We must pay closer attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
therefore connects this chapter with the preceding. Because the Son of God is immeasurably greater than the angels, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard," etc. Our text presents to us a view of the superior privileges and the more solemn responsibilities of Christians as compared with those who lived in the earlier dispensation. We shall confine our attention at present to the former portion of the subject, which we may state thus - The privileges of this Christian dispensation are much superior to those of the Mosaic economy.
I. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS MADE BY ANGELS, THE LATER BY THE LORD. The Law was a "word spoken by angels." The Law came from God, but it was given to Moses by the mediation and ministry of angels. They were present and assisted at the giving of the Law on Sinai. The testimony of Scripture upon this point is conclusive (see Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). And Josephus says, "Our best maxims and most excellent laws we have learned of God by means of angels." And Philo: "There were present at the giving of the Law, visible sounds, animated and splendid, flames of fire, spirits, trumpets, and Divine men running hither and hither." But the revelation of the gospel was by the Son of God - "having at the first been spoken by the Lord." "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Inasmuch as the Son is higher than the angels, insomuch is the revelation of the gospel higher than that of the Law.
II. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS CONFIRMED BY SUPERNATURAL AND TERRIBLE SIGNS, THE LATER BY MORE NUMEROUS AND GRACIOUS SUPERNATURAL SIGNS. Very awful and alarming were the extraordinary phenomena at the giving of the Law. "The mount burned with fire," etc. (Hebrews 12:18-21). "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke," etc. (Exodus 19:18). But the gospel revelation is more abundantly and more convincingly confirmed. "God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders," etc. (ver. 4). The miraculous confirmations of the Christian revelation were:
1. More numerous than those of the revelation of the Law. The Savior's public ministry was marked by an almost unbroken series of miraculous works.
2. More marvelous. To raise the dead to life again with a word is far more wonderful than all the fire and smoke, the thunderings and trumpetings and tremblings of Sinai.
3. More various. The miracles of Sinai seem to have been limited to the phenomena and forces of nature. But those which were wrought by our Lord and his apostles related to nature's forces, to nature's products, to diseases of the body, to diseases of the mind, to evil spirits, to life and death.
4. More beneficent. At the giving of the Law the miracles were amazing and alarming, and fitted to impress and awe an uncultivated people. But the miracles associated with the promulgation of the gospel, while even more amazing, were also gracious and helpful, beneficent and rich in blessing, and fitted, not to terrify, but to attract and exalt and purify. As confirmed by these superior signs, the gospel revelation is higher than that of the Law.
III. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS IN THE LETTER, THE LITER WAS IN A LIFE. The Sinaitic Law was written; but the revelation made by the Lord was not merely in word, but in tone and accent, in gesture and expression of countenance, in involuntary influence and voluntary action. The greatest revelations are never verbal, but always vital. The deepest emotions cannot be expressed in any words. The highest truth far transcends the utterance of the loftiest eloquence of the tongue or the pen; it can be expressed only as it is lived. Thus "the greatest truth of the gospel is Christ himself - a human body become the organ of the Divine nature, and revealing, under the conditions of an earthly life, the glory of God." And when even his life in the human body could not adequately express the riches of the grace of God, he laid down his life, and perfected his revelation by voluntarily dying, "the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." And now "God commendeth his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
IV. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS OF LAW ONLY, THE LATER IS OF A "GREAT SALVATION." "The word spoken through angels" consisted chiefly of commands and prohibitions; it expressed the authoritative" Thou shalt," and" Thou shalt not;" and it promised to the obedient life and prosperity, to the disobedient punishment and death. But ours is a revelation of grace. The gospel does not abrogate moral law; it rather insists upon its sacred authority, its great comprehensiveness, its intense spirituality, and its pure benevolence. We have law still, but it is law steeped in love. The gospel is also a revelation of forgiveness of sin for the penitent, of a new life for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and of inspiration and power for those who desire help to serve God; in a word, it is the free offer of a "great salvation." Let us briefly contemplate this "great salvation." It is:
1. Salvation from great evils. We have gazed upon the crumbling ruins of what was once a spacious and massive castle, or upon the venerable remnants of some ancient temple, and while we have pictured to ourselves the scenes of which they had been the theatre in olden days, a feeling of mournfulness has stolen over us. We have thought of the brave doings connected with the old castle - hunting, fighting, feasting, singing, dancing, love-making - all gone. We have thought of the earnest and eloquent pleadings of the servant of God in the temple, of the waves of music from pealing organ and living voices, of the devout, yearning, sorrowing, rejoicing hearts of worshippers, now all gone. Nought but ruins remain. How mournful and oppressive! These are faint pictures of the calamities which have befallen our nature through sin. The original dignity and glory, heroism and harmony, purity and peace of human nature have been lost by sin. And by sin it has become subject to guilt and fear, shame and suffering, death and dread of measureless woe hereafter. But most terrible of all is sin itself. The sinfulness, the degradation, and prostitution of our powers and our being, - these are our greatest curse. Can this fallen temple be rebuilt? etc. Is there a salvation great enough to deliver from these dread evils? Yes; "so great salvation" is this.
