Hebrews 12:18
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom, and storm;
Sermons
Advent of the Living to Spirits DepartedDean Vaughan.Hebrews 12:18-24
Already in HeavenMrs. Judge Russell.Hebrews 12:18-24
Anticipating Holy SocietyHenry Bullinger.Hebrews 12:18-24
Benefits of Meditation on God's SaintsPlain Sermons by Contributors to " Tracts for the Times. "Hebrews 12:18-24
Christ the Mediator of the CovenantT. Watson.Hebrews 12:18-24
Christians have to Do with God as JudgeC. Stanford, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
Disembodied SaintsHomilistHebrews 12:18-24
Faith's Access to the Judge and His AttendantsA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
God the Judge of AllA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
God the Judge of AllJohn Hill.Hebrews 12:18-24
Heaven not Flit AwayC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 12:18-24
Heaven Should be Much in the ThoughtsM. E. Sangster.Hebrews 12:18-24
I Live ThereD. L. Moody.Hebrews 12:18-24
Intercourse Between Heaven and EarthJ. Cumming, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
Man's Place is ChristianityHomilistHebrews 12:18-24
Sinai and ZionJ. Parker, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
Sinai and ZionD. Young Hebrews 12:18-24
The Blood of Abel and the Blood of JesusC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Blood of SprinklingC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Church Likened to a MountainW. Jones, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Church of the FirstbornExpository SermonsHebrews 12:18-24
The Connection Between Christian, S and AngelsW. Jay.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Contemplation of Departed SaintsJohn Ralston, M. A.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Exalted Privileges of Sincere ChristiansW. Jones Hebrews 12:18-24
The FirstbornT. Guthrie, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The General Assembly Written in HeavenA. Raleigh, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The General Convocation Around Mount ZionC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Heavenly JerusalemJ. Hannam.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Heavenly LifeH. W. Beecher.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Immediate Blessedness of Departed SaintsR. W. Hamilton, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Messenger of the Covenant and its SealA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Nature of AngelsCanon Furse.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Nobility of the Christian LifeA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Office of AngelsCanon Furse.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Privileges and Blessings of the New CovenantJ. Williamson.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Privileges and the Duties of BelieversJ. M. McCulloch, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
The Sensuous and the SpiritualG. W. Conder.Hebrews 12:18-24
What is Required in the Mediator Between God and MenC. Stanford, D. D.Hebrews 12:18-24
Within Sight of It, But Cannot See ItV. J. Charlesworth.Hebrews 12:18-24
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, etc. This paragraph exhibits a striking contrast between Sinai and Zion - the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations. The chief points of the contrast seem to be these:

1. The sensuous at Sinai is contrasted with the spiritual at Zion. At Sinai the manifestations were palpable, visible, audible (vers. 18, 19); at Zion they were heavenly, and to some extent invisible and inaudible. The former appealed chiefly to the senses, the latter to the soul.

2. The rigorous at Shoal is contrasted with the gracious at Zion. The former mountain was palpable, but no one of the people might draw near unto it, and if even a beast touched it it was to be stoned. The whole of the proceedings were awful and terrible. The revelation was of Law. Love was there, for love was the fountain of the Law; but Law, solemn and inflexible, and not love, was conspicuous. But at Zion, love and not Law was conspicuous. "The Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." In the Christian dispensation grace is unmistakably clear and prominent. Here the voices are musical, the utterances are inviting.

3. The repellant at Sinai is contrasted with the attractive at Zion. At the giving of the Law, "they that heard entreated that no word more should be spoken unto them, And so fearful was the appearance that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." But in this later dispensation men are drawn by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. To the sincere soul Christianity is bright, alluring, and blessed. Let us now consider the exalted privileges of sincere Christians as set forth in our text.

I. THEY ARE MEMBERS OF A DISTINGUISHED SOCIETY, "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." We do not apply these words to heaven, but to the Church upon earth, the kingdom of Christ here and now; because

(1) in the sacred Scriptures Mount Zion is not set forth as the antithesis of heaven, but of the Christian Church (Galatians 4:24-26); and

(2) the text affirms that Christians "are come unto Mount Zion," etc. It is the statement of a present fact, and not a future prospect. Mark the characteristics of this distinguished society.

1. It is spiritual in its constitution. "The heavenly Jerusalem." The qualification for admission into this society is spiritual, not carnal; a thing of character, not of circumstances; not physical descent from Abraham, but moral approximation to Christ. Its worship is not restricted by local limitations, or by conventional and artificial rules; but by spiritual conditions only. "The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.... The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipper shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth," etc. (John 4:21-24). Wherever there is a devout soul, there is the true Zion. The contrite heart can consecrate for itself a temple wherever it may be.

2. It is hallowed by the Divine presence. "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." Previous to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the name Mount Zion "was applied exclusively to the eastern hill, or that on which the temple stood." The glory of the Holy Land to the pious Hebrew was Jerusalem, and the glory of Jerusalem was Mount Zion, and the glory of Mount Zion was the temple, and the glory of the temple was the Shechinah (cf. Psalm 48:1-3; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 132:13, 14). "The Lord is in his holy temple." "He sitteth between the cherubim. The Lord is great in Zion." But in a higher sense he dwells in the consecrated heart, and in the Christian Church. "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them."

3. Its members are individually consecrated to God. "To the Church of the Firstborn." The firstborn of Israel were dedicated to God as his priests (Exodus 13:1, 2, 11-15). Afterwards the tribe of Levi was selected for this service instead of the firstborn of all the tribes (Numbers 3:11-13). And it is characteristic of every Christian that he is consecrated to God; he is a priest unto God. "Ye are a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession."

4. Its members are heirs to a glorious inheritance. All Christians are called "firstborn" because they are all heirs of the heavenly inheritance. "We are children of God: and if children, then heirs," etc. Heirs "unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled," etc.

5. Its members are individually known unto God. They "are written in heaven." They are "not yet citizens of heaven who have taken up their full citizenship by passing through death, but persons to whom their citizenship is assured, they being as yet here below." This enrolment in the book of life is the sign that the citizenship of the Christian is in heaven, and that his name and character are known unto God. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." The good Shepherd "calleth his own sheep by name" (cf. Luke 10:20).

II. THEY ARE FAVOURABLY RELATED TO ANGELIC BEINGS. "Ye are come... to an innumerable company of angels." Notice:

1. The great number of angelic beings. The text speaks of" myriads of angels," an expression which is employed to indicate a great multitude. St. John in spiritual vision saw "many angels round about the throne;... and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands."

2. The joyful spirit of angelic beings. "And to myriads, the festal host of angels." Alford: "Πανήγυρις is the complete, multitudinous, above all, jubilant, festal, and blissful assembly." "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." They rejoice in the progress of the cause of Christ, in the extension of his Church, in the triumphs of his cross and Spirit.

3. The gracious relation of angelic beings to Christians. Angels were present at Sinai in great numbers, and assisted at the giving of the Law (cf. Hebrews 2:2; Deuteronomy 33:2; Galatians 3:19). But their ministry upon that occasion seems to have been majestic and terrible, fitted to awe but not to attract men. But their relation to Christians is gracious and engaging. We are come unto them. Invisibly yet beneficently they are present with us as out' spiritual helpers. "Are they not all ministering spirits?" etc.

III. THEY ARE SYMPATHETICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE PERFECTED SPIRITS OF THE GOOD. "And to the spirits of just men made perfect." We have here:

1. The noblest portion of human beings. "Spirits." Having laid down their bodies at death, these thinking, reflecting, loving, worshipping spirits live on in consciousness and in blessedness.

2. A commendable character of human beings. "Spirits of just men." Not innocent; but pardoned and purified from sin through the mercy of God. Spirits of all the just who have entered the eternal state, from righteous Abel down to the spirit which last responded to the home-call.

3. The most excellent condition of human beings. "Spirits of just men made perfect." Made perfect, not in degree, but in character and condition. Perfect as being without error and sin, but not as being incapable of further progress. They are without sin, but they will grow in holiness. They are without error, but they will increase in knowledge. "Made perfect;" then how different are they from even the best of men in this world! Many an imperfection will be put off by us at death; many an error will be corrected soon as we see things in the clear light of eternity. "We are come... to the spirits of just men made perfect." They are not lost to us. Life and immortality are brought to light in the gospel. Deep and tender is their interest in us. We are one with them in sacred and blessed sympathy.

"E'en now by faith we join our hands
With those that went before;
And greet the blood-besprinkled bands
On the eternal shore."


(C. Wesley.)

IV. THEY HAVE GRACIOUS ACCESS TO THE GREAT GOD. "And to God the Judge of all." At Sinai the Israelites were terrified at the signs of his presence as Lawgiver; but in this later dispensation sincere Christians draw near to him with confidence even as the Judge of all. Nay, there is a sense in which this aspect of his being attracts them. They are yet in the world. They have enemies to contend against and wrongs to endure; and they look up to God as their righteous Judge, who will vindicate their right and their cause. We are come unto him. He is not a cold, impassive, remote being. He is near to us; he loves us, draws us to himself, and blesses us with his gracious presence. We confide in him, and realize our holiest impulses and most blessed experiences in fellowship with him.

V. THEY ARE SAVINGLY RELATED TO JESUS CHRIST. "And to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel."

1. We are come to him as our Mediator. By him God is brought so near to us, and we are reconciled to God. Through him we enter into the possession of all our exalted and rich privileges.

2. We are come to him who effected his mediatorial work by the sacrifice of his own life. The blood of sprinkling is his own precious blood, which he shed for us. "We have our redemption through his blood," etc. And this blood speaks of the infinite love of God, and the full and free forgiveness of sins, and spiritual perfection, and endless progress and blessedness.

CONCLUSION. Great privileges involve great responsibilities. - W.J.







The mount that might be touched.
I. CHRISTIANITY IS A SPIRITUAL, NOT A MATERIAL, DISPENSATION. "The mount that might be touched" — a palpable mountain: the words indicate that the religion thereon proclaimed was a mass of ritual, legal service, and physical endurance; and not that spiritual surrender, and inner life of holiness, essentially belonging to the gospel. The apostle having elaborated this idea, shows that Christians have left behind them the barren Arabian mount, and in approaching God have increased the spirituality of their religion.

II. THOUGH CHRISTIANITY IS SPIRITUAL IN ITS NATURE, IT EMPLOYS MATERIAL FORMS AS ADJUNCTS. Sinai has given place to Zion. We have our material forms, but they are subordinate, not primary: bodies, not souls: servants, not lords.

III. SINAI AND ZION ARE ONLY MARKS OF PROGRESS, NOT FINAL DESTINATIONS. The home is further onward. Our past victories are only earnests of a universal conquest. Lessons:

1. Privilege is the measure of responsibility.

2. There is no limit to progress in love and knowledge.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

All things are capable of being intensified by contrast. There is no colour so bright but it may be made to look doubly so, by placing it by the side of its opposite. There is no beauty so exquisite but it may be made to appear more beautiful, by nearness to the unlovely and deformed. We should not know half the cheeriness of the day, if it were not for the gloom of night. There are some sculptured figures in St. Peter's, at Rome, which are reduced, to the eye of the beholder, to a third of their real size, by the vastness of everything around them. One half, and sometimes more, of the pleasure of the things that please us comes of the sorrows we have known. Whose are the eyes that greet the light of the morning with the greatest eagerness? Surely, the eyes of those who have watched all the darkness of the night. Whose rest is the sweetest, if not theirs who have toiled the hardest through the day? Who were they whose shout in heaven was like the sound of many waters, as they said: "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb"? It was the voice of them which had come out of great tribulation. And who was the man who seemed best to understand, and most to revel in, the freedom and love of the gospel, as a system of salvation? Why, it was the man who had most heartily yielded himself up to the whole influence of the former dispensation, and most conscientiously kept his neck in its yoke. And what was the spirit of the first dispensation, as contained in these words? Is it not this? — It was sensuous; it was artificial; it was based on fear. Whilst the great and blessed character of the second is that it is spiritual, it is real, and it is based on love.

I. FROM BEGINNING TO END, JUDAISM WAS AN APPEAL TO SENSE. It was God's most merciful accommodation of His revelation of Himself and of His will to the necessities of man's weakness and ignorance. Sinai was designed to he, and was, a splendid Divine answer to a few of the deepest questions of the whole human soul — "Is there a God? And have we anything to do with Him? And what? And will He dwell with us here, upon the earth?" The true answer, Divinely written, at the first, upon the heart and conscience and intelligence of man; ay, written, too, on every leaf of nature's living page, in golden letters of the sunlight, in silver gleamings from the moon and stars, sharp graven on the mountain edges, on azure page of heaven, had faded from man's heart and eye and ear. "Is there a God?" said the restless, troubled heart of man. And so, in His own time and way, God gave the answer Himself; and that answer was Sinai. Now look! Yon cloud! It is the robe of Deity. Doubt you? Then hark! And see! Those thunders and sharp lightning flashes are the tramping of His heralds, and the flashing of their spears. Only a storm, say you? Then hark again! What warrior blast is that? So piercing shrill, that, like a steeled sword, it darts through every heart — a blade of fear — and makes the stoutest tremble like a leaf. And then, more awful still, a voice, a voice of words — but not an earthly voice, of human words. The voice of very God. And so God answered these great questions of the human heart. There it was! A great, sensuous thing, that could not but make its own impression on those who saw and heard it, and, through them, might gain the ear and heart of posterity and all the world. And by as much as what we see impresses us more deeply than what we only hear, by so much was this people's heart more deeply touched than by any simpler revelation of the truth. But because it was sensuous, it was artificial, unreal. As an allegory wraps up a truth in beauteous, but concealing folds; as a picture reveals the countenance of your friend, and yet is not himself, and cannot be more than a miserable substitute for himself; so, all this was not God; it was not even the likeness of God, it was but the shadow of God. And so again, because it was sensuous and artificial, it was terrible. It is of no use to appeal to the reason of a child, or of a savage, or of a man utterly under the dominion of his senses; you appeal to what is not, or to what has lost its power to act. You must, then, appeal to some lower part of his nature; to his self-interest, if he is capable of perceiving it, if not, to his fear. Now what was it that made it necessary for God to reveal Himself and His will to the Jews in a sensuous and artificial way? It was because they were not susceptible of the higher way. They were children, and wanted to see in order to believe. Ay, they were children morally, subject to great temptation, and God wanted them for their own sake to obey Him, and to worship Him; and so, in the first instance, He laid the foundations for their obedience in terrors. He bound them to Himself by the bands of fear, and holding them thus He then, in the after history of the nation, began to draw them to Himself with the cords of love, the bands of a man. So they came "to the mount," &c; to the sensuous, the artificial, the terrible.

