For Jesus has been counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.
I. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF CHRISTIANS.
1. They are fraternal in relation. "Brethren." These Hebrew Christians were brethren in a twofold sense to the writer of the Epistle - first, as being his kindred according to the flesh; and next, as being of the same religious faith. Every Christian is a member of a glorious brotherhood. We are brothers inasmuch as we have all one Father and one elder Brother; we are animated by one Spirit; we are tending to one home, our "Father's house." Let us endeavor to realize this relationship, and to practically express its spirit. "Love the brotherhood."
2. They are consecrated in character. "Holy brethren." By applying to them the term "holy," the writer does not affirm that all those whom he was addressing were in a state of sinless purity. The adjective conveys two ideas - consecration and transformation. Christians are holy because they have consecrated themselves to the Lord, and are being transformed into moral resemblance to him.
3. They are exalted in privilege. "Partakers of a heavenly calling." This calling "is the invitation given on the part of God and Christ to men, to come and partake of the blessings proffered" in the gospel. In two senses it is "a heavenly calling."
(1) It is heavenly in its origin; a calling from heaven. The holy voices and gracious invitations are from above. All saving influences and impulses are from God.
(2) It is heavenward in its end; a calling to heaven. Spiritual, sublime, eternal, heavenly, are the blessings to which we are called. It is "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The "partakers" of this calling are not those who have merely heard the call to gospel blessings, but those who have both heard and accepted that call.
II. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE LORD AND SAVIOR.
1. He is "the Apostle of our confession. There is here a comparison of Jesus with Moses. Moses was sent" of God to be the emancipator, chieftain, and ruler of the Israelites (see Exodus 3:10, 12, 14, 15). In this sense he was an apostle of God. Jesus Christ was the Sent of God (see John 3:34; John 5:36, 37; John 6:29; John 10:36; John 17:18). He was sent on a still grander mission of redemption (see Isaiah 61:1-3). Moreover, the Jews designated the minister of the synagogue, who had the charge of its affairs and presided over them, an apostle. And in the verse following our text the writer goes on to speak of Jesus and Moses as each presiding over the affairs of a house. In this sense also our Lord is "the Apostle of our confession." He is sent, not only to emancipate, but also to rule over his Church; to be both "a Prince and a Savior."
2. He is "the High Priest of our confession. Here the comparison is with Aaron. As Aaron was high priest of the Jews, and, as such, made expiation for the sins of the people, so our Savior has made atonement for the sins of the world by the offering of himself in sacrifice. Through him we approach unto God. He maketh intercession for us. He pleads with us and in us and for us. Through him we shall rise to heaven. As the Apostle, he is the Representative of God to men; as the High Priest, he is the Representative of men with God.
3. He is Jesus. There is perhaps a reference here to Joshua, the great general of the Israelites, who led them into the promised land. Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." How great, then, is our Lord and Savior!
III. THE ATTITUDE WHICH CHRISTIANS SHOULD MAINTAIN TOWARDS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOUR. "Wherefore, holy brethren... consider the Apostle and High Priest," etc.
1. The argument. "Wherefore," i.e. because we have in Jesus such "a merciful and faithful High Priest," such a mighty and gracious Helper, we should attentively consider him. And such consideration would be likely to strengthen the Christian faith of any who were in danger of falling back into Judaism; for they would find him a greater Apostle than Moses, a greater High Priest than Aaron, a greater "Captain of salvation" than Joshua. The great principle is this, that the greatest safeguard against weariness, discouragement, and apostasy is an earnest consideration of Jesus; a believing, steadfast, looking unto him.