2. Salvation by great Agents and means. Not by angels or by men, but by "God manifest in the flesh." "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" "What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son," etc. (Romans 8:3, 4). The "strong Son of God" is the great Savior of men. Then think of the distinguished means which he employed in effecting salvation. His marvelous incarnation, his simple and sublime teaching, his holy and beautiful life, his sacrificial sufferings and death, etc. "Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things," etc. And in bringing this salvation near to men's hearts another great Agent is employed, even the Holy Spirit (see John 15:26, 27; John 16:7-15).
3. Salvation to great glory. This salvation raises man to a more glorious condition than was his before he ruined himself by sin. It saves from the lowest degradation to the highest perfection. It rescues groin hell and introduces to heaven. It includes pardon, peace, purity, perpetual progress, fellowship with God, etc.
4. Salvation of a great multitude. "Many shall come from the cast and west," etc. (Matthew 8:11). Our Lord will bring "many sons unto glory." "In my Father's house are many mansions;" "I saw, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number," etc. (Revelation 7:9, 10). "So great salvation." How immeasurably greater, then, are our privileges than those of the men who lived under the Mosaic economy! - W. J.
I. THE DUTY ON WHICH THE APOSTLE INSISTS. An attitude of indifference is not the true attitude of the soul to Christ; nor of mere curiosity; nor of a cold professionalism. It is only by earnest thought that we can understand, realise, and retain the gospel of Christ.
Give the more earnest heed.
I. HE WILL BE WATCHFUL OVER HIS AIM. There is, indeed, one aim for all men — to grow into the likeness of God; but this general aim becomes individualised for every man. The complete likeness, so to speak, belongs to humanity, and each man contributes his peculiar part to the whole. His resemblance to others lies in the completeness of his consecration; and his difference from others follows directly from it. Something he has, however insignificant it may seem, which belongs to himself alone; and this he brings to Christ in sine trust that it represents the fulfilment of his special office. Few temptations are more subtle and perilous than that which leads us to a restless search for some task which is more fruitful, as we think, or more conspicuous, or more attractive than that which lies ready before us; and it may happen that a self-chosen path will bring us renown and gratitude. But no splendid labours in other fields can supply the defect which must henceforth remain for ever through our faithlessness, if we leave undone just that tittle thing which God has prepared for us to do.
II. THE CHRISTIAN WILL BE WATCHFUL ALSO OVER HIS EFFORTS. It is as true that God gives nothing, as it is that He gives all. He accords to man the privilege of making his own that which He bestows freely, and He requires man to use the privilege. Nothing avails us which we have not actually appropriated. Life, indeed, brings to us the rudiments of spiritual teaching; but these need to be carefully studied, and, above all, to be brought into the light of our faith, not once only or twice, but as often as we are called to act or to judge; for though every attainment which is conformed to our ideal partakes of its eternal nobility, no solution of yesterday can be used directly to-day. Life, with all its questions, is new every morning. At the same time, the solution of yesterday leaves us in a favourable position to deal with the novel data. The Christian, then, will ask himself again and again whether his work costs him serious exertion; whether it exercises the fulness of his powers; whether he faces fresh duties as they arise with more and more strenuous endeavour because he uses the experience of the past to assist his thought, and not to supersede it; whether at every point he has gained the highest within his reach, or has at least refused to rest on a lower level; and whether he has taken to heart day by day the words of the psalm which from time immemorial has given the keynote of public worship: "To-day, if ye will hear His voice"; for that Voice is not, as we are too ready to believe, a tradition only, a sweet memorial enshrined in sacred books, but a living voice sounding in our ears with messages of truth, which earlier generations could not hear, and calls to action which we first are able to obey.
II. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE EXHORTATION IS ENFORCED. The exhortation is based upon a twofold comparison; i.e., between the heralds of the two covenants, and the natures of the two covenants.
