto Him that which is His due (verse
15). The second respects our social obligation, rendering unto our needy
fellows that which the requirements of charity dictates, according to our
ability. The third has respect to our ecclesiastical obligation, rendering
unto those officers in the church that submission and respect to which they
are entitled.by virtue of the position and authority which Christ has
accorded them. This is a Gospel institution, which can only be disregarded
to the manifest dishonor of the Lord and to our own great loss..373
Ever since the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, there have been
wide differences of opinion among God’s people concerning the local
church: its constitution, its officers, and its discipline. Even where there
was oneness of mind respecting the fundamentals of the Faith, godly men
have differed considerably in their ecclesiastical views. Numbers of the
most gifted of Christ’s servants have, during the last three hundred years,
written extensively upon the polity and policy of the local church, and
though widely varying positions have been taken, and though each claimed
to appeal to Scripture only for his authority, yet none succeeded in carrying
the majority of professing Christians with him, or of persuading his
opponents that their system was wrong.
While on the one hand we must admire the wisdom of Him who has
providentially ordered as great a variety of types in the ecclesiastical
sphere as He has in the physical and social — which though not a rule for
us to walk by, is a subject for our admiration; yet on the other hand we
cannot but deplore that they who are united on the same foundations and
agreed in all the cardinal truths of Holy Writ, should lay such emphasis
upon their circumstantial differences in sentiments as to prevent the
exercise of mutual love and forbearance, and instead of laboring in concert
within their respective departments to promote the common cause of
Christ, should so often vex each other with needless disputes and
uncharitable censures. Far better be silent altogether than contend for any
portion of the Truth in a bitter, angry, censorious spirit.
No true Christian will hesitate to acknowledge that Christ Himself is the
one infallible, authoritative Legislator and Governor of His Church, that He
is the only Lord of conscience, and that nothing inconsistent with His
revealed will should be practiced, and that nothing He has definitely
enjoined be omitted, by those professing allegiance to Him. But however
generally acknowledged these principles are, we cannot get away from the
fact that the misconstruction and misapplication of them have contributed
more to divide the people of God and to alienate their affections one from
the other, than any other cause that can be assigned. Surely those who are
built upon the common foundation, who are led by the same Spirit, who
are opposed by the same enemies, should love as brethren and bear each
other’s burdens. But alas! a mistaken zeal for Christ’s honor has filled them
with animosity against their fellow-disciples, split them into innumerable
factions, and given rise to fierce and endless contentions..374
We quite agree with the godly John Newton, when he said in his
“Apologia,” nearly two hundred years ago: “Men are born, educated, and
called under a great variety of circumstances. Habits of life, local customs,
early connections, and even bodily constitution, have more or less influence
in forming their characters, and in giving a tincture and turn to their
manner of thinking. So that though, in whatever is essential to their peace
and holiness, they are all led by the same Spirit and mind the same things;
in others of a secondary nature, their sentiments may, and often do differ,
as much as the features of their faces. A uniformity of judgment among
them is not to be expected while the wisest are defective in knowledge, the
best are defiled with sin, and while the weaknesses of human nature which
are common to them all, are so differently affected by a thousand
impressions which are from their various situations. They might, however,
maintain a unity of spirit, and live in the exercise of mutual love; were it
not that every party, and almost every individual, unhappily conceives that
they are bound in conscience to prescribe their own line of conduct as a
standard to which all their brethren ought to confirm They are
comparatively but few who consider this requisition to be as unnecessary,
unreasonable, and impracticable, as it would be to insist or expect that
every man’s shoes should be exactly of one size.
“Thus, though all agree in asserting the authority and rights of the Lord
Jesus, as King and Head of His Church, the various apprehensions they
frame of the rule to which He requires them to conform, and their
pertinacious attachment to their own expositions of it, separate them
almost as much from each other, as if they were not united to Him by a
principle of living faith. Their little differences form them into so many
separate interests; and the heat with which they defend their own plans, and
oppose all who cannot agree with them in a tittle, makes them forget that
they are children in the same family, and servants of the same Master. And
while they vex and worry each other with disputations and censures, the
world wonders and laughs at them.”
The position which has been taken by, perhaps, most of the leading writers,
was something like this: Get away from the conflicting views of men, and
read the N.T. prayerfully and impartially, and it will quickly be apparent
that the Lord Jesus has not left such an important matter as the constitution
of the churches undefined, but rather directed His apostles to leave in their
writings a pattern according to which it was His will all His churches in
future ages were to be formed, and (according to the particular leanings of.375
each respective writer) that it will be seen the primitive churches were
“Congregational,” “Baptist,” “Presbyterian,” or ‘Brethren Assemblies,” and
therefore any other system or scheme is unscriptural, and a presumptuous
deviation from the declared will of the Lord.
If, however, the reader cares to take the time and trouble to consult a
number of the writers in any one of these different schools, he will find that
though they are all agreed that a plain and satisfactory model of this
“Congregational” church (or “Baptist,” or “Presbyterian,” or “Brethren
Assembly,” as the case may be) can easily be collected and stated from a
perusal of the N.T.; yet when these same writers attempt to delineate and
describe that church, they differ considerably among themselves as to the
nature and number of its officers, powers and acts which are requisite to
the constitution and administration of a Gospel church. There is very far
from being that agreement among themselves which is certainly to be
expected if the plan from which they profess to copy be so clearly and
expressly revealed in the N.T. as to be binding upon believers in all ages.
It seems, then, that if every detail of the church’s government and worship
be exhibited in the Scriptures, either in the form of a precept or precedent,
yet thus far God has not given sufficient skill to any one so as to enable
him to collect and collate the various rules and regulations scattered
throughout the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and the Revelation, and arrange
them into a systematic and orderly structure. But that none really takes this
principle seriously appears from his own practices. There are a number of
things reported of the primitive Christians which few if any companies of
Christians today make any attempt to emulate. For example, the holding of
all earthly possessions in common (

Acts 2:44, 45), greeting one another
with a holy kiss (

1 Corinthians 16:20), making provision for their
widows when they reach the age of sixty (

1 Timothy 5:9), or sending
for the elders of the church to pray over and anoint us when we are sick
(

James 5:14)!
In reply to what has just been said, it will be pointed out that in the days of
the apostles the saints were endowed with extraordinary gifts, and
consequently there were some things practiced by them (in 1 Corinthians
14, for example) which are not proper for our imitation today who have
not those gifts. But that very admission surrenders the basic principle
contended for. To be told that we should study the apostolic churches for
our model, and then to be informed that some parts of their practice were.376
not designed for our emulation, is too bewildering for the ordinary mind to
grasp. Moreover, God has not told us anywhere which of the primitive
practices were but transient and which were not. Where, then, is the man
or men qualified to draw the line and declare authoritatively in what
respects the state of the first Christians was hindered from being a pattern
for us by the extraordinary dispensations of that generation, and in what
cases their actions are binding on us now those extraordinary
dispensations have ceased?
To the above it will at once be objected: But consider the only other
alternative: surely it is most unreasonable to suppose that the Lord has left
His people without a complete church model for their guidance! Is it not
unthinkable that Christ would fail His people in such a vitally important
matter as to how He would have them order all the concerns of the
churches which bear His name, that He would leave them in ignorance of
His will, as to their constitution, officers, order of worship, discipline, etc?
If God ordered Moses to make all things in the tabernacle according to the
pattern shown him in the mount, and if that pattern was so complete that
every board and pin in the house of worship was definitely defined, is it
believable that He has made less provision for His people today, now that
the fullness of time has come? This argument has indeed a most plausible
sound to it, and thousands have been misled thereby; but a dispassionate
examination of it shows it to be unwarrantable.
In the first place, there is no promise recorded in the N.T. that He would
do so, and no statement through any apostle that such a church model has
been provided! In the second place, the history of Christendom clearly
indicates the contrary. Had such a model been given, it would be as clearly
recognizable as the tabernacle pattern, and all who really desired to please
the Lord would have responded thereto; and, in consequence, there had
been uniformity among the true followers of Christ, instead of endless
diversity and variety. But in the third place, this proves too much. If a
Divine model has been given supplying all the details for the ordering of
N.T. churches and their worship, as definite and as complete as was given
for the tabernacle, then we would have minute regulations concerning the
size, shape, and furnishings of the buildings in which we must worship, full
directions for the ministers apparel, and so on! The absence of those details
is clear proof that no model for the churches comparable to the Divine
pattern for the tabernacle has been vouchsafed us..377
Then what conclusion are we forced to come to? This: a happy medium
between the two alternatives suggested by most of those who have written
on the subject. If on the one hand we cannot find in the N.T. that which in
any wise corresponds to the “pattern” for the tabernacle (and the minute
instructions God gave for the temple), on the other hand the Lord has not
left us so completely in ignorance of His will that every man or company of
Christians is left entirely to do that which is right in his own eyes. In
keeping with the vastly different character of the two dispensations, the
“liberty” of the Spirit (

2 Corinthians 3:17) has supplanted the rigid
legality of Judaism, and therefore has Christ supplied us with general
principles (e.g.,

