THE THEME.-i. 1-3.
The Glory of the Son in His Person and Work.
THE SON IN WHOM GOD HATH SPOKEN.
1. —1. God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers In the prophets by divers portions and In divers manners,
2. Hath at the end of these days spoken onto us In his Son.
God hath spoken! The magnificent portal by which we enter into the temple in which God is to reveal His glory to us! We are at once brought into the presence of God Himself. The one object of the Epistle is to lead us to God, to reveal God, to bring us into contact with Himself. Man was created for God. Sin separated from God. Man feels his need, and seeks for God. This Epistle comes with the gospel message of redemption, to teach us where and how to find God. Let all who thirst for God, for the living God, draw nigh and listen.
God hath spoken! Speaking is the vehicle of fellowship. lt is a proof that the speaker considers him he addresses as capable of fellowship with himself; a token that he longs for that fellowship. Man was created for fellowship with God. Sin interrupted it . Nature speaks of God and His work, but of Himself, His heart, and His thoughts of love towards us as sinners, nature cannot tell. ln his deepest misery man seeks for God—but how often, to all appearance, in vain. But, God be praised, not for always. The silence has been broken. God calls man back to fellowship with Himself. God hath spoken!
God hath spoken! For a time, imperfectly and provisionally in the prophets, in preparation for the more perfect revelation of Himself. But now at length the joyful tidings are heard —God hath spoken in His Son! God, the infinite, incomprehensible, unseen One, hath spoken! And that in His Son! Oh the joy and the glory! who can measure it? "Hear! O heavens, and give ear! O earth, for the Lord hath spoken."
God hath spoken! When man speaks it is the revelation of himself, to make known the otherwise hidden thoughts and dispositions of his heart. When God, who dwells in light that is inaccessible, speaks out of the heights of His glory, it is that He may reveal Himself. He would have us know how He loves us and longs for us, how He wants to save and to bless, how He would have us draw nigh and live in fellowship with Himself.
God hath spoken in His Son! The ministry of angels and prophets was only to prepare the way; it never could satisfy the heart either of God or man; the real power of the life of God, the full experience of His nearness, the true deliverance from sin, the shedding abroad of the love in the heart,— this could not be communicated by the ministry of creatures. The Son Himself had to come as the Word of God to us, the bearer of the life and love of the Father. The Son Himself had to come to bring us into living contact with the divine Being, to dwell in our heart, as He dwells in God's heart, to be in us God's word as He is in God, and so to give us the living experience of what it means that God speaks to us.
God hath spoken! The words of a man carry weight according to the idea l have of his wisdom, his veracity, his power, his love. The words of God! Oh, who can express what they ought to be worth to us! Each word carries with it all the life of God, all His saving power and love. God speaking in His Son! Surely they who have begun to know Him will be ready to cast aside everything for the sake of hearing Him.
God hath spoken! The words of men have often exerted a wonderful and a mighty influence. But the words of God— they are creative deeds, they give what they speak. "He spake, and it was done." When God speaks in His Son, He gives Him to us, not only for us and with us, but in us. He speaks the Son out of the depth of His heart into the depths of our heart. Men's words appeal to the mind or the will, the feelings or the passions. God speaks to that which is deeper than all, to the heart, that central depth within us whence are the issues of life. Let us believe the mighty, quickening power God's word will have.
God hath spoken! Speaking claims hearing. God asks but one thing; it is so simple and right; that we should listen. Shall we not hearken, in holy reverence and worship, with whole-hearted attention and surrender, to what He would say to us in this Epistle too? We too shall know what the power and the joy is of God speaking to us in His Son. God is a Spirit. As such He has no other way of communicating to us His life or His love, but by entering our spirit and dwelling and working there. There He causes Christ to dwell, and there He speaks to us in Christ these words of redeeming love and power which bring life to us. The words of Christ can bring us no profit, except as they unfold to us what God is working in us, and direct us to what is to be revealed in our heart. lt is the heart God wants; let us open the whole heart to listen and to long.
God hath spoken in His Son! The living Jesus, come forth from the fiery furnace of God's holiness, from the burning glow of everlasting love, He Himself is the living Word. Let us seek in the study of this Epistle, in which His glory is so wondrously revealed, to come into contact with Him, to receive Him into our hearts, to take Him as our life, that He may bring us to the Father. ln the beginning God spake: "Let there be light! and there was light." Even so now He speaks with creative power in His Son, and the presence and the light of Christ become the life and the light of the soul.