II. Now, in the second place, let us view the contrast, in all its particulars, which marks THE DISPENSATION UNDER WHICH WE ARE PLACED.

1. All is spiritual. At the first, indeed, it pleased God so far to accommodate His ways to the wants of humanity in this respect, as to give us the truth in a sensible, bodily form. "When the fulness of time was come," &c. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," &c. And so there was enacted, down here on the earth, once for all, the splendid mystery of the incarnation and the crucifixion and the resurrection. Jesus Christ is the full and complete answer to all those questions that man ever had asked or ever could ask about himself, and God, and all other spiritual facts. But after he had looked for a little while at the new Temple, and the new Priest, and the new law, and the new sacrifice — long enough to feel and see the Divine splendour that was in it, without fully comprehending what it was — it was taken up boldly into the heavenly, that men might know to the full what it was that had been amongst them. But mark you! When it was done, there was not a vestige of the sensuous left. The Holy of Holies was an empty shrine; the very temple was suffered to be thrown down so that not one stone was left upon another; ay, Jerusalem itself, the centre of the whole of the previous system, was desecrated, and has ever since been heathen ground; and the very Jews, the chosen people, the medium of the former revelation, ceased to be a nation, and were scattered among the nations of the earth. And what, then, have we in its place? We have a history, a record, a book, and nothing else. That is to say, we have the truth in its purest, simplest form. The world a temple, thrown open to all mankind; worship possible everywhere, at every time. Would you see God now? Look on the face of Christ, in the mirror of the book, and that is all that you can have. Would you go to God now? Kneel where you are, and He is there, to hear you and to bless.

2. All is real now. There is no exaggeration. Nothing artificial. Christ is the express image of the Father. I do not say that it is the whole truth about God, that we shall come to have some day, when this veil of flesh has been dissolved; but it is all that we can bear.

3. It is as loving and as winning as Sinai was terrible. It makes no appeal to our fears; only to our reason and our love. He is the tender Shepherd of the sheep, come to seek the lost. He is the Father's plaintive pleading with His rebellious child. He is the outstretched hand of God to every repenting sinner. He is the utterer of a grand amnesty to all the world who will receive it. He lays His Cross athwart the threatening law, and takes away its curse. He is the rebuke of all men's guilt-born fears about God, and all their hard thoughts of Him. In a word, He is the incarnate love of God pleading with sinful man.

(G. W. Conder.)

Homilist.
I. MAN'S PLACE IN CHRISTIANITY IS RELATED MORE TO THE SPIRITUAL THAN THE MATERIAL.

II. MAN'S PLACE IN CHRISTIANITY IS RELATED TO THE ATTRACTIVE RATHER THAN THE TERRIBLE. This subject presents a motive for —

1. Gratitude.

2. Catholicity. Heaven is not a sect.

3. Self-inquiry. "Are we come"to this system? How do we "come" to it? Not by mere birth, not by profession, but by a new creation in Christ Jesus.

(Homilist.)

Ye are come unto mount Sion.
I. What are the PECULIAR PRIVILEGES of the members of Christ's Church?

1. The first and greatest, because the foundation of all the rest is, union with Christ.

2. Association with the whole body of the faithful.

3. The right to the heavenly inheritance.

II. If the PRIVILEGES of all who "are come unto Mount Zion" are thus precious and ennobling, their DUTIES are proportionate.

1. Correspondent to the first-named privilege there is the duty of loyalty to Christ.

2. Correspondent to the second privilege, there is the duty of love to the brethren.

3. It is the duty of the members of Christ's Church, as heirs of the celestial inheritance, to set their hearts and hopes on heaven.

(J. M. McCulloch, D. D.)

The whole chapter shows that this is the nature of a picture motive. It is an influence rather than a knowledge. And yet how shall one feel influence except through the reason, or through knowledge? But it is the way of the highest instruction to enter through the imagination, and come to the reason in that way. That is the genius, certainly, of the New Testament, in its description of the life above — the life that is to come. It never defines. It seeks not so much to impart knowledge to the reader, as we should call it in this life, as to produce in his mind certain states of feeling. Unskilled men writing, without inspiration, of the new city beyond, of the great afterlife, would have fallen into the mistake of attempting to give in revealed distinctness and accuracy things which by the very terms of our existence we cannot comprehend accurately and distinctly. Not so the inspired teachers. They poetised heaven; they dramatised the future; they gave to man conceptions through his imagination — and not aimlessly, but because through the imagination the sympathies of our nature, hope, joy, trust, aspiration, and the rest, could all be reached. What men need is to be stirred up, and then to be quieted. Intensity and quietude are harmonious in the higher spiritual life. What we want is some motive that will propel us along the sphere of our present life. We do not so much need to know what is to be the daily bread, converse, and activities of the other life; but we do need to know that there is One who has promised us personal sensibility and personal identity there, and that we shall know and be known, love and be loved. We do need to know that heaven is more than a compensation for earth. We do need to know that our being here contributes to immortality, glory, all that belongs to the act of rising into a pure spiritual form and condition where that which is Divine remains and continues in activity. To this Revelation and all the Pauline teachings tend. To this the writings of the unknown author of the Book of Hebrews tend. They give us an inside revelation which reveals nothing. "Well," say men, "what kind of a revelation is that?" When the poor wayfarer from old plantation life, hiding himself by day, and then beginning to live at night, pursued his weary way toward the north, he had but one guide and that was the polar star. That star said nothing to him. It shed no warmth on him. He did not know its contents. He knew nothing about it. But it was a star that, when he looked upon it, directed him to where liberty was. From that bright point in the far north he gathered zeal, so that in the darkness, through forest, through fen, across streams, over mountains, pressed by adversaries, with hounds baying on his track, he sped on his way. It was the inspiration of that star that supported him, though it revealed nothing to him but this: "You will be free." So there is no real description of the future life given to us in the New Testament except this: It is more grand than anything that you can conceive. It hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive it. Nor can man's capacity compass it and take it all in. Nevertheless, what there is in human notions that inspires us with a sense of grandeur we apply to it. Now, the imagination teaches men in such a way that if you accept the description of heaven simply as a picture or vision, it is full of inspiration and hope. When you say that it shall be glorious, it is a good deal; but the moment you attempt to tell what the glory is, it is nothing at all. To say "we shall reign," is a good deal; but to undertake to tell what reigning is spoils the whole thing. "I love you" fills the soul and makes it vibrate like a harp, but undertake to explain what the love is, and it is turned to ashes at once. Nevertheless, the emotion is real, and the highest and most potent of our feelings are those which do not suffer themselves to be touched. The most glorious things in us are silent, and will not submit to rude handling, dwelling as they do in the centre of the ineffable. How much greater, better, and more untranslatable by mortal knowledge than physical existence is the realm of love! It is all right if you do not want to know what it is and how it works; but the moment you undertake to philosophise about it, its character is changed. The realm of purity is glorious so long as you do not attempt to analyse it; but you may as well bid it good-bye if you commence to reason about it. There are, then, some lessons to be derived from this. Having thrown off the peril of misinterpretation, there are certain great truths that we may deduce from it without resorting to the curiosity-monger's process — without attempting to anatomise heaven and deal with it scientifically. There are certain elements that it was meant we should derive from the pictures of it, and that, if we consider them aright, may be of exceeding great comfort to us in our Christian life. If it be true that we are to live again; if it be true that we are living here that we may go forward and live in a higher state, then the grandeur of the life that now is out of sight. You cannot tell by the earlier condition of things what their later states are to be. You cannot tell by the bud what the inflorescence is to be. You cannot tell by the flower what the fruit is to be. We cannot understand human life by looking at what it has yet come to under the influence of physical economy. In this life many are discouraged; but let a man maintain integrity under all circumstances and in all conditions, let him always and everywhere act with simplicity and fidelity, let him ally himself to those great qualities which God has revealed to be the centre-current of the universe, and all will be well with him. Love works no ill to one's neighbour; God's law is love; "Thou shalt love" is the command; and let a man conform himself to that central law of the universe, and then let death plant him, and we will run the risk of his coming up in the other life. And that ought to be a consolation to a man who in this world is poor and inconspicuous, and, as helpless amid the sweep of human affairs as a last year's leaf on the current of the Amazon. There are multitudes of such men, to whom a view like that which I have been presenting should carry not only comfort, but a great deal of instruction. Consider another fact in this connection — namely, that in this life the things which make the most ado are not the things which are the most important. There is nothing on earth noisier than a storm beating on the shore, and yet what does it do? It is bred in the desert sea. It lashes itself into a useless rage. It thunders in the heavens, and shakes the earth, and comes pouring down, and is broken into a million globules on the immovable rocks. By-and-by its wrath ceases, it smooths its blow, and the sea is tranquil again. What has happened? Nothing. Not a single thing has been done. A man's life goes thundering on, and the things which are most in the eyes of men are often of the least possible importance. The rage of nations, the march of armies, the rise of inconspicuous tribes to power, and their deliquescence and fading away again — these things seem great to men; but they come and go, and the earth is no whit changed, and men are no whir changed. So the things which are actually worth chronicling, and which are being chronicled, for ever and for ever, are the things which no man hears or sees. This great empty scroll above our heads is God's workshop, and He is writing there the history of time and the world. The scroll itself shall shrivel and depart; but the things that are written on that scroll shall never change. A man is not what he seems. This life is not what it appears to be. That which men call nothing — the great invisible realm — is the power which was declared by the apostle to be real. It is the things which are not that bring to naught the things that are. There is dominion in imagination, or in faith, to the man that knows how to avail himself of it. I remark, also, that if these views of the other life,. of the invisible, uninterpreted, and uninterpretable life, of the life of joy and power and grandeur which is to come — but which we cannot define any more closely than this — if these views be true, then how beautiful are the conceptions which are in the nature of comfort to men in the decays that take place in this state of existence! I have always been very much struck by that illustration of Paul's which is contained in the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians. He is speaking about the act of dying. And that which is true of the mere act of death is just as true of every other relation that terminates, or of any other composition which is analysed and goes back to its elements again. He says there are two sides to this matter. You cannot stand in the time-world and see what you will see in the world to come. You only see corruption, you only see dishonour, you only see weakness in the natural body. But then there is another side. There is the way in which God sees things, and there is the way in which the heavenly host see them. But what is to be seen on that side? Why, incorruption, glory, power, a spiritual body. If you look up at the bottom of the coffin from the earth side it is all sad and solemn. If you look down upon the coffin from the Divine side it is all radiant, triumphant, joyful. Those that I have known, whose virtues I have dwelt upon, and whose nature has shed great beauty in life, I love to follow, step by step, as they go down toward death. My faith rejoices in their advance till their voices fail out of my ear, and till their faces are hidden from me, because they have gone to live in Zion and before God: Wherefore comfort one another with words: Strengthen each other by the way. Sing and rejoice, knowing that, bright as is any experience here, it is but a twilight experience till the day shall dawn and the sun shall arise upon your souls.

(H. W. Beecher.)

1. For the height of it. A mountain is higher than the ordinary earth. The Church is high, it is above (Galatians 4:26), and they that be of the Church must carry high and regal minds. We must leave earth, and mount up in our affections into heaven; we must seek the things that be above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.

2. The Church is compared to a mountain: for the security of it.

3. For the difficulty of ascending to it. A man may not go up a high hill, but it must cost him pains, sweat and labour; so it is a laborious thing to get to heaven.

4. For the immobility of it. The Church is as Mount Zion that standeth fast for ever, and cannot be removed. Happy are they that be of the Church.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

Crossing from Belfast to Greenock by the night-boat late one autumn, after several attempts to sleep, I came upon deck soon after the steamer had entered the Clyde, and stood for a time in conversation with the mate, a true son of Erin. A dense haze prevented us from seeing far beyond the vessel, and I was disappointed in not being able to get a view of the coast. Thinking we were still at sea, I remarked to the man at the helm "I suppose we shall soon be in sight of land?" when, judge of my surprise, the following rejoinder was tendered in reply: "Sure, and we're within sight of it now, but ye can't see it I " More than a little amused with the paradox, I thanked my Hibernian friend, and waited till the hills, purple with heather and crowned with the first signs of winter, rewarded my anxious gaze. I knew that with the firs beams which should penetrate the mist the land would be visible, so I kept looking, and had not long to wait. The landscape, aglow with a thousand blended charms as the sun chased away the gloom of night and the mist of the early dawn, soon stood revealed in all its beauty, and forms a memory to be fondly cherished.

(V. J. Charlesworth.)

The heavenly Jerusalem.
I. THE STATE OF HEAVEN AS A GLORIOUS CITY. "Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." This is that city —

1. Where the most glorious display of Divine wisdom appears, everything conducted with exquisite policy.

2. Where omnipotent goodness operates at large, and deals her favours with the richest profusion (Psalm 16:11).

3. Where the King of Glory Himself dwells, and everything declares His more immediate presence (Revelation 7:15).

4. Where the laws, manners, and employments of the inhabitants most resemble and are most worthy of God.

5. In fine, this is that city which is the first production of the grand Architect of nature, and whither we are at last conveyed; but not till duly prepared for it (Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:14). See a fine description of this city (Revelation 21:10-22). And of this city, all real Christians are represented as members, even while they are in this world.

