Apostasy; or, The Strong Consolation
Hebrews 5:11 — 6.
"We are persuaded better things of you"
We have already had occasion to remark the frequent breaks in the line of truth being developed by the Spirit of God, in order that a word of admonition might be given to the professors whom He is addressing. Here we have again, after but a short portion devoted to our Lord's priesthood, a pause, in order that those addressed may be stirred up to pay attention to what is being said, and to judge in their own souls that which hinders them from going happily along with what the Spirit of God is unfolding.
"Concerning whom we have much to say, and hard to be interpreted in speaking, since ye are become dull in hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have again need that one should teach you what are the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe; but solid food belongeth to full-grown men, who, on account of habit, have their senses exercised to distinguish both good and evil."
Thus having come to the Melchisedec character of our Lord's priesthood, before entering upon it the apostle addresses them in the parenthesis which is now to occupy us. But though there are these frequent interruptions, caused by the slowness of heart of those whom he is addressing, there is a constant and steady progress in the development of the truth which is being brought forward. Thus, our Lord's priesthood has been mentioned, then the heavenly character of it, then the fact that He has passed through the heavens, then the nature of His call and how God has addressed Him, saluting Him as the Melchisedec Priest. Each time there are added thoughts to what has gone before. So the Spirit of God is developing in an orderly and connected way the line of truth which will, a few chapters later on, burst upon us in all its effulgence.
We shall miss the thought of the Spirit of God if we think that these exhortations are simply addressed to the Hebrews. They are addressed, as all Scripture is, to "him that hath an ear," according to the need.
He says here that he has "many things to say, and hard to be uttered," concerning Christ, our Priest. You remember that Peter seems to refer to this passage in his second epistle, where he says, "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." A sluggish state of soul is natural. It is only as we are quickened and stirred up by the Spirit of God that the mind and heart become properly awake to receive fresh truth.
The purpose of the Spirit of God is that we should be ever growing. There is no thought in the word of God of our standing still. We should ever make progress, and the character of that progress is marked by the practical knowledge of Christ. So the apostle, in the epistle to the Philippians, although he knew much of Christ, says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended of Christ Jesus." He realized that to know Christ was the sum of knowledge. "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings." For that he would press on; and as Christ Himself was in glory at God's right hand, Paul would never cease being a racer and a learner until he got into the very presence of Him who is the fulness of God's revelation. Scripture never speaks of the knowledge of Christ as merely knowing about Him, but it is knowing Him; as the same apostle said, later on, "I know whom I have believed." He was acquainted with Him in such a way that it was a knowledge of heart and life, not merely theoretical.
If we test ourselves by that kind of knowledge, shall we not find admonition here for us, as it was for those to whom it was first addressed? "For the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God." How long have we been Christians? Here is one who has been saved for a year, another for five years; others can look back upon a Christian life of ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Very blessed it is to be able to look back and say, "For twenty years I have known the Lord;" but here is the point: for the time that you have known Christ you ought to be a teacher of Christ. We all ought to know Him so well that we can have no difficulty in teaching others of Him. I ask, How many of us are teachers in this sense? It is not a question of the gift of teaching here. God has given gifts in the assembly — some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. It is not those specific gifts that are spoken of here. It is that spiritual faculty of being able to make known to others a Person who is well known to ourselves. The only way you can introduce two persons is to be acquainted with both. So there must be heart acquaintance with Christ, a deep, real, full heart knowledge of Him, if we are to make Him known to others. Where this is the case we can say with the apostle, "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." There is a savor of Christ in one's heart that cannot be concealed.
Look at the Thessalonians. The apostle was with them, perhaps four weeks altogether, taking them from their darkness and presenting Christ in such a way that at the end of that time, when he was obliged to leave because of persecution, it was with the assurance that the Spirit of God had material to carry on the blessed work in their souls. More than that, "for the time" they were teachers of what they had received. The whole country round was ablaze with the truth that those Thessalonians had received. People everywhere were talking about them, so that the apostle said he had no need to speak, for they themselves bore witness of the character of his work among them how they had "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven." You notice it was Christ that they were waiting for. They had known Christ, and they were longing to see Christ, and that summed up, as you might say, their knowledge. All was included between these two great facts.
How do we compare with those four-week old saints in testimony, in the knowledge that we are giving, in the sweet savor of Christ that we are presenting? For the time, we ought to be teachers. Would to God it could be said of the saints in this place, in this age, that they were after the Thessalonian type. It is to be greatly feared that they are rather after the type we are considering here. Let us make it a distinctly personal thing.