1 Corinthians 14:26, 40), which are sufficiently broad
to allow of varied modification when applied to the differing circumstances
of His people, situated in various climes and generations — in contrast
from what was prescribed for the single nation of Israel of old.
In the N.T. we are furnished with a full revelation of all things necessary
unto salvation, the knowledge whereof man by his own powers could
never attain thereunto; yet there is much lacking there on other matters
which was furnished under the old covenant. God not only supplied Israel
with the ceremonial law, which was to regulate all their church or religious
life, but He also gave them a complete code of precepts for their civil
government, and no one pretends He has done this for Christians! In the
absence of that civil code, why should it be thought strange that God has
left many minor ecclesiastical arrangements to the discretion of His
servants? Unto those who are indignant at such a statement, and who are
still ready to insist that the Lord has made known His will on all things
respecting church and religious affairs, we would ask, Where does the New
Testament prescribe what marriage rites should be used? or the form of
service for a funeral? But enough.
As Richard Hooker pertinently pointed out, “he who affirms speech to be
necessary among all men throughout the world, doth not thereby import
that all men must necessarily speak one kind of language. Even so the
necessity of polity and regimen in all churches may be held, without holding
any one certain form to be necessary in them all.” This is far from granting
that all the various modes of church government are equally agreeable to
the spirit and genius of the Gospel, or equally suited to the promotion of
edification. Once again we fully agree with John Newton when he said, “In
essentials I agree with them all, and in circumstancials I differ no more
from any of them than they differ among themselves. They all confess they.378
are fallible, yet they all decide with an air of infallibility; for they all in their
turn expect me to unite with them, if I have any regard to the authority and
honor of the Lord Jesus as Head of the church. But the very consideration
they propose restrains me from uniting with any of them. For I cannot
think that I should honor the headship and kingly office of Christ by
acknowledging Him as the Head of a party and subdivision of His people
to the exclusion of the rest.
“Every party uses fair sounding words of liberty; but when an explanation
is made, it amounts to little more than this: that they will give me liberty to
think as they think, and to act as they act; which to me, who claim the same
right of thinking for myself and of acting according to the dictates of my
own conscience, is no liberty at all. I therefore came to such conclusions as
these: that I would love them all, that I would hold a friendly intercourse
with them all, so far as they should providentially come in my way (and, he
might have added, so far as they will allow me!); but that I would stand
fast in the liberty with which Christ has made me free, and call none of
them master; in fine, that if others sought to honor Him by laying a great
stress on matters of doubtful disputation, my way of honoring Him should
be by endeavoring to show that His kingdom is not of this world, nor
consists in meats and drinks, in pleading for form and parties, but in
righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; and that neither
circumcision is anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creature, and the
faith which worketh by love.
This is the course which the writer has sedulously sought to follow for the
past ten years, both in connection with this magazine and in oral ministry.
But alas! notwithstanding the boasted “broadmindedness” and “liberality”
of this generation, we have found, everywhere we have been the
ecclesiastical barriers are as impregnable today as they were a century ago,
and that no church, circle, or company of professing Christians is prepared
to really welcome into their midst (no matter what his reputation or
credentials) one who is unprepared to join and limit to their party, and
pronounce all their shibboleths; and that the vast majority are unwilling to
read any religious publication unless it bears upon it the label of their
particular denomination. No wonder that the Spirit of God is quenched and
His power and blessing absent, where such an un-Christ-like, sectarian,
bigoted and pharisaical spirit prevails..379
We are not going to prescribe for others; let every man be fully persuaded
in his own mind. But as far as the writer is concerned, he values his
Christian liberty far too highly to voluntarily shut himself up in any
ecclesiastical prison, where he is excluded from fellowship with his
brethren and sisters scattered abroad. Of course since sinless perfection is
not to be found in any individual on earth, it is not to be expected from any
group of individuals. No one denomination or party has all the light. On the
one hand, if the reader be a member of a church where unsound doctrine is
preached or where no Scriptural discipline is maintained, his course is
clear:

Ephesians 5:11,

2 Timothy 3:5. But if on the other hand, he
belongs to any evangelical church which is honestly seeking to honor
Christ and where his soul is being fed, then, in our humble judgment, he
will be wise to remain there and “obey them that have the rule over him”
yet let him not look down upon others who differ from him.
In dissenting from the popular view that the N.T. record of primitive
Christianity furnishes a complete model of church government, and that the
same is an authoritative rule binding upon the Lord’s people throughout
the entire course of this dispensation, we are far from supposing that we
shall carry with us the majority of our readers — by this time the writer
ought to be sufficiently acquainted with human nature to prevent any such
foolish day dreaming. And in affirming that the N.T. rather supplies us with
general rules and principles, which are sufficiently elastic as to allow for
human discretion to be exercised in the application of them to particular
instances of the church’s outward conduct, we are quite prepared to face
the charge that this statement is a “dangerous” one. Our reply is, that we
are affirming no more than what is universally acknowledged concerning
the regulation of the details of the life of the individual believer.
Is not the Christian daily made to cry unto God for wisdom how to act in
his temporal affairs, and that because there are no specific precepts in the
Word which prescribe for those particular exigencies? Is he not obliged,
after prayerful deliberation, to use his common sense in applying the
general rules of Scripture to a hundred minor details of his life? So
common an occurrence is this and so universally does it obtain among the
saints, that there is no need for us to enlarge upon it by illustrating the
point — there is no need to prove what is self-evident. In view of this
simple and obvious fact, why should we be the least surprised that God has
ordained that His churches should follow a similar course, for what is a
Gospel church but a company of individual believers in organized.380
relationship. If, then, God has not told the individual believer at what hour
he should rise on the Sabbath and how many meals he should eat that day,
would we expect Him to state how long the minister’s sermon is to be, or
how many hymns or psalms are to be sung?
“The Lord Christ in the institution of Gospel churches — their
state, order, rule, and worship — doth not require of His disciples
that in their observance of His appointments they should cease to
be men, or forego the use and exercise of their rational abilities,
according to the rule of that exercise, which is the light of nature,
yea, because the rules and directions are in this case to be applied
unto things spiritual and of mere revelation, He giveth wisdom and
prudence to make that application in a due manner, unto those to
whom the guidance and rule of the church is committed: wherefore,
as unto all things which the light of nature directs us unto, with
respect unto the observation of the duties prescribed by Christ in
and unto the Church, we need no other institution but that of the
use of the especial Spiritual understanding which the Lord Christ
gives us for that end.
“There are in the Scripture general rules directing us in the
application of natural light, unto such a determination of all
circumstances in the acts of church-rule and worship, as are
sufficient for their performance decently and in order. Wherefore,
as was said before, it is utterly in vain and useless, to demand
express institution of all the circumstances belonging unto the
government, order, and worship of the church; or for the due
improvement of things in themselves indifferent unto its edification,
as occasion shall require. Nor are they capable to be any otherwise
stated, but as they lie in the light of nature and spiritual prudence
directed by general rules of Scripture.” (John Owen).
Nor is this to discredit or disparage the Holy Scriptures. The Testimony of
God is true, perfect, and all-sufficient for the ends for which it was given;
but that Testimony is not honored but dishonored by us, if we
extravagantly attribute to it that which God never designed for the same.
Rome has erred grievously by declaring that the Scriptures are not
sufficient, that “traditions” must be added if we are to have a full revelation
of what is absolutely necessary, for us to know in this life in order that we
may be saved in the next. But some Protestants have gone to another.381
extreme, taking the position that the Scriptures contain such a complete
revelation of God’s will for the regulation of our lives, both as individuals
and as churches, that to act according to any other rule (be it the
promptings of conscience or the dictates of reason) is presumptuous and
sinful.
But to insist that the conduct of the church must have an express warrant
from the N.T. for every detail of its procedure, and that to act otherwise is
displeasing to the Lord, is to go much farther than that which obtained
even under the O.T. What commandment from the Lord did the Gileadites
have to erect that altar spoken of in

Joshua 22:10? Did not congruity of
reason — the fitness of things — induce them thereto and suffice for
defense of their act? What Divine commandment had the women of Israel
to yearly lament for Jephthah’s daughter (

Judges 11:40)? What “thus
saith the Lord” or scriptural precedent did Ezra have for making “a pulpit
of wood” (

Nehemiah 8:4), from which he preached to the people? What
Divine Commandment had the Jews to celebrate the feast of “Dedication”
(

John 10:22), nowhere spoken of in the Law, yet solemnized by Christ
Himself! To condemn all that is “of human invention” is not only to fly in
the face of the judgment of many of the wisest and most godly men, but is
to go beyond what the Scriptures themselves permit..382
CHAPTER 120
CHRISTIAN RULERS
(

HEBREWS 13:17)
In the preceding article we have deviated from our usual custom in this
series of giving a word by word exposition of the verse before us, deeming
it well to first give it a topical treatment. This magazine, small as is its
circulation, goes to hundreds of the Lord’s people who are found in many
different branches of Christendom. Some of them are sorely perplexed by
the babble of tongues which now obtains in the religious realm. The high
claims so dogmatically put forth by various sects and systems, assemblies
and circles of fellowship, bewilder not a few honest souls, who are desirous
of doing that which is most pleasing to the Lord. It was with a desire to
afford them some help on what is admittedly a most difficult and
complicated subject, that according to the light which God has granted us
(or withheld from us), we sought to point out some of the fallacies
pertaining to the leading positions taken by ecclesiastical writers.
To say that the diverse denominations, even the evangelically orthodox,
cannot all be right, and therefore that among them there must be one much
more closely in accord with the Scriptures than the others, sounds very
feasible; nevertheless, the writer is satisfied that, generally speaking, it has
more of error than truth in it. Comparisons are proverbially odious. As no
one believer has all the graces of the Spirit equally developed in him, so no
one church or denomination has all the Truth. Think of attempting to draw
invidious contrasts between Andrew and Peter, Paul and John, as to which
was the more Christ-like! As well might one set the rose over against the
lily of the valley, or wheat against oats. As