II. OUR ACCESSION OR RELATION TO IT. There is a certain figure made use of by our Saviour and His apostles, a figure that makes futurity present and realises the distant glories of immortality (Matthew 5:3; Ephesians 2:6). And the text says, "Ye are come"; — "already come," etc. The Christian religion suggests particular grounds for this sublime representation, such as no other system can exhibit. For example, we have —

1. The express promise of God to put every persevering Christian into the possession of Mount Zion above (Revelation 22:14; Revelation 2:7, 10).

2. It is farther ascertained from the mediation of Christ, the grand end of which see Hebrews 2:10.

3. The supreme power of the Redeemer (Matthew 28:18), which is equal to remove every difficulty, subdue every enemy, supply every necessity, and exalt to the highest dignity.

III. OUR RELATION TO THE HEAD AND TO THE MEMBERS OF THIS CITY.

1. Ye are come to God, the Judge of all, angels and men; the knowledge of God, His nature, unity, perfections, providence (Ephesians 5:8). The worship and service of God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). To His favour (Romans 5:1). His family and household (Galatians 4:6, 7). His presence; an event so certain that the apostle at once transports the Christian beyond the grave, to that Being who is the soul's portion, her centre and final happiness.

2. To Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant: in and through whom both parts of the covenant are reciprocally conveyed and transmitted. Blessings from God to man, through Christ; and duties from man to God, acceptable through Christ. Come to the Mediator, so as to be united to Him; participate a new nature through Him (2 Corinthians 5:17), rely on His sacrifice, obey His commandments, and, according to the aforementioned figure, to be taken by Him at last to the city of God (Revelation 3:21).

3. To an innumerable company of angels. Good men in this world have, indisputably, various connections with those superior beings; they are fellow-subjects and servants (Revelation 22:9). Protected by them (Psalm 34:7). Minister to them (Hebrews 1:14). Conduct them to heaven (Luke 16:22). As public heralds, proclaim their Lord's approach (Matthew 24:31). The apostle here anticipates our incorporation with those happy spirits in glory (Revelation 7:9-12).

4. To the spirits of just men made perfect. We are one community, of the same spirit and disposition, loving the same God, enjoying the same felicity, differing only in degree. They are got home, we are going; they have got the prize, we are wrestling for it.

5. To the general assembly and Church of the firstborn (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15-18). It may respect themselves; they are the chiefs the excellent ones, the firstborn. Written in heaven, alluding to the custom of ancient states, who enrolled their freemen; Christians enrolled in heaven (Luke 10:20), to signify that they have a right to all the high privileges of the city of God: and when all collected, compose the general assembly, &c. (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 7:9).Of this amazing corporation every Christian becomes a member at the moment of his conversion to God. Improvement:

1. Hence see the peculiar excellency of that religion which animates her proselytes with so glorious a hope.

2. Let our temper and conduct declare our kindred to those serene and happy intelligences.

3. Let the views of these glorious and animated prospects raise our souls to God in grateful adoration of His goodness and love (Psalm 31:21; Psalm 72:18, 19).

(J. Hannam.)

Some one asked a Scotchman if he was on his way to heaven. "Why, man," he said, "I live there." He was only a pilgrim here. Heaven was his home.

(D. L. Moody.)

Are you dreaming, father?" I said one day, when he (Father Taylor) was leaning back in his chair, with closed eyes and a happy smile playing about his mouth. "I am in heaven a little way," he answered, without moving. "And what is heaven, really?" I asked, climbing upon his knees. "It is loving God," he replied, still with the same soft dreamy tone.

(Mrs. Judge Russell.)

A lady, unused to the rough travelling of a mountain land, went thither to make her home, and received from one of her new friends this bit of advice. She had been telling of her faintness when guiding her horse through a deep ford where the waters ran swiftly and the roar was incessant, and said she feared she should never be able to overcome the abject physical terror which dominated her whenever she found herself in the strong current midway between the banks. "Oh, yes, you will," said her companion. "Just take a leaf in your mouth and chew it, and as you ride across keep your eyes on the other side."

(M. E. Sangster.)

We measure distance by time. We are apt to say that a certain place is so many hours from us. If it is a hundred miles off, and there is no railroad, we think it a long way; if there is a railway, we think we can be there in no time. But how near must we say heaven is? — for it is just one sigh, and we get there. Why, our departed friends are only in the upper room, as it were, of the same house. They have not gone far off; they are upstairs, and we are down below.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

How noble the lowest life may become, like some poor, rough sea-shell with a gnarled and dimly-coloured exterior, tossed about in the surge of a stormy sea, or anchored to a rock, but when opened all iridescent with rainbow sheen within, and bearing a pearl of great price! So, to outward seeming, my life may be rough and solitary, and inconspicuous and sad, but, in inner reality, it may have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living. God, and have angels for its guardians, and all the first-born for its brethren and companions.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

An innumerable company of angels. —
I. Angels are, as far as we know from revelation, the only beings who take an interest with us in God and the spiritual world. Angels are fellow-citizens with us in the kingdom of Christ. It is certain, moreover, that angels are immortal, but not eternal; that they are very numerous, and have different ranks; that they are used by God as His special ministers, and that they have sympathy with man. But how far this sympathy extends is not so certain. Are they cognisant of human things generally, and of their own accord, or must they in each case be informed by God? In the course of three thousand six hundred years there are, I believe, recorded only twenty instances of angels' visits, which would allow on the average an interval of one hundred and eighty years between each appearance. Thus their visitations were, in the strict sense of the word, extraordinary, and will be found for the most part to accompany a great national crisis. Next, had angels in those days power to influence the souls of men? It is very questionable. That they led men by the hand, and spoke God's messages to them, is certain; but it is not so sure that they instilled into the soul a secret thought, or endued the tempted spirit with heavenly grace. Again, when angels are said to have interfered, were they not visible, no phantom or vivid imagination of the mind, but the impression of a visible substance upon the eye and brain? Thus much of the Old Testament. Let us now proceed to the New. Perhaps the first thing which strikes us here is the frequent mention of angels in contrast with their rare appearance under the old dispensation. It is as if the light of the presence of God on earth brought out more vividly the lesser lights of the spiritual world; just as it has been remarked that the evil spirit also is more apparent in the Gospels, and as the light of God's glory becomes more intense, so is Satan more evident (as witness the Book of the Revelation). Now some of these references belong to the office which angels hold in heaven, as do all the passages that occur in the Revelation. Of the rest, all but one are concerned with the Divine person of their and our Lord, or with momentous events in immediate connection with Him. The exception is the solitary instance of an angel stirring the waters of Bethesda. Thus there is no more evidence in the Gospels than in the Old Testament to justify us in believing that angels exercise their ministry on earth on ordinary occasions, or that they have any spiritual influence on man at all, or that they act in any way without making themselves visible to those whom they approach. Our next step, then, will be to examine what Holy Scripture says of angels after Pentecost. St. Peter is twice rescued by an angel; Cornelius is advised by an angel to send for Peter; Philip the deacon is sent by another to the eunuch; Herod is smitten by an angel; St. Paul had an angel standing by him in the ship. Thus it is clear that angels are not displaced by the Holy Ghost; and these passages are extremely important, as being those to which we should look, rather than to any which precede them, for an answer to the question, what place do angels hold in the Church of Christ on earth? The answer is very explicit on one point at least. The influence of angels in these instances is not spiritual, but external; their aid is in times of physical danger, not of inward temptation. Again the answer is explicit as to their visible presence — confirming the result to which former records in Scripture had led us, that when they interfere they are not only felt but seen. Finding this to be the case, it is natural to inquire how far this view of angels' ministries agrees with the whole spirit and character of the Christian dispensation. Let me ask your close attention to this portion of the subject. What is the great change wrought in our condition by the holy incarnation of the Son and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost? Words fail me when I try to answer; let me use the language of St. Paul: — "Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one .... Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." And rising higher to St. John's divine words, so wondrously simple and profound, on the truth of the incarnation: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"; and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit the words of Christ Himself: "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." This is the change wrought by Christ in the relation of man to God. I will not say, "what room is there here for spiritual aid from angels?" because we know not the boundaries of God's scheme of mercy to man; but I will ask, is there not here in God's own presence all that the spirit of man can desire or imagine? Tell me any sorrow, or doubt, or temptation, or critical emergency of life, in which your heart need look elsewhere for aid but to the Holy Ghost? To look for angel's help against the enemy of souls, when God Himself has promised to abide in us, is worse than for the traveller to seek at his feet a glowworm's light to show the path when the moon has risen and called the stars about her overhead. Still, after all, much is doubtful. As with the saints departed, so with angels; it is well to think of them often, but safer to think of them as above, not amongst us, each in his happy sphere midway between ourselves and heaven.

(Canon Furse.)

I. WE ARE COME TO THEM AS FRIENDS, from whom we have been separated by the fall. Men and angels, in their original creation, formed but one family; and, though they differed in nature and in residence, they had one Father, and there would have been a free and pleasing intercourse between them. But sin destroyed the harmony of the world. Sin disunited heaven and earth. Sin separated not only between God and men, but between angels and men. When man revolted from his lawful Sovereign, they remained in their allegiance; and as sin rendered God our enemy, so it rendered angels our enemies too. Accordingly we read of their being the executioners of the Divine vengeance. But, in consequence of the mediation of our Lord and Saviour, the breach is healed. We are reconciled not only to God, but to the angels. Men and angels form again one family; they remained in their original state; we are restored to it; and such is the disposition of those celestial beings, that they do not repine, like the elder brother, at the return of the prodigal, but rejoice to welcome the younger branches of the family home.

III. WE ARE COME TO THEM AS ATTENDANTS, whose care is to follow us through life. God's noblest creatures are His children's servants. "Such honour have all the saints."

III. WE ARE COME TO THEM AS WITNESSES, whose observations we are to reverence. It would be well for us to remember that we are always in sight. The eyes of our fellow-creatures are often upon us; and if they were always upon us, they would restrain us from a thousand sins. But invisible beings always behold us. There are cases in which two guilty individuals are implicated. They accuse each other; and no human being was privy to their wickedness. But angels saw Abel and Cain when they were alone together in the field. They can decide, in an intrigue, who was the seducer, and who the seduced. What a world of private wickedness will they develop!

IV. WE ARE COME TO THEM AS PATTERNS, whose example we are to imitate. To these models our Saviour Himself leads us in the form of devotion He gave to His disciples; in which He teaches us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." And, even now, this prayer is accomplished. Between believers and angels there is a resemblance, though not an equality. Wherein does it appear?

1. It appears in the nature of their obedience. We are told that the angels, however great, find it their privilege to serve. Their obedience is ready, without delay; cheerful, without reluctance; constant, without intermission; and impartial, without choice. The reason is, they love God, and it is His will alone they regard. And whatever low idea you may form of a Christian, such is, and such must be, His leading desire, and His prevailing endeavour.

2. It appears in their union. These beings have various degrees among them. Yet these produce no contempt, no envy, no eagerness to dictate, no backwardness to co-operate. They perfectly harmonise. They have but one spirit, one wish. Shall I say that Christians do resemble all this? Alas 1 there is too little of it in our churches and assemblies.

3. It appears in the subject of their study. The angels are proverbial for knowledge; we read of being " wise as an angel of God." Had we heard only of such exalted beings, we should be anxious to know what things they deemed most worthy of their attention. But we are informed. They are "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow — which things the angels desire to look into." Are you like-minded? Is this the most welcome subject to your hearts? The most important to your minds?

4. It appears in their worship. They adore the incarnate Redeemer. And is there a Christian upon earth that does not delight in the same praise?

V. WE ARE COME TO THEM AS ASSOCIATES, with whom we are to blend our future being, and from whom we shall derive no inconsiderable part of our happiness. It is not good for man to be alone. He is formed for social enjoyment; and it is a great source of his present pleasure. The representation of heaven meets this propensity. And there are two classes of beings that will contribute much to our satisfaction and improvement. The one is endearing. It takes in those you loved in life, with whom you took sweet counsel together, and went to the house of God in company, your pious friends and relations, who now sleep in Jesus. The other is dignifying. It comprehends patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs — angels. You shall be introduced to company of the very first sort. Angels are the flower of the creation; and the poorest, meanest believer shall enjoy it; and be prepared for it. Let us conclude with two questions.

1. How can it be said that "we are come to" this blessed assembly? By the certainty of the event. By promise — and " he Scripture cannot be broken." By hope-and "hope maketh not ashamed." By anticipation, by earnests, by foretastes of this exalted felicity.

2. To whom are you come?

(W. Jay.)

I. THEY ARE THE HIGHEST OF ALL CREATED BEINGS, WHOSE HOME IS THE IMMEDIATE PRESENCE OF GOD. They were heaven's earliest inmates, when " the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." They see God face to face continually; they worship Him, and rest not day and night from praising Him; their obedience is perfect and secure; where laws end, love begins. To borrow the image of South, like a cup of crystal thrown into a brim-ruing river, which first is filled, then lost in the stream, so sinks their overflowing love in the love of God. Nor is their vision limited to heaven. Once they saw the eternal Son descend from thence to earth, and marked His life and death, and ministered to Him in His abasement and His glory. With sympathetic insight into the mystery of redemption, yet there remained things into which they "desired to look." And now that the Son has returned in glory to His eternal home, they look for the fulfilment of His joy; watching for the coming in of souls for whom He died; rejoicing when one by one are drawn into the circle those for whom He prayed, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me, where I am." And when through the contentions of a doubtful life grace has at last prevailed, who can tell the joy with which through the yielding air they spread their level wings, and bear in their hands the sour of the contrite, secure from sin, far off into Abraham's bosom?