III. THE WARNING BY WHICH THE APOSTLE SEEKS TO AROUSE ATTENTION TO HIS EXHORTATION.
1. The possibility of losing our hold.
2. The occasions of losing our hold.
3. The manner of losing our hold.The idea is not of a sudden and total renunciation of Christian doctrine — we are not in much danger of that; but of an unconscious giving up of that doctrine.
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. Diligent attention unto the word of the gospel IS INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY UNTO PERSEVERANCE IN THE PROFESSION OF IT. Such a profession I mean as is acceptable unto God, or will be useful unto our own souls.
1. A due valuation of the grace tendered in it, and of the word itself on that account.
2. Diligent study of it, and searching into the mind of God in it, that so we may grow wise in the mysteries thereof
3. Mixing the word with faith (see chap. 4:2). As good not hear as not believe.
4. Labouring to express the word received in a conformity of heart and life unto it.
5. Watchfulness against all opposition that is made either against the truth or power of the word in us.
II. THERE ARE SUNDRY TIMES AND SEASONS WHEREIN, AND SEVERAL WAYS AND MEANS WHEREBY, MEN ARE IN DANGER TO LOSE THE WORD THAT THEY HAVE HEARD, IF THEY ATTEND NOT DILIGENTLY UNTO ITS PRESERVATION.
1. Some lose it in a time of peace and prosperity. That is a season which slays the foolish. Jeshurun waxes fat and kicks. According to men's pastures they are filled, and forget the Lord. They feed their lusts high, until they loathe the word.
2. Some lose it in a time of persecution. "When persecution ariseth," saith our Saviour, "they fail away." Many go on apace in profession until they come to see the cross; this sight puts them to a stand, and then turns them quite out of the way.
3. Some lose it in a time of trial by temptation. The means also whereby this wretched effect is produced are innumerable: some of them only I shall mention. As(1) Love of this present world. This made Demas a leaking vessel (2 Timothy 4:10), and chokes one-fourth part of the seed in the parable (Matthew 13.).(2) Love of sin. A secret lust cherished in the heart will make it "full of chinks," that it will never retain the showers of the word; and it will assuredly open them as fast as convictions stop them.(3) False doctrines, errors, false worship, superstition, and idolatries will do the same.
III. The word heard IS NOT LOST WITHOUT THE GREAT SIN AS WELD AS THE INEVITABLE RUIN OF THE SOULS OF MEN. The word of its own nature is apt to abide, and to take root: but we pour it forth from us. and they have a woeful account to make on whose soul the guilt thereof shall be found at the last day.
IV. It is in the nature of the word of the gospel TO ALTER BARREN HEARTS, AND TO MAKE THEM FRUITFUL UNTO GOD. Hence it is compared to water, dews, and rain. Where this word comes, it makes the " parched ground a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water" (Isaiah 35:7). These are the waters of the sanctuary, that "heal the barren places of the earth," and make them fruitful (Ezekiel 47.). The river that " makes glad the city of God" (Psalm 46:7). With the dew thereof doth God " water His Church every moment" (Isaiah 27:3). And then doth it "grow as a lily, and cast forth its roots as Lebanon" (Hosea 14:5-7).
V. The consideration of the revelation of the gospel by the Son of God is A POWERFUL MOTIVE UNTO THAT DILIGENT ATTENDANCE UNTO IT.
1. And this is most reasonable upon many accounts.
1. Because of the authority wherewith He spake the word.
2. Because of the love that is in it. There is in it the love of the Father in sending the Son, for the revealing of Himself and His mind unto the children of men. There is also in it the love of the Son Himself, condescending to instruct the sons of men, who by their own fault were cast into error and darkness.
3. The fulness of the revelation itself by Him made unto us is of the same importance. He came not to declare a parcel, but the whole will of Go,t, all that we are to know, to do, to believe: " In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
4. Because it is final. No farther revelation of God is to be expected in this world but what is made by Jesus Christ. To this we must attend, or we are lost for ever.
VI. THE TRUE AND ONLY WAY OF HONOURING THE LORD CHRIST AS THE SON OF GOD IS BY DILIGENT ATTENDANCE AND OBEDIENCE UNTO HIS WORD.
(J. Owen, D. D.)
I. THAT IT BELOVETH US NOWMORE CAREFULLY TO HEARKEN TO THE WORDS OF CHRIST, THAN AFORETIME IT BEHOVED OUR FOREFATHERS TO HEARKEN TO THE LAW OF MOSES. And here we must consider why we ought to be more careful than they; not that they might omit any care to add nothing, to take away nothing, to change nothing, not to depart neither to the right hand nor yet to the left, but day and night, at home and abroad, to do always this, to study it continually, as appeareth in Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 6:6; Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 12:32; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 1:8; 33:6, &c. Nor is it said that we be more bound than they, as though the authority of God were changed; but because now Christ hath spoken by Himself, then by angels; now plainly, then in figures: therefore we ought more carefully to hearken, but because our punishment shall be more than theirs, even as we be despisers of the greatest grace.