It is a bad sign when we cease to love the gospel. There is a certain sense in which we are ever to have the spirit of the new-born babe, as the apostle Peter tells us in his first epistle: "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." The thirst for truth, for the word of God, is to be like the thirst which the new-born babe has for its nourishment. But that is very different from being babes who only want the milk, the elementary, the simplest things, and who turn away from the solid food, from that which is for grown men. It should appeal to our consciences, whether we are in a state of infancy or whether we are going on to the clear, full knowledge of Christ. He says: "Every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness." "Unto every one that hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance." But we have got to use that which God has given us, if we expect Him to entrust more to us. Are you using it in teaching others? Are you using it in such a way that Christ's cause is indebted to your service for an upbuilding and a help, the loss of which would be distinctly felt? Suppose we were a company of evangelists, of testifiers for Christ, each one in our business, our circle of acquaintance, wherever we are, what a blessed contrast it would be to that spirit of apathy which settles down upon the saints of God! We deplore our coldness, so few additions, so little gospel testimony. Ah, what is the remedy for it? There needs to be a stirring up of soul and that exercise of what God has given to us. That will give the only appetite that will crave for more. As you use that knowledge of Christ which God has given, as you make use of Christ and His Word and His authority, bowing to it in your soul, you will have such a hunger for more of Christ as He Himself alone can satisfy.
And if the Spirit of God pauses in unfolding a line of truth, let us hearken to what He has to say. Let us be a people who are no longer babes, who no longer need to be carried in the arms, to be guarded against every little wind that might blow upon us, but who are able to care for and minister to others. Ought it not to be so, for the time we have been Christians?
"Therefore, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to full growth; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, of a teaching of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; and this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible to renew again to repentance those once enlightened, and who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made companions of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and have fallen away, crucifying afresh for themselves the Son of God, and putting him to open shame. For the ground which drinketh in the rain which cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth useful herbs for those for the sake of whom it is cultivated, partaketh of blessing from God; but when it bringeth forth thorns and briers it is found worthless and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned."
The apostle now applies what he had been saying to these Hebrew professors in a more specific way. He tells them there are certain things they are to leave. There was a time of infancy, such as we see in the fourth chapter of Galatians, where Judaism is spoken of as a period of infancy, when "a child differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father." He says that time has come to an end. You are no longer under tutors and governors, no longer under the schoolmaster. You have now come to full age. He refers there to Judaism, the ordinances and truths connected with the establishment of God's earthly testimony. He says, The time is come when you are to leave all that and go on to perfection. You are to leave that which was the beginning of the doctrine of Christ. That does not mean, as many have thought, leaving elementary Christianity and going on to the higher life. The period of infancy is Judaism, and the period of manhood is Christianity. They are to leave what had to do with the beginning, when God was giving foreshadowings of Christ, and are to go on unto the perfection of what God has revealed, that is, Christ as He is made known to us in the new dispensation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are six ways in which the apostle here describes Judaism; and mark, it was not a carnal institution that he was speaking of, "after the commandments and doctrines of men," but of that which had been provided by God, and which was connected with certain great fundamental truths which underlie all knowledge of Him. So you will find in this description of Judaism, not merely form and ceremony, but other things as well. They are in pairs, as you will notice: "Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God." All through the Old Testament repentance was constantly spoken of. Alas, His people were perpetually wandering from Him, and God was constantly calling them back to repentance. Their works were but dead works, unprofitable because they were done in disobedience to God. Wherever there is any dealing with God it must begin with repentance, before there can be full faith. Connected with this repentance was the faith in God; not faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is speaking of the old revelation which God had given of Himself in Judaism. Abraham, the progenitor of the whole Jewish nation, was distinguished by his faith, and wherever there had been any true worship of God it was upon the basis of faith, that is, confidence in Himself.
But these were things recognized in all relationships with Him from the beginning. But they were not things which formed the basis, gave color and tone as you may say, to their knowledge at the present time. It was not now a constant repentance from dead works. It was not now mere abstract faith in God as He was revealed in the Old Testament, but the repentance of genuine self-judgment which once for all took its place as lost and guilty in the presence of God, and then accepted Christ Jesus as God's full and perfect provision for salvation.