II. Lastly, as to THEIR ADORATION OF GOD IN HEAVEN. Worship is angels' work; and in the contemplation of their office here no room is left for difference or doubt. The Old Testament and the New conspire in holy emulation to reveal the heavenly vision in the noblest terms. Worship is the sum of the life in heaven; and what is the noblest work of our life on earth? The same. As among our natural passions and affections towards our fellows love is the highest, and has mightiest influence, so towards God is worship. Worship is love sublimated by the majesty of God. Think what the example of angels teaches us in this great portion of the Christian life.

1. First, that worship is only possible in the presence of God. Their worship in the Church above is only more perfect than that of saints in the Church below, because they are more near to God. The sight of Him is their joy; and such will be yours, if yours be the promise, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Meanwhile what sight is now to angels, and will hereafter be to you, is at the present time your faith.

2. Next this apprehension of the Divine Presence fills them with awe and reverence. The cherubim with his wings covers his face and his feet; the angels before the throne fall on their faces. Such a thought may give us a rule of conduct in our acts of worship. In all our public devotions, above all at Holy Communion, let our commonest actions be ruled by a tender spirit of reverence.

3. Again their worship exercises not only their affections, but their intelligence. They understand what they worship. The principle of all true worship is this — "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."

4. Above all with their praises and their prayers goes on the sweet accompaniment of an obedient will, a heart attuned to the love of God, sympathy with all His doings in judgment and in mercy, sympathy with His holiness and His vengeance against sin.

5. Again we little know how much we are affected by the example of numbers. The numbers on one side or the other decide the choice of waverers. We cast our lot into the heaviest scale. The broad way, though it lead to death, has its contented wayfarers, chiefly because it is so broad; the narrow way discourages so many, because there are so few that walk in it. Then, like Elisha's servant, open your eyes and see the hosts of angels serving God, exceeding in number the generation of men, whom you see afraid to confess Him here.

6. Lastly to think of their happiness! happiness, so rare a gift, that among friends it is but seldom named, and then under their breath, and in a tone almost of despair of finding it; each heart knowing its own bitterness; the stranger not intermeddling with it, the friend unable to hear it, so he must let that alone for ever! And then to read of angels' happiness, so perfect, so secure!

(Canon Furse.)

General assembly and Church of the firstborn.
Expository Sermons.
I. THE SPIRIT OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION. — It is pre-eminently mild and gracious. This being so, it becomes those who are under it, and who have been made partakers of its blessings, to cultivate a spirit in accordance therewith. A spirit of slavish terror, however befitting the law, is altogether unsuitable to the gospel. It is related of Titus, the Roman emperor, when a certain petitioner presented his address to him with a trembling hand, that he was much displeased; and addressing the affrighted suppliant, he asked, "Dost thou present thy petition to thy prince as if thou wert giving meat to a lion?" While a spirit of reverence might have been proper on such an occasion, he regarded the extreme fear which this person displayed as altogether unbecoming. A spirit of trembling fear should be avoided by the Christian, being forbidden by the many gracious assurances which God has given to encourage us in our approaches to His throne; and also as being opposed to the distinctive features of the dispensation under which we dwell,

II. THE NATURE AND PRIVILEGES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

1. Its unity.

2. Its glory. Judging by outward appearance, the Church of Christ may appear despicable; much that is ignoble and mean may be seen in its members. But is it so in reality? What I ignoble, when the city they belong to is the city of the great King; a city whose streets are of gold, whose gates are of pearls, and into which the glory and honour of the nations shall be brought! And then there is, not merely the city of the believer's habitation, but his associates and his friends. Talk of meanness, when myriads of angels, and the great multitude of the redeemed, are his companions [

3. Its spirituality. "But ye are come" — come to what? To things pre-eminently glorious; but they are at present invisible, being spiritual realities, objects of faith, and not of bodily vision.(1) Let the Christian seek to realise his true character and position. Where your treasure is, there let your heart be also.(2) That the only way in which we can become members of the heavenly commonwealth, is by a believing application to the Redeemer. Having an interest in Him, an interest in all the rest will follow.

(Expository Sermons.)

Sweeter to our ear than the full chorus of bright skies and greenwood, are the first notes of the warbler that pipes away the winter, and breaks in on its long, drear silence! And more welcome to our eye than the flush of summer's gayest flowers, is the simple snow-drop that hangs its pure white bell above the dead bare ground. And why? These are the firstborn of the year, the forerunners of a crowd to follow. In that group of silver bells that ring in the spring with its joys, and loves, and singing birds, my fancy's eye sees the naked earth clothed in beauty, the streams, like children let loose, dancing and laughing, and rejoicing in their freedom, bleak winter gone, and Nature's annual resurrection. And in that solitary simple note, my fancy hears the carol of larks, wild moor, hillside, and woodlands full of song, and ringing all with music. And in Christ, the Firstborn, I see the grave giving up its dead; from the depths of the sea, from lonely wilderness and crowded churchyard they come, like the dews of the grass, an innumerable multitude. Risen Lord! we rejoice in Thy resurrection. We hail it as the harbinger and blessed pledge of our own. The first to come forth, Theft art the Elder Brother of a family, whose countless numbers the patriarch saw in the dust of the desert, whose holy beauty he saw shining in the bright stars of heaven. The firstborn! This spoils the grave of its horrors, changing the tomb into a capacious womb that death is daily filling with the germs of life.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

I. First, I want to set out, A CONTRAST PRESENTED IN THE ENTIRE PASSAGE — a contrast between the economy of law and the economy of grace. Every good thing is enhanced in value by its opposite. The contrast between free grace and law makes grace appear the more precious to minds that have known the rigour of the commandment. The contrast presented here is sevenfold. First, as to place, "Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched" (ver. 18); "But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem "(ver. 22). Behold Sinai with its rugged crags: scarce had a human foot ever trodden it: perhaps until that hour in which Jehovah descended upon it in splendour it had remained a virgin peak, which the foot of man had never polluted. It was sublime, but stern and tempest-beaten. God came upon Sinai with His law, and the dread mount became a type of what the law would be to us. It has given us a grand idea of holiness, but it has not offered us a pathway thereto, nor furnished a weary heart with a resting-place. The Jews under the law had that stern hill for their centre, and they compassed it about with pale countenances and trembling knees. We gather to quite another centre, even unto the palace-crowned steep of Zion. There David dwelt of old, and there David's Lord revealed Himself, This mount which might be touched, we are told, in the next place, "burned with fire." God's presence made the mountain melt and flow down. Jehovah revealed Himself in flaming fire. What, then, have believers come to instead of fire? Why, to another form of fire: to " an innumerable company of angels" — "He maketh His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire." God comes to us by them: "He rode upon a cherub, and did fly." Pursue the contrast, and you find on Mount Sinai that there was blackness, doubtless made the more intensely black as the vivid lightnings flashed out from it. "Ye are not come unto blackness," says Paul, What is the contrast to this? "But ye are come to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." Blackness is the symbol of sorrow, it is the garb of mourning. Everywhere we associate blackness with grief; but now Paul sets before us the grandest embodiment of joy. The word for general assembly in the original suggests a far-reaching festivity. "Ye are come to the paneguris: to a solemn festive assembly, comparable to the National Convocation of the Greeks, which was held around the foot of Mount Olympus, every four or five years, when all the Greeks of different states came together to keep up the national feeling by festivities and friendly competitions. Follow the next point of contrast, and you have darkness mentioned. "Nor unto blackness, and darkness." The cloud on Sinai was so dark as to obscure the day, except that every now and then the lightning-flash lit up the scene. What are we come to in contrast to that darkness? "To God the Judge of all." "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." What a contrast to the darkness of the law is a reconciled God! And what follows next? Why, tempest. It is said, "Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest." All over the top of Sinai there swept fierce winds and terrible tornadoes, for the Lord was there. All heaven seemed convulsed when God did rend it, and descended in majesty upon the sacred mount. But what do you and I see? The very reverse of tempest — "The spirits of just men made perfect," serenely resting. They are perfect, they have fought the fight, they are full of ecstatic bliss, the glory of God is reflected from their faces; they have reached the fair haven, and are tossed with tempest no more. Follow the contrast further, and you coma to the sound of a trumpet. This resounded from the top of Sinai. Clarion notes most clear and shrill rang out again and again the high commands of the thrice-holy God. You are not come to that. Instead of a trumpet, which signifies war and the stern summons of a king, ye are come unto "Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant," and the silver tones of "Come unto Me, all ye," &c. The seventh contrast lies in this — together with the trumpet there sounded out a voice, a voice that was so terrible that they asked that they might not hear it again. We have coma to another voice, the voice of "the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." There is a voice from Zion, there is a voice that rolls over the heads of the innumerable company of angels, a voice of the Lord that is full of majesty, and exceedingly comfortable to the " general assembly and Church of the firstborn," who know the joyful sound.

II. There is A COMPARISON in our more central text. "We are come to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." It is a comparison, not with anything Jewish, for that would not have been suitable, but with a Gentile festival, which more readily lent;itself to the apostle's great thought. In Greece, in her happier times, in order to preserve a national unity, the various states, kingdoms, or republics, which constituted Greece proper, held at the foot of Olympus a great gathering, to which none came as participators except citizens of the various Greek nationalities. The object of the gathering was that every part of the Greek nature might be educated and displayed, and the unity of the Greek race be remembered. How much I wish that we could look upon all the conflicts, sufferings, and troubles of this mortal life as occupations of the great festive gathering which is now being held in heaven and in earth around the city of our God. If we all understand that this period is not comparable to a battle, whereof the result hangs in the balance, but comparable to those deeds of prowess wherewith of old men celebrated a victory, then the face of things is altered, and our toils are transfigured. Angels come down, and poor men and women are lifted up, in patience triumphing, and giving pleasure to their Lord, and bringing honour to that favoured city which God has prepared for them. Oh, the bliss of feeling that even nosy heaven is begun below, and the sufferings of this present life are but a part of the glory of the Lord manifested in His people!

III. The third point is — A COMING TO BE ENJOYED. This is the essence of it all We are come unto this general assembly and Church of the firstborn. How then do we come? This festival is only for the firstborn, and you are not that by nature. You must first be born again, and become one of the firstborn. The Spirit of God must make you a new creature in Christ Jesus, and then the porter will open the wicket, and say, "Come in, and welcome." Which part are you going to take in this great gathering? Will you fight against sin? Will you wrestle against error? Will you run for the crown? Will you sing or speak? What will you do in this great congress of all the saints?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Socrates was glad when his death approached, because he thought he should go to Hesoid, Homer, and other learned men deceased, whom he expected to meet in the other world. How much more do I rejoice, who am sure that I shall see my Saviour Christ, the saints, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and all holy men who have lived from the beginning of the world! Since I am sure to partake of their felicity, why should not I be willing to die, to enjoy their perpetual society in glory?

(Henry Bullinger.)

I was reading the other day that, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, the wives of fishermen whose husbands have gone far out upon the deep are in the habit, at eventide, of going down to the seashore, and singing, as female voices only can, the first stanza of a beautiful hymn. After they have sung it, they listen till they hear, borne by the wind across the desert-sea, the second stanza, sung by their gallant husbands as they are tossed by the gale upon the waves; and both are happy. Perhaps, if we could listen, we, too, might hear on this desert-world of ours some sound, some whisper, borne from afar, to remind us that there is a heaven and a home; and, when we sing the hymn upon the shores of earth, perhaps we shall hear its sweet echo breaking in music upon the sands of time, and cheering the hearts of them that are pilgrims and strangers and look for a city that hath foundations.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

We have in this whole passage a description of the Catholic Church as it is now revealed to us under the gospel. And this is put in contrast with the state of the Church under the law. The kingdom is now united, and the Church is catholic; and those who come into it are not only joined in mutual earthly fellowship, but they come into union, as real, although not so conscious and apparent, with the Church invisible and glorified. As we consider some aspects of this subject, let us try to think and feel ourselves into that higher fellowship.

I. We come to that unseen and glorious company BY OUR KNOWLEDGE. We have far more actual knowledge of the invisible world than we vivify and use. We know, that when flitting like shadows here, from place to place, and ever nearer to the grave, there is a city which hath foundations, in the records of which our names may be enrolled. We know that when struggling and crowding here — striving for space and room, and particular standing — there is a house of many mansions, and a place prepared for each, large enough for the developments of the immortal life. Our knowledge is in some respects limited enough. We cannot see it; we cannot come to it in the flesh; flesh and blood shall not inherit it; no mortal hand can draw aside the veil, nor pierce it, although it sometimes seems so thin. Perhaps if we were better, purer, more saintly, we could safely be trusted with more light on the future, and it is certain that if we ask and look and wait we shall attain to more. We are like men gazing towards the land from the deck of a ship. A dim outline appears, like a cloud, at which they strain their sight; until by the movement of the vessel and the custom of the eye it becomes clearer and clearer still. The mountains gradually reveal their peaks; then the valleys show; then the corn; then the smoke of the cottage; the group by the cottage door; the apples on the tree; and then — the vessel is in port. So, by looking, heaven becomes clearer; as we look, it comes more near. To us as individuals, this revelation will be much or little, according to our personal realisation of it. Our knowledge may be a lamp unlighted as well as burning. It may be a map of a country on which we seldom look, or on which we trace with careful finger every mountain ridge, every river and plain. Central Africa is now opened, and to the world it can never be a blank any more. Some individuals may know very little of it, yet that knowledge is a possession to the race for ever. And so, to the world has been given the unalienable possession of the knowledge of the "better country, the heavenly," which is on the other side of death, in which the Saviour is, into which He has already gathered myriads of His friends, to which so many of our own friends have gone, and to which we ourselves are travelling.

