The Word of Exhortation: Part 2

Hebrews 1‑4  •  33 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Heb. 1-4
It is not the exposition of the doctrines of the epistle that is here pursued, but the exhortations founded upon the doctrines.
The deductions from scripture and practical exhortations of the most devoted and spiritual may sometimes be wide of the mark, or at least may fail to present that which is the real point of importance; but in the exhortations and deductions we are about to follow, the Spirit of God has, in each case, without question, presented the very point of truth it is of the deepest moment for our souls to heed, and the absolute practical use which should be made of each of the various statements that are presented in the epistle.
As to the exhortation itself, it commences at Heb. 2:11Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. (Hebrews 2:1)—"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?" This exhortation naturally flows from the subject of the first chapter, which is the presentation of the dignity and intrinsic glory of the person of God's Son, by whom the mind of God is now communicated. For He "hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son." But it will be observed that all that is here ascribed to the Son is ascribed to Him as the man who had been known here on earth in humiliation, and sorrow, and death; but who in truth was the Prophet from among their brethren, whom God had raised up unto them. It is the opposite point of presentation to that which is given in the John 1. There it is what He was essentially from the beginning, before He was manifested in humiliation. Here it is the ascription of all that was true there, to Him who was known as sojourning here on earth; whose glory was hidden when here below, but is now unveiled, that we may know WHO it is by whom God has spoken, and by whose faithfulness and worth the glory of God has been accomplished, and the salvation and blessing of His people eternally secured.
Formerly God had spoken by His prophets, and their message was invested with all the authority of the word of the Lord; but now it is the SON who takes the place of Prophet, or communicator of God's mind. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." "God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son." One who was far above prophets, and above angels (as is argued in the chapter) the appointed heir of all things, as He is the maker and upholder of all things, the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His Person. He it is by whom God now speaks, and His dignity and glory, as well as the subject of His communications, demand for Him a solemn and heedful attention. It is not of judgment that God now speaks, as in the days of Noah, nor of the requisitions of His holiness, as in the fiery law which was given through the mediation of Moses, but it is of accomplished salvation that He speaks by His Son. For it was " when he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high;" thus attaching all the dignity and glory of His person to the work He has accomplished, (so giving eternal rest to our souls,) as well as to the message He delivers, and thus investing it with supreme authority. "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.” There is a double principle of responsibility here, that which belongs to all men who have heard the gospel—for God has spoken by His Son, and man's carelessness cannot undo that—and He will hold them responsible for the acceptance or rejection of the message He has delivered. "For how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by THE LORD." But there is also that which belongs to those who have believed, that they give a heedful attention to the things which they have heard, that they may retain, in all their brightness, and in all their force, by the power of faith, the things which they have heard, and which have been thus communicated. Let the one and the other think what they are doing if, either in whole or in part, they are neglecting this great salvation. A salvation, as it is insisted on, which first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed by the apostles, God also giving His attestation, and the Holy Ghost setting His seal to its proclamation, by the wonders that He wrought.
Let me ask, Is there no need for this exhortation? What can be thought of the fate of the man who neglects what God, by His own Son, has proclaimed? What the condition of him who neglects a salvation that could alone be accomplished by the mission, and sorrows, and sufferings, and death of God's Son? What also the folly of the believer who, through negligence, or worldliness, or the indulgence of the flesh, allows these bright and blessed revelations to escape from his mind? Does not the condition of those who profess the gospel merely, and in great part of those by whom it has been received, through grace, proclaim aloud the deep necessity for this exhortation to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip?
God will vindicate His word when spoken by angels; but much more will He visit for the outraged dignity and the rejected love of His Son; for the despisal of that grace which flows alone from His glory, His sufferings, and His death!
It is a serious thing for men to neglect their own salvation, and it is a legitimate thing to reason with them on the hopelessness of the condition, which such a neglect involves. But there is something deeper than this presented here; it is the neglect of God's salvation; the neglect of that intervention of mercy, which can alone render it possible for any sinner to appear in the presence of God. This is another idea than the neglect of my own well-being. It is the neglect of God, of His glory, of His holiness, of His authority, of His grace, of His love, of the provisions of His mercy, the neglect of the salvation accomplished in sorrow and suffering, by His only begotten Son, and is now proclaimed, through the testimony of the Holy Ghost, sent down from above.
