The City of Refuge
Hebrews 6:17-20
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:…

I. THE VIEW GIVEN OF THE SAVIOUR IN THE TEXT. He is called " the hope set before us." In the Scriptures we read of hope that is in us, hope that is laid up for us, and hope that is set before us. The happiness of heaven — heaven itself — its light and glory, its songs, and its blessedness — this is the hope laid up for us: that good work of the Holy Spirit's operation on the heart, here and now, whereby we look for the former, and for the earnest of it, is the hope that is in us; and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the only foundation and hope, for sinner or for saint, for pardon or for holiness, is the hope set before us.

II. THE CONDUCT OF THE MAN DESCRIBED IN THE TEXT IN REFERENCE TO THIS BLESSED OBJECT. He is said to " flee for refuge," and to "lay hold upon it." In this there is an allusion to the flight of the man-slayer to the city of refuge. Methinks I descry the man-slayer looking behind him; he sees the avenger of blood; he sees the horrible burning frown upon his brow, he hears the dismal tramp of his feet, and away he flies; he stops not, turns not out of his course, but presses on and on with accelerated speed, until at length, all punting and breathless, he enters the hallowed gates of the city of refuge, and enters into peace. Such is the flight of the sinner's soul to the arms of Christ Jesus. This representation sets before us the case of a man struck with a conviction of guilt, smitten with an apprehension of danger, despairing of relieving himself, coming out of himself, and trusting to another. The very name of Jesus, which was before an insipid sound, is now to him like music. His soul leaps within him to know that " God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself not imputing to men their trespasses"; his heart dances for joy when he finds that "it is a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." But observe: his conviction of guilt, and danger, and ruin, being now no longer superficial, but pervading, individual, and thorough, he is not surf-fled with this merely general representation of the matter. It is not now enough for him to know in so many general terms that God is merciful, and that Christ is a Saviour; he now narrowly pries into the whole affair, into the authority and commission of Christ to save. into His ability and His qualifications to save, into His willingness and readiness to save.

III. THE PRIVILEGE AND HAPPINESS OF THOSE WHO HAVE THUS FLED TO CHRIST JESUS FOR REFUGE. "By two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie," they have "a strong consolation." What is consolation? It is the relief of the mind under any trouble or pain; or the presence and enjoyment of a good which is able to prevent altogether, or else carry away and bear down before it, as in a full tide or flowing stream, all evil felt or feared. Two things would occur to the mind of the man-slayer in connection with his flight to the city of refuge. One would be: "Is it true — is it really, incontrovertibly true, that if I get to the city of refuge, the avenger dares not, must not touch me?" The other would be: "Suppose I get to the city, and am secure against the stroke of the avenger, what kind of accommodation and provision shall I find within that city?" These two things would occur to him on his way to, or on his arrival at the city of refuge; and if he had had any uncertainty as to the one or the other, he would have been overwhelmed with confusion and dismay. But he had no doubt; he knew, he was quite sure, that if he got to the city of refuge, the avenger could not touch him, that he would be as safe in the city as if he were in heaven. He also knew that, if he got to that city, and should remain in it, all his wants would be supplied, everything necessary for his accommodation and support would be provided for him. Thus he had consolution. Now apply these two things as an illustration of the nature of the happiness of believing in Christ. "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "They that believe enter into rest." "Who is he that shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." What is it you are afraid of? Is it the justice of God? I know the justice of God has the impenitent sinner by the throat, and says, "Pay me that thou owest! But I know also that the hand of the penitent sinner lays hold on the hope set before him, and justice takes his hand off. It must be so; otherwise God were unrighteous in demanding two payments for one debt. "He that believes shall be saved." "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." What are you afraid of? Is it of the fiery law? The law is not roaring after you if you have got into the city of refuge: it is not muttering its tremendous maledictions against you if you have laid hold of the hope set before you. If you hear anything at all of the demands of the law, it is the echoes of those demands dying away amid the battlements of the city wall; for he to whom you have fled, and on whom you have laid hold, has "magnified the law and made it honourable." Then what is it you are afraid of? Is it of the roaring lion of hell? He is indeed "going about seeking whom he may devour"; but your faith in Christ is a shield wherewith you may quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. Then what is it you have to fear? Is it death? You may give up that fear along with all the other fears; for Jesus, to whom you have come, on whom you have laid hold, has put down death, abolished it, and buried it in His own grave; and has brought life and immortality to light. This is consolation, but that is not the whole of it. I said that the consolation of the man-slayer on reaching the city of refuge would also include an assurance that he should be provided for, while there, with everything necessary for his accommodation and support. This answers to the other half-the happiness of believing in Christ — which consists in the infinite assurance that God has given the believer that he never shall want any manner of thing that is really good, and that he never shall be in inextricable danger. "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger"; and well they may; "but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Can that man want water who lives on the brinks of an everlasting spring? Can that man want light who lives in the centre of the eternal sun? Now look at the grounds on which this consolation rests. We have it, says the apostle, "by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie." What are these immutable things? Where are they to be met with? We cannot write the word immutable on the rock; it is constantly wearing away: nor on the sun; the sun himself shall grow old and dull. But there are two immutable things — the word of promise and the oath of God. These are called the "counsel of God," to intimate that His promise is the declaration of His counsel. Promises very often are the result of anything but counsel; but the promise of God is the counsel of God, the manifestation and publication of His counsel, The promises of God — what are they like? Whereunto shall I compare them? They are like so many silver cords let down from heaven, hanging out from the pavilion of infinite clemency, I had almost said, sent down from the heart of God itself, for the hand of faith to lay hold on. The promise of God is an immutable thing; and by that we have our consolation. But there is another ground of this happiness. God, knowing the million ills of human life, the million jealousies of the human heart, knowing the backwardness of your mind, and the slowness of your heart to believe His own eternal word of promise, hath condescended to superadd to that His solemn oath. What is that oath like ? Is it not as if Jehovah was laying all the perfections of His nature, staking the very glory of the Godhead, on the truth of His promise previously made? These are the two immutable things by which we have our consolation. Finally, let me mention the quality of this happiness. It is called in the text a "strong consolation"; a consolation amongst the most substantial, the most abundant and efficient; a consolation available for every exigency of life, for the solemnity of death, for the crisis of the judgment day. How strong is this consolation? It is stronger than the afflictions of life. It turns the dungeon into a gate of heaven, the place of stocks into the vestibule of glory. If, like the Hebrews, to whom the language was originally addressed, you were called to bear the spoiling of your goods for Christ's sake; with this consolation you would bear it joyfully. Soaring on the wings of grace, you may defy the power of affliction, calamity, sickness, and change. He, whose word of promise and solemn oath you have, has said He will be with you " in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee." Strong consolation! How strong? Stronger than the dread of wrath. Oh, what a mountain is gone when the fear of hell is gone! Oh, what a load is removed from the human spirit when the dread of the wrath to come is removed! And it is removed from the man who has fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before him. Strong consolation! How strong? It is not only stronger than all the afflictions of life, and stronger than the dread of the wrath to come, but stronger than the fear of death. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death." Go and see the righteous die. Death has come in at the window; laying his hand upon the heart; freezing up the life-blood of the fountain. Death is there; but Christ is there also. Death, the last enemy, is there; but Christ, the Lord of life and glory, is there too. Death is there as the servant; Christ as the Master. "I heard a voice from heaven saying, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." Strong consolation! How strong? Stronger than all the terrors of the final judgment, than the desolations of universal nature.

(J. Beaumont, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

WEB: In this way God, being determined to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath;

The Christian Hope
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