1 Corinthians 14:10 tells us,
“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of
them is without signification.” So in the providence of God each particular
denomination has filled a place and served a purpose in His plan
concerning His cause upon earth.
Nothing is more offensive to God than creature pride (

Proverbs 6:16,
17), and nothing is more to be deplored among those who bear the name of.383
Christ than that a company of them (be it large or small) shall claim “we
are the people” — the people who meet on the most scriptural ground, the
people who adhere closest to the Word. A spirit of bigotry ill-becomes
sinners saved by grace, while jealousies and contentions, enmity and
reviling, among members of the same Family are most reprehensible: “the
wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (

James 1:20).
Differences of opinion are inevitable while we are in the flesh — permitted
by God that we should have occasion to be “forbearing one another in
love” (

Ephesians 4:2). That form of church government which accords
most closely to the N.T., and where every detail is scrupulously correct,
would be valueless in the sight of God unless it were conducted in love and
its worship was “in spirit and in truth.”
Let it be attentively considered that at the dawn of Christianity the first
officers of the church were immediately called by Christ (

Galatians 1:2),
which none now are, nor have any since the decease of those who were so
called at the first; that they were endowed with extraordinary gifts and
power, but Christ has not continued to communicate such to His servants;
that those original officers were blest with Divine inspiration and infallible
guidance, both in preaching the Gospel and appointing things necessary for
the churches, which none can rightly pretend unto today; that those first
officers had a commission giving them authority towards all the world for
evangelization and over all churches for their edification which no servant
of Christ can claim today. How utterly vain, then, is the claim, either unto a
“succession” of those officers, or to a perfect emulation of their order of
things. Nevertheless, church-rulers — bishops and deacons — were to
continue, as is clear from 1 Timothy 3, etc.
Now in every orderly society there must be rulers, and in all ages and
dispensations the same have been mercifully appointed by God: Moses,
Joshua, the judges and kings over Israel, are so many illustrations of this
principle. It is the same in this era, nor does the presence of the Holy Spirit
render unnecessary rulers in the churches. Christ is not the Author of
confusion: but endless confusion and turmoil is inevitable where there are
no accredited and acknowledged leaders. True, the rulers Christ has
instituted for His churches possess no arbitrary power, for they are
themselves subordinate to Him. Their office is that of a steward (

Titus
1:7), who is neither to lord it over the household nor to be entirely under
subjection to it, but to superintend and provide for the family..384
Take the chief steward or “lord chamberlain,” of his majesty king George,
and while it may not be strictly parallel with the position and duties of an
official servant of Christ, yet there is sufficient in common for the former to
help us understand the latter. While on the one hand the “lord chamberlain”
has to be regulated by certain rules and well established precedents, yet on
the other hand he is far more than an automaton mechanically acting
according to a written code. As one qualified for his position, he is allowed
considerable freedom in making many arrangements for the Royal
household; nevertheless, he is not free to act arbitrarily or follow naught
but his own preferences. No, that which regulates him is the well-being of
his august master: he plans and arranges so as to please him, to promote
his comfort, to serve his interests and honor; and when he is in doubt as to
his procedure, consults the king to ascertain his will.
Analagous is the position occupied by the pastor of a local church.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made
ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed
is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing”
(

Matthew 24:45, 46).
Note carefully the following points in this passage. First, the use of the
singular number: one servant for each local household! Second, that this
servant is made “ruler over the” household! Third, that he is given that
position for the purpose of supplying them “meat in due season,” which, in
its wider signification, means to superintend all the arrangements, to care
for all its members, to protect and promote their well-being. Christ does
not call dolts and idiots to occupy this place, but men endowed with good
common sense, to which He graciously adds spiritual wisdom and
discernment.
Now the ruler of Christ’s household is neither a supreme sovereign or
pope, nor a mere figure head without freedom of action. He, in turn, is the
servant, responsible to Him, there to uphold His honor, care for those who
are precious in His sight, and to whom he must yet render a full account of
his stewardship. Therefore, while on the one hand he must act within the
bounds of certain general rules and principles prescribed for his conduct,
and must not introduce anything which would dishonor his royal Master or
be inimical to His interests; yet on the other hand he is required to use his
own judgment in applying those general rules to particular cases and to
make whatever minor arrangement he deems most for his Master’s glory.385
and the good of His household; and when he is in doubt as to his right or
best course, it is his privilege to plead and count upon the promise of

James 1:5.
To extend our analogy one point further. As the “lord chamberlain” has
other servants under him to assist in the discharge of his honorable duties,
servants who cooperate with him by carrying out his instructions, so Christ
has provided the pastor of a local church with deacons, and, as many think,
with “ruling elders” (or where the church is a larger one as was the case
with many of those in apostolic times — with fellow-pastors or “elders”),
to help him in his official duties. So that when our text says “obey them
that have the rule over you” it takes in all the officers of the local church,
whatever be the technical names they now go under. These additional
church officers not only provide assistance for the chief ruler, but they also
serve as a check upon him, for if they be endowed with the qualifications
specified in

1 Timothy 3:8-13, they will not be a party to anything
which is obviously dishonoring to Christ.
If it be true (as many students of Scripture have concluded) that the seven
epistles of Revelation 2 and 3 furnish a prophetic outline of the
ecclesiastical history of Christendom, then it appears that the trend of
church government has passed from one extreme to another, from
Nicolaitanism (

Revelation 2:6, 15), which signifies the subjugation of
the laity, to Laodiceanism (

Revelation 3:14) which means the
domination of the laity. Nor need this surprise us, for the same change has
taken place in the political and social order. It is indeed striking to observe
how close is the resemblance between them. The development of
Nonconformity and the rapid spread of Independency in the religious world
was quickly followed by the rebellion of the American colonies and the
formation of Republics in the U.S.A. and in France. Side by side with the
growth of a democratic spirit in the churches, has been the spread of
“socialism” in the state, the one more and more re-acting on the other.
One of the most radical and far reaching movements of the last century was
that which sought to obliterate all distinctions between the clergy, and the
laity, establishing a network of “assemblies” all over the English-speaking
world, wherein there are (professedly) no officers, where a one-man-ministry
is decried, and where the Spirit is (avowedly) free to use whom
He pleases. This modern movement also claims to be founded entirely
upon the Scriptures, yea, insists that all other bodies of professing.386
Christians are the daughters of Rome and form part of that mystical and
apostate Babylon from which God commands His people to come out. This
movement has also split up into scores of conflicting parties, each claiming
to be the only one which truly “represents” the Body of Christ on earth.
But enough; let us now come to closer grips with our text.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they
watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it
with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (verse 17). In
these words respect is had to be the ministerial office. To bear “rule”
intimates both the duty and dignity of Christ’s official servants. God has
graciously appointed them to subserve His honor by maintaining decency
and order in His churches, and because they are necessary and for the good
of His people. To obey and submit to their spiritual leaders is what church-members
are here exhorted unto. In verse 7 the apostle made known the
particular duties unto those of their guides who had finished their course;
here he presses upon them their obligations toward those who were still
with them in the body. To ignore those rulers or to rebel against their
authority, is to despise the One who has appointed them.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.” It is
abundantly clear from these words that in the days of the Apostles there
were two distinct classes among God’s people, namely, the rulers and
those that were ruled, and as this is not merely an historical statement but a
specific exhortation, it is equally clear that the same is binding upon
Christians throughout the entire course of this dispensation. This, of
course, presupposes a settled church state among them, in which the
distinctive duties of each class is here distinctly defined, according to the
office of the one and the obligation of the other. The duties here prescribed
contain a succinct summary of all that relates to church rule and order, for
all that concerns its welfare is comprised in the due obedience of the
church to its rulers, and their due discharge of their office.
The Greek word for “them that have the rule over you” (“hegeomai”) is
rendered “chief” in

Luke 22:26 and “governor” in

Acts 7:10 — “and
he (Pharaoh) made him (Joseph) governor over Egypt and all his house,”
which sufficiently intimates its scope. They have received power from
Christ to preside over His assemblies, to declare His will and execute His
laws, to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all authority and longsuffering. They
have no arbitrary power except what Christ has given them, yet within the.387
limits He has prescribed, they are rulers, and it is the duty of their members
to obey them.
“It is of equal importance that the office-bearers in a church should
not aspire to a higher degree of authority, and should not be
content with a lower degree of authority, than that which their
Master has assigned them; and that the members of a church should
equally guard against basely submitting to a tyranny which Christ
has never instituted, and lawlessly rebelling against a government
which He has appointed” (John Brown).
John Owen declared that the twofold duty here enjoined with respect to the
ecclesiastical leaders has respect unto the two parts of their office, namely,
teaching and ruling: “obey their teaching and submit to their rule.” While it
be true that their doctrine or preaching is to be obeyed (so far as it accords
with the Truth), and that their authority is to be yielded unto as it respects
their ordering of the church’s life, yet we rather regard the two
exhortations as having a distributive force, the second amplifying the first.
The word “obey” in our text means an obedience which follows a being
persuaded: the mind is first carried along with the preacher so that it
believes, and then the will acts — note the marginal alternative in