II. After this, the apostle added HIS REASON TO PERSUADE US TO THIS ESPECIAL CAREFULNESS ABOVE ALL OTHER PEOPLE, to hearken to the voice of Christ; and that is, of the peril that ensueth, lest, saith he, we run out. The apostle useth a metaphor, taken of old tubs, which run out at the joints, and can hold no liquor.
(E. Deering, B. D.)2 Timothy 2:7; Matthew 15:10; Matthew 13:23; Acts 4:4; Acts 16:14). The comparative degree addeth much emphasis, and intendeth a greater care and endeavour about the matter in hand, than in any other thing; as if he had said, More heed is to be given to the gospel than to the law; more to the Son than to any servant; for he speaks of the gospel preached by Christ. It may be here put for the superlative degree, and imply the greatest heed that may possibly be given; and the best care and diligence that can be used. Thus it is said of the Scriptures, "We have a more sure word"; that is, a most sure word (2 Peter 2:19); thus this very word in my text is often put for the superlative degree. As where Paul saith of himself, ,, In labours more abundant, in prisons more frequent," that is, most abundant, most frequent (2 Corinthians 2:23). Hereby as he doth incite them for the future, to make the best use that possibly they can of the gospel that had been preached unto them, so he gives a secret and mild check to their former negligence, implying that they had not given formerly such heed, as they should have done, to so precious a word as had been preached unto them, but had been too careless thereabouts, which he would have them redress for the future.
1. There is the earnestness itself — that state of mind which is so graphically described (Proverbs 2:3, 4). Such earnestness, from the nature of the case, has much to do with the attainment of the object; and the importance of that object requires such earnestness.
2. There must be the decided and vigorous application of the mind to the things propounded. They must be understood, if they are to be cordially embraced and practically applied. It is needful, accordingly, that the thinking powers should be attentively directed towards them.
3. By being believed and applied, they must be turned to practical account. Without this they will miss their end.Subservient to the attainment of this threefold object, might be reckoned such rules and principles as these:
1. That the "new heart," the" Divine nature," which beats in sympathy with Christian truth, should be sought.
2. That men should watch against inward tendencies and outward influences, which are in danger of withholding them from earnest attention to the things of salvation.
3. That they should seriously ponder the relations of Divine truth to God, to their own souls, and to the destinies of the world to come.
4. That they should implore the Father-Spirit to teach and incline them to "give earnest heed" to these momentous truths, and to these high concerns.
(A. S. Patterson.)
(J. B. Thomas, D. D.)
To the things which we have heard.
Homilist.I. THE CAUSES OF FORGETFULNESS.
1. The indifferent manner in which we too often resort to the House of God.
2. The indifference which precedes is often carried into the House of God itself.
II. THE PRINCIPAL REASONS WHY THE GOSPEL ABOVE EVERYTHING SHOULD BE ATTENTIVELY REMEMBERED.
1. It is the message of heaven to mankind. and therefore well deserves a place in the memory.
2. The peculiar character of the gospel. "The things" are of no common import, no temporary consequence, but of the highest possible moment.
3. The advantages which flow from this duty. Who enjoy the consolations of the gospel, and whose conduct is regulated by its influence? They, undoubtedly, who pay the greatest attention to it, and whose minds retain its instructions.
4. If we slight the message of truth, it will bear testimony against us, and aggravate our final condemnation.
Homilist.I. They are things COMMUNICATED. "We have heard" them from parents, teachers, ministers.
II. They are things TO BE RETAINED. Should be held, not merely in memory as facts, but in heart as forces.
III. They are things the retainment of which requires MOST DETERMINED EFFORT.
1. The loss of them would be the greatest calamity.
2. A possible calamity. Many things tend to relax the soul's hold upon them remaining depravity within, seductive influences without.
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.I. By "the things which we have heard," may be fairly presumed are meant, THE GRAND DOCTRINES AND PRINCIPLES OF THE GOSPEL.
II. From the text we may fairly conclude that it is the clear duty of all who have the dispensation of the gospel to give A SERIOUS AND FIXED ATTENTION to it.
III. From the text we may fairly conclude that THE CONSEQUENCES OF CONTINUING TO NEGLECT THE WORD OF GOD will he distressing and awful.