2. The exercise. "Consider the Apostle," etc. Contemplate him as "the Apostle of our confession." How much greater is he than Moses! Moses did not lead the people into the Promised Land, or even enter therein himself; but Jesus has entered heaven as our Forerunner, has led multitudes into its blessedness, will lead all his people there. Contemplate him as "the High Priest of our confession." How much greater is he than Aaron! Aaron's priesthood was imperfect, typical, preparatory; but our Lord's is gloriously perfect. By his sacrifice he has made full atonement; his intercession is divinely efficacious. Contemplate him as our Savior, "Jesus." He is "mighty to save;" "able to save to the uttermost," etc. Here is the sublimest contemplation. In weakness and weariness consider him, and you will be strengthened and animated. In darkness consider him, and the night will shine even as the day. In sin consider him, and you will seek and obtain forgiveness. In sorrow consider him, and the troubled heart will grow calm and restful. In death consider him, and his rod and staff will comfort you, and he himself will lead you through its dark portals into the joys and glories of heaven. Let this be our constant attitude - "looking unto Jesus." - W.J.
He that hath built all things is God.1. "He that built all things is God." He began in the undated past, and He keeps on in sundry ways and with diverse materials from generation to generation. To-day is built up out of yesterday and all its predecessors, and the vast and prolific morrow will be constructed out of the incomprehensible and mighty to-day.
2. "Know ye that the Lord, He is God. It is He who hath made us and not we ourselves." "We are His workmanship," created of old, with a body that is a finely built machine, opulent in resources, and apt for our uses; with a mind of surprising capacities; perception and reason, memory and conscience, hope and trust, reverence and love, and above all with a spirit that links us with the Infinite, makes us susceptible of being "created anew in Christ Jesus," after the type of His holy life. The home is His work, built as the primary institution for choking in the germ the destructive self-seeking of the human race, and developing that love which forgets self, considers all, and creates an atmosphere of domestic and social ozone that refreshes and exhilarates everybody who breathes it.
3. But God's supreme building work goes very far beyond that unit of civilisation, the home, and seeks to construct out of the individuals of which the world is composed one vast moral commonwealth, a spiritual republic, a divine " house," in which selfishness shall be killed outright, and God and freedom, righteousness and love, reign for ever and ever; a "house" with servants like Moses, sons like Jesus, faithful in all things; a free, aggressive, and holy spiritual community; a perfect form of society, into which nothing enters that defiles, or makes a lie. This is the Divine ideal, the sum and crown of the long and patient labours of God upon men, the image and pattern of the things, towards the realisation of which all the pulling down and plucking up of nations, and states, and churches, and all the reconstructing of systems and societies, stedfastly and assuredly tend.
4. "Whose house are we" — we Hebrews recently become followers of Jesus, but not the less belonging to God's building; for He goes forward amid the wreck of systems, the sacking of Jerusalem, with unbroken persistence, calm and sure, though not swift, towards the eternally pre-ordained top-stone. The fires of God (Hebrews 12:29) sweep through the structure with a fierce and cleansing blast, not a grain of gold is lost; but lo! here I an ampler edifice, on a wider foundation, richer in its architectural beauty, rises into sight as the dwelling-place of the sons of men.
5. Whence it follows, if you are able to hear it, that in the truest sense God is the first Socialist. the Author of that gospel which has done more to create motive and inspire practical enthusiasm for the real welfare of men, than all other systems and agencies and persons put together.
6. Two workers of unapproachable greatness stand out with decisive significance as social creators and organisers. Many builders have done excellently, hut Moses, a faithful servant in the house of the Father, and Jesus, a faithful Son, have excelled them all. The making of Israel was in the hands of Moses. The making "of all things new" is the work of Christ.
7. Moses, indeed, was faithful in all His house as a servant, and built up, as Ewald says, "for the first time in all human history a whole nation, prepared to put itself under obligation to live hereafter only in accordance with true religion and her requirements, and to look for salvation in all time to come only from loyalty in its religious life, and the love of the true God, which this loyalty pre-supposes." Better foundation than that can no man lay — God, freedom, righteousness, love; and on every part of it is prophetically written the name of the coming Christ.
