Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

accepted of the Savior's sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that there is power enough in the Divine arm to accomplish everything relating to our salvation. The apostle doubtless had these points in view when he penned the language of the text. He hence was committing his cause to one who, having thus shown his acceptance of the Savior's sacrifice, must also be willing to do anything to promote the good of his people; and who, moreover, has thus shown his abundant power to do it. Though he had spent all his own strength, and was now to relinquish his efforts, he yet saw qualities in God, and assurances in his providence, which were amply sufficient to sustain his confidence, that the matter would be carried forward to the most desirable consummation.

The object of the apostle's prayer is thus stated: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight."

In another part of the epistle, he reproached his brethren as but babes in Christ. He represented them as "unskilful in the word of righteousness," and needing to be taught the first rudiments of christian faith. Of course there was a corresponding deficiency in the conduct and life. Principles and actions are closely linked together. This deficiency he prays that God may supply. The word which he uses, signifies to put completely in joint-to fit everything completely together in its proper place. Paul wished to have them more thoroughly imbued with christian knowledge, and to have their religious belief consistently and firmly settled. He wished them, also, to be so conformed to a complete conception of the truth, as outwardly to maintain the fellowship, unity, and order which is agreeable to the Divine will.

The manner in which this perfection is to be brought about is also designated in the prayer. "Working in you." Everything good in or about us is to be traced to Divine agency. It is not in man to think a good thought or to perform a good action, much less to create in himself a good character. And if we ever have or do anything worthy of praise, it is because "God worketh in

us,

both to will and to do of his own good pleasure." I do not say that a good man is impelled contrary to his own choice, or inclination. But what I mean is, that this choice and all the advantage resulting from it is determined by a Divine influence, which is not of man's seeking. The apostle prays that this Divine

influence might be continued to his brethren, and thus hasten their sanctification.

The medium through which the apostle expected his prayer to be rendered effectual is thus pointed out by him: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect." Although God is love, yet it is not consistent with his justice or holiness to communicate any good to mankind, but through his Son; and through him as having died for the offences of the human race. He is the only accepted mediator. No mercy flows from the throne to which man may lay claim, but that which comes through him. To set any created being in his place, whether earthly priests or departed saints, is contrary to the Divine will, and is to be denounced as sinful idolatry. It is through "the blood of the everlasting covenant" alone that our sins are pardoned; it is through that blood alone that our sanctification is carried on; and it is only in consideration of that blood that the smallest blessing crowns the life of man. When we pray, we must always rest our plea upon that blood. There all our hopes centre. There all our strength lies. Relinquishing this for any other ground of dependence, we resign our hold upon the Rock of Ages, and dash ourselves into a shoreless and unfathomable flood. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Let us ever remember this, lest we make shipwreck of our faith at last.

"To whom be glory for ever and ever." It has ever been the custom to conclude prayer with a doxology. In that inimitable form of prayer laid down by the Savior for our use and as a model, we are taught to ascribe unto God "the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever." Paul introduces something of like import into the prayers which he has committed to record. And since his great effort in this epistle was to exalt the Savior and his work, it is with propriety that he here ascribes eternal glory to him. This doxology implies that Christ is worthy of Divine honor; nor should any dare to withhold it from him.

"Amen." Thus the apostle gives wings to his prayer. Thus he ratifies his sincerity in offering it. Amen. Be it so. I swear it is the genuine desire of my heart. Hear it, O God.

"And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation." Paul here entreats his readers not to be offended at his efforts in

their behalf. He had been necessitated to discuss disputed questions. He had been conducted to conclusions which struck at the very heart of a system to which they were endeared by many strong and natural ties. And now, in relinquishing his performance for their examination, he affectionately asks them to bear with it— to receive it with kindness. "For," says he, "I have written a letter unto you in few words." Notwithstanding the great scope of the subject, he had yet included the whole in a small compass.

"Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty?" Timothy was the only son of Eunice, a Jewess who had married a gentile. He was probably born in Lystra, a city of Lycaonia. He was brought up in the fear of the Lord, and was thoroughly instructed in the ancient Scriptures. When Paul visited Lystra to preach the Gospel, it appears that Timothy drank in his spirit, and became a thorough convert to the christian faith. There always existed a very tender intimacy between Paul and this young man. He accompanied the apostle in nearly all his travels, and was no noubt well known and much beloved by all the churches. It was hence a very pleasing item of intelligence which Paul here appends to his epistle.

"Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all saints. They of Italy salute you." Christianity is favorable to all the tender civilities of life. Christianity requires, however, that they be attended to with sincerity of heart, and not simply with the empty rote of fashion.

"Grace be with all." May the Divine favor ever rest upon you and among you. May all the good which is merited by the Savior's mediation be fully enjoyed by you all. "Amen."

We have now finished our exposition of the epistle to the Hebrews; an epistle which Dr. A. Clarke does not hesitate to pronounce "by far the most important and useful of all the apostolic writings." Whether it is fully entitled to such a pre-eminence, it is not necessary that we should inquire. From what has been brought to our contemplation in this course of lectures, we are all prepared to ascribe to it a very high importance; and I am persuaded that all who are familiar with the subject will agree, that the New Testament would be imperfect without it. Other portions assert with sufficient accuracy the great facts and benefits of the Gospel; but nowhere else have we any clear account of the proc

esses by which they were brought into existence. Nowhere else do we find so satisfactory an account of the relation between the Mosaic and the Christian economy. Nowhere else do we find such a description of the nature and dignity of the mediatorial office. And nowhere else do we obtain such a comprehensive and complete view of the work of human redemption. The Rev. Albert Barnes remarks (in his Introduction to his Notes on this portion of the New Testament,) "When I think of the relation between the Jewish and Christian systems; when I look on the splendid rites of the ancient economy, and ask their meaning; when I wish a full guide to heaven, and ask for that which gives completeness to the whole, I turn instinctively to the Epistle to the Hebrews. When I wish, also, that which shall give me the most elevated view of the great Author of Christianity, and of his works, and the most clear conceptions of the sacrifice which he made for sin; and when I look for considerations that shall be most effectual in restraining the soul from apostacy, and for considerations to enable it to bear trials with patience and with hope, my mind recurs to this book, and I feel that the book of revelation, and the hopes of man, would be incomplete without it." Professor Stuart also remarks, (in his. Introduction to this epistle,) "Every attentive reader of the Mosaic law must feel, that the epistle to the Hebrews is the best key to unlock the treasures which are secreted there; and that it affords us a disclosure in respect to the general nature and object of the Jewish dispensation, which christians much need, and which can nowhere else be found in a manner so full and satisfactory."

You doubtless have observed, my hearers, the confident manner in which I have all the time ascribed the authorship of this interesting epistle to the Apostle Paul. Permit me to say, that in this I have followed the general testimony of antiquity-the current tradition of the church-and the judgment of the most competent modern critics. It is not within the power of man to prove that it was not written by Paul.

You doubtless have also observed, that I have treated the whole epistle as a positive declaration of truth-substantial and eternal truth, and not as a mere argumentum ex concessis, which had but a local and temporary application. In this I feel myself fully borne out by the fact, that every doctrine herein explained and amplified is corroborated by passages that may be found in other portions of the holy writings. Occasionally we met with things in our pro

gress which sounded rather strangely; yet, I flatter myself, that at the proper places I have shown them to be the word of God. I will now make a few admonitory remarks, suggested by this epistle, which will bring this series of discourses to a close.

1st. Be careful not to neglect the study of the Old Testament, when you study the New. Many are disposed to think that in the publication of the christian scriptures, the ancient revelation has been entirely or mostly superceded. But we are taught a different lesson in our examination of this epistle. We have here learned that the one is the exponent of the other, and that separated we can understand neither properly. Both must go together. It is a matter of regret that the New Testament should be made to go anywhere alone. And as you desire to enjoy and maintain clear, enlarged, and consistent views of the religion which you profess, my direction is, study the volume of inspiration as a whole. No one part will give you the whole truth. Study it from Genesis to Malachi, and from Matthew to Revelation; believe and practice what you learn, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of God.

2nd. Endeavor to magnify the character and office of our blessed Redeemer. In this you will be following the example of an inspired apostle, you will be improving your own hearts in reverence and love, and you will be riveting your souls to the glorious religion of Jesus. Ah, what precious time and glowing talents are employed by some who would even call themselves christians, in efforts to degrade the Divine character of our Savior, and to sum up his whole mediatorial office into that of a teacher and exemplar! Never fellowship or sympathise with such. In framing their creed, they have let the very life and soul of christianity escape them. They have thrown out of their system the master-idea of the word of God. The time will come when all their glory shall wither. Look to Christ as a Divine and Almighty Deliverer, who has suffered to make satisfaction for your sins; and ever ascribe to him blessing, and honor, and glory.

3rd. Beware of unbelief and apostacy. You remember the solemn passages which have engaged our attention. "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly

« AnteriorContinua »