Rudiments of the World

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" Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man bath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."
The Lord Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus, assumes his own singular place, as the authoritative teacher, and at the same time as the great doctrine of God. These are inseparable, and we may almost say reciprocal truths. The knowledge of Him as the great doctrine of God, necessarily leads to the acknowledgment of His authority as a teacher; and if he really be owned as a teacher come from God, then, as a necessary consequence,
He will be owned as the grand comprehensive doctrine
of God. It is thus that the Apostle speaks, " But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be ye have heard him,
and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus, etc." The Lord, as the teacher, teaches Himself, and he that hath an ear hears Him, and by faith receives Him into the heart. He is the truth. Reality is only to be found in Him. " Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether vanity." " Verily, every man in his best estate is altogether vanity."
In death we learn the reality of man. "In Adam all die." But so emphatically is Jesus "the truth," that the only blessed knowledge of God is obtained by knowing Him. He is the reality of God to us, especially to us as sinners. " God manifested in the flesh." "Immanuel, God with us." And the only one who ever stood in personal acceptance with God as man is the same Jesus-" This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Church is set by God as "the pillar and ground of the truth." It knows the mysteries on which it is founded from the Incarnation to the Cross; from the. Cross to the Ascension at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. By this knowledge, the Church is enabled to judge things in the light in which they are regarded by God. When the Light came into the world, it cast its rays upon " every man," and showed what he was in the sight of God; and when " the truth" came, it superseded those things which were merely its shadows. Gracious and interesting indeed were the ordinances of Israel. They were rightly cherished by them; the fathers might, in the fear of God, recount their origin to their children; the spirit of Nationalism was found in these ordinances, and it was in them a godly spirit. But when the reality came, even Jesus, " the truth," then, to maintain these ordinances against Him, the substance of them, was not only a proof of their blind infatuation, but was also the deepest insult to God. How touching is the word of Christ by the Spirit. " Israel would none of me." " He came to His own, and His own received Him not." But He goes on in the world as the Light of the world, casting His own light on one object and another as He meets with them. " As long as I am in the world I am the Light of the world." How interesting it is to trace Him displacing one highly prized ordinance after another, by presenting Himself; and in one instance, at least, superseding a venerated tradition. John the Baptist gracefully retires, in order to render Jesus the prominent object, bearing witness to Him as the Lamb of God, the Son of God, and the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost. He owns Him to be the Bridegroom whose voice cheered him, and he took indeed an honored but retired place, as the friend of the Bridegroom. When Jesus enters 'on His own ministry, after allowing His own glory to show itself in Cana of Galilee, and casting out from His Father's house the buyers and sellers, he sets aside the ancient ordinance of the Brazen Serpent by taking its place Himself. In the close of their wilderness history, the Brazen Serpent stands forth as the gracious intervention of God on behalf of a disobedient and gainsaying people, and under the shelter of which, they had entered Canaan. But Jesus connecting the Brazen Serpent with His own proper person, presents it in a wider range than to Israel, even to all the world, that " Whosoever believed in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life."
As He goes on, He comes to Jacob's well, a place hallowed by the most interesting traditions; but how do they all vanish before Him who is "the Fountain of life," and by the knowledge of Himself communicating a well of living waters to others. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
Israel's God had not forgotten his ancient name. " I am the Lord that healeth thee;" although Israel had by their disobedience forfeited such a relationship. The Pool of Bethesda from time to time proved to " the disobedient and gainsaying people " that Jehovah remembered that name; whilst the waiting and ofttimes disappointed "impotent folk" too plainly proved to them their broken relationship with the Lord in this character. But the time was now come for their God again to present Himself, as " I am the Lord that healeth thee." He appears at the Pool of Bethesda, and says not as of old, " If thou wilt diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee; which I have brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord that healeth thee;" but in the consciousness of His own healing and life-giving power, " Wilt thou be made whole?" Thus He sets aside the Pool of Bethesda, by presenting Himself in His own abounding grace as the Healer, not only of bodily malady, but of that as a palpable demonstration that there was in Him and in Him alone, healing virtue against the deeper ills of death and judgment; and as the reality of the Pool of Bethesda he complains, " Ye/will not come to me that ye might have life."