8. But the chief purpose of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is to show that Christ is a greater Builder than Moses. In what, then, was Jesus greater than Moses? In the basis on which He built? No: for both built on the same. In the spirit in which He did His work? No; for both could say, '" It is my meat to do the will of my Father, and to finish His work." In fidelity to His trust? Yes; but this is not in the writer's mind: but rather the fact that Christ proves Himself to be nearer the founts and sources of spiritual power.(1) Did Moses speak of a "definite Deity"? Christ's view of God as the Father and Saviour of all men, and of all alike, is the fullest gospel men have yet seen, and makes the amplest provision for all the needs of the individual and social life of mankind.(2) Did Moses build on the heights of freedom? Christ much more! It is to His incarnation and sacrifice we owe the knowledge of the unutterable worth of one soul, the marvellous possibilities of one corrupted and lost human being! From him comes the impulse to liberty.(3) Is Moses a legislator? so also is Christ. He did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fill out and realise their plan; not to demolish their often-dropped ideal, but to take it up and embody it in the life of men. He leads to higher ways of action; to patience, forbearance, forgiveness and self-devotion, for the sake of the weakest and worst; and what men could not do or suffer under "the law" they accomplish with ease and grace under the gospel.(4) Since Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, is greater than Moses the servant of God, in that He furnishes the one thing that was lacking, viz., motive-power; and furnishes it on a scale of limitless magnitude, and with a fitness for human need that leaves nothing to desire, "let us hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope to the end," and so prove that we are of this Divine house. God's commonwealth is as sure to be established as the heavens and earth are built. Only let us give His gospel free play; treat it as containing the key to all our social problems as well as to our individual uses, and it will prove itself as victorious over the difficulties of humanity as it has signally triumphed in the experience of numberless individuals.(5) But recollect, we only belong to that "house" in so far as "we hold fast our boldness" and do not fail in bravo deeds, in bold initiative, in courageous persistence, in the speech and work that vindicate and back our confidence. God has no room for cowards and idlers.(6) Partnership in that "house" requires another quality, viz., that of holding fast "the glorying of our hope," i.e., our exulting hopefulness. "In social things," says John Morley, "we may be sure undying hope is the secret of vision," and it is also the secret of patient work. "We are saved ' socially ' by hope." Amid all this conflict of human passion and opinion, God's work of salvation and regeneration goes on, "without haste and without rest," towards its long since predicted consummation.
(John Clifford, D. D.)I. THIS WORLD MIGHT HAVE HAD A BEGINNING. There is nothing absurd in this supposition. We can easily conceive that there was a time when the heavens and earth mid not exist; and consequently that there was a time when they first came into existence. Now, if the world existed of necessity, it would be absolutely immutable, or incapable of change.
II. If this world might have begun to exist, then IT MIGHT HAVE HAD A CAUSE OF ITS EXISTENCE. Upon this principle the apostle supposes that " every house is builded by some man," or owes its existence to some cause. And this mode of reasoning from the effect to the cause, is perfectly agreeable to common sense. Should the greatest sceptic travel two or three hundred miles into a wild wilderness, and there discover a very ancient and elegant house, he would instantaneously draw the conclusion in his own mind that that house was built by some man.
III. If the world might have had a cause, then IT MUST HAVE HAD A CAUSE. When a number of men walk in procession, they bear the relation of antecedent and consequent to each other, but not the relation of cause and effect. The motion of those who walk before is no cause of the motion of those who walk behind. The operation of our own minds gives us a clear and distinct perception of cause and effect. When we walk, we are conscious of a power to produce motion. Our idea of cause and effect is as clear and distinct as our idea of heat and cold, and is as truly correspondent to an original impression. This being established, the way is prepared to show, that if the world might have had a cause, it must have had a cause.
IV. THE CAUSE WHICH PRODUCED THIS WORLD MUST BE EQUAL TO THE EFFECT PRODUCED. No cause can produce an effect superior to itself. For just so far as an effect surpasses the cause, it ceases to be an effect, and exists of itself.