Acts
5:36 for “obeyed” is “believed.” “And submit yourselves” seems to us to
have reference unto the spirit in which they were to obey — obedience was
not to be merely an outward act, but prompted by submissive hearts.
Thus, we take it that “obey them that have the rule over you” is not to be
restricted to their teaching (as Owen defined it), but includes their ruling of
the church as well; while the “submit yourselves” has a wider significance
than yielding to their rule, referring to the spirit which was to regulate the
whole of their obedience. As Calvin well expressed it, “He commands first
obedience and then honor to be rendered to them. These two things are
necessarily required, so that the people might have confidence in their
pastors, and also reverence them. But it ought at the same time to be
noticed that the apostle speaks only of those who faithfully performed their
office; for they who have nothing but the title, nay, who use the title of
pastors, for the purpose of destroying the Church, deserve but little
reverence and still less confidence. And this also is what the apostle plainly
sets forth when he says, that they watch for their souls — a duty which is
not performed but by those who are faithful rulers.”.388
The duty here enjoined, then, may be summed up in: cultivate an obedient,
compliant, and submissive spirit unto your pastors and church officers. To
“obey” and “submit” denotes such a subjection as of inferiors to superiors.
It is not a servile subjection, but that reverent respect which God requires,
a “submission” which issues from love, and which has for its end the
honoring of those to whom honor is due. It would therefore include the
doing of everything in the power of the members which would make the lot
of their rulers easier and lighter, and, of course, would take in the
providing for their temporal sustenance. Those rulers are appointed by
God, standing in His immediate stead, so that the Lord Christ declared,
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I
send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent
Me” (

John 13:20).
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.” It
scarcely needs pointing out that those words are not to be taken absolutely,
any more than are “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers”
(

Romans 13:1) or “As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the
wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (

Ephesians 5:24). Each
of these exhortations is qualified by others: the members of a Gospel
church are no more required to receive the pastor’s teaching when it be
flagrantly opposed to Holy Writ, or to submit to any ruling of his which is
manifestly dishonoring to Christ and injurious to His people, than they are
to yield to a mandate of Nebuchadnezzar if he sets up an image to himself
and commands all to fall down and worship it, or if an ungodly husband
required from his wife anything contrary to the laws of nature. No, it is not
a blind and implicit obedience which is here enjoined for that would be
quite contrary to the whole tenor of Gospel obedience, which is “our
reasonable service.”
The subjection required by our text is only unto that office established by
Christ Himself. If any usurp that office, and under cloak thereof do teach
or enjoin things contrary to what Christ has instituted, then no obedience
unto them is required by this command. But it is just at this point that most
difficulty is experienced today. For many years past large numbers of
professing Christians have been demanding that the religious leaders should
speak unto them “smooth things,” yea, prophesy unto them “deceits,”
declining to listen unto what condemned their carnal and worldly lives and
refusing to heed the holy requirements of God. In consequence, He has.389
suffered their descendants to reap the evil sowings of their fathers, by
largely withholding “pastors after His own heart,” and allowing thousands
of unregenerate men to occupy the modern pulpit. Instead of “obeying”
and “submitting” to them, God requires His people to turn away from and
have nothing to do with them.
The true servants of Christ are to be identified by the marks specified in 1
Timothy 3. They are men who are “apt to teach,” being qualified by the
Spirit to open up the Scriptures and apply them to the consciences and
lives of their hearers. They are “not greedy of filthy lucre” nor covetous,
demanding a salary which would enable them to live above the level of
their members, and declining to serve if there were no pay attached to it.
“Not a novice,” with little or no experience in the spiritual ups and downs
of God’s tried people, but one who has himself tested and proved the
reliability and sufficiency of what he recommends to his hearers. He must
be a man who is “not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine,” but
“a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate” (

Titus 1:7, 8), or
otherwise he could not commend what he teaches by his own example. The
servants of Christ, then, are endued with a measure of the spirit of their
Master, and it is by that they are to be distinguished from the false.
To refuse obedience and submission unto such, to contemptuously rail
against “the one man system,” is to despise a Divine institution, for the
office of the “pastor” is as much the Lord’s own appointment as is the
church itself, or the gifts and graces of its individual members. It is true
that men will and do abuse the good gifts of God, but if some pastors are
arbitrary, are not some members unruly? If there be pride in the pulpit, is
there none in the pew? Alas, in this Laodicean and communistic age, when
it has become the fashion to “despise dominion and speak evil of dignities”
(Jude 8) and when
“the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the
base against the honorable” (

Isaiah 3:5),
almost every individual considers himself qualified to judge and direct both
civil and ecclesiastical rulers, to prescribe for both state and church, to
scrutinize and criticize everything that is being done, and to say what ought
to be done. May the Lord have mercy and subdue the turbulent ragings of
pride..390
“For they watch for your souls.” This is adduced as a reason why we
should show proper respect unto Church rulers.
“The word used is peculiar unto this place, and it denotes a
watchfulness with the greatest care and diligence, and that not
without trouble or danger, as Jacob kept and watched the flock of
Laban in the night” (John Owen).
The true under-shepherds of Christ have no selfish aims, but rather the
spiritual and eternal good of those who are entrusted to their care. Many a
minister of the Gospel is often awake, burning midnight oil, while the
members of his flock are asleep. Many a one can say, “I will very gladly
spend and be spent for you” (

2 Corinthians 12:15). The ministerial
office is no idler’s one: it makes demands on heart, mind, and nervous
energy, such as none other does.
Here, then, is a motive, to move the members to gladly be subservient to
their rulers. The more labor any one undertakes for our sake and the more
difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to
him. Such is the office of bishops or elders; and the heavier the burden they
bear, the more honor they deserve. Let, then, our gratitude be evidenced by
giving them that which is their due.
“We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you,
and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem
them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace
among yourselves” (

1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).
Let us also add that, young men aspiring unto the ministerial office need to
think twice about entering a calling which demands ceaseless self-sacrifice,
unremitting toil, and a love for Christ and His people which alone will
sustain amid sore discouragements.
“They watch for your souls as they that must give account” supplies a
further motive. They are placed in a position of trust, commissioned by the
Lord, to whom they are immediately responsible. They often render an
account to Him now, keeping up a constant intercourse with Him,
spreading before Him the state and needs of His people, seeking supplies of
grace. A full and final account must be rendered of their stewardship in the
Day to come. Unspeakably solemn consideration is that, and this it is which
actuates them, for they “watch for the souls of their church as those who.391
must give account.” They bear in mind the awful warning of

Ezekiel
33:5, and seek to heed the exhortation of

1 Timothy 4:16.
“That they may do it with joy, and not with grief.” Here is a further reason
why church members should give to their rulers that which is due them. If
on the one hand nothing is more encouraging to a pastor than for his
people to be responsive and docile, it is equally true that nothing is more
disheartening and saddening to him than to meet with opposition from
those whose highest interests he is serving with all his might. Every
Christian minister who is entitled to that designation, can, in his measure,
say with the apostle, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children
walk in truth” (

3 John 4).
“For that is unprofitable for you” furnishes the final motive. For the
members of a church to so conduct themselves as to be a constant source
of grief unto their minister is to despise their own mercies. It not only
prevents their receiving his instruction into their hearts, which results in
their spiritual barrenness, but it also saps his vigor, quenches his zeal,
causing him to proceed with a heavy heart instead of with cheerfulness.
What is still more solemn and serious, the Lord Himself is highly
displeased, and the tokens of His favor are withdrawn, for He is very
sensitive of the mistreatment of His stewards.
“We cannot be troublesome or disobedient to our pastors without
hazarding our own salvation” (John Calvin)
— alas that such erroneous ideas of “salvation” now so widely obtain. May
the Lord mercifully pardon any thing in these articles displeasing to Him,
and graciously add His blessing to that which is acceptable..392
CHAPTER 121
A GOOD CONSCIENCE
(

HEBREWS 13:18, 19)

Hebrews 13:18, 19 is closely connected with the verse which
immediately precedes. In our present portion the apostle mentions another
duty which believers owe to those who minister unto them in spiritual
things, and this is that they should earnestly remember them before the
Throne of Grace. The writer of this epistle besought the prayers of the
Hebrews, supporting his plea with a declaration of the sincerity and fidelity
with which he had sought to discharge his office. The very fact that the
true servants of Christ are so conscientious in the performance of their
work, should so endear them to those they minister unto that a spirit of
prayer for them ought to be kindled in their hearts. They are the
instruments through which we receive the most good, and therefore the
least we can do in return is to seek to bear them up before God in the arms
of our faith and love.
Before we consider this special need of Christ’s servants, and our privilege
and duty in ministering unto the same, we propose to devote the remainder
of this article unto a careful consideration of the particular reason here
advanced by the apostle in support of his request, namely, “for we trust we
have a good conscience in all things willing to live honestly.” This
expression “a good conscience” occurs in several other passages in the
N.T., and because of its deep importance it calls for our closest attention.
Much is said in the Word about conscience, and much depends upon our
having and preserving a good one, and therefore it behooves us to give our
best consideration to this weighty subject. Not only is it one of great
practical moment, but it is especially timely in view of the conscienceless
day in which we live. What, then, is the conscience? What is a good
conscience, and how is it obtained and maintained? May the Spirit of Truth
be our Teacher as we seek to ponder these vital questions.
Conscience is that faculty of the soul which enables us to perceive of
conduct in reference to right and wrong, that inward principle which.393
decides upon the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our desires and deeds.
Conscience has well been termed the moral sense, because it corresponds
to those physical faculties whereby we have communion with the outward
world, namely, the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.
Man has an ethical instinct, a faculty or moral sensibility informing and
impressing him.
“It is far higher in the scale and keener in its perceptions than any
mere bodily sense. There is an inner eye, that sees into the nature of
right and wrong; an inner ear, sensitive to the faintest whisper of
moral obligation; an inner touch, that feels the pressure of duty, and
responds to it sympathetically” (A.T. Pierson).
Conscience is that mysterious principle which bears its witness within us
for good or evil, and therefore it is the very center of human accountability,
for it greatly adds to his condemnation that man continues sinning against
the dictates of this internal sentinal. Conscience supplies us with self-knowledge
and self-judgment, re-suiting in self-approbation or self-condemnation
according to our measure of light. It is a part of the
understanding in all rational creatures which passes judgment on all actions
for or against them. It bears witness of our thoughts, affections, and
actions, for it reflects upon and weighs whatever is proposed to and by the
mind. That it bears witness of emotions is clear from,
“My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I
have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart”
(