But if the dignity of the Son, as the communicator of God's mind, forms the basis of the exhortation to give a more earnest heed to the things which He has spoken; the grace of His heart, in associating those with Himself of whom He is the Captain of salvation—their rightful deliverer—is the ground of the exhortation, to consider Him who sustains for them the offices of Apostle and High Priest.
He who, in the world to come, or in the habitable earth in a future age, is to be set, as the Son of man, supreme over all the works of God's hands, reaches this place of exaltation, through suffering, and humiliation, and death. Not that He personally needed this, but if He is to associate others with Him, if He is to bring many sons to glory, He must, as the Captain of their salvation, be made perfect through sufferings. For there was that to be met, which the holiness of God and the claims of His justice required, as well as the accomplishment of the results of grace, in bringing many sons to glory. Hence it is said, that "he who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." He so accomplished His work that the sanctified are brought into the same position as Himself, who is the sanctifier. There is one sanctification for Him and for them; for the holiness of God's presence could admit of no other standard. He is the accomplisher of this sanctification; believers are the participants of it; but it is the same sanctification, or setting apart, and on the same grounds. Hence the Lord says, in John 17, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be truly sanctified." Wondrous position! Wondrous grace! But "it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Thus alone it is that He can call them brethren. He came down in grace to their condition that He might raise them to His. The children were partakers of flesh and blood; and He partakes of flesh and blood. We were under the power of sin; and He Himself purged our sins. We were under the power of death, and He submits Himself to that power; and in the very domain of death conquers for us; and by His resurrection delivers from the fear of death those who were subject to its bondage. In grace, He who, as the Son, was all that the first chapter declares, "was in all points made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." It behooved Him to take this place, that He might maintain our position before God, and, in sympathy, minister the needed grace to us here below.
On all this is based the exhortation, "wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus."
This title of "holy brethren" is thus bestowed on all believers, and its force is seen by a reference to the 11th and 12th verses of the chapter, where it is said of Christ, that "He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren." This declaration of God's name, by Christ, to His brethren, is presented in, its wondrous bearing by the Lord when, after He was risen from the dead, He said to Mary Magdalene, "Go tell my brethren, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God." This is the blessed title of the relationship which God bears toward every poor sinner saved through the grace of Christ. It is no place of assumption for believers, nor is it a title to which attainments may give a claim. It is the place and title which Christ's grace establishes for those who know Him in the reality of His sufferings, His humiliation, and death. The position of Him whose calling they obey gives its character to theirs, whether viewed in relation to their inheritance above, or to their sojourn here below. It is not an earthly, but a heavenly calling that believers are brought into by Christ. Called from earth to heaven, they are to know the place of Him who is the Captain of their salvation and the firstborn among many brethren.
The exhortation is to consider Christ in the two offices which are here expressed, the apostle and high priest of our profession, offices which are shadowed forth by the position toward Israel of Moses and Aaron. The profession of Christianity, in distinction from the law, is based upon the fact that God has spoken to us from heaven, through Christ, who is the apostle of our profession; and that we have a High Priest in heaven who accomplished eternal redemption by His own blood-shedding while here on earth. The point of the exhortation is to consider who it is that sustains these offices, and how competent He is to the discharge of all which they imply. He was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as Moses was faithful; but He was as much above Moses as the owner of the house is higher than he who is but a servant, though faithful, in the house. Christ was the builder of the house, and thus has more honor than the house. He was the builder of all things; and "He that built all things is GOD." Thus, by the simplest human footsteps, (if I may so speak,) are we led upward to see this blessed lowly One, who was not ashamed to call us brethren, sustaining the office of apostle, or communicator of God's mind, and the High Priest of our profession, as bringing us into God's presence by virtue of His accomplished sacrifice, not merely as "a son over his own house," the Head and Lord of that house; but as the sovereign Creator of all things, the eternal God!
