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presence of God.
Their condition, practically, is that in which a pious Jew stood. They have lost, or rather they have never had by faith, the real consciousness of their position before God, in virtue of the sacrifice of Christ. I do not speak here of all the privileges of the Church: we have seen that the epistle does not speak of them. The position it makes for believers is this. They whom it addresses are not viewed as placed in heaven, although partakers of the heavenly calling; but a perfect redemption is accomplished, sin entirely put away, for the people of God, who remembers their sins no more. The conscience is made perfect: they have no more conscience of sin, by virtue of the work accomplished once for all. There is no more question of sin, i.e., of its imputation, of its being upon them before God, between them and God. It has been put away upon the Cross. Therefore the conscience is perfect; their Representative and High Priest is in heaven, a witness there to the work already accomplished for them.
Thus, although the epistle does not present them as in the Holiest, as sitting there,-like the epistle to the Ephesians-they have full liberty, entire boldness, to enter into it. The question of imputation no longer exists. Their sins have been imputed to Christ. But He is now in heaven-a proof that the sins are blotted out for ever. Believers, therefore, enter with entire liberty into the presence of God Himself, and that, always; having no more for ever any conscience of sin.
For what purpose, then, is priesthood? What is to be done with respect to the sins we commit? They interrupt our communion; but they make no change in our position before God, nor in the testimony rendered by the presence of Christ at the right hand of God. Sin is measured by the conscience, according to our position. The priesthood of Christ, united to His perpetual presence at God's right hand, has this two-fold effect for us. 1st. Righteousness always subsists. 2nd. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. We draw nigh to God in the Holiest, according to that
f There is a difference in detail here; but it does not affect my present subject.
righteousness. But, by sin, communion is interrupted; our righteousness is not altered-for that is Christ Himself at God's right hand, in virtue of His work - nor is grace changed; but the heart has got away from God, communion is interrupted. Under these circumstances grace acts, in virtue of perfect righteousness, and by the intercession of Christ, on behalf of him who has failed; and his soul is restored to communion. Not that we go to Jesus for this; He goes, even if we sin, to God for us. His presence there is the witness of an unchangeable righteousness which is ours; His intercession maintains or restores the communion which is founded on that righteousness. Our access to God is always open. Sin interrupts our enjoyment of it, the heart is not in communion; the intercession of Jesus is the means of rousing the conscience by the action of the Spirit and the Word, and we return (first humbling ourselves) into the presence of God Himself.
Exhortations follow. Having the right thus to approach God, let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith. This is the only thing that honours the efficacy of Christ's work, and the love which has thus brought us to enjoy God. In the words that follow, allusion is made to the consecration of the priests-a natural allusion, as drawing near to God in the Holiest is the subject. They were sprinkled with blood and washed with water, and then they drew nigh to serve God. Still, although I doubt not of the allusion to the priests, it is quite natural that baptism should have given rise to it. The anointing is not spoken of here-it is the power or privilege of the moral right to draw nigh.
Again, we may notice that as to the foundation of the truth, this is the ground on which Israel will stand in the last days. In Christ, in heaven, will not be their place, nor the possession of the Holy Ghost as uniting the believer to Christ in heaven; but the blessing will be founded on water and on blood. God will remember their sins no more; and they will be washed in the clean water of the Word.
The second exhortation is to persevere in the profession of faith, without wavering. He who made the promises is faithful.
Not only should we have this confidence in God for ourselves, but we are also to consider one another for mutual encouragement; and, at the same time, not to fail in the public and common profession of faith, pretending to maintain it while avoiding the open identification of oneself with the Lord's people in the difficulties connected with the profession of this faith before the world. Besides, this public confession had a fresh motive in that the day drew nigh. We see that it is the judgment which is here presented as the thing looked for,in order that it may act on the conscience, and guard Christians from turning back to the world, and from the influence of the fear of man,-rather than the Lord's coming to take up His own people. Ver. 26 is connected with the preceding paragraph (23-25), the last words of which suggest the warning of ver. 26; which is founded, moreover, on the doctrine of these two chapters (ix. and x.), with regard to the sacrifice. He insists on perseverance in a full confession of Christ, for Iis one Sacrifice once offered was the only one. If any one who had professed to know its value abandoned it, there was no other sacrifice to which he could have recourse; neither could it be ever repeated. There remained no more sacrifice for sin. All sin was pardoned by the efficacy of this sacrifice: but if, after having known the truth, they were to choose sin instead, there was no other sacrifice, by virtue even of the perfection of that of Christ. Nothing but judgment remained. Such a professor, having had the knowledge of the truth and having abandoned it, would assume the character of an adversary.