Romans 9:1, 2).
So again we read,
“Take no heed unto all words that are spoken, lest thou hear thy
servant curse thee; for oftentimes also thine own heart (conscience)
knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast (inwardly) cursed others”
(

Ecclesiastes 7:21, 22).
Its voice is heard by the soul secretly acquainting us with the right and
wrong of things.
That conscience exists in the unregenerate is clear from Paul’s statement
concerning the Gentiles:.394
“Which show the work of the law written in their hearts: their
conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile
accusing or else excusing one another” (

Romans 2:15).
Though the heathen never received the Scriptures, as Israel did, yet they
had within them that which accused or excused them. There is within every
man (save the idiot) that which reproves him for his sins, yea, for those
most secret sins to which none are privy but themselves. Wicked men seek
to stifle those inward chidings, but are rarely if ever successful.
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the
hypocrites” (

Isaiah 33:14).
Unregenerate men are without faith, yet not without fear:
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth” (

Proverbs 28:1).
There is that within man which appalls the stoutest Sinner after the
commitral of any gross evil: his own heart reproves him.
The Creator has gifted the human soul with various faculties, such as the
understanding, affections, and will; and He has also bestowed upon it this
power of considering its own state and actions, both inward and outward,
constituting conscience both a monitor and judge within man’s own bosom
— a monitor to warn of duty, a judge to condemn for neglect of the same.
It is an impartial judge within us, that cannot be suspected of either undue
severity or ill-will, for it is an intrinsic part of our own very selves.
Conscience anticipates the Grand Assize in the Day to come, for it forces
man to pass verdict upon himself, as he is subject to the judgment of God.
It is resident in the understanding, as is clear from

1 Corinthians 2:11,
where the conscience is termed our “spirit.”
The presence of conscience within man supplies one of the clearest
demonstrations of the existence of God. To this fact the Holy Spirit
appeals in Psalm 53. “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”
(verse 1). Now how does he prove there is a God? Thus, “There were they
in great fear, where no fear was” (verse 5). Though there was no outward
cause for fear, none seeking to hurt them, yet even those who lived most
atheistically were under a fear. An illustration is seen in the case of
Joseph’s brethren, who accused themselves when there was none other to
accuse them:.395
“They said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our
brother” (

Genesis 42:21).
Though a man should hide himself from all the world, he cannot get away
from himself — his heart will pursue and condemn him. Now the very fact
that there is such a hidden fear in man after sinning, that their hearts smite
them for crimes done in secret, argues there is a God.
This fear is found in the most obstinate sinners, and in those who, because
of their high station and power are exempt from human justice. History
records how kings and emperors have followed their wickedness without
interference, yet even the infamous Caligula trembled when it thundered. It
was not a fear that they might be found out by man and punished by him,
for in some notable instances this fear prevailed to such an extent that
human punishment had been a welcome relief, and failing which they
perforce laid violent hands upon themselves. What can be the reason for
this, but that they feared a Judge and Avenger, who would call them to
account? As the apostle said of the heathen, “They know the judgment of
God” (

Romans 1:32): there is a witness in their own souls that they are
liable to His justice. Mark the fearful consternation of Belshazzar: the
paling of his countenance, smiting of his knees, loosing of his joints, when
he read the sentence on the palace walls (

Daniel 5:6).
“There is nothing in man that more challenges and demands
adequate explanation than his moral sense. Conscience is a court
always in session and imperative in its summons. No man can evade
it or silence its accusations. It is a complete assize. It has a judge on
its bench, and that judge will not be bribed into a lax decision. It
has its witness-stand, and can bring witnesses from the whole
territory of the past life. It has its jury, ready to give a verdict,
‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty,’ in strict accordance with the evidence; and it
has its sheriff, remorse, with his whip of scorpions, ready to lash
the convicted soul. The nearest thing in this world to the bar of
God, is the court of conscience. And though it be for a time
drugged into a partial apathy, or intoxicated with worldly pleasure,
the time comes when in all the majesty of its imperial authority this
court calls to its bar every transgressor and holds him to a strict
account” (A.T. Pierson).
But though the presence of conscience in us bears witness to the existence
of a holy, righteous, sin-hating and sin-avenging God, it is scarcely correct.396
to say (as numbers have done) that the conscience is the voice of God
speaking in the soul, rather is it that faculty which responds to what He
says. When Christ declared “he that hath ears to hear let him hear,” He
signified, him that has a conscience attuned to the Most High, who desires
to know His will and submit to His authority. Conscience sits upon the
bench of the heart as God’s vicegerent, acquitting or accusing. It acts thus
in the natural man, but in the regenerate it is a godly conscience, guided in
its operations by the Holy Spirit, bearing its testimony for or against the
believer according to his character and conduct, Godwards and manwards.
The actual term conscience is derived from “scio” to know, and “con”
with. There is some difference of opinion as to the precise application of
the prefix, whether it be a knowledge we have in common with God, or a
knowledge according to His Law. Really, it is a distinction with very little
difference. The “knowledge” is of one individual alone by himself, but this
“knowledge with” is where two at least share the same secret, either of
them knowing it together with the other. Conscience, then, is that faculty
which combines two together, and makes them partners in knowledge; it is
between man and God. God knows perfectly all the doings of a man, no
matter how carefully concealed; and man, by this faculty, also knows
together with God the same things of himself. Hence we read of
“conscience toward God” (

1 Peter 2:19), or as the Greek may also be
rendered (see margin of R.V.) “the conscience of God” — having Him for
its Author and Object. Conscience is God’s vicegerent, acting for and
under Him.
Thus, as the very term implies, conscience must have a rule to work by:
“knowledge together with.” It is not only a knowledge, but a knowledge
coupled with a standard, according to which a process of inward judgment
is carried on. Now our only proper rule is the Word, or revealed will of
God. That is divided into two parts: what God speaks to man in His holy
Law, and what He says to him in His blessed Gospel. If conscience departs
from that Rule, then it is a rebellious one, it has ceased to speak and judge
for God, and then the light in man is turned into darkness, for the (inward)
eye has become evil (

Matthew 6:23). In his primitive condition man had
only the Law, and the proper work of conscience then was to speak
warningly and condemningly in strict accordance with that Rule, and to
allow none other. But our first parents listened to Satan’s lie, broke the
Law, and came under its condemnation..397
Wherever we go conscience accompanies us, whatever we think or do it
records and registers in order to the Day of accounts.
“When all friends forsake thee, yea, when thy soul forsakes the
body, conscience will not, cannot, forsake thee. When thy body is
weakest and dullest, the conscience is most vigorous and active.
Never more life in the conscience than when death makes its
nearest approach to the body. When it smiles, acquits, and
comforts, what a heaven doth it create within a man! But when it
frowns, condemns and terrifies, how does it becloud, yea, benight
all the pleasures, joys and delights of this world” (John Flavell).
Conscience, then, is the best of friends or the worst of enemies in the
whole creation.
Much of our peace of mind and liberty of spirit in this world will be
according to the favorable testimony of conscience, and much of our
spiritual bondage, fear, and distress of mind will be according to the
charges of wrong-doing which conscience brings against us. When the
gnawings of conscience are intensified, they become unendurable, as was
the case with Cain, Judas and Sapphira, for they supply a real foretaste of
the internal torments of Hell. Most probably this is that “worm that dieth
not” (

Mark 9:44) which preys upon the lost. As a worm in the body is
bred of the corruption that is therein, so the accusations and
condemnations of conscience are bred in the soul by the corruptions and
guilt that are therein; and as the worm preys upon the tender and invisible
parts of the body, so does conscience touch the very quick of the soul.
But notwithstanding what has been predicated of the conscience above, it
is, nevertheless, defiled (

Titus 1:15). In the natural man it is exceeding
partial in its office, winking at and indulging favorite sins, whilst being
strict and severe upon other sins to which a person is not constitutionally
prone. Thus we find the conscience of king Saul exceedingly punctilious in
a matter of the ceremonial law (