At the feast of the Passover, and in the wilderness, in the sixth chapter of John, Jehovah Jesus has to do with the same unbelieving people as He had to bear with long before His manifestation in the flesh, forty years in the wilderness. They boasted of the manna on which their fathers fed, but forgot that their fathers had loathed it, as they did now in His person, "the true bread which had come down from heaven." In His flesh and blood there was to be recognized the true Passover, and that which answered to the flesh and water given in answer to the murmurings of their fathers in the wilderness. But when in Himself he took up all these interesting ordinances, and presented Himself as their reality, " This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live forever "-it. only served to call out from the Jews the same "murmuring" and "striving" as in their fathers of old. "Massah" and "Meribah" were acted over again.
The Feast of Tabernacles, the joy of the land enhanced by the remembrance of the wilderness, is also taken up by Jesus, and displaced by Him. It is the knowledge of Him by Israel which in due time will enable them to have real joy and gladness in their own land, when penitent, converted, and restored, they will "see Him and believe." And it is the knowledge of Him now by faith, which can alone bring the joy of heaven to cheer the tedium of the wilderness. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified)."
It is the knowledge of Jesus as the truth, which alone manifests the character of rudiments or elements of the world. The expression is applied by the Apostle Paul to ordinances instituted by God Himself, as well as to the current philosophical dogmas or ordinances. As elements or rudiments simply, it is applied by the same Apostle in the Hebrews, to that measure of the knowledge of Christ, great and blessed as it was, which might have been gathered from the ancient oracles of God, but which fell amazingly below the fullness of that gospel, preached "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven."
The very expression "rudiments of the world," until Jesus cast His own light upon it, could have had no intelligible meaning. There is a suitable reverence in speaking of the things of God by inspired men; and the difference is great whether they be spoken of absolutely or relatively, as regarded according to their original institution, or as superseded by Christ. Jew and Gentile without any minor subdivision, are regarded as "all the world" by God. The first stood in a distinct covenant relation with God. Jehovah was the God of Israel. The Gentiles stood only in natural relationship to God, "that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him." Christ is ushered in as "a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel."
Nothing can be more solemn than the giving of the law on the part of Jehovah, or its reception by the people by the hand of Moses. But after the people had corrupted themselves, how gracious as well as solemn are the ordinances given by Jehovah to Moses "out of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Lev. 1:11And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, (Leviticus 1:1)). It was by these ordinances that they were separated from other people to be the people of Jehovah. The observance of these ordinances was their holiness. "Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean; and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast or fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean, and ye shall be holy unto me; for I the Lord am holy and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine." Their holiness consisted "in meats and drinks." The distribution of the law into moral and ceremonial, will not account for the Apostle speaking in so disparaging a tone of the ordinances of God; because the jealousy of Jehovah was especially manifested in vindicating the sanctity of the ceremonial law. "Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not, and there came out fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." The soundness of the distinction between the moral and ceremonial law is questionable in itself; for so far as access to God was opened to Israel, it was through the ceremonial law; and it was by this law also that the blessed truth of " righteousness without law " was most prominently witnessed (Rom. 3:2121But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (Romans 3:21)). But God is to be sanctified in them who come nigh Him; and it is for Him alone to prescribe the way. To neglect that way, or to attempt another, is the highest insult to God. The " holy ointment," and "the perfume," were both most minutely ordered, and so solemnly sanctioned, that the imitation of either of them was to be visited with the sentence,. " He shall be cut off from his people" (Ex. 30:2222Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, (Exodus 30:22).28).
The knowledge of the glory of the person of Christ casts such a light on the ancient ordinances of God, as to make the things which in themselves were a burdensome yoke, to be viewed by faith as lively pictures. There were typical persons, and typical acts, which foreshadowed Christ in his offices and acts. But no typical person, could properly foreshadow the person of Christ. The revelation of the glory of the person of the Son by the Father was the one thing needed. All was enigmatical till He came, of whom it was written in the volume of the book, " Lo! I come to do thy will, 0 God." " The Light," even Jesus, throwing its rays on Jewish ordinances turned bondage into liberty; but the converse is solemnly true-the. removal of the eye from Christ, and recurrence even to the ancient ordinances of God, was not merely turning back from liberty to bondage-but, it was a nullifying of the grace of God, making the `Sacrifice of Christ needless, and an insult to the Holy Ghost. Such has ever been and is still the principle of making "religious duties" supplemental to man's defective righteousness. It is this principle which calls forth the most cutting reproof from the Apostle, and at the same time leads him to speak in terms so disparaging of the ancient ordinances of God.