1. What trouble pevple take to learn a foreign language, to have access to lts writers. Let no trouble be too great to understand the language of God, His Word, His Son. To learn a foreign language l get somevne who knows it to teach me. The language of God is heavenly, spiritual, supernatural—altogether dioine; only the Holy Spirit can teach me to understand it, to think God's own thoughts. Let me take Him as my teacher.
2. "And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him." As personally and directly, even more wonderfully and effectually, will God speak to me in His Son; but deep, holy reverence, and an intense desire to know what God says, must be the spirit in which l study the Epistle and hearken to the blessed Son.
3. "Heavenly truth is nowhere spoken but by the voice of Christ, nor heard but by the power of Christ, lioing in the hearer." "He that is of God heareth God's words." lt is only he who yields himself to the new nature who can truly know what God's speaking in Christ is.
4. During Christ's life the word of God was thrice heard. Each time it was: "This is My beloved Son : hear Him." "l have glorified Him." Let us allow God to speak this one word into our hearts—My beloved Son. O my God! speak to me in Thy Son. Oh, speak that one word out of the depth of Thy heart into the depth of my heart.
THE SON-MORE THAN THE PROPHETS.
1. —1. Ood, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners,
2. Hath at the end of these days spoken unto us In his Son.
We all know that there are two Testaments—the Old and the New. These represent two dispensations, two modes of worship, two sorts of religions, two ways in which God has intercourse with man, and man draws nigh to God. The one was provisional, preparatory, and intended to pass away. What it gave and wrought was not meant to satisfy, but only to awaken the expectation of something better that was to come. The other was the fulfilment of what had been promised, and destined to last for ever, because it was itself a complete revelation of an everlasting redemption, of a salvation in the power of an endless life.
ln both Old and New Testament it was God who spake. The prophets in the Old, and the Son in the New, were equally God's messengers. God spake in the prophets no less truly than in the Son. But in the Old everything was external and through the mediation of men. God Himself could not yet enter and take possession of man and dwell in him. ln the New all is more directly and immediately divine—in an inward power and reality and life, of which the Old had only the shadow and hope. The Son, who is God, brings us into the very presence of God.
And wherefore was it that God did not, could not, from the very beginning, reveal Himself in the Son? What need was there of these two ways of worshipping and serving Him? The answer is twofold—lf man were indeed intelligently and voluntarily to appropriate God's love and redemption, he needed to be prepared for it . He needed first of all to know his own utter impotence and hopeless wretchedness. And so his heart had to be wakened up in true desire and expectancy to welcome and value what God had to give.
When God speaks to us in Christ it is as the Father dwelling in the Son. "The words that l say unto you, I speak not from Myself, but the Father abideth in Me doeth the works." Just as God's speaking in Christ was an inward thing. So God can still speak to us in no other way. The external words of Christ, just like the words of the prophets, are to prepare us for, and point us to, that inner speaking in the heart by the Holy Spirit, which alone is life and power. This is God's true speaking in His Son.
lt is of the utmost consequence for our spiritual life that we should rightly understand these two stages in God's dealing with man. In two ways, not in one; not in more than two; in two ways has God spoken.
They indicate what, in substance, is God's way with every Christian.1 There is, after his conversion, a time of preparation and testing, to see whether he willingly and heartily sacrifices all for the full blessing. lf in this stage he perseveres in earnest effort and striving, he will be brought to learn the two lessons the Old Testament was meant to teach. He will become more deeply conscious of his own impotence,
1 "The characteristics which before marked the revelation itself, now mark the human apprehension of the final revelation."—Westcott.
and the strong desire will be wakened after a better life, to be found in the full revelation of Christ as able to save completely. When these two lessons are learned—the lesson of despair of self and hope in God alone—the soul is prepared, if it will yield itself in faith to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to enter truly into the New Testament life within the veil, in the very Holiest of All, as it is set forth in this Epistle.