1 Samuel 14:34), yet he scrupled not to
slay eighty-five of God’s priests! The reason why the conscience is so
uneven is because it has been corrupted by the Fall: it is out of order, just
as a foul stomach craves certain articles of diet while loathing others which
are equally wholesome. So it is in the performance of duties: conscience in
the natural man picks and chooses according to its own perverted caprice:
neglecting what is distasteful, performing what is pleasing and then being
proud because it has done so..398
Now conscience is either good or evil, and that, according as it is governed
by the revealed will of God. Briefly, the evil conscience first. This is of
several kinds. There is the ignorant and darkened conscience, relatively so
and not absolutely, for all (save idiots) possess rationality and the light of
nature. This is the condition of the heathen, and alas, of an increasing
number in Christendom, who are reared in homes where God is utterly
ignored. Then there is the brazen and defiant conscience, which blatantly
refuses to be in subjection to God’s known will: such was the case with
Pharaoh. In the case of Herod we see a bribed conscience, pretending that
his oath obliged him to behead John the Baptist. The seared and insensible
conscience (

1 Timothy 4:2) pertains to those who have long resisted the
light and are given over by God to a reprobate mind. The despairing and
desperate conscience leads its possessor to lay violent hands upon himself.
At the new birth the conscience is renewed, being greatly quickened and
enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Through the exercise of faith the conscience
is purified (

Acts 15:9), being cleansed by an appropriation of the blood
of Christ (

Hebrews 9:14). A good conscience may be defined,
generally, as one that is set to please God in all things, for it hates sin and
loves holiness; it is one which is governed by the Word, being in subjection
to the authority of its Author. Its binding rule is obedience to God. and to
Him alone, refusing to act apart from His light. Consequently, the more
conscientious the Christian be, the more he refuses all domination (the
traditions and opinions of man) which is not Divine, the more likely is he to
gain the reputation of being conceited and intractable. Nevertheless, each
of us must be much on his guard lest he mistake pride and self-will for
conscientious scruples. There is a vast difference between firmness and an
unteachable spirit, as there is between meekness and fickleness.
How is a good and pure conscience obtained? Briefly, by getting it rightly
informed, and by casting out its filth through penitential confession. The
first great need of conscience is light, for ignorance corrupts it. “That the
soul be without knowledge, it is not good” (

Proverbs 19:2). As a judge
that understands not the laws of his country is unfit to give judgment on
any matter that comes before him, or as a dim eye cannot properly perform
its office, so a blind or uninformed conscience is incapable to judge of our
duty before God. Conscience cannot take God’s part unless it knows His
will, and for a full acquaintance with that we must daily read and search the
Scriptures..399
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed
thereto according to Thy Word” (

Psalm 119:9).
O to be able to say,
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”
(

Psalm 119:105).
Let us now mention some of the qualities or characteristics of a good
conscience. First, sincerity. Alas, how little of this virtue is left in the
world: what shams and hypocrisy now obtain on every side — in the
religious realm, the political, the commercial, and the social. This is a
conscienceless generation, and consequently there is little or no honesty,
fidelity, or reality. That which now regulates the average person is a
temporary expediency, rather than an acting according to principle. But it
is otherwise with the regenerate: the fear of the Lord has been planted in
his heart, and therefore can he say with the apostle, “We trust we have a
good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” A sincere
conscience genuinely desires to know God’s will and is truly determined to
be in subjection thereto. Guile has received its death wound, and the heart
is open to the light, ready to be searched thereby.
Tenderness is another property of a good conscience. By this quality is
meant a wakefulness of heart so that it smites for sin upon all occasions
offered. So far from being indifferent to God’s claims, the heart is acutely
sensitive when it has been ignored. Even for what many consider trifling
matters, a tender conscience will chide and condemn. Job resolved to
preserve a tender conscience when he said, “my heart shall not reproach
me as long as I live” (

Job 27:6). Again; we may understand this
characteristic from its opposite, namely, a seared conscience (

1 Timothy
4:2), which is contracted by an habitual practice of that which is evil, the
heart becoming as hard as the public highway. Pray frequently for a tender
conscience, dear reader.
Fidelity. When conscience faithfully discharges its office there is a constant
judging of our state before God as a measuring of our ways by His Holy
Word. Thus the apostle Paul could say,
“Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God
until this day” (

Acts 23:1)..400
The favorable judgment which others may entertain of him will afford no
satisfaction to an upright man unless he has the testimony of conscience
that his conduct is right in the sight of God. No matter what may be the
fashions of the hour nor the common custom of his fellows, one whose
heart beats true to God will not do anything knowingly against conscience:
his language will ever be,
“whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more
than unto God, judge ye” (

Acts 4:19).
On the other hand, his frequent prayer is,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in
the way everlasting” (

Psalm 139:23, 24).
Tranquillity. This is the sure reward of sincerity and fidelity, for Wisdom’s
ways (in contrast from those of folly) “are ways of pleasantness and all her
paths are peace” (

Proverbs 3:17). An offended conscience will offend
us, and “a wounded spirit who can bear?” (

Proverbs 18:14). The
Christian may as well expect to touch a live coal without pain, as to sin
without trouble of conscience. But a clear conscience is quiet, condemning
not, being unburdened by the guilt of sin. When we walk closely with God
there is a serenity of mind and peace of heart which is the very opposite of
the state of those who are lawless and disobedient, “for the wicked are like
the troubled sea, which cannot rest.” The tranquility of a good conscience
is an earnest of the undisturbed calm which awaits us on High.
But let it be pointed out that every peaceful conscience is not a good one,
nor is every uneasy conscience an evil one. The conscience of some is quiet
because it is insensible.
“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in
peace” (

Luke 11:21):
that is a quiet evil conscience, because put to sleep by the opiates of Satan.
True tranquility of conscience is to be determined from the other
properties: it must issue from sincerity, tenderness, and fidelity, or
otherwise it is a seared one. We must consider not how much inward peace
we have, but how much cause: as in a building, not the fairness of the
structure, but the foundation of it is to be most regarded. On the other
hand, a tender conscience is liable to err through lack of sufficient light,.401
and needlessly write bitter things against itself, which is a “weak
conscience” (

1 Corinthians 8:12); as we may also be troubled by sins
already pardoned.
Now a good conscience can only be maintained by constant diligence:
“herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of
offense toward God and men” (

Acts 24:16).
The apostle made it his daily employment to keep his conscience clear, that
it might not justly accuse him of anything, so that he should have the
witness in his own heart that his character and conduct was pleasing in the
sight of the Holy One. The maintenance of a good conscience is an
essential part of personal piety.
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy… holding faith and a
good conscience” (

1 Timothy 1:18, 19):
that is the sum of personal godliness — faith being the principle of things
to be believed by us, conscience the principle of the things to be done.
Faith and a good conscience are linked together again in

1 Timothy 1:5
and 3:9, for we cannot hold the one without the other.
If the reader will turn back to Acts 24 he will find that Paul was replying to
charges brought against him. In verses 14-16 he made his defense, giving
therein a brief epitome of practical and experimental Christianity. As the
foundation he gives an account of his faith: “believing all things which are
written”; as the immediate proof thereof — “and have hope toward God”;
and then a brief account of his conversation: “herein do I exercise myself to
have always a conscience void of offense.” A saving knowledge of the
Truth, then, is such a belief of the Scriptures as produces an hope of
eternal life, which is evidenced by a keeping of the heart with all diligence.
The same is enumerated again in “The end of the commandment” (the
design of the Gospel institution) is that love which fulfils the Law, issuing
from a heart that beats true to God (

1 Timothy 1:5).
“Herein do I exercise myself”: we must make it our constant endeavor.
First, by a diligent and daily searching of the Scriptures that we may
discover the will of God. We are exhorted
“Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is”
(

Ephesians 5:17),.402
and this in order that we may ascertain what is pleasing to Him, so that we
offend not either in belief or worship. A conscience ill-informed is, at best,
a weak and ignorant one.
Second, by a serious inquiry into the state of our heart and ways:
“Stand in awe, and sin not; commune with your own heart upon
your bed, and be still” (

Psalm 4:4).
We need to frequently challenge and call ourselves to account. If we would
have conscience speak to us, we must speak often to it. It is given us for
this very reason that we may judge of our state and actions with respect to
the judgment of God. Then “Let us search and try our ways”
(

Lamentations 3:40). Take time, dear reader, to parley with yourself
and consider how matters stand between you and God. Short reckonings
prevent mistakes, so review each day and put right what has come between
you and God.
Third, a uniform course of obedience:
“Hereby we know that we are of the Truth, and shall assure our
hearts before Him” (

1 John 3:19).
Fourth, by a constant alertness:
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”
(

Matthew 26:41).
Fifth, by a serious resistance and mortification of sin: cutting off the right
hand and putting out the right eye.
Sixth, by a sincere repentance and confession when conscious of failure.
Seventh, by faith’s appropriation of the cleansing blood of Christ..403
CHAPTER 122
PRAYING FOR MINISTERS
(