These offices were familiar to the Hebrews; they had their typical presentation in Moses, the prophet of the Lord, and in Aaron, who was the consecrated high priest; but they are now sustained by Him who is at once in grace the first-born among many brethren, and in intrinsic glory the Son of God, and Creator and upholder of all things.
Christ having been thus presented in these offices, of which Moses and Aaron presented the illustration, believers are at once viewed as morally in the wilderness, and on their journey to a future rest, as Israel, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, were traveling through the desert to the rest of Canaan. Redemption from Egypt and the passage of the Red Sea, in their immediate effect, only put the people of Israel in the wilderness; however they were journeying toward the promised rest. So the Hebrews are reminded that this higher redemption, by the blood of Christ, and His taking the place of immediate authority over them, in its present effect, is but to make them pilgrims through the world, in the hope and expectation of a future rest, of which Canaan was but a type. Thus the whole wilderness history of Israel, with its temptations and provocations, is made to bear on the position of the believer in the world; and lessons of practical warning, in the contemplation of that history, rise up at every step. For "these things happened to them for ensamples, and are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come." But the two special points of exhortation here selected are against unbelief and sin; and unbelief comes first. These were the two evils which shut Israel out of Canaan, and caused their carcasses to fall in the wilderness. The effect of unbelief is noted in the core of its baneful effect, as leading the soul to depart from the living God It is the evil heart of unbelief which departs from the living God. It is not said, an evil heart of unbelief which will hinder your progress, which will weaken you in conflict, which will bring leanness into your souls,-all these things will indeed result from the master effect of unbelief,—but that effect is described as leading to a departure from the living God. Israel's whole strength in the desert was that God was with them; but unbelief lost sight of this great truth, and lost all the springs of strength which flow from its recognition; and it left its victims, as to their carcasses, to fall in the wilderness, instead of entering upon the pleasant land. But unbelief prepares the way for sin; for if the sense of God's presence be lost, where is the check to the unbridled indulgence of the desires of a heart that is in its very character enmity against God.
"In thy presence we are happy,
In thy presence we're secure,
In thy presence all afflictions
We can easily endure.
In thy presence we can conquer,
We can suffer, we can die,
Wandering from thee we are feeble,
Let thy love then keep us nigh."
But mutual exhortation is introduced in connection with the danger of the heart being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. "Exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." The reason of this is plain, for if Israel be the congregation of the Lord, then each person of that congregation is responsible to guard against the power of sin. An Israelite cannot sin alone. Achan may alone be occupied with the golden wedge and the Babylonish garment, but all Israel has to bear the consequence of his sin.
God's redemption and Christ's leadership set believers in a mutual relationship to one another; and it is this which gives its force to the exhortation, " exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
How correctly does the word of God delineate the effect of unbelief, in leading away from God's presence; and the character of sin as deceitful in its approaches, insidious in its advances, and, when yielded to, preparing for worse results by its hardening effect upon the soul! It is not the effect of sin merely that it deceives the heart into that which is contrary to God and its own peace, but it blinds and hardens against all that which the power of divine grace and the ungrieved Spirit of God would make it impressible to. In the wilderness, then, the two great dangers are, unbelief and sin. Unbelief which carries out of God's presence, and sin which hardens the heart against all that is according to God, and necessarily brings His judgment.
But as the end of Israel's redemption was not the wilderness, but Canaan, though the wilderness must be passed through to reach it; so it is not in this world that the believer is to find his rest, but his hopes and his aims are to be directed onward to the rest that lies beyond. Hence, because there is this rest, which God has provided, we are led to the exhortation, (iv, 1,) " Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." There is a promise left us of this rest, and the exhortation is designed to bring the heart so under the power of this promise as to induce the believer to be always journeying onward, until he reaches its accomplishment. As the apostle says, "one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Israel formerly were those who had the promise and the tidings of this rest—the rest of Canaan. Believers now are the persons that are entering upon this rest. As it is stated, "Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them;" or, more properly, "we have been evangelized of a rest,” “or have had the tidings announced of a rest, as well as they." In a word, believers have displaced Israel, as to the wilderness and Canaan, which were but types, and they are admonished not to follow Israel's example, who when they heard from the spies the tidings of the rest, refused to believe their report, and to go up and possess the land. "For we who have believed do enter into rest, as he said, I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest."