Where Christians, through defective instruction, or through neglect and sloth, do not understand God's way for leading them on unto perfection, the Christian life will always remain full of feebleness and failure. lt was thus with the Hebrew Christians. They belonged to the New Testament, but their life was anything but the exhibition of the power and joy Christ came to reveal. They were far behind what many of the Old Testament saints had been; and the reason was this— they knew not the heavenly character of the redemption Christ had brought. They knew not the heavenly place in which He ministers, nor the heavenly blessing He dispenses, nor the heavenly power in which He secures our enjoyment of these blessings. They knew not the difference between the prophets and the Son; what it means that God has now spoken to us in His Son. The one object of the Epistle is to set before us the heavenly priesthood of Christ and the heavenly life to which He in His divine power gives us access. lt is this gives the Epistle its inestimable value for all time, that it teaches us the way out of the elementary stage of the Christian life to that of full and perfect access to God.
Let us grasp and hold firmly the difference between the two stages. ln the one, the action of man is more prominent: God speaks in the prophets. ln the other, the divine presence and power are more fully revealed: God speaks in the Son, who bears and brings the very life of God, and brings us into living contact with God Himself. In the one, it is the human words that occupy and influence and help us to seek God; in the other, the divine indwelling Word reveals its power within. In the one, it is multiplicity of thoughts and truths, of ordinances and efforts; in the other, the simplicity and the unity of the one Son of God, and faith in Him alone.
How many have sought by study and meditation and acceptance of the words of the Bible to find God, and yet have failed. They knew not that these were but the finger-posts pointing to the living Son,—words coming indeed from God, most needful and profitable, and yet not sufficient; only yielding us their true blessing when they have brought us to hear God Himself speaking in His Son.
7. Let none of us rest content with the lower stage. Let us see that personal fellowship with God, through the Holy Spirit, is what Christ glves. God calls us to lt: Christ lioes in heaven to work lt, through the Spirit He gioes from heaven.
2. One mag know much of the Bible and the words of God, and get remain feeble. What one needs is to know the lioing Word, in whom God speaks within, in life and power.
3. All the prophets point to the Son, as the true Prophet. Let us take them very definitely as our teachers, to reveal God in us.
4. When l speak a word, l desire all lts meaning and force to enter into him whom l address. God has in these last days but one Word. He desires to have all that Word is and means enter in and lioe in us. Let us open our hearts, and God will speak into lt that one Word, This is My Son, in such a way that He will indeed be all our own.
THE SON-THE GLORY OF HIS PERSON.
I.—2. God hath spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds;
3. Who being the effulgence1 of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power.
We know that whatever a man sets his heart on exercises a mighty influence on the life, and leaves its stamp upon his character. He that follows after vanity becomes vain. He that trusts in a god of his own fancy will find his religion an illusion. He that sets his heart upon the living God will find the living God take possession and fill the heart. lt is this that makes it of such infinite consequence that we should not only have a general idea of the Christ through whom God speaks to us, but should know Him aright and have our heart filled with all that God has revealed of Him. Our knowledge of Him will be the food of our faith, and as our faith is will be our experience of His saving power, and of the fellowship with God to which He leads. Let us listen to what we are taught of the Son in whom God speaks to us.
Whom He appointed Heir of all things. The great object and aim of God in creation was to have an inheritance for His Son, in which He might show forth His glory and find His blessedness. The Son is the Final Cause, the End of all things.
He is the Beginning too. Through whom He also made
the worlds. He is the origin and Efficient Cause of all that exists. "Without Him nothing was made that was made." The place the Son had in the divine Being was such that God's relation to all that was outside of Himself was only through the Son. Of all that exists the end and the beginning meet in Him.
And He is the Middle, too. Upholding all things by the word of His power. He bears all things, "all things consist in Him." As little as they were created without Him, can they exist without Him? He upholds them every moment by the word of His power, even as by His word they were created. This is the Son through whom God speaks to us.
And what is it that makes Him worthy of taking this high place between the Creator and the creature? Because, as the Son, it is He alone in whom the unapproachable and utterly incomprehensible glory of God is made manifest, through whom as Mediator the uncreated God, and the works of His hand, can come into contact and fellowship. His relation to creation rests on His relation to the Father. He is the outshining of God's glory, and the express image of His substance. As we only know the sun by the light that shines from it, so is Christ the outshining, the revelation of God's glory. As the light that shines from the sun is of the same nature with it, so the Son is of one nature with the Father— God of God. And as a son bears the likeness of his father, because he has his life and nature from him, so the Son of God is the express image of His substance. He is of one substance with the Father—its express image—and hath therefore life in Himself, even as the Father hath life in Himself.