Again all the ancient ordinances failed, except in the faintest shadow, to convey the idea of the reality of the sacrifice of Christ. These ordinances testified aloud the purifying power of blood, and that "without shedding of blood is no remission;" but their repetition testified their own inefficacy-the victims commanded to be offered could never remove guilt from the conscience; for there was no real transfer of guilt to the head of the victim. Let but " the One to come" appear, covering all these sacrifices by his one sacrifice, and forbidding repetition by such a sacrifice as his own being needed only once to be offered, and what an interpretation is afforded of the Jewish ritual I The soul is almost lost `in contemplating the reality of the Holy One become the sin-bearer, bearing it in his own body on the tree; bearing it in his innermost soul under the waves and billows of the Wrath of God, when it pleased God to make his soul an offering for sin. When shall we learn the truth, the reality of the sacrifice of Christ? What is it that hinders our having continually before our eyes Jesus Christ evidently set forth crucified among us! Is there a shade of suspicion as to His proper personal glory as the Son? such a suspicion subverts the truth. Is the thought harbored that He did "need" something to be done on His own account? then is the very idea of His suffering for us nullified. Is it that the anguish of His soul under the stripes of divine justice is overlooked in contemplating His exquisite bodily torture on the cross? then will there be hesitancy in the soul as to the actual removal of the guilt of sin by the offering of Christ. Is it hard to receive the truth that every sacrifice and offering was answered and covered, and therefore set aside by the act of Christ offering HIMSELF once on the cross? then the dignity of the Sufferer is feebly apprehended. Is it that there is backwardness in the soul to regard the one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all as the only answer to God for all and every sin? then is the doctrine of God inverted; and the sacrifice of Christ is made to be the remembrancer of sin, instead of being the speaking testimony of God to the conscience, as that by which sin is forever put away. Is it that we take our own instead of the estimate of God as to the perfection of Christ's sacrifice? then are we off the ground of faith, and peace is morally impossible.
Israel, comparing itself with the nations, might well glory in their advantages, "their civil and religious privileges," as men say; but the moment the glory of Christ bursts on the soul, then that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. The attempt to re-introduce the past and fading glory is characterized by the conclave of the Apostles, "as subverting the soul" (Acts 15). The Apostle Peter speaks of his Jewish privileges as " a yoke, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear," and at the same time testified unto one power alone of purifying the heart, even faith in Jesus presented by God himself as the substance of all sacrifices. Peter and his fellow Apostles had all stood in a certain relationship to God, although they might little understand what the relationship really was—but it was a relationship of nearness to God compared with that of Gentiles; as the Apostle testifies -" and came and preached peace, unto you which were far off, and to them which were nigh." But when one like Peter had seen " the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," then was the discovery made to the soul, that however well adapted were these ordinances to man as in the flesh and in the world, they were entirely destitute of any efficacy to meet his case as a condemned sinner, or to bring him in his own conscience into real nearness to God. He became conscious that he needed redemption out of that very religious standing in which he had gloried. Peter addresses the abiding principle announced in Leviticus-" Be ye holy, for I am holy "-but with what an intensity of meaning to believers in Jesus; "forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers-but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
In strict keeping with the statements of Peter as to the light in which the holy ordinances of God are regarded by one who "knew the Lord,"-even "a yoke,"-"vain traditionary conversation,"-we find Paul writing to the Galatians. He speaks of such ordinances as infantine "even so we, when we were children (infants) were in bondage under the elements (or rudiments) of the world, but when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." It is in this passage that first in order we find the expression " elements (or rudiments) of the world," applied to the law, and there are several very significant statements in it. First we have the same idea of "bondage" (as Peter had expressed by yoke) amplified by the idea of utter incapacity to rise above the spirit of a servant. A person might be a son and heir under the law, but by the very fact of being under the law, he was hindered from acting as well as from having the spirit of the one or the other. Again these very ordinances bound down the spirit to the world; they were a hindrance instead of a help to the soul's rising above the world into direct intercourse with God. The Apostle is here illustrating great leading principles-he is showing what the principle of ordinances is. He was correcting those who were tempted to go back from " the liberty which they had in Christ to be again entangled in. the yoke of bondage." The peculiar force of the temptation was, that it appeared to reverence God by engrafting the ancient institutions of God on faith in Christ: This he sternly resisted. With Christ before his eyes as the blessed reality of all these institutions, he hesitates not to speak of them as infantine and slavish, as hindering access to the Father and preventing intercourse with heaven. He is not speaking of