HEBREWS 13:18, 19)
“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing
to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be
restored to you the sooner.” As was pointed out in the opening paragraph
of the previous article, this passage is closely connected with verse 17,
where believers are commanded to obey their ecclesiastical leaders. Here is
mentioned a further obligation of Christians unto those who minister to
them in spiritual things, namely, that they should remember them before the
throne of grace. A due observance of this exhortation would probably do
more than anything else to counteract and countervail a widespread evil:
those who plead with God for blessings upon the preacher are far less
likely to go around criticizing them unto men. A spirit of faultfinding stifles
the breath of intercession; countrariwise, a spirit of prayer will curb
complaining and gossiping lips.
“Pray for us.” The servants of Christ stand in real and urgent need of the
prayers of their people. They are but men themselves, ignorant, weak, and
erring, and unless they are granted a double portion of the Spirit they are
not equipped for their arduous and honorable calling. They are the ones
who bear the brunt of the battle, and are the special objects of Satan’s
attacks. They are often tempted to compromise, to keep back that which,
though unpalatable to them, is most profitable for their hearers. In the face
of many disappointments and discouragements, they are apt to grow weary
in well doing. It is, then, both our duty and privilege to supplicate God on
their behalf for daily supplies of grace to be granted them from on High;
that they may be delivered from temptations, kept faithful, steadfast and
devoted.
It is to be duly noted that this request was made by none other than the
writer of this epistle; if, then, the greatest of the apostles stood in need of
the intercessory support of his brethren, how much more so the rank and.404
the of God’s ministers. How tenderly, how earnestly, and how frequently
Paul made this request! Here he adds,
“I beseech you” — language used again in

Romans 15:30, where he
besought the saints to strive together with him in their prayers to God. In

2 Corinthians 1:11 he speaks of “helping together by prayer for us.” A
beautiful type of the efficacy of the prayers of God’s people to support one
of His servants is found in the holding up the hands of Moses (

Exodus
17:12), where we are significantly told, “And it came to pass, when Moses
held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand
Amalek prevailed.”
“Pray for us.” We agree with Owen that though the apostle here used the
plural number (as was his general custom) that it was for himself alone he
made this request: as the “I” in verse 19 intimates. It is a pre-eminently
Pauline touch, and, as we pointed out in our second article of this series it
supplies one of the many details which serve to identify the writer of this
epistle. There is no record in the N.T. that any other of the apostles
besought the prayers of the Church. Paul did so in no less than seven of his
epistles:

Romans 15:30,

Ephesians 6:19,

Colossians 4:3,

1
Thessalonians 5:25,

2 Thessalonians 3:1,

Philemon 1:22 and here.
“He who labored more than the other apostles, and who was
endowed with so many gifts, seems to have had the greatest craving
for sympathy, for affection, for communion, and the most vivid
conception that God only giveth the increase; that it is not by might
nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord” (A. Saphir).
“Pray for us”: though the immediate reference was to Paul himself, yet
obviously the exhortation applies to all the servants of Christ, and is
binding upon all to whom they minister. They are the ones, under God,
through whom we receive the most good. Oftentimes they are,
ministerially, our spiritual fathers (

1 Corinthians 4:15), our spiritual
nurses (

1 Thessalonians 2:7), our guides, counselors, and nourishers.
They are to be esteemed very highly for their work’s sake (

1
Thessalonians 5:13), and that esteem is to be evident by our constantly
bearing them up before God in the arms of faith and love. To earnestly
supplicate the throne of grace on their behalf, is the least return we can
make them for their loving labors, sacrificial endeavor, faithful
ministrations. There is no doubt that the more diligent the people are in.405
discharging this duty, the more help and blessing are they likely to receive
through their labors.
“Pray for us.” The apostle was persuaded that all the blessing he needed
could be obtained from God, and from Him alone, and that prayer was the
appointed means of obtaining those blessings. Someone has said that “If
the due obedience of the church by all its members, unto the rulers of it, be
the best means of its edification and the chief cause of order and peace in
the whole body, certainly prayer for its leaders and fellow-members is the
appointed channel for obtaining it.” Again, by requesting the prayers of the
Hebrew Christians, Paul intimated the regard in which he held them as
righteous men, whose prayers would “avail much.” His request also
signified his confidence in their love for him: a heart that tenderly and
faithfully sought their good, doubted not the warmth of their affection for
him. Prayer for each other is one of the principal parts of the communion
of saints.
The apostle supported his plea for the prayers of his readers by a striking
and powerful reason; “For we trust we have a good conscience in all things
willing to live honestly.” In saying “we trust” two things were intimated.
First, his becoming modesty: there was no boastful “we know.” Second,
his assurance, for such language in Scripture does not express a doubt.
Thus though there was confidence in his heart toward God, yet he
expressed himself in humble terms — an example we do well to heed in
this boastful and egoistic age. It is a grand thing when a minister of the
Gospel can truly, though modestly, appeal to the faithful performance of
his labors as a reason why he may claim the sympathy and support of his
people. It is only when he sincerely aims to do the right and maintains a
good conscience that the minister can, with propriety, ask for the prayers
of his people.
Probably the reason why Paul here made particular reference to his earnest
endeavor to maintain a good conscience, was because he had been so
bitterly denounced by his own nation, and no doubt (for Satan was the
same then as now) the most unfavorable reports about him had been
circulated among the Hebrews. He had been cruelly scourged by his own
countrymen, and unjustly imprisoned by the Romans, yet he had the
witness within his own bosom that it was his desire and determination to
always act with integrity. “Though my name be cast out as evil, and though
I be suffering as a wrong-doer, yet I appeal to my faithfulness in the Gospel.406
ministry; I do not walk in craftiness nor handle the Word of God
deceitfully, nor do I make merchandise of the Gospel: I have genuinely
sought to act honorably under all circumstances.” Happy the man that can
say that.
“For we trust that we have a good conscience.” As we pointed out
previously, the conscience is that faculty with which the Creator has
endowed man, whereby he is capable of judging his state and actions with
respect to the judgment of God. Its office is twofold: to reveal sin to us,
and to discover our duty, according to the light shining into it. There is a
twofold light which men have to illumine conscience: natural reason and
Scripture revelation, and the Spirit applying the same. If the conscience has
only the twilight of nature, as is the case with the heathen, it passes
judgment on natural duties and unnatural sins, but if it enjoys the
supernatural light of the Word, it judges of those sins and duties which can
only be known by Divine revelation. It registers a permanent record in the
soul. The more light we have, the greater is our responsibility:

Luke
12:48.
Though the heathen possess not the Law delivered by revelation of God to
them, yet they have, in their moral sensibilities, the substance of its
precepts written in their hearts:

Romans 2:15. When Paul said he had
“lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (

Acts 23:1), it
was parallel with his “touching the righteousness which is in the law,
blameless” (

Philippians 3:6): there was a conformity of his outward
conduct to the light which he had in his conscience. Thus
“those that say there is no use of the moral law to the Christian,
may as well say there is no more use of the faculty of conscience in
the soul of a Christian. Tear that faculty out of a man’s heart, if you
will tear out that other, namely, the obliging precepts. Even as if
God would annul colors and light, He must also take away and
close up the sense of sight” (Thomas Goodwin).
“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the
inward parts of the belly” (

Proverbs 20:27).
This moral sense has been rightly denominated the Divine spy in man’s
soul. Its checks and reproofs are a warning from God: it acts in His name,
citing us before His tribunal. It receives its instruction and authority from
God, and is accountable to Him and to none other — alas how many are.407
regulated by the customs and fashions of this world, and live upon the
opinions and reports of their fellows. Conscience is a part of that light
which “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (

John 1:9). In
many passages both the “heart” (

1 John 3:20) and the “spirit”
(

Romans 8:16,

1 Corinthians 2:11) signifies the conscience, while in

Psalm 16:10 it is called the “reins.” In yet other passages it is likened
unto the physical “eye” (

Luke 11:34-36): as the eye is the most
sensitive member of the body and its visual faculty so is the conscience to
the soul.
Conscience, then, is God’s witness within man: it is the voice of His Law
directing and admonishing the heart, conveying to us a knowledge of right
and wrong. Its functions are to give testimony and force a moral verdict.
Its business is to pronounce upon each action, whether it be good or evil,
with the reward or punishment belonging to it, and then by a reflex act it
deposes or witnesses that we have done righteously or unrighteously. Yet
while conscience convicts of sin, it in no wise helps us to believe the
Gospel: on the contrary, its workings withstand faith. No matter to what
extent the natural conscience be enlightened, it conduces nothing to faith,
nay it is the greatest enemy to it that the heart of man hath. Faith is the gift
of God, a supernatural bestowment, something which is the operation of
the Holy Spirit, altogether apart from and transcending the greatest height
to which the unaided faculties of fallen man can reach unto.
What has just been pointed out above may, at first sight, surprise the
reader; yet it ought not. Conscience is fully capable of hearing what the
Law says, for it is but the Law written in the heart naturally; but it is quite
deaf to what the Gospel says, and understands not a word of it. If you
speak to natural conscience about a Savior and urge it to believe on Him,
its answer will be like unto that of the Jews (and it was this principle of
conscience which made them so speak),
“as for Moses we know that God spake unto him, but as for this
fellow (Christ) we know not whence He is” (

John 9:29).
Talk to a man of the Law, and conscience responds, for it knows what he
ought to do; but as for the Gospel its voice is that of a stranger to him.
Conscience is quite incapable of pointing out the way of deliverance from
the condemnation and penalty of sin, yea,.408
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”
(