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
(W. Jones, D. D.)
Lest at any time we should let them slip.I. THE GREAT THINGS WE HAVE HEARD. There are no words of s profound moment as the truths of the gospel. They warn of hell, they welcome to heaven; they take from eternity its terror, and use it to measure their benefit.
II. THE EASY PERIL OF THEIR LOSS. NO better word for easy getting away than " slip." "He gave the officers the slip." "His foot slipped, and he sustained a fatal fall." "The whole company of travellers suddenly slipped into the deceptive, snow-filled precipice." "The hour slipped away so rapidly in easy conversation, that I missed my train and lost the opportunity of a lifetime." "While shipwrecked on a desert island, we saw a vessel. Supposing it was coming directly to us we went away after our treasure, and quickly returning, found it had slipped away far past the hearing of our wild outcries." We read every day sentences like the above. How easily are the most valuable things in this world's life lost by reason of neglect!
III. THE INTENSE ATTENTION DEMANDED. It is wonderful that we can see every day the utmost pains taken to keep earth's valuables from slipping away, and can yet treat the pearl of great price so recklessly! We see the careful cooper tightening his casks; the miner watching his ores as they pass the smelting furnace; the farmer in his cultivation; the vigilant policeman; the anxious physician; the scholar strengthening his memory so as to keep knowledge from slipping away. And yet we "cram" for the great "examination" of eternity.
(C. M. Jones.)I. MOORED TO JESUS CHRIST. It is a long while now since men began to represent their life as a running stream. It was inevitable the figure should suggest itself to them as soon as they began to think — we air feel its appropriateness as often as we reflect upon the ceaseless vicissitude that laps our own lives round, and that is bearing us so quickly away. How remorseless the current is that flows beneath us, sometimes so noiseless, sometimes rippling in laughter against the sides of our bark, sometimes rising in foam and wrath and threatening our destruction, yet always bearing us onward upon its bosom, steadily onward to the unknown! And, when we consider it, not only how remorseless but also how rapid the movement is! How many scenes we pass through on our way! How many new reaches of experience we discover, then leave behind! How many faces flit and fade around us! How fast we all live! Of course, it would be sinful to think of this ceaseless movement in which we are all involved as if it were a mere brute fate to which we must perforce submit. This constant chance to which we are all committed is, for one thing, the condition of progress. Without it life would not become the deeper, broader, larger thing which somehow it does become as our years go on. And, besides, how flat and stale it would otherwise he! And yet every one must feel that were there only ceaseless change in our earthly lot — no anchor sure and steadfast for us anywhere — life would be terrible indeed. It is only children that seek perpetual novelty — children, and those who, though they have become men, have not laid aside childish things. Wiser men begin to perceive ere long that life is not a pleasure ,all after all, that the currents are stronger than they think, and may carry them away. Only Christ abides! Christ — the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever! Christ — who outlives the seeming changeless heavens themselves. Christ the True, the Unalterable Love, the Immovable Friend.
II. DRIFTING FROM CHRIST.
1. A storm may have broken out in your life, and driven you away from Christ.(1) It may have been a storm of doubt. There are always some minds for whom it is peculiarly difficult to bold on to Jesus Christ. They find it. hard to accept implicitly those half-revealed truths, like the incarnation, and the Cross, and the working of God's Spirit in the heart of man, much harder than others find it. They cannot help themselves. Their mind works speculatively. They must peer over the edge of the known truth into the unknown abysses beneath, and there they stand amazed, affrighted. Also, perhaps, in our own lime it is more difficult than ever for such persons to believe. A vast number of new ideas have been thrown lately into the general mind which there has hardly been time as yet to estimate and assign to their proper place; and then, perhaps, men, becoming acquainted with these ideas, as they must, are at a loss to know how exactly to adjust the old view of things to them.(2) Or the storm may have been a storm of trouble. Sometimes, I know, a storm of this kind may drive men to Christ rather than away from Him. But sometimes, too, it happens that the tempest that sends one man to Jesus Christ drives another away. He cannot see the meaning of a visitation so sore, or the righteousness of it, or any light upon it at all. Existence darkens round the man, and everything he once was sure of slips away from him- everything, including Christ.