them absolutely, for they were beautiful in their time, and place (i.e. the world). But God was now bringing out heavenly and eternal realities. God had sent forth his Son to redeem them that were under the law. In order to this, it needed that Christ himself be made a curse. Everything from such a real redemption, deriving its efficacy from the real glory of Hint who was made a curse. Such a redemption delivered from the curse of the law, and from out of the world, into the real liberty of children in the actual presence of God as their Father. The slightest recurrence to the old institutions would mar the reality of all these blessings. This stands out in stronger relief, when the Apostle rebukes the Galatians, for observing " days, and months and times and years." These in themselves were holy joyous and solemn seasons to Israel (see Lev. 23). But the fullness of time had come-God had sent forth his Son, and in virtue of His Person, the blessings which flowed forth from his redemption were eternal; " eternal redemption," " everlasting righteousness," "eternal inheritance," " eternal life,"-in a word eternal relationship with God-sons-now crying " Abba-Father," and waiting for the manifestation, of Jesus to be like Him. After the light brought in by the Son, and his work on the cross, and the reception of the Holy Ghost in consequence of that work, by faith in Him, and not by works of the law, we discover the reason of the Apostle's using language so depreciatory in speaking of the law itself.
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of Him, how turn ye again [back] to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
In writing to the Colossians, the Apostle classes Jewish ordinances and Gentile philosophical dogmas under the same category, " rudiments of the world. But he does so in the way of contrast with that which is immeasurably higher. It is not needful for Christians to ascertain the measure of influence exercised on the moral condition of the Gentiles by the philosophical schools. It is difficult to believe that such an accumulation of wisdom was of no real benefit to mankind (Rom. 1:3232Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:32)), but the difficulty lies a great deal more in the offensiveness of such a statement to the pride of intellect, than in want of evidence as to the fact. The Apostle, however, had not to discuss the question as to the influence of philosophy, but to state the humiliating result. " For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." The introduction of human wisdom into the church was regarded by the Apostle as a foreign element, the tendency of which was to degrade the church of God, and to reduce divine certainties to 'the level of human speculation. " Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete [filled to the full] in him." It is through philosophy, that Christ, as the great doctrine of God, Christ, as the infallible teacher, teaching that which none other could teach or even guess at, " for no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven," has been dragged down from His lofty eminence; and the saints themselves spoiled of their choice blessings and high study; "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge being hid in Christ." Christianity, as it passes in the world, is regarded as one among many systems for the benefit of mankind. It has a place given to it among various moral and philosophical schemes, as "a rudiment of the world." But its very grandeur, which makes it so comprehensive and at the same time so exclusive, is either unseen or disputed. It was the dignity of the Head, and consequent dignity of relation to the Head, which so occupied the soul of the Apostle, that made him fear the introduction of that which was most prized in the world, as loss and degradation. Men value (as they say) practical Christianity, because it is beneficial to man; but they know it not, as respects the dignity of Christ, and the great purpose of God with respect to Him. Is the soul resting on a single object, the heart's affections drawn out to that object, the mind intently bent on the study of that object-even Christ? Is that practical Christianity in man's estimation? Is the fullness of Christ as the Head in which everything centers, "wisdom and knowledge," "principality and power," so sublime a thought, that every' other subject of study becomes secondary? Is it possible that after the revelation of Him, " in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," that the only science of which men are contentedly ignorant, should be the science of eternal life? "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou halt sent." Alas philosophy and vain deceit have indeed "spoiled" Christians. These "rudiments of the world," received at first as an aid, have displaced Christ and degraded Christianity. It is not needful to speak disparagingly of the power of the human mind, or of the wonders achieved by these powers, when we speak of them absolutely. But in speaking of them relatively, that is "according to Christ," what have they effected? Have they led man into the path of happiness? Have they discovered "the truth?" or does not the problem remain to this day to be solved, so far as the human mind is concerned,-" What is truth?" It was man's reasoning which led him to "change the truth of God into a lie." (Rom. 1:21,2521Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)
25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 1:25)