1. The Creator of all things must be possessed of almighty power. This is the first attribute of the first cause which His great and marvellous works impress upon the mind.
2. The Author and Framer of the world must be supremely wise and intelligent. Mankind have always admired the beauty of the world. Uniformity amidst variety appears through every part of creation.
3. The builder and upholder of the world must be everywhere present. It is the nature of all created beings and objects to be constantly and absolutely dependent upon their Creator.
4. The Maker and Governor of the world must be a being of boundless knowledge. He must necessarily know Himself, and be intuitively acquainted with all His natural and moral perfections. And by knowing these, He must necessarily know all possibles; that is, all things which lie within the limits of omnipotence.
5. The first, supreme and intelligent Cause of all things must be eternal. To suppose the first Cause had a cause of His existence, is to suppose there was a cause before the first Cause; or to suppose He was the cause of His own existence, is to suppose that He existed and operated before He did exist; or to suppose that He came into existence without any cause, is to suppose what has been proved to be impossible.
6. The Framer of our bodies and the Father of our spirits must be a being of moral rectitude. The moral faculty of man carries in it a clear demonstration of the moral rectitude of his Maker. Besides, the whole world bears innumerable marks of the Divine goodness.Deductions: —
1. If it be true that the visible world displays the being and perfections of the Deity, then all who reason themselves into atheism are guilty, of extreme folly.
2. If there be a being of supreme power and intelligence, who is the Creator and Proprietor of the world, then there is great reason to think that He will dispose of all things to His own glory.
3. If there be a being who hath made us, and who will absolutely dispose of us, then it is very desirable to receive a revelation of His will.
4. It there be a God who is possessed of every natural and moral perfection, then it is fruitless for those who believe and acknowledge His existence to deny the divinity of the Scriptures in order to get rid of their disagreeable doctrines.
5. If there be a God, then all His reasonable creatures are bound to be religious. Our capacity to know God obliges us to glorify Him as God.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
(A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
Christ as a Son over His own house.
(A. Saphir.)I. AS A SON OVER HIS OWN HOUSE, CHRIST EXERCISES THE PREROGATIVES OF EXCLUSIVE SUPREMACY.
II. CHRIST AS A SON OVER HIS OWN HOUSE IS ITS ONLY REDEEMER.
III. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS A SON OVER HIS OWN HOUSE HAS PROCURED FOR IT THE GIFTS AND THE GRACES OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT.
1. During His personal ministry, our Lord instructed " His own house" in the things which pertained to the kingdom of God. As the Prophet of the Church, He made known the whole counsel of God for the obedience of faith.
2. Our Lord was, moreover, even in His estate of humiliation, "a Son over His own house," as its Sovereign from whom emanate all the laws which regulate both its internal economy and "the outward business of the house of God."
3. Christ is no longer visibly present in that house over which He presides as a Son. "The heavens must retain Him until the times of the restitution of all things." Still, He is truly and ever present by His Spirit, whom He sends forth in every age to carry forward many of the sublime designs of His mission into the world.
(John Smyth, D. D.)I. First of all, THE HOUSE? WHAT HOUSE IS THIS? "Whose house are we." It is a house composed of all true believers. It is a spiritual edifice. Only look at the contrast; the house of bondage and the house of light and liberty; the former under Moses as a servant, and yet a master — the latter under Jesus the Son, and He also the Master. Oh I what a precious truth it is, that the believer passes from the one to the other.