2. Or, again, it may be an influence less obvious that does it. I question very much whether we make a much allowance as we should for what you may call the ebb and flow of the tide of life in us all. Perhaps it is because we understand so little about it. The fact appears to be that it is with man as with Nature. We know how the heart of Nature beats time to a mysterious mighty rhythm, and how regularly recurring arc those deep respirations of her life which we name summer and winter, and night, and day. But we forget how our own tiny being seems to share in this hidden law. Our very body is attuned to it; there are periods in our life at which our vitality is greater; others at which it is less; nav,in every twenty. four hems a wave of life-force rises within us, then falls again — so that a doctor will tell you beforehand at what),our the sufferer's strength will flicker up most brightly, when it will be spent and die. Now, on this physical basis I believe more of the moral phenomena of our lives depend than we are aware. Our temptations mix themselves up strangely with this ebb and flow that ceaselessly goes on within. Our animalism takes advantage of the flowing tide of lustihood in youth to come in upon us like a flood. With the ebb of manhood's early vigour enthusiasm and the capacity of an ardent faith and love are apt to ebb also. And even at intervals much more frequent the same sort of thing occurs. If you will watch your temptations — especially the more notable of them — carefully you will find they almost obey a law of periodicity. As hunger and thirst assert themselves (roughly speaking) at regularly recurring intervals, so do our temptations. Our sins, like ourselves if they slumber for a time, awake with renewed energy.
3. If it has been neither of these, then it may have been something more slow and subtle and secret still. You have seen a vessel, owing to no sierra or the rise of any tide, but simply through the restlessness of the element in which it floats, gradually loosen from it- moorings, and little by little be borne out to sea. And even when lie more powerful currents are passing around us there is this infinite restlessness in all our lives which may of itself be fatal, Repose is an impossibility here. A thousand varying cares and moods and occupations agitate the surface of our lives. And with this there comes a chafing which may by slow degrees wear out the strands of loyalty that bind us to our Lord. Indeed, when Christians drift from Christ it is probably, in the vast majority of cases, due to this very cause.
III. REGAINING ONE'S MOORINGS. You will observe that the counsel the writer gives is with a view rather to prevent so sad a lapsing. It is the same prescription that apples here, whether the case be one of prevention or of cure. And certainly no prescription could well be simpler. It is by no violent efforts, no beating up against the adverse forces of his life, that any man will regain his old attachment to Jesus Christ, but just by giving "earnest heed — the more earnest, heed to things he has heat d about Him." It is contemplation of the truth that brings him back again, and contemplation, not so much of any new discoveries he may make concerning Jesus Christ, but just of those familiar aspects of His person and His work that first won his trust. There is that in Jesus Christ which, if He is pondered humbly, has the power to draw the heart as with the force of gravity to centre and stay itself once more on Him. It is a great thing to keep near the old familiar fruit s — to keep near the old familiar Christi The stable Christian is always the simple Christian. Think of the staunchest believer you know, the least moved by any strums; how, you a-k, has this steadfastness come to him? Infallibly thus: through going much apart with God to muse and pray; through often saying within his heart, "Jesus, my Friend, is God"; through kneeling at the cross till the conviction has begun to stir within him, "He loved me, He gave Himself for me"; through pondering the vastness of forgiveness; through much looking in the Spirit towards that crown of righteousness which is laid up for him against that day. Such a believer has many an anchor to hold him. Neither things present not things to come will separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Alex. Martin, M. A.)I. WHAT IS THIS DRIFT? It is the dying out of impression, the decay of faith, the gradual loss of force. The writer is not contemplating a change of attitude towards the gospel brought about by a preview as intellectual movement to which the man himself had been a party, but one which very slowly, but very certainly, reflects the silent action of unseen and unrecognised forces which are at work within and around him, and the ultimate effect of which may be an utter loss of all which once he most valued, and an abandonment to influences which once he regarded with mingled hatred and dread.
1. There is here clearly an anticipation of drift both in doctrine and practice. The two re regarded as so united that the one can. not suffer and the other be uninjured. The truth which holds a man rules his life, and the only way of getting rid of the effect, is to remove the cause.
2. The survival of Christian life after the loss of Christian faith is a contingency the sacred writer does not contemplate. The drift is a drift of the entire man — affections, aims, motives, as well as principles.
3. Drift is always to evil. It is by struggle that we advance heavenward; but there are countless influences inclining us t. a retrograde course. Wit, out a strong force within, and without constant communications of Divine grace to maintain and strengthen it, we shall infallibly go back.
II. MARK THE SOURCES OF THIS EVIL.
1. It is not easy — if it be not impossible — for a Christian to live in the world without being exposed to influences unfriendly to his faith and loyalty.
2. It is in the tendencies o the age — tendencies which may have much in them that is beautiful and admirable — that this peril lies They assail us on the side where we least expect danger, and they have so fair and winning an aspect that it is hard to meet them with stern resistance.