Someone may be tempted to think that these are theological mysteries too deep for the ordinary Christian, and not needful for our Christian faith and life. And they are inclined to ask, of what importance it can be to a simple believer to know all this? My brother, think not thus. lt is all important that we know the glory of Jesus. The more the soul is filled with that glory, and worships Him in it, the more it will see with what confidence it can count upon Him to do a divine and supernatural work in us, and to lead us to an actual living fellowship with God as our Father. Oh, let us not be so selfish and mean as to be content with the hope that Jesus saves us, while we are careless of having intimate personal acquaintance with Him. lf not for our sake, then for God's sake, for the sake of His infinite love and grace, let us seek to know aright this blessed Son whom the Father has given us. Let us turn away from earth, let us meditate and gaze and worship, until He, who is the outshining of the divine glory, shines into our very heart, and He, to whom the Father hath given such a place as Creator and Upholder and Heir of ali, take that place with us too, and be to us the beginning and the centre and the end of all.
It is through this Son God speaks to us. Not through the words of the Son only, for they too are human words, and may, just like the inspired words of the prophets, bring in but little profit. It is through the Son—the living, mighty, divine Son, direct—that God speaks: it is only in direct living contact with the Son that the words can profit. And the Son, not as we superficially think of Him, but the real divine Son as God has revealed Him, known and worshipped and waited on as the outshining of the divine glory,—it is this Son of God, entering into our heart and dwelling there, in whom God will speak to us, and in whom we shall be brought nigh to God. When Christ reveals the Father, it is not to the mind, to give us new thoughts about Him, but in the heart and life, so that we know and experience the power in which God can dwell and work in man, restoring him to the enjoyment of that blessed fellowship for which he was created, and which he lost by the fall. The great work of God in heaven, the chief thought and longing of His heart is, in His Son, to reach your heart and speak to you. Oh, let it be the great work of your life, and the great longing of your heart, to know this Jesus; as a humble, meek disciple to bow at His feet, and let Him teach you of God and eternal life. Yes, even now, let us bow before Him in the fourfold glory in which the word has set Him before us. He is the Heir of all that God has. He is its Creator. He is the Upholder too. He is the Outshining of God's glory, and the perfect lmage of His substance. O my Saviour! anything to know Thee better, and in Thee to have my God speak to me!
1. "No man knoweth the Son, save the Father, neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsvever the Son wllleth to reveal him." How dependent we are on the Father to know the Son; on the Son to know the Father. Let us acknowledge this dependence in deep humility, and believe and wait in meekness of sout for the dioine revealing.
2. There are times when there arises in the soul a deep longing to know God. External teaching dves not satisfy. Treasure such longing as God's loving drawing. Turn from the world in stillness of soul, and exercise faith in the secret power that Jesus can exert in the heart. Become a disciple of Jesus, one who follows Him and learns of Him.
3. O Thou who art Heir, Creator, Upholder of all, the brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of His substance,—O my Lord Jesus, reveal the Father to me, that l may know that God speaks to me.
THE SON-THE GLORY OF HIS WORK.
L—3. Who, when he had made purification1 of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
THE description of the glory of Christ's person is followed by that of the work of this Son in whom God speaks to us. God's words are deeds. It is in what Christ is and works that God speaks to us. In His divinity and incarnation we see what God has given us. In His life and death and ascension we see how the gift of God enters and acts in all our human life, how complete our salvation is, and what God now asks of us. All Christ's work is God's word to us.
That work consists in two parts: the one on earth, the other in heaven. Of the former it is said, When He had effected the cleansing of sins; of the latter, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. ln a healthy Christian life we must know and hold fast both parts of Christ's work. The work He did upon earth was but a beginning of the work He was to do in heaven; in the latter the work on earth finds its perfection and its glory. As Priest He effected the cleansing of sins here below; as Priest-King He sits on the right hand of the throne to apply His work, in heavenly power to dispense its blessings, and maintain within us the heavenly life.