II. Now, let us CONSIDER THE PROOF THE TEXT GIVES TO US WHEREBY A MAN MAY KNOW WHETHER HE REALLY BELONGS TO THIS HOUSEHOLD. It does not say, "If you hold fast your confidence and the rejoicing of the hope," you shall belong to this house; but it says, "Whose house we are" if we do so and so. That is the proof of my being a member of that house. Observe here the contrast is not between belonging to the house of Christ and no house. Observe, it is not between having religion and no religion. It does not say, "If you have confidence, and if you have hope, you prove that you are religious, as contrasted with those who have no religion"; but you prove that you belong to the house of Christ, as contrasted with the house of Moses. That shows us that whatever a man may say about his religion, yet if he has not confidence, he has gone back to the Mosaic dispensation. Now I do say to you, this house of Christ, as contrasted with the house of Moses, is a glorious house. It has no parallel in the universe. There is nothing like the household of God, belonging to Christ; even angelic intelligences, though a part of that household, are eventually not to be compared to the members of Christ's household. The believer is brought into such a union with God's own Son, as communicates to him a blessedness unknown to any other creature. Even now, look at the wonderful privileges to which believers are called — fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and Community of nature with Christ; Christ having humanity, we having the Divine nature! Only conceive what is held out to us — the glorious promise that we shall behold the glory that He had with the Father before the world was! The apostle says, "whose house are we, if we hold this fast"; if this is manifest in our feelings and deportment. We must get that kind of confidence that neither hell nor earth can shake, and that is to be got by implicit trust in the promises of the Lord. So again the expectation: you are to hold fast the confidence "and the rejoicing of the hope." What hope? That He will come again; "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ"; that is the hope. There is a rejoicing of common expectation; but the expectation of the Christian must be definite. Let me give you two or three important practical rules for retaining this confidence and hope.
1. First of all, thoroughly understand the relationship into which you enter when you enter the house of Christ. Understand thoroughly your relation to God the Father. It is in proportion as you see that, together with your relationship to the Son and Holy Ghost, that you feel confidence that you shall hold fast. Feel this: if God be my Farther, will He give me a stone if I ask Him for bread? Certainly not. Then how much more will He not give me His own Spirit if Christ be my own Saviour? Will He withhold the robe of righteousness in which I may stand before Him? Certainly not, if Christ died that I might have it. If the Holy Ghost be an indweller of my soul, will He quit me? Certainly not.
2. Then another thing bear in mind that you should hold fast; that this work is the work of the Holy Ghost, through whatever instrumentality the Holy Ghost may operate on you. Learn, therefore, to exercise an unqualified dependence on the Holy Ghost. While you are using every possible means, learn to be always dependent on the Holy Ghost, as completely as though you did nothing, at the same time remembering that the Holy Ghost does work by means.
3. Another thing: remember that the path of duty is the path in which all these things are met with and enjoyed.
(C. Molyneux, M. A.)
Homilist.I. HE OWNS IT.
1. This proprietorship is founded on His creative work.
2. His redemptive work.
II. HE OCCUPIES IT.
1. As a permanent Resident.
2. As a hospitable Host.
3. As A Master.
Whose house are we
I. A nobleman hath many houses, which he dwells not in himself, but letteth them forth to other men. We are not houses to let, but God Himself dwelleth in us; we are His mansion-house. It pleaseth Him of His infinite mercy to dwell in such base houses as we are.
2. If God dwell in us, and we be His house, then bow neat and handsome should it be kept. Shall a king's house be overgrown with weeds Shall there be filthy corners in a king's palace? And shall we that profess ourselves to be God's house he full of pride, envy, and malice? The devil found his house swept and garnished to his mind, and shall not God's house be swept for the entertaining of Him? Let us garnish ourselves, which are God's house, with the sweet flowers of faith, love, hope, zeal, humility, temperance, patience, sobriety, that God may take delight to dwell in us.
3. There is no man, especially if he dwell in a house, and it be his own, but will bestow needful reparations on it; and do you think God will suffer His house to lie unrepaired? Nay, being God's house, we shall want nothing for soul or body. If we decay in faith, zeal, and other graces of His Spirit, He will in due season repair them again; He will keep His house wind-tight and water-tight; He will preserve it from wind and weather — yea, the gates of hell shall never prevail against His house.