The next couplet described Judaism as to its ceremonial character. There was "the teaching of baptisms and of laying on of hands." This "teaching of baptisms" does not refer at all to water baptism, either John's or still less to Christian baptism, and most certainly not to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It is a different word practically, with a different ending. It is the same word which is used later on in our epistle, translated there "divers washings." It was the sprinkling of blood, washing at the laver, and other ceremonial ordinances connected with outward approach to God. And in close connection with that was the laying on of hands. It is not Christian laying on of hands. You will miss the entire connection if you think it refers to things in Christianity. It is the laying on of hands, for instance, when the offerer brought the sacrifice to the door of the tabernacle, confessing his sin. The high priest did the same on the great day of atonement, putting his hands on the head of the bullock.
Those things were characteristic of God's ritual in Judaism, prescribed by Himself; they were not man's ordinances. And here is a striking thing — that when God displaces His ordinance by something better, by that which fulfils it and of which the ordinance is a type, to go back again to that ordinance is not to go back to what God has provided, but to "the weak and beggarly elements of the world." The thing ceases to be God's ordinance any longer. It has served its purpose, and now if they were to go back to that they would be giving up what God had made known; they would be really apostatizing. If that is true of what God Himself has given; if this brazen serpent, so to speak, of Old Testament ritual, becomes a nehushtan, a "piece of brass," when it has served its purpose, — and yet men turn back to it! what shall we say of all that wretched ritualism which the flesh delights in today, which is not even Judaism, but turning the truths of Christianity into a form? That indicates a state just as deadly, in some sense more hopeless, than the state of those Hebrews who were tempted to turn back to Jewish ceremonies after God had given the knowledge of Christ.
The last couplet gives us again two great truths which will always remain, though they are not truths of Christianity distinctively. They are simply the broad, general truths which were known under Judaism and speak for all time. It was "the resurrection of the dead" and "eternal judgment" — things which look toward the future. You will remember that Martha said to our Lord she knew that Lazarus would rise again at the last day. Resurrection, though not a prominent truth in the Old Testament, was by no means one of which they were ignorant. Faith had laid hold of the fact. We find intimations again and again that God is going to bring up the dead, that they are going to be judged, that there is a time when He is going to display all His glory, as in the fiftieth psalm: "For God is Judge Himself." So the truth of judgment was known in Judaism, as the truth of resurrection in a general sense was known; yet not in the Christian way. It was a resurrection of the dead, not a resurrection of the saints, the dead in Christ rising first, and sharing with Him in His glory a thousand years before the resurrection of the wicked dead. It was no such truth as the Thessalonian saints knew. It was simply the general fact of a resurrection. And as to judgment, there was no knowledge of the fact that the believer had passed from under judgment, that he would never come into it. All of these things are connected with the Christian revelation. They were not a part of what God had revealed in Judaism. Let us, he says, leave all these elementary things; some of them are acknowledged truths about which we have much further light; some of them are ceremonial ordinances which have served their pur pose, and have been fulfilled in Christ; the time for them has gone forever. Let us leave that and go on to what God has revealed now. And what is that? Absolute perfection. He has no further revelation to give. Who could add aught to it, to the peerless, perfect Son of God, or to that dispensation which He has introduced, of which the Church is the glorious expression in the word of God? All, there you have perfection.
In contrast with this, he brings up the next passage — solemn and dreadful for those who do not understand it. It has been a source of trouble and exercise to multitudes of tender consciences. There are vast numbers of God's people not well instructed, not thoroughly grounded in the grace of God, who have thought it teaches that a true believer, a possessor of eternal life, may yet perish. Let me call your attention to one distinct thing: if it does mean that, it seals the doom of everyone of whom it speaks. "It is impossible" this is too much for those who want to teach the doctrine of falling from grace, or backsliding; they do not want to say it is impossible; they would say, Come and repent again, be saved again. But this declares that it is impossible for those who have received these privileges and turn away from them to renew them again to repentance. If this means a true believer can be lost, it seals his doom forever there is no possibility of hope that lie could ever turn again in repentance to God.