When He had effected the cleansing of sins. The cleans
1 Effected the cleansing.
ing of sins, as something effected by Christ ere He went to heaven, is the foundation of all His work. Let us learn, at the very outset, that what God has to speak to us in Christ begins here: sin must be cleansed away. This is the root-thought of redemption. As long as we seek salvation chiefly from the desire of personal safety, or approach the study of Christ's person and work as the revelation of what is true and beautiful and good, we cannot enter fully into its power. It is the cleansing of sin God insists on; in a desire so intense that He gave His Son to die for it! lt is in the intense desire after the cleansing of sins, that, all the way through the Christian life, the spiritual capacity to approach and enter into the salvation of Christ will be found. lt lies at the root of all. lt is the secret of Christian perfection. lt was only when He had effected this that heaven opened to Him. The full acceptance of the cleansing of sins, as the meaning of the word will be unfolded later on, will be to us, too, the entrance into the heavenly life.
When He had effected the cleansing of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. There He lives, opening up and keeping open the blessed access to God's presence and fellowship for us; lifting us up into and maintaining us in its enjoyment; and in the power that prevails there, making the kingdom of heaven a reality within the heart. lt is the great object of the Epistle to bring home to us the heavenly glory of Christ as the ground of our confidence, the measure of our expectation, and the character of that inward salvation He imparts. That Christ as our Leader and Forerunner has rent asunder the veil, and in the power of His blood has taken possession and secured access into the Holiest of All, does not mean only that we are to enter heaven when we die. The whole practical teaching of the Epistle is summed up and applied in the one word: "We have boldness for entering in: let us draw nigh: let us enter in." Christ seated on the throne in heaven means our being actually brought, in the supernatural power which the coming down of the Holy Spirit supplies, into God's holy presence, and living there our daily life. lt was because the Hebrews did not know this, because they had rested content with elementary truths about faith and conversion, and then the life in heaven after death, that they had so signally failed. Truly to know Jesus at the right hand of God would be the healing of their diseases, the restoration to the joy and the strength of a life in accordance with their heavenly calling.
The Church of our days is suffering from the same cause, and needs the same cure. lt is so much easier to appropriate the work of Christ on earth than that in heaven. lt is so much easier to take in the doctrine of a Substitute and an atonement, of repentance and pardon, than of a High Priest bringing us into God's presence, and keeping us in loving communion with Him. lt is not the blood-shedding upon earth only, it is the blood-sprinkling in lieaven, and the blood-sprinkling from heaven on heart and conscience, that brings the power of the heavenly life unto us. And it is this alone that makes us Christians, who not only seek to enter the gate, but who daily press on in the living way that leads ever deeper into the Holiest.
Let no one think that l speak of what is too high. l speak of what is your heritage and destiny. The same share you have in Jesus on the cross, you have in Jesus on the throne. Be ready to sacrifice the earthly life for the heavenly; to follow Christ fully in His separation from the world and His surrender to God's will; and Christ in heaven will prove in you the reality and the power of His heavenly priesthood. Let the cleansing of sins be to you, as it was to Christ, the entrance to the Holiest . He who effected the cleansing on earth, and applies it in person from heaven, will assuredly lead you into all the fulness of blessing it has opened up for Him and for you.
7. Faith has in its foundation four great corner-stones on which the building rests—the Dlvinity of Christ, the incarnation, the Atonement on the Cross, the Ascension to the Throne. The last is the most wonderful, the crown of all the rest, the perfect revelation of what God has made Christ for us. And so in the Christian life it is the most important, the glorious fruit of all that gves before.
2. The Holy Spirit was sent down after the ascension. Why? That He might witness to us of a heavenly Christ, and bring the kingdom of heaven into our hearts and lioes.
3. "Cleansing of sins." Some one says: "At this time l saw plainly that whatever the Lord would communicate and make known of Himself and the mystery of His kingdom, He would do it in a way of purity and holiness." There are two sides from which we can apprvach the higher truth of God's word as to holiness and likeness to Jesus. The one is the desire to know all Scripture truth fully, and to have our system of doctrine complete and perfect. The other is the deep, intense longing to be made free from sin, as free as God can make us in this life. lt is only from this side that real access will be given into the heavenly life of Christ.