4. A man may have a house and be defeated of it: some wrangling lawyer may wring it out of his hand, or he may be weary of his house, and make it away. None can snatch God's house out of His hand; He is no changeling; He will keep His house for ever. What? are we the house of God simply? Live as we list, and do what we will? No, verily; but if we hold fast the confidence, &c. One special quality of a good house is to be firm and stable. If it be a tottering house, ready to shake in every wind and tempest, a man will have small joy to dwell in it; even so, we that be the house of God Almighty must not be wavering and inconstant, but we must stand sure, and hold fast the graces we have received. There be two things which we must hold fast: faith and hope; the boldness that we have by faith to come into the presence of God, to whom we have access by Christ, apprehended by faith, and by virtue whereof we may boldly call God Father, and open our minds freely to Him — that is the nature of the word.
(W. Jones, D. D.)we) may be taken two ways —
1. Jointly, for the whole Catholic Church, which is the society of all that ever did or shall believe in Jesus Christ.
2. Distinctly, for every particular believer. For the body of a particular professor is said to be the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19). Fitly are saints styled a house.For —
1. As stones and timber, they are brought together and fitly laid, and that for God to dwell among them (2 Corinthians 6:16).
3. As Solomon's temple was beautified and adorned with silver, gold, variety of pictures, and other ornaments (2 Chronicles 3:4; 1 Kings 6:29), so saints are decked and adorned with the various graces of God s Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).
4. As a house inhabited hath a governor over them, so the society of saints have one over them who is called the Master of the house (Matthew 10:25).
6. As in a great house there are variety of officers, so in the Church there are stewards, ministers, and others (2 Corinthians 12:28).
7. As in a house all needful provision useth to be stored up, so in this house of Christ there is bread of life, water of life, and needful food and refreshing.Singular comforts must needs hence arise to those that are parts and members of this house; and that by reason of —
1. The sure foundation whereon it is settled (1 Corinthians 3:11).
2. The fast knitting of the parts of the house together (Ephesians 2:21).
3. The excellent ornaments thereof, which are the glorious graces of God's Spirit,
4. The good laws and constitutions for better governing the same, being all contained in the Word of God.
5. The wise Governor thereof.
6. The excellent household.
7. The useful offices in it.
8. The variety and sufficiency of provisions appertaining thereto.That which is expected of such as are of this house is —
2. That they deck and adorn themselves with the graces of God's Spirit (Colossians 3:12).
3. That they be subject to their Governor, and to the good orders that He establisheth among them.
4. That they be content with the place and portion which the Master of the household allots unto them.
5. That they maintain unity amongst themselves; for a house divided against itself shall not stand (Matthew 12:25).
If we hold fast the confidence.1. That some professors in the visible Church may make defection, and not persevere to the end.
2. That such as shall make final defection hereafter are not a part of God's house for the present, howsoever they be esteemed.
3. That true believers must take warning, from the possibility of some professors' apostasy, to look the better to themselves, and to take a better gripe of Christ, who is able to keep them.
4. That true believers both may and should hold fast their confidence unto the end; yea, and must aim to do so, if they. would persevere.
5. That true believers have ground and warrant, in the promises of the gospel, both to hope for salvation, and to rejoice and glory in that hope, as if it were present possession.
6. That the more a man aimeth at this solid confidence and gloriation of hope, the more evidence he giveth that he is of the true house of God.
(D. Dickson, M. A.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(E. Deering, B. D.)I. ON WHAT THE STRENGTH AND PERMANENCY OF THIS FEELING OF CONFIDENCE DEPENDS, It depends on a continued realisation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great object of our faith, and an enlargement of our views concerning His glory and excellency. No desire or resoluteness on our part to retain the sentiment of confidence will avail, without presentation to the mind of the object by which it is excited (see vers. 1, 2). In the construction of this sentence, as well as in what follows, it is remarkable how the inspired writer always keeps in view the connection of those whom he addresses with Him of whom He speaks. Is He an Apostle or High Priest? — it is "of our profession." Is He a Son over His own house? — it is added, "whose house are we." This appropriation of Him to us gives us a peculiar interest in all that is said of Him.
II. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS FEELING OF CONFIDENCE AS PROMOTING THE MORAL GOOD OF THE SOUR. Whilst the great question of our peace with God remains undecided, the prevailing motive under which any religious effort can be put forth is fear; itself not the legitimate motive, but leagued as it must be with the paralysing influence of uncertainty on so momentous a concern, it can have no steady or permanent efficacy in producing efforts for good. Therefore, the apostle says, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption." Unquestionably a spirit of fear is not a spirit of power; and those moralists who expect great results by exciting fear in the minds of men must be disappointed; it is as if a general should expect to achieve a great victory by filling the minds of his soldiers with fear when entering on the contest. We know how easy, and in many cases how successful, an enterprise is made by having the mind supported by confidence in matters of this world; the same principle holds in religion, that a spirit of confidence in God is a spirit of power for enduring and accomplishing what His holy will requires. There is, no doubt, a material difference between the confidence of the men ,,f this world, connected as it is with high self-estimation, and leading to presumption and insolence which often defeat itself, and that confidence of the believer in God, which is connected with the lowest estimate of himself, and with the most entire meekness and humiliation of spirit, and which is seen, as often exercised in the patient endurance of reproaches and trials, as in the strenuousness of the soul for religious objects. But as human nature is constituted, peace of mind, with the hope of support, and enterprise, and success from God, all entering into the idea of a believer's confidence, give him a spirit of power in the great undertaking of his soul's salvation, by which he pursues a resistless course, utterly unknown to minds under the vacillating influence of uncertainty and fear — difficulties yield, and enemies are repelled before him; and there is a moral influence and dignity in his character to which the consciences of others give the secret homage due to power. But the main strength of the feeling of confidence towards God which faith begets consists in its exciting love to God, which is the great legitimate principle of moral obedience. Farther, the effect upon the understanding is no less striking or deserving of notice in forming an estimate of the moral efficacy of believing confidence in the truth of God. The apostle says that God hath given us "the spirit of a sound mind," by which we are certainly to understand a greater degree of rationality, and of the influence of our reason on our heart and habits. It is easy to account for uncultivated men becoming intellectual, by having their minds strongly excited by the weight of an eternal interest to study, and reason from day to night upon the most profound of all subjects. And it is no less easy to determine why intellectual irreligious men cannot reason soundly upon religion — they have not been impelled to inquiry by the same pressure; they have not learned the views nor imbibed the principles which would enable them to reason, either with sense or safety, on this momentous subject. It is not the mere exercise of the understanding, but the nature of the subjects about which it is conversant, that gives it force as a moral engine, the greatest metaphysician may be completely outdone in judging of matters of common life by a man of plain common sense, and in matters connected with the soul's salvation his judgment may be completely outdone by a plain Bible Christian. But even when the mind has been employed with the utmost attention on the truth, and comes to its conclusions, their efficacy is small and unabiding until the confidence of faith in the Divine testimony becomes a fixed sentiment in the mind. A conclusion depending on a process of reasoning may strongly impress us whilst we retain the recollection of the process by which we arrived at it; but when that is lost, its impression is weak, and utterly fails before an opposing temptation. How often is it the case with men that they feel little confidence in their own conclusions, however legitimately they may appear to have arrived at them, unless they are fortified by the concurring opinions of those who are reputed wise. This observation leads to the conclusion to which we desire you to come on this subject — that it is not the mere cultivation of the faculty of reason, nor its exercise on the appropriate subjects, that give it real force and steadiness for habitually influencing our moral character, but the distinct apprehension of the Divine testimony concurring with and sanctioning the different positions to which the mind has assented. Reason and faith in the Christian are closely allied in that exercise, for though the Christian must, on the testimony of God, receive some things as true which are above the comprehension of his reason in the present state, God does not propose to him what is contrary to it; and in the peculiar points, the faith of which is essential to salvation, God leads the human mind to an understanding of that which He requires it to believe.
