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Let us open the Epistle to the Hebrews, with an aim simple and altogether practical for heart and for life. Let us take it just as it stands, and somewhat as a whole. We will not discuss its authorship, interesting and extensive as that problem is. We will not attempt, within the compass of a few short chapters, to expound continuously its wonderful text. Rather, we will gather up from it some of its large and conspicuous spiritual messages, taken as messages of the Word of God "which liveth and abideth for ever."
No part of Holy Scripture is ever really out2 of date. But it is true meanwhile that, as for persons so for periods, there are Scripture books and Scripture truths which are more than ordinarily timely. It is not that others are therefore untimely, nor that only one class of book or one aspect of truth can be eminently timely at one time. But it seems evident that the foreseeing Architect of the Bible has so adjusted the parts of His wonderful vehicle of revelation and blessing that special fitnesses continually emerge between our varying times and seasons on the one hand and the multifold Word on the other.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is in some remarkable respects a book timely for our day. It invites to itself, if I read it aright, the renewed attention of the thoughtful Christian, and not least of the thoughtful Christian of the English Church, as it brings him messages singularly in point to some of the main present needs of his spiritual life and its surroundings. It was written manifestly in the first instance to meet special and pressing current trials; it bears the impress of a time of severe sifting, a time when foundations were challenged, and individual faith put to even agonizing proofs, and the community threatened with an almost dissolution. Such a writing must have a voice articulate and sympathetic for a period like ours.3
We will take into our hands then, portion by portion, this wonderful "open letter," and listen through it to some of the things which "the Spirit saith" to the saints and to the Church.
We now contemplate in this sense the first two chapters. We put quite aside a host of points of profound interest in detail, and ask ourselves only what is the broad surface, the drift and total, of the message here. As to its climax, it is Jesus Christ, our "merciful and faithful High Priest" (ii. 17). As to the steps that lead up to the climax, they are a presentation of the personal glory of Jesus Christ, as God the Son of God, as Man the Son of Man, who for us men and our salvation came, suffered, and prevailed.
Who that reads the Bible with the least care has not often noted this in the first passages of the Hebrews, and could not at once so state the matter? What is the great truth of Hebrews i.? Jesus Christ is God (ver. 8); the Son (ver. 2); absolutely like the Father (ver. 3); Lord of the bright Company of Heaven, who in all their ranks and orders worship Him (ver. 6); creative Originator of the Universe (ver. 10), such that the starry depths of space are but the folds of His vesture, which hereafter He shall change for another (ver. 12); Himself eternal, "the same," transcendent above all time, yet all the while the Son begotten, the Son, infinitely adequate4 and infinitely willing to be the final Vehicle of the Father's voice to us (verses 1, 5, 6). What is the great truth of Hebrews ii.? Jesus Christ is Man. He is other than angelic, for He is God. But also He is other than angelic, for He is Man (verses 5, 6, 7). He is the Brother of Man as truly as He is the Son of God (ver. 11). He has taken share with us in flesh and blood (ver. 14), that is to say, He has assumed manhood in that state or stage in which it is capable of death, and He has done this on purpose (it is a wonderful thought) that He may be capable of dying. This blessed Jesus Christ, this God and Man, our Saviour, was bent upon dying, and that for a reason altogether connected with us and with His will to save us (ver. 15). We were immeasurably dear and important to Him. And our deliverance demanded His identification with us in nature, and His temptations (ver. 18), and finally His mysterious suffering. So He came, He suffered, He was "perfected"—in respect of capacity to be our Redeemer—"through sufferings" (ver. 10). And now, incarnate, slain, and risen again, He, still our Brother, is "crowned with glory and honour" (ver. 9). He is our Leader (ver. 10). He is our High Priest, merciful and faithful (ver. 17).
Thus the Epistle, on its way to recall its readers, at a crisis of confusion and temptation,5 to certainty, patience, and peace, leads them—not last but first—to Jesus Christ. It unfolds at once to them His glories of Person, His Wonder of Work and Love. It does not elaborately travel up to Him through general considerations. It sets out from Him. It makes Him the base and reason for all it has to say—and it has to say many things. Its first theme is not the community, but the Lord; not Church principles, not that great duty of cohesion about which it will speak, and speak urgently, further on, but the Lord, in His adorable personal greatness, in His unique and all-wonderful personal achievement. To that attitude of thought it recurs again and again in its later stages. In one way or another it is always bidding us look up from even the greatest related subjects and "consider Him."
Am I not right in saying that here is a message straight to the restless heart of our time, and not least to the special conditions of Christian life just now in our well-beloved Church? We must, of course we must, think about a hundred problems presented by the circumference of the life of the Christian and the life of the Church. At all times such problems, asking for attention and solution, emerge to every thoughtful disciple's sight. In our own time they seem to multiply upon one6 another with an importunate demand—problems doctrinal, ritual, governmental, social; the strife of principles and tendencies within the Church; all that is involved in the relations between the Church and the State, and again between the Church and the world, that is to say, human life indifferent or opposed to the living Christian creed and the spiritual Christian rule.
Well, for these very reasons let us make here first this brief appeal, prompted by the opening paragraphs of the great Epistle. If you would deal aright with the circumference, earnest Christian of the English Church, live at the Centre. "Dwell deep." From the Church come back evermore to Jesus Christ, that from Jesus Christ you may the better go back to the Church, bearing the peace and the power of the Lord Himself upon you.
There is nothing that can serve as a substitute for this. The "consideration" of our blessed Redeemer and King is not merely good for us; it is vital. To "behold His glory," deliberately, with worship, with worshipping love, and seen by direct attention to the mirror of His Word, can and must secure for us blessings which we shall otherwise infallibly lose. This, and this alone, amidst the strife of tongues and all the perplexities of life, can develope in us at once the humblest reverence and the noblest liberty,7 convictions firm to resist a whole world in opposition, yet the meekness and the fear which utterly exclude injustice, untruth, hardness, or the bitter word. For us if for any, for us now if ever, this first great message of the Epistle meets a vital need; "Consider Him."
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