3. These tendencies often, in their more exaggerated form, shape public sentiment, and the fear is lest we yield to the influence which they unconsciously exercise without sufficient discrimination between the good and the evil which may be in them. The spirit ,.f the age is against severity, whether in doctrine or practice; is easily moved by an appeal for Christian charity, and, with equal readiness, is excited to a righteous indignation against bigotry, and if it can itself be guilty of any approach to intolerance, is intolerant only of intolerance. The drift is to change; to greater breadth of thought, sympathy, and action; to creeds less elaborate and minute; to laws of conduct less exacting and severe, to enlarged freedom everywhere.
III. Is it necessary to point out THE POSSIBLE AND EVEN PROBABLE CONSEQUENCES. A little vessel which has been torn from its moorings, and is being carried far out to sea by the strong currents which are bearing it whithersoever they will, may be engulfed in some hidden quicksand, dashed to pieces on some rugged rock, carried thousands of miles away and stranded on a distant shore. The possibilities of evil are limitless to the ship which has lost helm and rudder, or has no one capable of using them wisely, and is at the mercy of wild winds and waves. There need be no truer picture of a soul that is drifting. It has elasped from the truths which once held it with a certain degree of force, which was a restraint from evil and a stimulus to good. Day by day they are receding into the distance, and becoming more dim and uncertain, while the soul, acted upon, by all varieties of influence, is borne hither and thither, uncertain in its aims, unstable in its course, unconscious of the fat to which it may be hastening. One thing only is sure about it — it is every day being carried further and further from all which once it loved and valued. Rocks of barren unbelief, or whirlpools of seductive pleasure and indulgence, may be in the path on which it is advancing, but there seems no power to arrest its course. The man has left himself to be the sport and plaything of outside circumstances or influences harmonising only too well with inclinations within, and now he is drifting before them to a miserable shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience.
(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)I. THIS REPRESENTS A STATE WHICH IS FEARFULLY POSSIBLE (Hosea 6:4; 1 Timothy 5:15).
1. Tide is so in part because we are not always moored to Christ when we are brought to Him. A ship may be skilfully guided into the harbour, her crew may be able to leap ashore, and there she will remain till the tide turns; but then, unless her cables are thrown out and she is fastened there, she will drift to sea again. So we may be brought to Christ, a number of influences may lead us to Him, we may be so affected by religious emotion and reverence for Him. and even a belief in our personal salvation as to be ready to endure " reproaches and afflictions," and we may seem to be Christians, yet we may not have joined ourselves to the Redeemer by an act of living faith. Whilst the tide runs that way (and that may be for years) our safety is unsuspected even by ourselves; but let a change come, and slowly we slip away, and at length on some distant coast others come across the fragment of a wreck that bears our name. We may be close to Christ for long without the cable of faith binding us to Him, and thus the soul may drift away even from Him and be lost.
2. Besides which there are powerful adverse currents which tend to carry us from the Saviour. Difficulties occur, the fear of man begins to tell, the winds of temptation blow, the current of worldly custom runs strong, the unseen force of old habits and depraved inclination increases, and then I well, however strong the came, it will creak and strut., and every fibre of it be needed to bold the ship. But what if there be no cable — no vital faith? Why, then the soul will inevitably part company with Christ.
3. And this drifting away is more likely, because our departure from Christ may be for some time inperceptible. How many Christians there are whose religion once a delightful reality has become poor, who think distressingly, "Oh, that, I were as in days that are past! " who can see how tar they have drifted, but did not know they were drifting at the time, and who scourge themselves because of it!
II. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS TO DRIFT TO RUIN.
1. To drift away from Christ is to forsake the only refuge for sinful men. The blessings we so sorely need are there alone, away from Him is but the wintry shoreless sea of doom.
2. To drift away from Christ is to disregard the supreme claims of Christ. For there is another aspect of drifting away from the Saviour; it isn't simply how it affects us, but how it affects Him. Oh, could we have but a glimpse of Him and of His authority, great horror would seize us at the thought of departing from Him. But when we further see this glorious One for us men pour out His soul in the anguish of the cross, and still cleave to us notwithstanding our worthlessness and sin, we are self-condemned to the lowest perdition if we suffer anything to let. us drift away from Him, and may well ask in awe, "How shall we escape?"