III. THE INFLUENCE THIS CONFIDENCE HAS ON HAPPINESS. In its lowest degree it produces a repose of the soul, to which the gay and thought. less of this world are utter strangers. It is equally obvious that the state of mind in which it possesses energy to pursue the dictates of the higher faculties, wherein it is exempted from the control of degrading passions, and especially has its leading affection its chief desire, toward that great Source of all good, to which, by its original relations, it was allied, and for enjoying which its capacities were framed, must be the happiest state of the soul; and that all apparent happiness, in a different state, is as delusive in its nature as it is transitory in its duration. Recourse to God, considered in itself, is at all times an unfailing source of joy to the soul that has confidence in Him. It is inward, and independent of outward combinations, which he could not command; it accords with stillness and retirement, which are so irksome to the children of pleasure; it purifies and ennobles the soul; nor is there in it, when rightly understood, the least vestige of delusiveness or enthusiasm; for, though not depending upon sense, or carried on through its medium, its evidence of reality is quite as satisfactory. He whose soul goes out in confidence to God knows God's existence — His attention to his desires — His approbation of the confidence which the soul cherishes in Him from the testimony of His written Word — of that Record of Truth which will survive and prove its reality when all the objects of time and sense shall have passed away for ever.
(Donald Fraser, D. D.)
1. Humility. This is the basis and foundation when the fore-mentioned house is settled. Christ saith that a man who builds a sure house digs deep (Luke 6:48). God giveth grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34). For this very end we are forbidden to be high-minded, lest we fall (Romans 11:20). Self-conceitedness and pride make men careless (Revelation 3:17).
2. Sincerity. Tills is an inward soundness. If the foundation be not sound, the edifice cannot be well settled on it. Soundness is that which maketh last and endure. Sappy, rotten timber will quickly fail. Counterfeit grace will not last.
3. A settled resolution to hold out to the end (Psalm 119:106).
4. Jealousy. Jealousy, I say, in regard of the temptations whereunto we are subject, and of our own weakness. Satan is subtle (1 Peter 5:8). Sin is deceitful (Hebrews 3:13); and we are of ourselves foolish, and prone to yield to sin and Satan. If we be secure or careless, we may be soon taken as birds in a net.
5. Prudence. For the manifestation hereof avoid occasions which may draw thee out of thy Christian course.
6. Growth in grace. By this we shall be the more strengthened and the better enabled to hold out.
8. Stedfast expectation of the prize or reward that is set before thee. It is said of Moses that he had respect unto the recompense of the reward (Hebrews 11:26).
9. Prayer-faithful, fervent, constant prayer. Christ used this means for Himself (Hebrews 5:7). This means He also used that Peter's faith might not fail. By the foresaid means we may continue to enjoy our spiritual strength, as Caleb did his bodily strength (Joshua 14:11), and as Moses, whose natural force abated not (Deuteronomy 34:7), we shall still bring forth fruit in old age (Psalm 92:14).
(W. Arnot, D. D.)Macrocystis pyrifera is a marine plant, rising from a depth of one hundred and fifty or two hundred feet, and floating for many fathoms on the surface of the sea. Darwin says, "I know few things more surprising than to see this plant growing and thriving amid the great breakers of the Western Ocean, which no masses of rock, however hard, can long resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom has a diameter of so much as an inch." How great its resistance to withstand the strain of such a sea! In spite of storm and breakers, the species maintains itself from century to century; for the strength with which it clings to the naked rock, and faces the fury of the elements, has been poised by the wisdom of God.
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