). And if the attempt has been made in more recent times to reclaim man from superstition by the mere powers of the human mind, it has only led to skepticism, infidelity, or practical atheism. "God," says the preacher, "made man upright, and he has sought out many inventions." But none of his inventions serve to deliver him out of the actual condition in which he is as man. Death and judgment are still before him, and He remediless against both the one and the other. When the soul once grasps the meaning of "not after Christ," many a profitless speculation is dismissed, and much prying curiosity prevented. It is not the haughty "superciliousness of ignorance under the garb of wisdom, which causes us to see on what level the highest powers of the human mind necessarily stand, but the consciousness of divine teaching respecting the Son of God, His work and His fullness, so far beyond the reach of any stretch of the human intellect, which causes the Saint to regard many things of intellectual interest as " rudiments of the world." We do not attain the end of showing the vanity of man by degrading him, and denying his powers; but by contrast between man in his best estate, and Christ risen and glorified. It is not by any induction of facts, although that might go a great way, that we prove the utter disappointment of man with the result of his own efforts; but by bringing the coming glory of the Lord Jesus to shed its truthful light upon them. " Behold, it is not of the Lord of Hosts that the people shall labor in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity; for the earth shall be filled with the know.. ledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." But there is no disappointment to faith. "He that trusteth in the Lord shall never be ashamed." Faith is conversant with the blessed result of the wisdom of God in redemption, and thus by the power of "things which are not, brings to naught things which are."
The Apostle is led from warning against Gentile philosophy, to warn against the more plausible seduction of Jewish ordinances; by showing the reality to be in Christ of that of which those ordinances were only shadows (Col. 2:1717Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:17)). It is a strange phenomenon to see how the wise and prudent in the things of this world grasp at that which is solid, but in the things of God they grasp the shadow and reject the substance. With Christ before him as the substance, the Apostle classes the Jewish ordinances and Gentile dogmas together, as alike vain and profitless. "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross." There was no more life even in the ordinances of God Himself, than in the philosophical dogmas. They alike barred access to God; so far from being helpful, they were discovered by the light of Christ, to be against and contrary to the Saint. The very things which man has called in as aids, are discovered by the light of Christ to be hindrances to the exercise of spiritual life. They bind down to the world; "truth alone makes free indeed." Herein is the misery of many real Christians-their souls are occupied with rudiments of the world, instead of the heavenly realities which are in Christ.
Are "we dead to sin" through Christ, in that "he died unto sin once." Blessed truth! But do our souls know the equally important and connected truth, that we are " dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world," and are introduced as risen with Him into the realities, "which are above?" Then "why" (asks the Apostle), "as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" Rites, ceremonies, decency, and order, as men insist, and the philosophy of the schools, are, in the Apostolic sense, " rudiments of the world," to which the believer has died, in order that he may " hold the Head," and draw from Him in whom " dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"-all that pertains to life and godliness.
The passage (Heb. 5:1212For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12)) may be reviewed in connection with the preceding passages. " For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat." We have net actually the expression "rudiments of the world," but there is substantially the same thought. The great danger to which believing Hebrews were exposed was relapse into their old forms, justly indeed venerated by them, until superseded by the glorious person of the "Son." They were in danger of bringing Him down to the level of their hereditary thoughts of Messiah; and adjusting their worship accordingly. The grandeur of the opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews, at once defines its object. An Israelite instructed in his own privileges, "much every way," could only forego them by the apprehension of a dignity proceeding from the same God immensely higher than that which he already possessed. Such a dignity the Apostle presents as held out by the God of his fathers in the person of "the Son," one in whom there was essential glory. By how much He excelled in his own person angels, Moses, or Aaron, by so much is there a dignity and efficacy in his ministry, work, and offices, in every respect above all which was to be found in their own ordinances. Others had been dignified by the glory set on them, it was his sole prerogative to throw his own proper glory into all that which he undertook. This consideration explains the awful solemnity of the warnings found in the 6th and 10th chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, warnings so awful that hardly a saint in one stage or other of his experience has escaped being exercised by them. And well it is that it should be so, for how readily is Christ displaced from his rightful supremacy in the heart. If He be, as assuredly He is, the grand ordinance of God, the recurrence to the ancient ordinances of God Himself; which in their highest sense, were bare shadows of a wondrous reality, must be deeply offensive to God. It was really "drawing back unto perdition;" turning aside from Him, who in Himself and by what He has wrought, is the salvation of God, to "dead works" which have no power "to purge the conscience." How much the solemnity of these warnings was needed, let the downward course of the Church testify, boasting of its temples, priesthood, rituals, and ceremonies, things which when viewed in the light Of these warnings plainly declare "a falling away."