It is plain that it is not about the gospel of salvation that the apostle is arguing in these verses, but is drawing a parallel between Israel's position and the believer's, in relation to a rest of which Canaan is taken as a type. But it is God's rest that is now in question; a rest that is worthy of God; a rest, not only for the believer himself, but in which God will participate. The sabbath rest, at the close of the works of creation, presented its first expression, though man through sin had never reached it. Still "the works were finished from the foundation of the world," and the intimation that God intended to associate those whom He blessed with Himself, in this rest, is expressed in the institution of the sabbath. Of Israel, in consequence of their unbelief, God sware that "they should not enter into His rest." But their not entering in did not set aside the rest itself, nor God's purpose in relation to it. Hence it is added, "seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief. Again He limiteth a certain day, saying, in David...... to day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." This plainly shows, that Israel not only did not enter God's rest, however Canaan might be a type of it, but even Canaan itself is to be held, by the elect nation of God, by another tenure than that by which they possessed it as brought in to the land by Joshua. For there is a double bearing in the words " If Jesus (or Joshua, as it should be) had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day," as He does by David, many ages afterward, in the Psalms.
The issue of the argument, thus pursued, is this, that it was not the rest of creation that is in question, nor the rest of Canaan, but a rest that is still future, as it is expressed, "there remaineth therefore a rest (a sabbath rest) for the people of God." The great sabbath keeping of the people of God is yet future, and is thus set before us as the inspiring object of hope. It is God's rest that is before us, and the thought of that rest may well quicken our course onward, through all the difficulties and dangers of the wilderness which is our present portion.
It need hardly be asserted, that the believer has not yet entered into God's final rest in glory; but the passage before us is often obscured by the introduction of the thought of there being more than one rest spoken of in this chapter. So far from this being the case, except as the sabbath and the rest of Canaan are used as prefigurements of it, the idea throughout is simply one, namely, that the believer has a future rest with God to be entered upon, as Israel had the hope of the rest of Canaan to animate them through the toils of the wilderness. Hence the consequences of Israel's want of faith, in regard to the hope of Canaan, are urged upon us, as a reason for never losing sight of that hope, which is given to encourage us in our course through the world. That the rest is future is argued from the very condition of the believer. For if we had already entered on this rest, we should have ceased from our labors, as God rested from His works in creation, when the sabbath was come. But, instead of this being the case, we are in a condition to need the exhortation to diligence, in ever pressing toward it. "Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
It is not salvation, or the rest of the soul in the finished work of Christ, that is here spoken of. For he says, "we who have believed do enter into rest;" that is, believers are the persons who are now entering upon that rest. The people of God are to be the possessors of it. Therefore, he exhorts the Hebrews, as believers, to labor toward that rest, and not to repeat the sad history of their fathers, who though called out of Egypt to the rest of Canaan, through unbelief came short of it.
" We are saved by hope;" and the believer, whose course is not animated by its constant operation, in regard to the future rest of God, will assuredly in his course "seem to come short of it.”
Would that there were less that is equivocal in our course, as to its final object! for, in very truth, the salvation of the soul may, through the grace of Christ, be secured; and the hope of heaven, as to individual happiness, may not be altogether absent; while, with regard to this final rest of God, there may be so little of the power of hope, that many a one may seem to come short of it.
But if unbelief and sin, and the effects of them, in Israel's coming short of Canaan, be noticed, and a warning raised for us on this foundation, it may be asked, by what means is such an issue to be avoided, in regard to those who are now in question? God has provided the means to prevent this issue. The word and the priesthood of Christ are introduced, in this connection, as God's instruments for bringing His people through the wilderness. The word reaches the very springs of unbelief and apostasy, and lays the soul bare under the all-searching eye of God. The priesthood of Christ is God's provision to meet the condition of those who are thus searched and convicted by the word, from the edge of which nothing can escape.