II. We come to the invisible Church BY OUR FAITH. We come to it more by our faith than by our knowledge. Faith is knowledge glorified, and vitalised; it is, as the former chapter tells us, the " substance of things hoped for." It makes the objects of our cognition so real and vivid that we possess in our thought the very substance of them. We have such assured confidence in their existence that the removal of them from the realm of faith would be like taking away the solid world from our senses. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." It proves them, and presents them so that the mind feels their presence; sees them; is solemnised by them; holds them fast! It redeems our humanity from its degradation to know that there are men, who, while living here, are also living yonder — who have a life hidden as well as visible " with Christ in God." We believe that He is. We believe that our friends are with Him; and if we can come to Him, and to them, in our daily faith — in the seekings, strivings, and settlings of our souls, then we are believers indeed. We may form what views we will on the time and nature of the resurrection — on the intermediate state, or on the physical characteristics of the life to come. If only we come to Him — our High Priest within the veil, and our forerunner there — we shall in due time stand rejoicing in His presence.

III. "We are come" to that invisible triumphant Church, IN OUR LOVE, as truly as in our knowledge and our faith. All heaven-born souls love the place of their birth. Born again, or born from above, is to have enrolment and citizenship there — it is to have our treasure there and our heart also.

IV. And all these comings, need we say? are presages of THE FINAL PERSONAL COMING BY DEATH into the "general assembly and Church of the firstborn in heaven." We speak often of death as a going away, and picture to ourselves the spirit passing into vast solitudes, friends and dear familiar scenes all left behind, as it looks out upon the first reaches and roundings of the everlasting journey. Some thoughtful writers have dwelt much on the loneliness of death, until one has felt intensely solitary in the prospect. They have fixed upon the fact that each of us must meet death alone, and, of course, that is true, at least as regards earthly companionships. But that even then we shall be absolutely alone is only conjecture; and if we must conjecture, I for one would rather take the other side, and believe that since God gives us company here from the moment of birth to the moment of death, He will have other company awaiting us there, so that we shall take no step in loneliness or dread, but enter at once and easily into the higher fellowships, and go forward with a cheerful confidence through the valley of transition.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

God the Judge of all.
I. FAITH PLANTS US AT THE VERY BAR OF GOD. Here is a truth which it is the office of faith to realise continually in our daily lives. Your loving access to God, Christian men and women, has brought you right under the eye of the Judge, and, though there be no terror in our approach to that tribunal, there ought to be a wholesome awe as to the permanent attitude of our spirits, the awe which is the very opposite of the cowering dread which hath torment. Then, again, notice that this judgment of God is on e which a Christian man should joyfully accept. "The Lord will judge His people," says one of the Psalms. "You only have I known of all the inhabitants of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities," says one of the prophets. Such sayings represent this present judgment as inevitable, just because of the close connection into which true faith brings a man with his Father in heaven. Inevitable, and likewise most blessed and desirable, for in the thought are included all the methods by which, in providence, and by ministration of His truth and of His Spirit, God reveals to us our meannesses; and delivers us sometimes, even by the consequences which accrue from them, from the burden and power of our sin. So, then, the office of faith in regard of this continuous judgment which God is exercising upon us because He loves us is, first of all, to open our hearts to it by confession, by frank communion, by referring all our actions to Him to court that investigation. And then, further, remember that this judgment is one that demands our thankful acceptance of the discipline which it puts in force. If we knew ourselves we should bless God for our sorrows. These are His special means of drawing His children away from their evil.

II. FAITH CARRIES US WHILE LIVING TO THE SOCIETY OF THE LIVING DEAD. "The Judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect." Immediately on the thought of God rising in the writer's mind there rises also the thought of the blessed company in the centre of whom He lives and reigns. "The spirits of... men made perfect." That is to say, they dwell freed from the incubus and limitations, and absolved from the activities, of a bodily organisation. Then, further, these spirits are "perfect." The writer has said, at the close of the preceding chapter, that the ancient saints "without us should not be made perfect." And here he employs the same word with distinct reference, as I suppose, to his previous declaration. From which I infer that Jesus Christ shot some rays of His victorious and all-reconciling power from His Cross into the regions of darkness, and brought thence those who were waiting for His coming through many a long age. A great painter has left on the walls of a little cell in his Florentine convent a picture of the victorious Christ, white-robed and banner-bearing, breaking down the iron gates that shut in the dark rocky cave; and flocking to Him, with outstretched hands of eager welcome, the whole long series from the first man downwards, hastening to rejoice in His light, and to participate in His redemption. So the ancient Church was "perfected" in Christ; but the words refer, not only to those Old Testament patriarchs and saints, but to all who, up to the time of the writer's composition of his letter, had " slept in Jesus." They have reached their goal in Him. But yet that " perfecting "does not exclude progress, continuous through all the ages; and especially it does not exclude one great step in advance which, as Scripture teaches us, will be taken when the resurrection of the body is granted. Corporeity is the perfecting of humanity. Body, soul, and spirit, these make the full-summed man in all his powers. And so the souls beneath the altar, clothed in white, and lapt in felicity, do yet wait for the adoption, even the redemption of the body. Mark, further, that these spirits perfected would not have been perfected there unless they had been made just here. That is the first step, without which nothing in death has any tendency to ennoble or exalt men. If we are ever to come to the perfecting of the heavens, we must begin with the justifying that takes place on earth. Let me point you to one other consideration bearing not so much on the condition as on the place of these perfected spirits. It is very significant that they should be closely associated in our text with " God the Judge of all." Is there any hint that men who have been redeemed, who, being unjust, have been made just, and have had experience of restoration and of the misery of departure, shall, in the ultimate order of things, stand nearer the throne than unfallen spirits, and teach angels?

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. I am to show THAT IT IS A VERY AWFUL, THOUGH A COMFORTABLE, THING TO CONVERSE WITH GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL.

1. The majesty and glory of the great God makes it awful conversing with Him.

2. God's omniscience is another thing which makes it solemn conversing with God as Judge of all (Hebrews 4:13).

3. The purity and holiness of God make it a solemn thing for polluted sinners to have any converse with Him.

4. The strictness of God's law, which is the rule of judgment, makes it a solemn thing to converse with this great and glorious Judge. God judges of all my thoughts and actions by the same law now that sentence is to be passed by in the great day of accounts.Use

1. Is it so solemn a thing for believers in Christ to come to God the Judge of all; how or "where then must the sinner and the ungodly appear"?

2. Is it so solemn a thing to converse with God the Judge of all? Then, believer, how seldom art thou in a right frame for duty. You know with what solemnity and preparation they of old attended on God when giving the law. The people were sanctified to-day and to-morrow, and washed their clothes to be in readiness against the third day (Exodus 19:10). Is there less call for preparation and solemnity under the gospel? are trifling frames and a worldly spirit any part of that liberty we have in Christ? Dare we go to holy ordinances drowned in the cares of this life, reeking in the filth of some unsubdued lust?

3. Learn from what has been said, the only way to think of future judgment with pleasure and comfort. It is by coming to God the Judge of all, now.

4. What a blessed gospel is that which reveals the only righteousness wherein a poor guilty sinner may appear before God with comfort!

II. How Is IT THAT SUCH A CONVERSE IS BEGUN BETWEEN A HOLY GOD AND POOR SINNERS?

1. It is begun in the conviction or sensibleness a soul has that he is a guilty lost sinner.

2. In order to a poor sinner's comfortably conversing with God the Judge of all, there must be a free confession of all sin and a subscribing to the rights of His justice. This is called an accepting of the punishment of one's iniquity (Leviticus 26:41) and a clearing and justifying God when we are judged (Psalm 51:4).

3. In order to a poor sinner's comfortable converse with God the Judge of all, there must be an absolute renouncing all righteousness of his own.

4. The way to have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all is to come before Him in the Mediator's righteousness and to plead it with Him as thy justifying righteousness.Use: 1. If there be no coming to God as Judge of all with comfort but by confessing sin, their state must be sad who seek comfort by hiding or lessening sin.

2. Must a soul be brought to submit to the rights of God's justice in order to a comfortable converse with Him as Judge of all? then woe to all such as quarrel with God's judgment.

3. Must all self-righteousness be renounced in order to a comfortable converse with God the Judge of all? How contrary is that doctrine which sets up the creature's sincere obedience as a part of our gospel-righteousness!

III. IN WHAT INSTANCES AND BY WHAT METHODS THIS CONVERSE WHICH BELIEVERS HAVE WITH GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL IS MAINTAINED AND CARRIED ON.

1. I am to give some instances wherein believers have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all, through the whole of their gospel profession and walk. The apostle speaks of it as a privilege attending their state, not a blessing peculiar to some extraordinary frames. It is a believer's settled mercy and daily duty to converse with God the Judge of all.(1) A great part of this comfortable converse with God lies in those high and honourable thoughts which believers have of His righteousness as Judge of all.(2) Another instance wherein believers have comfortable converse with God lies in their pleading justification before God upon the footing of righteousness.(3) Another instance wherein believers have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all lies in their referring themselves to His righteous judgment with respect to their state, their frames, and all their actions.(4) Another instance wherein believers have comfortably con versed with God the Judge of all lies in a hearty approval of all providential dispensations to themselves and others.(5) Another instance of this comfortable converse which believers have with God the Judge of all is in a Way of anticipating, or antedating as it were, that sentence of absolution which shall be openly pronounced upon them at the last day.

2. How or by what special methods this comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained.(1) By looking often to the everlasting settlements and grace of the covenant; what God does in time is by virtue of covenant-agreement with His Christ and our Surety in eternity (Psalm 98:3).(2) This comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained by the soul's daily faith on the person of Christ as God-man.(3) This comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained by earnest endeavours after conformity to God in righteousness and true holiness (1 Peter 1:16).(4) A believer's converse with God the Judge of all is promoted and maintained by his coming often to the blood of sprinkling.(5) This comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is promoted by the believer's application to God as a Father in Christ (Ephesians 2:18).(6) This comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is promoted and maintained by direct acts of faith on the promises of the covenant.(7) A daily application to the Spirit as the glorifier of the Father and of Christ. All the glory of the Father's provision for lost sinners in the person and blood of Christ, and in the grace of the covenant, depends upon the Spirit's revelation of it to and in the soul (Galatians 1:15, 16). It is His work as well to convince of sin as of righteousness (John 16:8).

3. By what means this comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is prevented and interrupted?(1) This comfortable converse with God is greatly obstructed when it is apprehended that only the benefits and effects of Christ's righteousness are communicated to believers, and not the very righteousness itself.(2) This comfortable converse is interrupted by supposing that the great God has put all His creatures, believers as well as others, into a state of probation or trial, and that a man cannot be fully persuaded of the safety of his state till the day of his death.(3) Believers' comfortable converse with God is further prevented or interrupted by a changing or shifting the foundation of our faith and hope. Some that have begun in the spirit think to be made perfect by the flesh (Galatians 3:3).Use: 1. Surely a believer's converse with God must be very precious when Satan finds out so many ways to prevent and interrupt it. Were it then, the office of faith in regard of this continuous judgment which God is exercising upon us because He loves us is, first of all, to open our hearts to it by confession, by frank communion, by referring all our actions to Him to court that investigation. And then, further, remember that this judgment is one that demands our thankful acceptance of the discipline which it puts in force. If we knew ourselves we should bless God for our sorrows. These are His special means of drawing His children away from their evil.

II. FAITH CARRIES US WHILE LIVING TO THE SOCIETY OF THE LIVING DEAD. "The Judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect." Immediately on the thought of God rising in the writer's mind there rises also the thought of the blessed company in the centre of whom He lives and reigns. "The spirits of... men made perfect." That is to say, they dwell freed from the incubus and limitations, and absolved from the activities, of a bodily organisation. Then, further, these spirits are " perfect." The writer has said, at the close of the preceding chapter, that the ancient saints " without us should not be made perfect." And here he employs the same word with distinct reference, as I suppose, to his previous declaration. From which I infer that Jesus Christ shot some rays of His victorious and all-reconciling power from His Cross into the regions of darkness, and brought thence those who were waiting for His coming through many a long age. A great painter has left on the walls of a little cell in his Florentine convent a picture of the victorious Christ, white-robed and banner-bearing, breaking down the iron gates that shut in the dark rocky cave; and flocking to Him, with outstretched hands of eager welcome, the whole long series from the first man downwards, hastening to rejoice in His light, and to participate in His redemption. So the ancient Church was "perfected" in Christ; but the words refer, not only to those Old Testament patriarchs and saints, but to all who, up to the time of the writer's composition of his letter, had "slept in Jesus." They have reached their goal in Him. But yet that "perfecting" does not exclude progress, continuous through all the ages; and especially it does not exclude one great step in advance which, as Scripture teaches us, will be taken when the resurrection of the body is granted. Corporeity is the perfecting of humanity. Body, soul, and spirit, these make the full-summed man in all his powers. And so the souls beneath the altar, clothed in white, and lapt in felicity, do yet wait for the adoption, even the redemption of the body. Mark, further, that these spirits perfected would not have been perfected there unless they had been made just here. That is the first step, without which nothing in death has any tendency to ennoble or exalt men. If we are ever to come to the perfecting of the heavens, we must begin with the justifying that takes place on earth. Let me point you to one other consideration bearing not so much on the condition as on the place of these perfected spirits. It is very significant that they should be closely associated in our text with " God the Judge of all." Is there any hint that men who have been redeemed, who, being unjust, have been made just, and have had experience of restoration and of the misery of departure, shall, in the ultimate order of things, stand nearer the throne than unfallen spirits, and teach angels?

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. I am to show THAT IT IS A VERY AWFUL, THOUGH A COMFORTABLE, THING TO CONVERSE WITH GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL.

1. The majesty and glory of the great God makes it awful conversing with Him.

2. God's omniscience is another thing which makes it solemn conversing with God as Judge of all (Hebrews 4:13).

3. The purity and holiness of God make it a solemn thing for polluted sinners to have any converse with Him.

4. The strictness of God's law, which is the rule of judgment, makes it a solemn thing to converse with this great and glorious Judge. God judges of all my thoughts and actions by the same law now that sentence is to be passed by in the great day of accounts.Use: 1. Is it so solemn a thing for believers in Christ to come to God the Judge of all; how or "where then must the sinner and the ungodly appear"?

