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will of course produce proportionate laxity in the observance of its prescriptions; the soul will hence become barren, faith weak, and when trial comes nothing short of downright apostasy is the ultimate consequence. And then, when the time arrives for the full fruition of Gospel blessings, when the soul first comes to understand its error, and would gladly reverse the fatal bargain, it must be let alone for ever!
You see then how these several precepts bear upon the matter of Christian perseverance. Be careful to heed and practice upon them. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau." And if you attend to these things, in addition to the more plain precepts of Christianity, "ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
We come now, in the second place, to notice more particularly the superior inducements Christians have to continue steadfast in the faith. "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, &c. But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel," &c. The apostle wishes to impress the idea that there really is something in the new dispensation which is worthy of our fidelity. There was much in the old economy to prevent apostasy; but much higher motives are brought to bear to lead the Christian to final perseverance.
The law was given from a mountain which trembled and smoked with the signs of wrath. The apostle says that it was burning, and black, and tempestuous, and vocal with such an awful voice, uttering such terrible words, that "they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." So overwhelming was the scene, that Moses himself is said to have
exclaimed, "I exceedingly fear and quake." The history says, "Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” These indeed were terrible signs, and doubtless had their influence upon the Jewish mind. But the Gospel was given from Mount Zion. A mount upon which God appeared, not in the terrors of wrath, but with the wooing exhibitions of mercy. It is in view of the attractive and engaging manner in which God was there manifested that the prophet sung by the waters of Babylon, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Yet all these superior attractions the Gospel has. There is something about it much better fitted to affect and win the heart than the law, and hence it calls more loudly upon its professors to preserve their allegiance.
The legal services were performed in the earthly and typical Jerusalem, in which God dwelt only by symbolic representation. But the great services of the new covenant are performed in "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." Christ, who is our great high priest, "is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." It is there, too, where that throne of grace has been established to which we may come by a new and living way and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need. The Jews had the shadow, we have the reality. How much greater, then, is the inducement for us to remain steadfast!
The ministry of angels under the old economy was one of its great recommendations. But it was limited and partial. It was granted only to particular persons, and only at particular times. But under the new dispensation, we have the angelic ministry employed in its utmost latitude.' There is here an "innumerable company "-countless myriads, engaged. "The chariots of the Lord are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels." And yet these are "all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation." If we have really been born of God,
1 For the nature of the angelic ministry, see Lecture III., page 34.
we are now surrounded by, and associated with uncounted multitudes of pure and happy spirits, whose hearts glow in sympathy with ours. Why then should we give up our religion!
The old dispensation was a limited and exclusive thing all around. It was designed only for the benefit of one nation. And the very elements of exclusiveness were in it. It was in reality the Jewish religion which held the Jews together as a separate people. But we have come to a dispensation much more grand and noble. We have come "to the general assembly." A dispensation which comprehends Jews and Greeks, Barbarians, Scythians, bond and free. The Gospel church is composed of all who believe in Christ, of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. The voices of its preachers are sounding far and wide, and piercing farther and farther, and shall continue until the "Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations." And certainly an institution with such a noble comprehensiveness, is more worthy of our support and continued friendship, than one with a spirit contracted as that of the Mosaic religion.
Under the old dispensation, there was also distinction made in favor of the first-born. They were entitled to privileges-authority, emolument, and honor, of which the other children of the family could not partake. But the Christian church is "the church of the first born"-a church in which the entire membership is entitled to peculiar and distinguishing blessings; a church in which we are all the sons of God, (if we are members indeed and in truth,) have equal rights and privileges, and are equally entitled to that promised "inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away."
It was the rule, under the old dispensation, for each family to prepare a genealogical chart, to be deposited in the archives of the nation. It was from these records that the citizenship of each Jew was to be proven. Under the Gospel economy, the names of believers" are written in heaven." Their citizenship is established from the register of life. Paul says "our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven." The Savior, in his Revelations through John, speaks of the names of saints as being recorded in the upper court, and promises, "He that overcometh the same shall be clothed with. white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of
life." And if to the Jew it was a motive to fidelity to the Mosaic institutions that his name was on record as a son of Abraham, much more should it be a motive for Christians to persevere that their names are on record in heaven as the children of the living God.
Under the old dispensation, the mercy seat, shadowed by the cloud which symbolized the Divine presence, was approachable only for the high priest, and for him but once a year, and that with great fear and trembling. The ordinary Jews were not suffered to come farther than the outer court, and death awaited him who would attempt to pry into the mysteries of the holy of holies. But under the new covenant, the very humblest may come, come freely and confidently, to the real spiritual throne of the sovereign God, there make known his wants, and there supplicate the Divine blessing without the consultation of any earthly intercessor. We are come "to God, the Judge of all." Every man, through the gracious provisions of the Gospel, has liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Every genuine Christian has entered the very presence chamber of Jehovah; to Him he has continual access; and from Him he daily receives all his spiritual supplies.
The old dispensation was also incompetent to perfect those who lived under it. The apostle declared in the conclusion of the previous chapter, that God had "provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." And though commentators have been very much perplexed with this passage, yet it certainly teaches that there was some sort of imperfection in the Old Testament saints. It may have been some sort of moral or organic imperfection, or an imperfection in the sense that they did not live to see realized the fulfilment of certain important promises; but it was still some imperfection from which the Christian church is free. We have come in the Gospel church "to the spirits of just men made perfect." There is an evident and important difference here pointed out in favor of those who live under the new covenant. It is not to be understood that Christians are absolutely perfect. This can only be said of God himself. But there is a relative perfection such as no Jew possessed. Christians are not only more closely united to Christ, but they are more closely united to each other. There is a chain of spiritual sympathy that links them together as different members of the same body.
The Jewish church had a union, but it was not a spiritual, living, perfect union. It was a union like that of the different bones of one of those bodies in Ezekiel's vision before the breath came into it. It was a physical and dead union. There was no warm and uniform pulsation. There was no living sympathy. But Christians are so united as to form one complete spiritual whole. And by this unseen and close contact of Christian spirit with Christian spirit, a purer spiritual atmosphere is preserved, and a higher state of spiritual perfection is induced. Here then is another reason why we should cling to Christianity.
(6 Moses, as the servant of God, and Mediator of the old covenant, was of great consequence in the Levitical economy. By his laws and maxims everything was directed and tried; and to him the whole Hebrew people came for both their civil and religious ordinances; but Christians come to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant: he not only stands immediately between God and man, but reconciles and connects both. From him we receive the Divine law, by his maxims our conversation is to be ruled, and he gives both the light and life by which we walk: these things Moses could not do; and for such spirituality and excellence, the old covenant made no provision: it was therefore a high privilege to be able to say, 'Ye are come to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant."
"The blood of sprinkling" under the old dispensation was also inefficacious. There was nothing in it to atone for human guilt. It made no reconciliation with God.2 But we are come to "the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." The blood of Abel cried only for vengeance upon the head of him by whose hand it was shed. This speaks nothing but mercy.
"Jesus' blood, through earth and skies,
Through it we have redemption from our sins, and a title to the joys of everlasting life. There is a worth and efficacy in it infinitely above the rivers that were shed on Jewish altars, and for this we should cling to it perpetually.
He who declared the law was a man, and spake from earth. Moses was a member of the human race as one of us. None, however, escaped who refused to hear him.
The Gospel was
'Dr. Clarke in loc.
2 See Lecture XXI., page 241.