The law was sufficient to detect Israel's overt acts of apostasy, and to condemn that idolatry which was the expression of their departure from God; but the word, now, in its searching power, does not stop at the outward act, but reaches to the detection of every secret spring of action, every departure in heart or affection from the Lord, from which apostasy takes its rise, as it is written, " thou halt forsaken thy first love."
Believers have now to do with God's final revelation of His grace and holiness, and hence nothing that is contrary to the perfect light of God's presence can be allowed. "All things are made manifest and reproved by the light." The law demanded holiness from man, in whose flesh dwelt no good thing, but as it did not minister righteousness or life, which man's condition required, in order to his having to do with God, the demand could not be met, and the curse of the law was the only possible result. But now the ministration of grace is in truth a ministration of righteousness, in order to deliverance from condemnation; and the ministration of life, through which we have not alone deliverance from death, but the participation of a nature from which holiness must be the issue and the result. "We are made partakers of the divine nature." Christ is our life.
Hence the word is presented in its absolute searching power, penetrating to the hidden recesses of the heart, dividing between the soul and spirit, discerning the very thoughts and intents of the heart. This is what the word of God is; and this is its action on the soul of the believer. It is the expression of God's living thoughts; it is the instrument by which He makes His own presence felt. Hence the transition from the written word, and its searching power, as expressed in Heb. 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, 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), to the immediate eye of God, in verse 13, where it is said, "neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
Now if this be the province of the word, and this the range of its searching power, plainly its detections will be such as to cast the soul into utter despair, if there were nothing found in the ministrations of grace to meet that which the word discovers in the soul. For what is this inquisition in the soul? It is the unmitigated demand, not only that there should be no wrong action, but no wrong affection, no thought of the mind, no intention of the heart, no affection in excess, but that all in the motives, and purposes, and aims of the soul, shall be such as to accord with the holiness of Him of whom it is said, that " God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." The edge of this sword pierces through every subterfuge, defies the vain attempt which the heart often makes to disguise its motives, and, like the sacrificial knife, separates the very joints and marrow, and discovers every latent spring of action, laying bare every feeling which the heart would never have the courage to confess even to itself.
But this searching inquisition of the word, this inexorable scrutiny of the soul, in order that there may be truth in the inward parts, is the very ground for the necessity of the introduction of the priesthood of Christ. This is the moral connection between the word and the priesthood of Christ, viewed in their practical bearing on the believer's walk in the presence of God.
It will be remembered that when the law had condemned, and when Israel's departures from the Lord had brought them under His judgment, and there seemed no other possible issue to their murmurings but, either the entire withdrawal of God's presence from the camp, or their destruction, that God introduces the rod of Aaron's priesthood, which was the symbol of living and efficacious grace: as is seen in Num. 17:1010And the Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not. (Numbers 17:10) "And the Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not." For as Moses, the representative of the law, did not bring them into possession of the inheritance; but Joshua, the type of Christ as Captain of salvation; so neither was it the rod of power—even of God's power, which Moses wielded—but the rod of priesthood, Aaron's rod which budded, in which grace has its special exercise—that brings the people, in spite of all their provocations, through the wilderness. So is it now. It is the priesthood of Christ that gives practical power to walk with God in the requirements of His holiness, as well as imparts the grace that is needed to meet our unnumbered failures, as brought to light by the power of that word by which we are searched.
Most interesting is it to see the difference of the two exhortations based upon the two aspects of Him who sustains this priesthood. Heb. 4:1414Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (Hebrews 4:14), "Seeing that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." Verses 15, 16, "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly canto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
It is the greatness of the High Priest, and the place of the exercise of His priesthood, that are presented as the ground of the exhortation, "let us hold fast our profession." The high priest who sustains the ground of this profession is "Jesus, the SON OF GOD," who has passed into the heavens, to exercise His priesthood for us, in the immediate presence of God. "For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins..... So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee..... Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec." (Heb. 5:1;5;101For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: (Hebrews 5:1).)