2. Is it so solemn a thing to converse with God the Judge of all? Then, believer, how seldom art thou in a right frame for duty. You know with what solemnity and preparation they of old attended on God when giving the law. The people were sanctified to-day and to-morrow, and washed their clothes to be in readiness against the third day (Exodus 19:10). Is there less call for preparation and solemnity under the gospel? are trifling frames and a worldly spirit any part of that liberty we have in Christ? Dare we go to holy ordinances drowned in the cares of this life, reeking in the filth of some unsubdued lust?

3. Learn from what has been said, the only way to think of future judgment with pleasure and comfort. It is by coming to God the Judge of all, now.

4. What a blessed gospel is that which reveals the only righteousness wherein a poor guilty sinner may appear before God with comfort!

II. How Is IT THAT SUCH A CONVERSE IS BEGUN BETWEEN A HOLY GOD AND POOR SINNERS?

1. It is begun in the conviction or sensibleness a soul has that he is a guilty lost sinner.

2. In order to a poor sinner's comfortably conversing with God the Judge of all, there must be a free confession of all sin and a subscribing to the rights of His justice. This is called an accepting of the punishment of one's iniquity (Leviticus 26:41) and a clearing and justifying God when we are judged (Psalm 51:4).

3. In order to a poor sinner's comfortable converse with God the Judge of all, there must be an absolute renouncing all righteousness of his own.

4. The way to have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all is to come before Him in the Mediator's righteousness and to plead it with Him as thy justifying righteousness.Use: 1. If there be no coming to God as Judge of all with comfort but by confessing sin, their state must be sad who seek comfort by hiding or lessening sin.

2. Must a soul be brought to submit to the rights of God's justice in order to a comfortable converse with Him as Judge of all? then woe to all such as quarrel with God's judgment.

3. Must all self-righteousness be renounced in order to a comfortable converse with God the Judge of all? How contrary is that doctrine which sets up the creature's sincere obedience as a part of our gospel-righteousness!

III. IN WHAT INSTANCES AND BY WHAT METHODS THIS CONVERSE WHICH BELIEVERS HAVE WITH GOD THE JUDGE OF ALL IS MAINTAINED AND CARRIED ON.

1. I am to give some instances wherein believers have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all, through the whole of their gospel profession and walk. The apostle speaks of it as a privilege attending their state, not a blessing peculiar to some extraordinary frames. It is a believer's settled mercy and daily duty to converse with God the Judge of all.(1) A great part of this comfortable converse with God lies in those high and honourable thoughts which believers have of His righteousness as Judge of all.(2) Another instance wherein believers have comfortable converse with God lies in their pleading justification before God upon the footing of righteousness.(3) Another instance wherein believers have comfortable converse with God the Judge of all lies in their referring themselves to His righteous judgment with respect to their state, their frames, and all their actions.(4) Another instance wherein believers have comfortably conversed with God the Judge of all lies in a hearty approval of all providential dispensations to themselves and others.(5) Another instance of this comfortable converse which believers have with God the Judge of all is in a way of anticipating, or antedating as it were, that sentence of absolution which shall be openly pronounced upon them at the last day.

2. How or by what special methods this comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained.(1) By looking often to the everlasting settlements and grace of the covenant; what God does in time is by virtue of covenant-agreement with His Christ and our Surety in eternity (Psalm 98:3).(2) This comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained by the soul's daily faith on the person of Christ as God-man.(3) This comfortable converse with God is promoted and maintained by earnest endeavours after conformity to God in righteousness and true holiness (1 Peter 1:16).(4) A believer's converse with God the Judge of all is promoted and maintained by his coming often to the blood of sprinkling.(5) This comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is promoted by the believer's application to God as a Father in Christ (Ephesians 2:18).(6) This comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is promoted and maintained by direct acts of faith on the promises of the covenant.(7) A daily application to the Spirit as the glorifier of the Father and of Christ. All the glory of the Father's provision for lost sinners in the person and blood of Christ, and in the grace of the covenant, depends upon the Spirit's revelation of it to and in the soul (Galatians 1:15, 16). It is His work as well to convince of sin as of righteousness (John 16:8),

3. By what means this comfortable converse with God as Judge of all is prevented and interrupted?(1) This comfortable converse with God is greatly obstructed when it is apprehended that only the benefits and effects of Christ's righteousness are communicated to believers, and not the very righteousness itself.(2) This comfortable converse is interrupted by supposing that the great God has put all His creatures, believers as well as others, into a state of probation or trial, and that a man cannot be fully persuaded of the safety of his state till the day of his death.(3) Believers' comfortable converse with God is further prevented or interrupted by a changing or shifting the foundation of our faith and hope. Some that have begun in the spirit think to be made perfect by the flesh (Galatians 3:3).Use: 1. Surely a believer's converse with God must be very precious when Satan finds out so many ways to prevent and interrupt it. Were it not a great privilege, it would be less envied, less obstructed.

2. How needful is a doctrinal clearness in the business of a sinner's justification in the sight of God! Confusion in the mind and judgment makes confusion in the soul's comfort.

3. To show what a blessed privilege such a comfortable converse is in the whole of believers' course heavenwards. Wherein the privilege of such a converse does consist.(1) This blessed converse makes all other comforts blessings.(2) This comfortable converse which believers have with God sweetens all their afflictions and crosses. No trial befals thee but it was put into the covenant. It comes from the hand of God as a reconciled Father for thy profit and purging; not from His hand as a sin-revenging Judge for thy punishment.(3) This comfortable converse with God makes duties and ordinances sweet; why should there be terror and fear where there is no enmity, no distance?(4) This comfortable converse with God makes all reproaches we receive from men sit easy upon us (Psalm 31:14, 15).(5) This comfortable converse with God secures against the threats, the wiles, and hellish designs of Satan.(6) This comfortable converse with God makes death and judgment without terror. Doth the law acquit thee now? it will never condemn thee then. A serpent without a sting may affright, but it cannot injure.

(John Hill.)

When, a few years since, a Mahometan convert at Calcutta came to Lal Behouri Sing for baptism, the missionary asked him, "What was the vital point in which he found Mohammedanism most defective, and which he found that Christianity satisfactorily supplied?" His prompt reply was — "Mohammedanism is full of the mercy of God; and while I felt no real consciousness of guilt as the breaker of God's law, this satisfied me; but when I felt my guilt, I felt that it was not with God's mercy, but with His justice that I had first to do. Now to meet the claims of God's justice Mohammedanism had made no provision; but this is the very thing that I have found fully accomplished by the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and therefore Christianity is now the only adequate religion for me, a guilty sinner."

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

The spirits of just men made perfect.
1. The contemplation of departed saints is calculated to reconcile us to our lot upon earth, however adverse and afflictive in its nature. What was the condition of these exalted and glorified spirits while they tabernacled upon earth? Did their station here in any way resemble the state in which they are now placed? Or, did their worldly circumstances foreshow what they have come to enjoy? No doubt some of them were men of rank and affluence; but still, it is well known that many of them were persons of low degree, who were subjected to want, who were pinched with poverty, and oppressed with both personal and relative affliction during the period of their mortal life. Amongst these there is a Job, there is a Lazarus, who was under the disagreeable necessity of begging his bread. We here learn that neither poverty nor affliction is any mark of the Divine displeasure; but that the troubles which afflict the just, on the contrary, may be great and many in number. Besides, we have here the most convincing evidence that God will reject none on account of his indigent circumstances or diseased body; but that the poor and afflicted may nevertheless be amongst the friends of heaven.

2. The contemplation of departed saints is calculated to preserve us from despondency under a consciousness of guilt and imperfection. As this may be occasioned by a deep sense of guilt and depravity, so a means of preventing it may be found in contemplating the spirits of just men made perfect. Though they were created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, and were studying to die unto sin and live unto righteousness; yet they had reason to complain of the little progress which they made in the way of holiness. Though they all delighted in the law of the Lord after the inward man, and in some measure accounted it as their meat and drink to do the will of God; yet they were at times neglectful of their duty, and, through inadvertence or the strength of temptation, were stepping aside from the path of rectitude. There was not one of them that always did good and never sinned. Why, then, should Christians despond while they recollect what these objects of their contemplation once were, and attend to what they now are. These once struggled against the corruption of nature, but they have obtained the victory. Instead of being excluded from the beatific presence of Jehovah, and falling under the condemnation of the Almighty, they are now reaping the honours and the felicity of the righteous. Yes, they are "the spirits of just men made perfect": their guilt is wholly cancelled, and their depravity is completely done away.

3. The contemplation of departed saints is calculated to support and comfort us under all our trials and afflictions. The saints in heaven have been made perfect as in holiness, so also in blessedness: they have entered into glory; they have removed from a world of trial and suffering to the land of eternal rest, where there is no more sorrow nor sighing, no more sickness nor death.

4. The contemplation of departed saints is calculated to animate us in the discharge of duty, and to make us persevere in the practice of holiness. Methinks I now see them holding forth the ensigns of royalty, and hear them saying to us who profess to be the disciples of Jesus: "These are the rewards which God hath given, Be not weary, then, in well-doing, for you will at length reap if you faint not."

5. The contemplation of departed saints is calculated to console our minds while mourning on account of the death of our Christian friends. Though they are absent from the body, yet they are present with the Lord. Though the frail house of their earthly tabernacle is dissolved, yet they have obtained the building of God, "the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

(John Ralston, M. A.)

Plain Sermons by Contributors to " Tracts for the Times. "
1. First, let us think what an encouragement it is to us to go forward on our Christian course with zeal, perseverance, and steadiness, when we reflect on that perfect state of peace and holiness to which " the spirits of the just " shall be admitted in the eternal world.

2. Again, let us consider, that if we are indeed faithful servants of Christ Jesus, then we are members of that Comumnion of Saints, that mystical body, whereof He is the Head. Then we are entitled to a place among patriarchs, prophets, saints, and martyrs. Then the glory to which we shall be admitted at last is as much above the glory of the greatest prince or potentate on earth, as heaven itself is above this world. Such, and so great, is the dignity of the true Christian.

3. Another thing to be considered is, of the deep, sincere, and thorough humility which must be expected of those who think to be admitted into the blessed society of " the spirits of just men made perfect." Indeed, the true dignity of the Christian consists in his humility: — "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." How can we in reason expect to be " numbered with God's saints in glory everlasting," if it be not our constant study to follow them as they followed Christ, "in all lowliness and meekness, in long-suffering and loving forbearance"? And these considerations will be still further heightened in proportion as we remember, on the one side, our own worthlessness even at the best; and on the other, the vastness of that mercy, the boundlessness of those promises which are held out to us. For to a mind which is at all well disposed, nothing can be more touching, nothing more humbling, than to receive kindnesses from one whom we have injured. What, then, must be our feelings when we contemplate our behaviour to God, and how He has requited us! " What heart can think of these things worthily?" or how can we sufficiently bow ourselves down with humility?

4. Let me, in conclusion, call to your thoughts what comfort and encouragement there is in this heavenly doctrine of " the spirits of just men made perfect," to be received into the eternal joy of their Lord. Comfort and encouragement in respect of ourselves, in making us patient, cheerful, and thankful; and in our conduct towards others, in making us brotherly and kind, and still looking forward to a happier meeting in a world where neither sin nor sorrow can enter.

(Plain Sermons by Contributors to " Tracts for the Times. ")

What an announcement! For the manner in which this passage is introduced sufficiently shows that it is designed to impart encouragement and solace, to awaken spiritual-mindedness and hope. And yet there is something which seems to mock us, which may excite our consternation, depress our zeal. "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." Know we not otherwise? The link between ourselves and those whom we loved is broken. Does it not seem to trifle with us, when we are "bereaved indeed," to tell us that we are come to them from whom we are so hopelessly and irreparably torn? "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." Our natural apprehensiveness is thus excited by the appeal. Creatures of flesh and blood, nothing seems so strongly to fasten upon our instinctive fear as spiritual contact and communication. Who would wish to behold the dearest friend whom he had ever loved, returning a spirit from the region of spirits, with their manner and mystery? What nerve could encounter the interview? What fondest heart could endure the shadowy embrace? And do we not shrink when we are bidden to approach this ghostly band? "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." Our ardour is depressed. Our sympathy is checked. Our imitation is debarred. Little fellowship can we claim with their refined essences, their unalloyed purity and bliss- they subsist beyond the range of our ideas and susceptibilities. But the purpose of the Holy Ghost in these words must stand: that purpose can only be tender, consolatory, assuring. And is it not most kind and cheering to inform and certify us, that they, who are thus departed, are not lost? That, rescued from the burden of this flesh and delivered from the hazard of this world, they expatiate in the freedom of a nature ethereal and incorruptible? And is it not animating and triumphant for us to perceive, in their release, the pledge and model of our exaltation, when our spirits shall throw off their oppressions, and shall attain to yonder state of immaterial being? Come, then, to these spirits — endeavour to conceive of them, to catch their fervours, to reciprocate their joys, to respond their strains!

I. "WHO ARE THEY? WHENCE CAME THEY?" They are not the natives of heaven. They have no proper birthright in it. They belong to a very different sphere. They are men. They have been prepared, while on the "earth which was given to them," for their present abode. They have been brought hither by an act utterly independent of their original constitution. It is a state altogether strange and new. They constitute the just. Only the just can be in a condition of safety and favour, only the just can be endued with a nature of sanctity and love. Theirs is a true sense of right, of duty, the firm habit of fidelity.