But, blessed be God, we know Him far better than that; we know that it is impossible for Him to make such a statement as that, because our blessed Lord has declared, in those passages which unequivocally do teach it, the eternal security and continuance of the believer, whom He calls His sheep. "I know My sheep, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . for I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
If you want to learn about the security of the believer, turn to a passage which teaches it. Do not turn to a passage which is speaking of false profession and apostasy to learn about perseverance. That is the great mistake. When we come to such passages as these we are to look calmly at them, to study them on our knees before God to get the blessing out of them. There was a time, I believe, in many of our lives when we used to quickly turn this page when we came to it, for we felt as if we were reading our own doom. For who that is honest before God has not been conscious of departure, of loss of communion, of things of that kind, which a sensitive conscience, goaded on by Satan, could turn into that which would come under this condemnation? But now, having peace with God, we can look at it, and thank Him for His faithfulness in putting it there as a warning to an empty, false profession, and as a stirring up to those who are careless and settling down into worldliness. For any who are tempted to listen to anything that is not of Christ, here is a voice of thunder saying, Give up Christ and you give up everything! Suppose a child of God were tempted to dally with some antichristian teaching, you could read this passage to him and say, You are dallying with that which is going to destroy the soul. You are dallying with that which has attractions for you according to the flesh, which may offer some worldly advantage, professes to heal the body perhaps, but look at the condemnation which God has pronounced for those who have tasted of better things and turn back to this rubbish: it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Viewed from its right standpoint, the passage is very simple, and most needful in stirring up heart and conscience.
There are five expressions used here to describe the privileges of Christianity, and not one of them speaks of justification, or of new birth, or of peace with God. Suppose you read in this passage, It is impossible for those who have had eternal life, for those who have been justified, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. What a change of teaching that would be! But not one of the expressions in this passage speaks of the life of the soul they all speak of the outward privileges of Christianity into which these Hebrew professors had been introduced. Let us look at them a moment.
"Those who were once enlightened." Christ said He came as a light into the world and when the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven at Pentecost, and the full light of divine truth was preached, there was an illumination shed all round. Minds were enlightened, they were emancipated from the superstition of the darkness in which they were before but that enlightenment could be an entirely outward thing, not necessarily inward, unless it could be said of them also, "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts:" that is a different thing.
"Have tasted of the heavenly gift" — the gift which came down from heaven. Our blessed Lord said to the woman of Samaria, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that speaketh unto thee, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." Here is the heavenly gift, the water of life, and it has been put to the lips of people they have had a taste of it. It has been like those who received seed upon the stony ground they received the word with joy, and it sprung up immediately. But a taste of the heavenly gift does not mean drinking it and taking it into the soul. It means simply that it has been pressed to the lips, and one has said, This is good; but it remains to be seen whether in their souls they have drunk it down.
Then there is "made partakers," or companions, as the word might be translated, "of the Holy Ghost." That is, brought under the benefits of the ministry of the Holy Ghost. Read the early chapters of the Acts, see the work of the Spirit of God, look at it in connection with Ananias and Sapphira, see it in the time of Simon Magus, how the energy, the works, the gifts, the fruits of the Spirit were manifested in such an amazing way that those who came into professed Christianity could indeed be said to be partakers of these blessings, the outward privileges of the Holy Spirit.
"And have tasted the good word of God." That is the word of the gospel of His grace, which had been presented to them, which they had opportunity to taste; and "the powers of the world to come" (the coming age), that is, the miracles, which belonged really to the time of Christ's outward manifestation, and so they are spoken of as the powers of the coming age — miracles which will be performed in connection with the millennium.
They have had all these advantages. Now, he says, if you have had these fivefold privileges (and I think that number is significant as suggesting Christ as man, God manifest in the flesh), having had all these privileges, if they should turn back to the Judaism which they had left, he says it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. The reason for it is that they have crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame. They have set their seal to the crucifixion and rejection of Christ, just as Israel had done before. For those who cried out, "Crucify Him!" Peter says afterwards, "Brethren, I wot that ye did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers." But those who are in the full light of divine truth, if they turn away from Christ, he says, there is a new crucifixion of Christ, not in igno rance, but as in the tenth chapter, where he uses still stronger language, and says they have trodden under foot the Son of God. That is apostasy of a hopeless character. We can thank God that it is not a question of falling into sin, solemn as that is, but of turning away from Christ, of giving Him up.
Now I believe that that was distinctly true of the professors in the apostle's day. There is one thought which is to me a very solemn one: that this awful sin of apostasy is not a sin which is common in this day. You might say that is a good sign. I say it is a sorrowful sign. In Paul's day the lines were so clearly drawn that it was either Christ or no Christ; it was either for Christ or against Him: those who took their place in association with Christ and His people had to bear reproach, to endure a great fight of afflictions. Look at the emasculated Christianity of today! Where can you draw the line between that which professes to be loyal to Christ, and apostasy from Him? In many pulpits, where Christ is professedly preached, you have disloyalty and dishonor to His holy name proclaimed. The trouble is that the whole mass of professed Christianity is so far on the road to apostasy that it is difficult to draw any such line of demarcation as the Spirit of God draws here. All is tending toward apostasy. Solemn and awful thought!