The case, then, here supposed is the renunciation of the confession of Christ; deliberately preferring - after having known the truth-to walk according to one's own will in sin. This is evident, both from that which precedes and from ver. 29.
Thus we have the two great privileges of Christianity, that which distinguishes it from Judaism, presented in order to warn those who made profession of the former, that the renunciation of the truth, after having enjoyed these advantages, was fatal; for if this means of salvation
were renounced, there was no other. These privileges were the manifested presence and power of the Holy Ghost, and the Offering which, by its intrinsic and absolute value, left no place for any other. Both of these possessed a mighty efficacy which, while it gave divine spring and force, the manifestation of the presence of God on the one hand; made known on the other hand the eternal redemption and the perfection of the worshipper; leaving no means for repentance if any one abandoned the manifested and known power of that presence, no place for another sacrifice (which, moreover, would have denied the efficacy of the first), after the perfect work of God in salvation, perfect whether with regard to redemption or to the presence of God by the Spirit in the midst of His own. Nothing remained but judgment.
They who despised the law of Moses, died without mercy. What then would not those deserve at the hand of God, who trod under foot the Son of God, counted the blood of the Covenant by which they had been sanctified, as a common thing, and done despite to the Spirit of Grace. It was not disobedience; it was contempt of the grace of God, and of that which He had done, in the person of Jesus, in order to deliver us from the consequences of disobedience. On the one hand, what was there left, if-with the knowledge of what it was-they renounced this? On the other hand, how could they escape judgment; for they knew a God who had said that vengeance belonged unto Him, and that He would recompense? And again, the Lord would judge His people.
Observe here the way in which sanctification is attributed to the blood: and also, that professors are treated as belonging to the people. The Blood, received by faith, consecrates the soul to God; but it is here viewed also as an outward means for setting apart the people, as a people. Every individual who had owned Jesus to be the Messiah, and the blood to be the seal and foundation of an everlasting Covenant, available for eternal cleansing and redemption on the part of God, acknowledging himself to be set apart for God, by this means, as one of the people-every such individual would, if he renounced
it, renounce it as such; and there was no other way of sanctifying him. The former system had evidently lost its power for him, and the true one he had abandoned. This is the reason why it is said, "having received the knowledge of the truth."
Nevertheless, he hopes better things, reminding them how much they had really suffered for the truth, and that they had even received joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had a better and an abiding portion in heaven. Therefore they were not to cast away their confidence, the reward of which would be great. For, in truth, they needed patience, in order that after having done the will of God they might receive the effect of the promise. And He who is to come, will come
It is to this life of patience and perseverance that the chapter applies. But there is a principle which is the strength of this life, and which characterises it. In the midst of the difficulties of the Christian walk, the just shall live by faith; and if any one draws back, God will have no pleasure in him. But, says the author, placing himself, as ever, in the midst of the believers, "We are not of them who draw back, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul." Thereupon he describes the action of this faith, encouraging believers by the example of the elders who had acquired their renown by walking according to the same principle as that by which the faithful were now called to walk.
XI. It is not a definition of this principle, that the epistle gives us at the commencement of chap. xi.; but a declaration of its powers and action. Faith realises (gives substance to) that which we hope for, and is a demonstration to the soul of that which we do not see.
There is much more order than is generally thought, in the series given here of examples of the action of faith; although this order is not the principal object. I will point out its leading features.
1st. With regard to creation. Lost in reasonings, and not knowing God, the human mind sought out endless solutions of existence. Those who have read the cosmogonies of the ancients, know how many different systems,