II. THESE "JUST MEN" ARE NOT ANY LONGER IN OUR PRESENT SPHERE, OR KIND, OF EXISTENCE. We are summoned to meditate them in a new condition. The image of the earth is effaced. They are no more seen in a compound nature. They are "spirits." All beside is left in the grave. Nothing material cleaves to them. But it is the higher essence — the intellect the consciousness — the self — which this disembodiment must suppose. How may this state of spiritualism be conceived? It is described as subsisting in intimate union with the Saviour. It is to " depart and to be with Christ." It is to "be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." He "receives" them. This is the great distinctiveness of their present condition. Their inward nature, drawn forth from the outward, is in a relationship; in an access to the Blessed Redeemer far different from any enjoyment of His presence, or communion with His person, known on earth. In addition to this immediate presence of the Redeemer-God, that light in which they see light, the light of the Lamb -the spirits of just men are "made perfect." This is a discovery of their state which greatly explains itself. This spirit is matured in its powers and consummated in its joys. According to its capacities it is complete. All its true aims are unfolded. It is wrought out into its fullest development. It is a condition of pure spiritualism. Certain facts suggest themselves as the necessary accompaniments of such a condition.

1. The consciousness must be very distinct. The self revolves upon its own centre, ever substantiating what it really is, ever enjoying its proper exercises of understanding and emotion. This "hidden man" lives in his own light. Nothing is attached to the spirit which can divert this concentrated impression.

2. The inward life must be very strong. The whole soul, all that is within it, is absorbed in that deep and holy sense.

3. The intellectual faculty must be very clear. It still " follows on to know the Lord," it still "follows hard after God."

4. The meditative abstraction must be very intent.

5. The adoring gratitude must be very earnest.

6. Its awaiting aspiration must be very glad. The disembodied saint ascertains the future stage to which it constantly approaches, which is the last of all, and which is only wanted to complete his entire being. He understands its nature. He is assured of its certainty. Oh, the transition, the passage of the spirit, escaped from earth, released from mortality, to this glorious state! Spirit! — which hast long walked in darkness, brooded in sorrow, pined in weariness — spirit! which wast long tossed with tempest, harassed by hostility, vexed with care — spirit! which didst long groan within thyself — spirit! long bound to sense and chained to infirmity spirit! long lacerated and bruised with inward wounds — spirit! the shadow of whose guilt hitherto lay upon thee though forgiven, the effort of whose depravity until now struggled in thee though subdued — Christian soul depart! Go forth to rest and home!

III. THESE SEPARATED SPIRITS ARE REPRESENTED TO US AS IN A STATE OF EXALTED ADVANCEMENT, DEPENDING UPON THEIR DISEMBODIMENT. This doctrine of immediate happiness was not entirely concealed from the ancient saints. Their language occasionally leads us to think that they had some conception of it (Psalm 16:10; Psalm 73:24; Psalm 49:15; Isaiah 57:2). Christ was the Conqueror. "He spoiled principalities and powers." Of Him it was declared that He should "swallow up death in victory." He ascends! He is "received up into glory!" There are not only the angels and the chariots in their thousands of thousands — there is another train! All holy spirits follow Him who had appeared a spirit to them in their place of keeping. They now forsake that place for "things above." And, therefore, it is said in the text: "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." But this is asserted as a privilege unknown before. It arises from the new covenant in contradistinction from the old. It is explained: "God having provided some better things for us" (than for those who died before the rising of Christ) "that they without us" (without living until our time and under our dispensation) "should not be made perfect." But they are now made perfect, in common with us. This "perfection " is bestowed upon all past, as well as for all future, time, and "ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect!"

1. The spirits of just men will be made perfect in holiness.

2. Such spirits are raised to the perfection of wisdom.

3. These souls of the departed are perfectly secure.

4. A fulness of beatitude must be contained in their perfection.They can know no want: yet are they full of holy desires, ever waking only to be satisfied, ever longing only to be fulfilled. The vessel at each moment overflows: but at every moment it also is enlarged. There are pleasures for evermore. The source of all is in the Infinite Plenitude. The river of life proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

IV. THERE ARE RELATIONS WHICH UNITE THE JUST ON EARTH, AND THE SPIRITS OF THE JUST IN HEAVEN, NOTWITHSTANDING THE DISPARITY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE CONDITIONS. Certain affinities may be discovered between mind and mind in this world, which are not restricted to personal intercourse, which operate as in defiance of the laws of space. And the announcement of the text is but the enlargement of such mental affinities. It is not said that we shall come to the spirits of just men made perfect, but that we are.

1. There is unity. To impress this upon our minds the Church is shadowed by various figures, all of which have respect to its indivisibility. It is a city, a corporate community, but all, who are enrolled in it, partake of common immunities, and are "fellow-citizens with the saints." It is a household. It is a household of faith and of God. They of this household are all they who are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. "Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." Its distribution in these different abodes affects not its identity. It shall find even in heaven many mansions. It is a body. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ." This, then, is no fiction nor ideal. It is based on our union with Christ. We are all one in Him. We are joined to the Lord, and are one spirit. It is, therefore, declared to have been the design of God in redemption, to bind, in communion and identification, all His people, however scattered abroad on earth, or however raised to the glories of a higher existence. "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him." "And having made peace through the blood of his Cross, by Him to reconcile," or to unite, "all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." These are the links which separation cannot weaken, and which death cannot dissolve.

2. There is resemblance. Heaven is doubtless a place. But we must rather conceive of it as a state of mind. The heaven of perfect spirits must be chiefly this. This state of mind — far transcending all present attainment of knowledge, sanctity, and joy — consists not in estrangement and extreme. It is not alien from what is now experienced. There is no principle, no companionship, no employment, no rapture, of that region, but has in the Christian on earth its foretaste and counterpart. He "hath the Father and the Son." "The Spirit dwelleth in Him." "He hath eternal life." He is a "partaker of the glory that shall be revealed." The heaven which he enters and enjoys is but the expansion of principles and emotions he long has known. He has been changed already into the image of the Divine glory, "from glory to glory." He wanted but this consummation. The last of dying triumph, and the first of empyrean rapture, may thus easily and naturally blend: and in the yearnings of a kindred mind, we now come to the spirits of just men made perfect. Do we not know it? Have we not found it? Are now our affections set on things above? Does not the holy city come down from God out of heaven? Is not our conversation in heaven?

3. There is endearment. A holy affinity unites us to the spirits of just men made perfect. They are the Church of the first-born: they are our elder brethren. Our desire is to them. Are they weaned from us? Are we forgotten? Is all sympathy withdrawn? Hearts grow not selfish in heaven. Spirits made perfect can abandon no love which it was ever their right to form, their duty to maintain, their benefit to exercise: their perfection is the pledge that each holy attachment is raised to that perfection.

4. There is appropriation. We already have obtained a portion in heaven. "Joint-heirs with Christ Jesus," He has claimed it for us. He is our Forerunner. "He has for us entered." He "now appears in the presence of God for us." We "come to the spirits of just men made perfect," for they inhabit our country, they dwell ill our home. They have preceded us, but "things to come are ours," and their title is no surer than our own.

(R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)

Homilist.
I. THEY CONSCIOUSLY LIVE IN A DISEMBODIED STATE.

II. THEY CONSCIOUSLY LIVE IN A MORALLY PERFECT STATE.

III. THEY CONSCIOUSLY LIVE IN A GLORIOUSLY SOCIAL STATE.

IV. THEY CONSCIOUSLY LIVE IN A SPIRITUALLY ACCESSIBLE STATE.

1. We come to them in a loving memory of their histories.

2. We come to them by appropriating their principles of action.

3. We come to them by a participation of the sources of their joy.

4. We come to them in earnest hope.Lessons:

1. The worthlessness of all worldly and adventitious distinctions.

2. The paltriness of religious sectarianism.

3. The infinite value of Christ's office.

4. The blessedness of death to the good.

(Homilist.)

"Spirits" — because resurrection is future. The bodies still tenant the grave or the deep — only the spirits are free. This is that state of "deliverance from the bondage of the flesh," in which Jesus Himself, quickened with a new vitality, went and preached, between death and resurrection, to "spirits," themselves separate from the body. This is that state, "Paradise" Jesus called it, in which the dying penitent beside Him should that day be His companion, spirit with spirit. "Just men," or righteous: not in that self-righteousness "which is of the law"; not in that righteousness which Christ Himself, He said, came not so much as to "call" or to evangelise; on the contrary, "just" in the justice of the Just One — righteous in the merit of a full justification, and in the grace of a progressive and at last perfect sanctification. "Just men made perfect." Completed and consummated in that holiness which, begun below by the work of the Holy Spirit, is at last finished and accomplished for ever; to be sullied no more, nor grieved any more, by the contact or presence of evil: sealed now with the stamp of a blessed immortality, and waiting only the gift of a transformed body to make the whole man anew in the very image and likeness of God. "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." We read and speak often of Christ's coming — His coming in the flesh, His coming in the Spirit, His coming in glory. Here we read of an advent, not of Christ, but of the Christian; an advent, not in the future tense, but in the perfect — not anticipative or progressive, but finished and done. But this is not the world which the text opens. The text bids us see ourselves tenants and citizens of a world out of sight. Like the prophet's servant in Dothan, we are to open our eyes to a mountain full of chariots and horsemen of fire — and those "chariots" of God are "thousands of angels"; and those "horsemen" are God's saints, already gone from amongst the living, but present with us, for companionship and for sympathy and for communion still. You have had, you have made, an advent — an advent for abode, an advent for perpetuity. "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect."

1. The first and least thing here said — itself great and glorious too — is the union of the Christian living with the Christian dead in their faith and in their example. It is a thought not without comfort, that, as Christians, we have an ancestry and a pedigree. The continuity is not broken. The Church of all time is one. Then disgrace not your family. Bring no blot upon your escutcheon. You are come to the spirits of the perfect. You join on to them in the genealogical tree. Be followers, be imitators of them, as they once, in their day and generation, were of Christ.

2. Ye are come to the spirits and souls of the righteous in their sympathy. There is a living as well as a memorial sympathy between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven. All the glimpses given us in Holy Scripture of the mind and life of Paradise seem to point this way. It was of no sleeping soul that Christ spoke on the Cross to the malefactor beside Him. It is no bathing in Lethe, for the obliteration of earth's memories and the annihilation of human affections, which the gospel opens to us as the prize of the race to him that overcometh. "Rest with us" is something different from this selfish, this isolated, this drowsy repose. Even nature demands something different. There is an instinct as well as a revelation of this advent of the living to the departed. We want it for comfort, we want it for admonition. God has knit together His elect in one communion and fellowship. There is a communion of saints as well as a Catholic Church; the militant and the perfected are not two societies, they are one. Have any of as a friend in the happy land — father or mother, sister or wife, friend closer than a brother? Remember then, remember for use as well as for consolation, that you "are come" to that other — come, by an advent such as there is none between the living. The stripping off of this carcase gives a sympathy, gives a contact, gives an intuition of love such as cannot be had here. You are come to the dead, as you cannot come to the living. See then that you give joy, only joy, to the inhabitants of that world.

3. "Ye are come to the spirits of the righteous" in their single, their engrossing devotion to Christ their Lord. It is said, I scarcely care to ask whether in history or fiction, that there was one from whom had been taken away by the stroke of death " the desire of his eyes," the wife of his youth. He had laid her in the earth; yet night after night she visited him in his chamber, herself yet not herself, the same but a thousandfold more beautiful — and in that periodical converse, making night day for him and darkness light, he half forgot his bereavement and his desolation. One night she came, and he could not repress an exclamation upon her peculiar beauty. "I never saw you," he said, "so lovely." She said, "It is my last visit to you: to-morrow I am to see Him, and after that sight I shall have no eye for aught else." He saw her no more. Is not this, perhaps, the answer to those questions so often agitated by the mourner as to the future sight and recognition of friends? Be sure that nothing shall be denied thee in that world, which could give thee solace or satisfaction. If thou desirest there thy friend's face or voice or hand, be sure thou shalt have it. Nevertheless, when thou shalt have been there but a little while; when, if so it be, after a season of preparation, as it were of purifying and anointing for "the day of the espousals," thou shalt actually have seen the King in His beauty — I say not that thou shalt be debarred then from other sight or other converse; but this I say — the desire for aught else will have left thee; all other love, not destroyed, not diminished, rather ten thousandfold enhanced, will yet be absorbed and swallowed up in that; thy loved one, and thou, will be so wrapped up in another love and higher, that the selfish love will be gone, and only the Divine love will continue.

(Dean Vaughan.)

Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.
I. GOD'S REVELATION TO US IS IN THE FORM OF A COVENANT. Just as when a king gives forth a proclamation, he is bound by the fact that he gave it forth, so God, out of all the infinite possibilities of His action, condescends to tell us what His line is to be, and He will adhere to it. He lets us see the works of the clock, if I may so say, not wholly, but in so far as we are affected by His action. What, then, are the terms of this covenant? We have them drawn out, first, in the words of Jeremiah, who apprehended, when he was dwelling in the midst of that external system, that it could no be a final system; and next, by the writer of this letter quoting the prophet; who, in the midst of the vanishing of that which could be shaken, saw emerging, like the fairy form of the fabled goddess out of the sea-foam, the vast and permanent outlines of a nobler system. The promises of the covenant are, then, full forgiveness as the foundation of all, and built upon that knowledge of God inwardly illuminating and making a man independent of external helps, though he may sometimes be grateful for them; then a mutual possession, which is based upon these, whereby I, even I, can venture to say, God is mine, and, more wonderful still, I, even I, can venture to believe that He bends down from heaven, and says: "And thou, thou art Mine!" And then, as the result of all — named first, but coming last in the order of Nature — the law of His commandment will be so written upon the heart that delight and duty are spelt with the same letters, and His will is our will. If these, then, be the articles of the paction, think for a moment of the blessedness that lies lived in this ancient, and to some of us musty, thought of a covenant of God's. It gives a basis for knowledge. Unless He audibly and articulately and verifiably utters His mind and will, I know not where men are to go to get it. And then, again, let me remind you how here is the one foothold, if I may so say, for confidence. If God hath not spoken there is nothing to reckon upon. There are perhapses, probabilities, if you like, possibilities, but nothing beyond. And no man can build a faith on a peradventure.