3. To drift away from Christ is to resist the grace that has brought us close to Him.
III. THIS, THEN, IS A LOUD CALL TO EARNEST HEED LAST WE DRIFT AWAY.
1. If we are moored to Christ our blessedness consists in the maintenance of close fellowship with Him.
2. Though we are close to Christ, we are in great peril till we are anchored here.
3. If we are drifting away from Christ, everything depend, on our returning before we get further off.
I. Take then, first, that which I may call THE AGE-CURRENT, or what a re-eat English essayist, borrowing from the German, has called the "Time-spirit." A physical science which has taken up with the doctrine of development, and has insisted that what is at best an ingenious hypothesis shall be accepted as a demon. strafed fact, has prepared the way for an agnostic philosophy which refuses to believe that anything can be known save that which can be perceived by the bodily senses, aided by the scalpel and the microscope, and that, in its turn, has given birth to a rank atheism, which has adopted as its creed the terrible negation, No God. If it be true that the standard of piety and morality is lower among Christians than it was formerly; if it be the case that the Church is less of an aggressive force in our large centres of population than it was a generation ago; if the numbers of those enrolling themselves in its ranks are smaller than they have bees in other days, may it not be owing to the fact that we have not been taking heed to guard against this age-drift which has been flowing beneath us? Let us get back to Christ, and anchor fast on Him.
II. The second current to which I would refer is that of THE PLACE IN WHICH WE DWELL. Every city bus its own peculiar influence. We must guard against the slightest backsliding; and to succeed in that we must constantly test ourselves by the things which we have heard from Jesus. The navigator is saved from danger from unknown currents by his daily observations. The tides of ocean do not affect the heavenly bodies; and by testing himself by these he knows precisely where he is. So the principles of the temper are not shifted by the tendencies of anyplace; and when we measure-ourselves by them, we may discover how it is with us. Let us not take it for granted that because we are making some effort in the right direction, therefore we must be going forward. For these efforts may not be enough to resist the force of the current, and we may be drifting backward after all. You remember the case of Sir Edward Parry's crew in the Arctic regions. They set out one day to draw a boat over the ice, expecting thereby to get farther northward and in the open water, but after they had journeyed thus far, if I remember rightly, a day and a half or two days, they took an observation, which revealed to their surprise that they were farther south than they had been when they set out, because while they had been going toward the pole, the ice on which they were had been carried by the drift of an under-current in the opposite direction. I fear that in this great business mart, where we are so exclusively occupied in buying and selling, and getting gain, many Christians among us are like these northern voyagers: they make exertions, and they seem, too, to be making progress; but, alas I the drift that carries the whole place has carried them with it, and in reality they are not so far advanced as they were, it may be, years ago.
III. A third current, to the influence of which we are exposed I would call THE PERSONAL DRIFT, the drift in each of us individually. In making astronomical observations, one operator is never precisely the same as another. Some are quick, others are slow; some are exceedingly precise, and others not so perfectly exact; and these differences, of course, affect the results at which they arrive. Therefore, to neutralise, as far as possible, any error which may be thereby occasioned, there is what is known as a "personal equation" for each, and by that his conclusions are rectified before they are sent forth for general acceptance. Now, in a similar way, spiritually, each man has his individual tendencies, which easily carry him in one direction or another. This personal drift, as I have named it, is the same thing as the writer of the Epistle from which my text is taken calls in another place the "sin that doth most easily beset us," and by yielding to that many are carried at last into perdition. How easy it in to acquire an evil habit!
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
1. A meditation in that which we have heard: blessed is the man that meditateth in the law of God. When thou hast heard a sermon, take some time to meditate on it, that thou mayest imprint it on thy memory. This is a common fault among us. The Word of God preached to us passeth away. When we are once out of the Church, we never think on it again, therefore no marvel though it slip away from us.
2. Conference with others. The disciples that travelled to Emmaus conferred together the Bereans that came from St. Paul's sermon, took their Bibles and conferred together of the sermon. Many eyes see more than one; that which one hath forgotten, another may remember. Therefore let Christians recount the things they have heard, and that repetition will be as a nail to fasten the things they heard.
4. A care to practise that which we have heard. This is the digesting of our spiritual meat, and the converting of it into our substance. Many hear, but few care to practise that which they hear; it is never our own truly and indeed, till it be practised; that will make us grow up as perfect men in Christ Jesus. We hear swearing reproved, yet we swear still; drunkenness inveighed against, yet we are drunk still; envy and malice centre led, yet malicious still, yea, against the preachers, that are as God's arm to pull us out of our sins: a manifest argument that we hold not that which we hear, but suffer it without fruit to slip from us.
(W. Jones, D. D.)F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(A. B, Davidson, LL. D.)
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