John 3:3).
It is true that the more conscience be enlightened, the more will it discover
to us all manner of sins, and rebuke us for them; yet conscience alone will
never discover unbelief to us, and convict us of its heinousness — only the
immediate light of the Holy Spirit shining in the heart will do that. There
are two great sins which lie outside the jurisdiction of conscience to set
them upon the heart, ordinarily. First, the guilt of Adam’s original
transgression, which has been justly imputed unto all his posterity. An
instructed conscience may perceive the depravity and corruption of a
nature which has resulted from our fall in Adam, but it will not convict of
that fatal condemnation we lie under because of our first father’s offense.
Second, conscience will not acquaint us with our lack of faith in Christ, and
that this is the sin of all sins; only the special operation of the Spirit upon
the quickened heart can accomplish this. Examine those who are most
troubled in conscience, and it will be found that none of them are burdened
because of their unbelief.
Until conscience be subordinated unto faith, it is the greatest hindrance to
believing which the natural man hath. What is the chief obstacle which an
awakened and convicted soul encounters? Why, the greatness of his sins,
his heart telling him that he is beyond the reach of mercy, and it is naught
but the accusations of a guilty conscience which produces that sense of
hopelessness in the heart. Conscience brings our sins to light, makes them
to stare us in the face, and terrifies us with their enormity. Conscience it is
which tells a distressed soul that salvation is far off from such an one as I
am. Conscience will set us working and doing, but only in a legal way: so
far from leading us into the path of true peace, it will take us farther away
from it. Thus it was with the Jews of old, and thus it is still:
“For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about
to establish their own righteousness” (

Romans 10:3).
In the case of a Christian, conscience and faith supplement each other in
their workings. If conscience convicts of sin or rebukes for the omission of
duty, faith eyes the mercy of God in Christ, penitently confesses the fault,
and seeks cleansing through the precious blood.
“The worshippers once purged should have had no more
conscience of sins” (

Hebrews 10:2) —.409
no more apprehensions of them as standing against us. It is the believer’s
bounden duty to maintain a good conscience:

1 Timothy 1:19; 3:9, but
in order to that there must be a continual judging of ourselves and our
ways. The revealed will of God is its only rule, for nothing else can lawfully
bind it; therefore it is infinitely better to offend the whole world than God
and conscience. “All my familiars watched for my halting, saying,
Peradventure he will be enticed and we shall prevail against him,” and what
was the prophet’s response and recourse? This,
“But Thou, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous and seest the
reins and the heart, let me see Thy vengeance on them: for unto
Thee have I opened my cause” (

Jeremiah 20:10, 12).
The sole rule to regulate the conscience of the Christian is God’s written
Word, for “whatsoever is not of faith (and therefore according to the
Word: (

Romans 10:17) is sin” (

Romans 14:23); that is, whatsoever
is not done from a settled persuasion of judgment and conscience out of
the Word, is sin. The defects of a good conscience are,
First, ignorance or error: some children of God are very imperfectly
established in the Truth and are much confused as to what is right and
wrong in the sight of God, especially in things indifferent, concerning
which there is much difference of opinion. They understand not that liberty
which Christ has purchased for His people (

Galatians 5:1), whereby
they are free to make a right and good use of all things indifferent — i.e,
things not specifically forbidden by Scripture.
“Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face
shine” (

Psalm 104:15),
which goes beyond bare necessities; to which we may add those innocent
recreations which refresh mind and body. How to make a proper use of
such things is defined in

1 Timothy 4:4, 5.
Second, and closely connected with the preceding, is what Scripture calls a
“weak conscience” (

1 Corinthians 8:12), which is due to lack of light,
wrong teaching, to personal prejudice and idiosyncrasies. It is often trying
and difficult to know how to act towards those thus afflicted: on the one
hand, love desires their good, and must be patient with them and refrain
from acting recklessly and needlessly wounding them; but on the other
hand, their fads and scruples are not to he so yielded to by us that our own
spiritual liberty is annulled — Christ Himself refused to bring His disciples.410
into bondage by yielding to the traditions of men (

Mark 7:2), even
though He knew they were spying for some fault in Him, and would be
offended by His conduct.
Third, a doubting conscience: Romans 14: 22, 23.
Fourth, a wounded conscience, whose peace is disturbed by unrepented
and unconfessed sins.
The benefits and blessings are indeed rich compensation for every effort
we make to maintain a good conscience.
First, it gives us confidence Godwards. When we have sinned away our
peace there is a strangeness and distance between the soul and the Holy
One. When our inward monitor convicts and condemns us, the heart grows
shy of God, so that we cannot so comfortably look Him in the face. It is
only when everything is made right with God, by contrite confession and
faith’s appropriation of the cleansing blood of Christ, that we can approach
the throne of grace with boldness.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having
our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (

Hebrews 10:22)
— i.e. a conscience which no longer accuses us before God.
“If I regard iniquity in my heart (which is inconsistent with a good
conscience) the Lord will not hear me” (

Psalm 66:18);
but on the other hand
“If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward
God; and whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep
His commandment and do those things that are pleasing in His
sight” (

1 John 3:21, 22).
Second, a clear conscience affords his chief relief when the believer is
falsely accused and aspersed by his enemies. What unspeakable consolation
is ours when we can rightfully appropriate that benediction of Christ,
“Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and
say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake”
(

Matthew 5:11).
This was the case with the apostle Paul:.411
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that In
simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the
grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world”
(

2 Corinthians 1:12).
Third, a clear conscience vindicates its possessor against the accusations
of Satan. The great enemy of our souls is constantly seeking to take away
our peace and joy, and we are powerless against his onslaughts when a
guilty conscience confirms his charges. But when we can appeal to a pure
conscience and expose his lies, then his fiery darts are successfully
quenched. The Psalmist was very bold when he said — see

Psalm 7:3,
4, 5, 8.
Fourth, a pure conscience gives great advantage to its possessor when he
is lawfully reproving others. The admonitions of that Christian whose life is
inconsistent have no weight but he who walks closely with God speaks
with authority. That man who is upright before God and his fellows, wields
a moral force which is felt even by the ungodly. Finally, a peaceful
conscience affords unspeakable comfort in a dying hour. When one has the
inward witness that, despite many failures, he has sincerely endeavored to
do that which was right before God and unto his fellows, he has an easy
pillow to rest his head upon.
“Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked
before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that
which is good in Thy sight” (

Isaiah 38:3):
that was an appeal to a good conscience by one who was “sick unto
death.”
Paul’s testimony of his having a good conscience consisted in this: “in all
things willing to live honestly.” A resolute will and a sincere endeavor to
act rightly under all circumstances is the fruit and evidence of a good
conscience. Being “willing” signifies a desire and readiness, with an
accompanying effort and diligence. “In all things” takes in our whole duty
to God and man, expresses the strictness and exactness of the apostle’s
course to maintain a conscience “void of offense” (

Acts 24:16). What a
striking commentary upon this declaration of Paul’s is furnished in the
account of his manner of life at Ephesus: see

Acts 20:18-27. How his
devotion, fidelity, and constancy puts to shame the flesh-loving indolence
of so many preachers today. What strictness of conscience God requires.412
from His servants: as the least bit of grit in the eye hinders its usefulness,
so any sin trifled with will trouble a tender conscience.
We are commanded to “Provide things honest in the sight of all men”
(

Romans 12:17): a good conscience respects the second table of the
Law equally with the first, so that we owe no man anything and are not
afraid to look anybody in the face. Any faith which does not produce an
impartial and universal obedience, is worthless. All the mysteries of our
most holy faith are mysteries of godliness (

1 Timothy 1:9; 3:16). But if
the Word of God has come to us in word only and not in power, then are
we but Christians of the letter and not of the spirit. Alas, how many today
are sound in doctrine and have a carnal assurance of eternal life, yet who
exercise themselves not to maintain a conscience void of offense. Alas,
alas, what a conscienceless age our lot is cast in. How many souls are
stumbled by the loose living of the majority of those who now profess to
believe the Gospel.
“In all things willing to live honestly.” We are exhorted to have our
conversation
“honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you
as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall
behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (

1 Peter 2:12).
The Greek word in our text expresses more than is commonly understood
by “honestly,” being the same as that used in “He hath done all things well”
(

Mark 7:37). Its real force is “excellently” or “honorably.” In his “in all
things willing to live honestly” the apostle again expresses his humility and
truthfulness. A sincere desire and a diligent endeavor so to act is the
highest perfection attainable in this life, for we all fail in the carrying out of
it. Thus, in all ages the saints have prayed,
“O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the
prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants, who
desire to fear Thy name” (

Nehemiah 1:11).
It is blessed to be assured by God Himself that
“For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that
a man hath, and not according to that he hath not”
(

2 Corinthians 8:12)..413
“But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the
sooner” (verse 19). In this verse Paul added a further reason why he
desired the Hebrew saints to pray for him. Many things are intimated
therein: that he had been with them previously, but circumstances over
which he had no control now prevented his return — the best of ministers
may be kept from their people (

1 Kings 22:27,

Jeremiah 38:6); that
he greatly desired to come to them again, which shows that not his own
comfort (deliverance from prison) but their good was uppermost in his
mind; that he had strong confidence in the prevalency of prayer and of their
affection for him. “When ministers come to a people as a return of prayer,
they come with greater satisfaction to themselves and success to the
people. We should fetch in all our mercies by prayer” (Matthew Henry.
The language used here by Paul denotes that he believed man’s goings are
of the Lord, that He disposes the affairs of the Church much according to
their prayers, to His glory and their consolation. “That I may be restored to
you the sooner” is very striking, showing that Paul was no blind fatalist: if
God had decreed the exact hour, how could prayer bring it to pass “the
sooner”? Ah, it is utterly vain for us to reason about or philosophize over
the consistency between God’s eternal decrees and prayer: sufficient for us
to be assured from Scripture that prayer is both a bounden duty and
blessed privilege. It is God’s way to make us feel the n