These warnings admit of a pointed application to our own consciences. They present to us a great principle, viz. the great danger of resting in those truths which are common to believers under every dispensation, to the neglect of those which are characteristic of our own dispensation. The result of neglecting the truths which, are special and characteristic, is uncertainty even as to the truths which are common to all dispensations. "Repentance from dead works, faith towards God, the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment," are presented by the apostle as " the principles of the doctrine of Christ" (or as in the margin, " the word of the beginning of Christ") such truths as a believer, before the manifestation of the glory of the Son, and of his accomplished work, might fully have recognized. These are the truths from which, as a basis, the apostle would lead them on to perfection, so as to instruct them in the new and higher order of priesthood, in order to sustain and refresh their souls in the course of struggle, temptation, and conflict. Besides this, the knowledge of this priesthood would actually lead their souls into the same order of worship on earth, as they would more happily know in heaven. It would be their alone power of deliverance from "the rudiments of the world." Actually we do find a large portion of those really quickened by the Spirit, in much uncertainty as to the peace of their souls. They have not " gone on to perfection," so as to realize the present priestly service of the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, as the gracious provision of God to maintain their souls in realized nearness to Himself, even in that very nearness into which they are brought by Christ, who " suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust to bring us to God." It is an undeniable truth, that we cannot learn in heaven itself a deeper truth than the cross of Christ; but it is by following on to know the Lord in all His present gracious ministry-a ministry, the value of which unfolds itself, in proportion as we are learning experimentally what we are in ourselves, and where we are, that our souls alone enter into the depths of the cross. On the other hand, the very liberty of entering " into the holiest of all," only magnifies the wondrous power of that cross, as being the path which leads us into so privileged a place.
But in fault of "going on to perfection," the soul becomes busied about many circumstantials, which the Spirit characterizes as " rudiments of the world," and instead of enjoying and living in the power of heavenly realities, has need to be taught what be " the first principles of the oracles of God."
Such, alas, is the fascinating power of "rudiments of the world," that at the present moment it appears the peculiar danger of the church. Wherever they are introduced, it is truly sorrowful to witness in those who are really Christ's, the manifest decline of spirituality. Such expressions as, " Beware lest any man spoil you,"-" Let no man beguile you," become pregnant with meaning. The real point at issue is now, as it ever has been, whether the world civilized, or even Christianized, or Christ himself is the object of our hearts. Are we content with perfection in Christ? or do we seek something besides what we are, and what we have in Him? The arduous ministry of the apostle was to present " every man perfect in Christ Jesus," by not allowing any foreign element, which, pretending to embellish, would in reality obscure the dignity of the believer in Christ. If we are desirous of attainment, and 0 that it may be so! may it be according to the tenor of the apostle's prayer, " That we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good word, and increasing in the knowledge of God."
PRESBUTES.
Note, page 179. Heb. 13:88Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8). "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever:"-How blessed a contrast is this to "All things are vanity," as to every man-LXX. Psa. 39:55Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. (Psalm 39:5), on which Bythner thus remarks:-
" Every man is all vanity;" as all is vanity, so the vanity and misery which are scattered piecemeal among other creatures, seem in man alone to be collected together. And thus man stands forth as the compendium. of all the vanities, which exist in creatures. With inanimate, he is subject to change-corruption; with animate, to alteration-death; with those which have feelings, to joy and grief; with angels (who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation), to inconstancy, etc.; and thus he rushes into the sinners' abyss.