It has been shown that it is God with whom we have to do, and that it is in His presence, from which nothing can be hid, that we have to walk. And when the light of the word has shown us what we are, and what is in our hearts, and at the same time discloses the presence of God, before whom all this is made manifest, there is nothing left for the soul but to shrink back from the light, and throw up all profession of having to do with God. It is felt, and must be felt, when searched by this light, if there be no other link of connection, association with God is impossible. For "what fellowship hath light with darkness?" But to meet this conviction the mind is called to think of the greatness of its resources and the sure ground of its confidence, in the greatness of the high priest of our profession. He on whose sacrifice this confidence is based is the Son of God, who by Himself has purged our sins, and in all the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice, and the virtue of His blood-shedding, has passed into the heavens; and on the ground of what He is in Himself, and what His sacrifice has accomplished, He maintains our position in the presence of God. Allow that the word will not pass by the least shade of sin in my soul without condemnation; allow that it makes me feel that "in me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing," and that I am in the light where nothing can be hid,—is that a reason for seeking to evade the light, or for the despair which would lead me to throw up my profession? If, indeed, I were left under the naked dissection of the, word, when it had done its work in my conscience, I might, and must, be thus hopeless; but when my eye is turned to what Jesus is, and what He has accomplished, and what His position in heaven for me before God is, then I feel the force of the exhortation, "let us hold fast our profession." For well can He sustain the ground of that profession, since it is based alone upon what He has accomplished: "He suffered for sins once, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Self-abhorrent as may be my feelings, when viewing what the light of the word has discovered—for I must say with Job, " now mine eye seeth thee, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"—still, when it is turned from what the light has discovered in me to what that same light shows to be in Christ, in the presence of God for me, my heart is reassured, and I learn practically on what ground it is I can alone hold fast my profession.
But if the greatness and the position of our High Priest forbid the letting go our profession, because He is able to sustain the ground of it, there is also the other side, namely, His personal acquaintance with our condition, and the sympathy of His heart, which are presented in order to give boldness under every discouragement. We are encouraged to come to Him, not to soothe us merely by His kindness, or to comfort us by the power of His sympathy, but as to the head and source of all grace, to draw from Him those supplies which will enable the soul practically to walk in the light, as God is in the light. His sympathy and knowledge of our condition—"for we have not a high priest which cannot be touched by the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin "—are presented to view, not as in themselves to be rested in, but as the certain ground of His ability and willingness to exercise toward us all that active grace which He knows our condition and circumstances require. There is not a single evil that the word detects in my heart for which I cannot find in Christ the very needed grace that shall enable me to overcome it; and it is on this ground the exhortation is presented, " let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need"—the pity which His heart alone can adequately feel, and the help which His love is ever ready to bestow.
" To come to the throne of grace " is a phrase that is often used, as if it applied only to the act of ordinary prayer. It is true that when prayer leads me to call upon the Lord, I do find that He is seated upon the throne of -grace; but the thought here expressed is far different from that which is suggested by the use of the ordinary phrase. It is not merely that God is gracious, and will hear our prayers, and therefore we may wait upon Him with confidence; but it is the presentation of Christ as the head and fountain of sovereign grace and goodness to communicate, combined with all that perfect sympathy which results from the place He took in redemption, and which reigns eternally in His heart, in order to draw our hearts constantly and with confidence to Himself, that we may find the blessed springs of mercy ever flowing, to cheer and strengthen us amidst the difficulties, and temptations, and sorrows, of our course.
The boldness with which we are exhorted to come springs from the character of Him through whom we draw nigh to God; and the very office He sustains has its fitting exercise in the communication of the gracious help we need. The sympathy that knows exactly how to meet my necessities, and that encourages my heart, because of the relationship which, through grace, He who feels this sympathy sustains towards me, is the very provision which God has made for what His word and holy presence make manifest in our hearts: the whole effect of being thus searched by the light resulting in a practical acquaintance with the infinite grace of Him who for us sustains the office of a merciful and faithful high priest.
I do not come to Christ to exercise His sympathy toward me, to make my conscience easy in the continuance of that which the light of the word condemns, but to derive from Him the very grace and strength to overcome all that by which my conscience has been oppressed, as searched by that word which is " quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, 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."
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