II. JESUS CHRIST IS THE EXECUTOR OF THIS COVENANT. The depth of the thought is only reached when we recognise His divinity and His humanity. He is the ladder with its foot on earth and its top in heaven. Because God dwells in Him, and the Word became flesh, He is able to lay His hand upon both, and to bring God to man, and man to God. He brings God to man by the declaration of His nature incarnate in humanity. And, on the other hand, He brings man to God; for He stands to each of us as our true Brother, and united to us by such close and real bonds as that all which He has been and done may be ours if we join ourselves to Him by faith. And He brings men to God, because in Him only do we find the drawings that incline wayward and wandering hearts to the Father. And He seals for us that great covenant in His own Person and work, in so far as what He in manhood has done has made it possible that such promises should be given to us. And, still further, He is the Mediator of the covenant, in so far as He Himself possesses in His humanity all the blessings which manhood is capable of deriving from the Father, and He has them all in order that He may give them all. There is the great Reservoir from which all men may fill their tiny cups.

III. NOTE THE SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD WHICH SEALS THE COVENANT. The blood shed establishes the covenant; and the blood sprinkled brings us into it. If Jesus had not died there would have been no promises for us, beginning with forgiveness and ending in wills delighting in God's law. It is "the new covenant in His blood." The death of Christ is ever present to the Divine mind and determines the Divine action. Further, that sprinkling, which introduced technically and formally these people into that covenant, represents for us the personal application to ourselves of the power of His death and of His life, by which we may make all God's promises our own, and be cleansed from all sin. It is "sprinkled." Then it is capable of division into indefinitely small portions, and of the closest contact with individuals.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. Consider Christ, our Mediator, in His REASON. His person is amiable; He is all made up of love and beauty. He is the effigies of His Father, "the express image of His person." Consider —

1. Christ's person in two natures.

2. His two natures in one person.

II. Consider Christ, our Mediator, in His GRACES: these are the sweet savour of His ointments that make the virgins love Him. Christ, our blessed Mediator, is said to be, "full of grace and truth." He had the anointing of the Spirit without measure. Grace in Christ is after a more eminent and glorious manner than it is in any of the saints.

1. Jesus Christ, our Mediator, hath perfection in every grace. He is a panoply, magazine, and storehouse of all heavenly treasure, all fulness.

2. There is a never-failing fulness of grace in Christ.

3. Grace in Christ is communicative, His grace is for us; the holy oil of the Spirit was poured on the head of this blessed Aaron that it might run down upon us. Use

1. Admire the glory of this Mediator; He is God-man, He is co-essentially glorious with the Father.

2. If Christ be God-man in one person, then look unto Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

3. Is Jesus Christ God and man in one person? This, as it shows the dignity of believers, that they are nearly related to one of the greatest persons that is," in Him dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily," so it is of unspeakable comfort. Christ's two natures being married together, the Divine and human, all that Christ in either of His natures can do for believers, He will do.

(T. Watson.)

I. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THIS GRAND AND AMIABLE CHARACTER BY WHICH OUR BLESSED LORD IS HERE REPRESENTED TO US AS MEDIATOR OF THE NEW COVENANT? The Mediator betwixt God and man, acting in the Father's name, and by His authority, and acting in our behoof, and for our salvation.

1. But more particularly, in our serious attention to this subject, our urgent need of Him, in this great capacity, may first naturally occur to our thoughts. What man could not do, God hath effected. Our help is laid upon One who is mighty and able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through Him.

2. For it is to be observed that Jesus Christ is constituted and appointed by the Father Himself to this great office, to be Mediator of the new covenant.

3. But further. The Mediator of the new covenant is fully qualified to discharge this great office, to sustain this high character. The Redeemer of man is the Sea of God. Hence the infinite value and efficacy of His meritorious sufferings, and prevailing mediation

4. But He is the Mediator of the new covenant, through whom, and in virtue of whose atonement for sin, and satisfaction to Divine justice, the covenant is established and ratified, and all its benefits purchased. In a word, the full pardon of sin; established peace with God; the adoption of children; the grace of His Spirit; victory over sin and death; and a state of eternal happiness in the world to come.

5. But further, as Mediator of this covenant, He acts with God for man, that we may be brought to a compliance with the terms of the covenant, be reconciled in our hearts unto God, and live as the ransomed of the Lord. This is evidently necessary, in order to our receiving the blessings of this covenant. This work of mediation is carried on by His Word, by His servants speaking in His name, by the ordinances of the gospel, and by the influences of His Spirit.

6. He is the Mediator of the new covenant, who carrieth on the blessed work of mediation for us, now in His exalted state, and will continue to do so, until all its purposes shall be finally accomplished.

II. Consider WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE EXPRESSIONS " WE ARE COME TO HIM." Ye believe in Him as the Mediator of the new covenant. Ye see His excellency and all-sufficiency. Ye have received Him to be your Redeemer; ye have assented to the terms of His covenant on your part, and have yielded yourselves unto the Lord through this Mediator. Ye are spiritually united to Him. Ye live in a state of union and friendship with Him. Ye abide in Him by faith and love, and ere long shall ye be for ever with Him. That communion is now begun, which shall be hereafter perfected; because He liveth ye shall live for ever also.

(J. Williamson.)

He must have the natural power of God and the natural power of man. In an advocacy so original and peculiar as that which involves mediation between God and man, it is past our ability to conceive how it could be otherwise. The stairway of light seen in the splendid imageries of the patriarch's dream, touched both worlds, or it would not have been a medium of communication; a bridge flung across the river must touch both shores, or it could not be a medium of passage; and it seems but the language of fair analogy to say that a mediator between God and man must, in the mystery of his being, touch both natures, or he could not be the medium of intercourse.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

The blood of sprinkling.
I. JESUS' BLOOD SPEAKS BETTER THINGS IN GENERAL. What did the blood of Abel say? Was it not the blood of testimony? When Abel fell to the ground beneath his brother's club, he bore witness to spiritual religion. He died a martyr for the truth that God accepteth men according to their faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ, being also a testifier and witness for the faith of God, spake better things than Abel, because He had more to speak, and spake from more intimate acquaintance with God. Moreover, the blood of Abel spake good things in that it was the proof of faithfulness. His blood as it fell to the ground spake this good thing — it said," Great God, Abel is faithful to Thee." But the blood of Jesus Christ testifies to yet greater faithfulness still, for it was the sequel of a spotlessly perfect life, which no act of sin had ever defiled; whereas Abel's death furnished, it is true, a life of faith, but not a life of perfection. Moreover, we must never forget that all that Abel's blood could say as it fell to the ground was but the shadow of that more glorious substance of which Jesus' death assures us. Jesus did not typify atonement, but offered it. It is well to add that our Lord's person was infinitely more worthy and glorious than that of Abel, and consequently His death must yield to us a more golden-mouthed discourse than the death of a mere man like Abel.

II. Now we will remember that THE BLOOD OF JESUS SPEAKS BETTER THINGS TO GOD than the blood of Abel did. The blood of Abel cried in the ears of the Lord, for thus He said to Cain, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground." That cry did not go round to seek a mediator, but went directly to the judgment-seat of God, and laid an accusation against the murderer. Can you stand at Calvary now and view the flowing of the Saviour's blood from hands, and feet, and side? What are your own reflections as to what that blood says to God? That blood crieth with a loud voice to God, and what doth it say? Does it not say this? "O God, this time it is not merely a creature which bleeds, but though the body that hangs upon the Cross is the creature of Thy Holy Spirit, it is Thine own Son who now pours out His soul unto death. O God, wilt Thou despise the cries and the tears, the blood of Thine own Son?" Then, moreover, the voice would plead, "It is not only Thy Son, but Thy perfectly innocent Son, in whom was no necessity for dying, because He had no original sin which would have brought corruption on Him, who had moreover no actual sin, who throughout life had done nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Canst Thou see it, Thou God of all, canst Thou see the infinite holy and just Son of Thy heart led here to die, and not feel the force of the blood as it cries to Thee?" Was there not added to this fact that our Lord died to vindicate the honour of His Father? "For Thee, O God, for Thee He dies! If Thou wert content to stain Thine honour or to restrain Thy mercy, there were no need that He should give Himself." Is there not power in this voice? Yet over and above this the blood must have pleaded thus with God: — "O God, the blood which is now being shed, thus honourable and glorious in itself, is being poured out with a motive which is Divinely gracious. O God, it is a chain for God in heaven which binds the victim to the horns of the altar, a chain of everlasting love, of illimitable goodness." Now you and I could not see a man suffer out of pure benevolence without being moved by his sufferings, and shall God be unmoved? the perfectly holy and gracious God?

III. Furthermore, JESUS' BLOOD SPEAKS BETTER THINGS TO US IN OUR OWN HEARTS than the blood of Abel. When the sinner looks to Jesus slain, he may well say, "If I did not know that all this blood was shed for me as well as by me, my fears would multiply a thousandfold; but when I think that that precious blood is shed instead of mine, when I think that that is the blood of God's own dear Son, whom He has smitten instead of smiting me, making Him bear the whole of His wrath that I might not bear it, O nay God, what comforts come streaming from this blessed fountain!" Just in proportion as thought of murder would make Cain wretched, in the same proportion ought faith to make you happy as you think upon Jesus Christ slain; for the blood of Christ must have a more powerful voice than that of Abel, and it cries therefore more powerfully for you than the blood of Abel cried against his brother Cain.

IV. JESUS' BLOOD, EVEN IN MY TEXT, SPEAKS BETTER THINGS THAN THAT OF ABEL. It speaks the same things but in a better sense. Did you notice the first text? God said unto Cain, "What hast thou done?" Now that is what Christ's blood says to you: "What hast thou done?" Ah! Lord, done enough to make me weep for ever if it were not that Thou hast wept for me. What I want mainly to indicate is this. If you notice in the second text, this blood is called "the blood of sprinkling." Whether Abel's blood sprinkled Cain or not I cannot say, but if it did, it must have added to his horror to have had the blood actually upon him. But this adds to the joy in our case, for the blood of Jesus is of little value to us until it is sprinkled upon us. Faith dips the hyssop in the atoning blood and sprinkles it upon the soul, and the soul is clean. The application of the blood of Jesus is the true ground of joy, and the sure source of Christian comfort; the application of the blood of Abel must have been horror, but the application of the blood of Jesus is the root and ground of all delight. There is another matter in the text with which I conclude. The apostle says, "We are come to the blood of sprinkling." Now, from the blood of Abel every reasonable man would flee away. He that has murdered his fellow desires to put a wide distance between himself and the accusing corpse. But we come to the blood of Jesus. It is a topic in which we delight as our contemplations bring us nearer and nearer to it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. WHAT IS IT? What is this "blood of sprinkling"? In a few words, "the blood of sprinkling" represents the pains, the sufferings, the humiliation, and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, which He endured oil the behalf of guilty man. He properly, but yet most generously and spontaneously, came and shed His precious blood in the stead of sinners, to bring the guilty near to God. But the text does not merely speak of the blood shed, which I have explained to you, but of "the blood of sprinkling." This is the atonement applied for Divine purposes, and specially applied to our own hearts and consciences by faith.

1. The blood of sprinkling is the centre of the Divine manifestation under the gospel. Observe its innermost place in the passage before us.

2. I next ask you to look at the text and observe that this sprinkling of the blood, as mentioned by the Holy Ghost in this passage, is absolutely identical with Jesus Himself. If you have done with the blood of sprinkling, you have done with Jesus altogether; He will never part with His mediatorial glory as our sacrifice, neither can we come to Him if we ignore that character.

3. Observe that this "blood of sprinkling" is put in close contact with "the new covenant." To us Jesus in His atonement is Alpha and Omega, in Him the covenant begins and ends.

4. But I want you to notice that according to the text the blood is the voice of the new dispensation. Observe that on Sinai there was "the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they heard that entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." You look, therefore, under the new dispensation, for a voice, and you do not come to any till you reach the last object in the list, and there see" the blood of sprinkling that speaketh." Here, then, is the voice of the gospel; it is not the voice of a trumpet, nor the voice of words spoken in terrible majesty; but the blood speaks, and assuredly there is no sound more piercing, more potent, more prevailing.

5. Observe, that this voice is identical with the voice of the Lord Jesus.

6. This blood is always speaking. It always remains a plea with God, and a testimony to men.

7. This precious blood speaks " better things than that of Abel." It saith, "There is redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace." "He His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we were healed." "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The voice of the blood is this, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."

II. WHERE ARE WE? I have to explain what is meant by the expression which is found in the twenty-second verse of the chapter, "Ye are come." Link the twenty-second verse with this twenty-fourth, and read, "Ye are come to the blood of sprinkling."

1. Well, first, ye are come to the hearing of the gospel of the atoning sacrifice. You are come to hear, not of your sin and its doom, not of the last judgment and the swift destruction of the enemies of God, but of love to the guilty, pity for the miserable, mercy for the wicked.

2. In a better sense, going a little further, we have not only come to the blood of sprinkling by hearing about it, but we have come to it because the great God now deals with us upon methods which are founded and grounded upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

3. Further, there is a far more effectual way of coming to the blood of sprinkling than this — when by faith that blood is sprinkled upon our souls. This is absolutely needed: the blood shed must become to each one of us the blood sprinkled.

4. Further, to come to this blood of sprinkling means thankfully to enjoy all that comes to us through the blood of sprinkling.

5. I think, once more, that this coming to the blood of sprinkling means also that we feel the full effect of it in our lives. The man who knows that Jesus shed His blood for him, and has had that blood applied to his conscience, becomes a sin-hating man, consecrated to Him who has cleansed him.

III. WHAT THEN?

1. Do not refuse the voice of Jesus by cold indifference.

2. When you resolve to study the doctrine, do not approach it with prejudice through misapprehension.

3. Do not refuse the voice of the Lord Jesus by rejecting the principle of expiation.

4. Do not refuse this voice of mercy by preferring your own way of salvation.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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