He goes on to say that the earth, which has had every opportunity of tillage and culture and rain from heaven, and brings forth fruit for those who cultivate it, receives a blessing; but that which only brings forth briars and thorns — the abortive branch, which speaks of the curse rather than of the blessing — is nigh unto cursing, and the end is burning. You remember, our Lord says in the parable that some seed fell among thorns; and He declares that the thorns might be the cares, the pleasures, the riches, the prosperity of this world. Anything that would usurp Christ's place can be the thorn, and the apostle applies it here to the full-fledged apostasy; that which, giving up Christ, becomes an absolute thorn, whose end is cursing and burning.
"But we are persuaded better things concerning you, beloved, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love which ye have shown to his name, having ministered to the saints, and still ministering. But we desire earnestly that each one of you show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope to the end; that ye be not slothful, but imitators of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises."
How the apostle hastens to reassure any trembling soul that had a real conscience toward God He is not speaking in a way to drive them to despair. He says, We are persuaded better things of you, though we speak in this faithful way, and search out mere profession and stir your consciences and hearts. We are persuaded better things of you, better than all profession, better than all outward privilege. Then, instead of thorns and briars, he shows the fruitfulness of a Christian life produced by the indwelling Spirit in the "good ground" of a heart truly broken and alive to God. Blessed contrast, is it not? There were those of whom he had previously spoken who had brought forth only thorns and briars; but of the true Christians he says, God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, that devotedness which you have shown to His name. The work and labor of love was not merely to their fellow Christians who enjoyed the fruit of it, but it was toward God's name, and for His sake. They had not only ministered to the saints in the past, it was a present service as well — "ye do minister." All that we desire, he says, is that you show the same devotedness in increasing measure unto the full assurance of hope. In other words, he says, You have not yet entered upon your possession. You have shown, and are showing, the fruit of a Christian life, the effect of that rain from heaven upon your souls. God is not unrighteous to forget the fruit of His own Spirit in your lives. But he wants them to have the full assurance of hope. These Christian Hebrews were in a sad way, looked at according to the flesh: they were subjected to the persecution of their own kinsmen; and when asked, What have you got for having renounced your Judaism, for having given up all your earthly hopes and the ceremonies that God gave to our fathers? they would have had to show empty hands. Everything was still in the future. He reminds them that they must hold on until the things that they have laid hold of in hope are manifested to sight.
So, too, the believer today has nothing material to show for having given up everything. Some one might say, You might have had an opportunity to become a prominent man in politics, or have won great wealth if you had not taken up foolish notions of Christianity and religion. Now tell me, what have you got to show for it? You would say to him, What I have to show, alas, you have no eyes to see. I have peace of conscience, a sense of God's approval; I have the love of Christ that passeth knowledge filling my heart; but, alas, you have no eyes to see these things. In your judgment I have made a foolish choice, and until you see the end of these things I must be a fool in your sight.
Let it be so, beloved. We can never justify ourselves before the world for having turned our backs upon it. We can never get the world's approbation or acknowledgment that we have done the right thing in forsaking all for Christ; but ah, the Spirit of God declares in His Word, and that blessed hope which draws us on with ever-hastening footsteps — these declare that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. We must be content to be despised, misunderstood and rejected as our blessed Lord was, until He who is the goal of our hope shall appear and we shall appear with Him in glory. Blessed effect of stirring up of conscience and heart that Christ Himself may be the living hope before the soul!
He gives an example of this — and it is a Hebrew example — in the history of Abraham.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee and multiplying I will multiply thee; and so having had long patience, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by a greater, and with them the oath is a term to all dispute, as making matters sure. Wherein God, willing to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his purpose, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible that God should lie, we might have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold ou the hope set before us."
Here is the hope again. It is a future thing. Abraham did not have so much as to put his foot upon in the land of Canaan. He might walk up and down in the land, as God had told him, but none of it was his own. Had he remarked to a Canaanite, All this is my inheritance, he would have been laughed to scorn. The only portion he had in it was a burying-place: the death of all hope, you might say. But what did he have besides? He had the promise of God, who cannot lie. The word of the living God had declared that He would bless him, that He would give the place where he was to him and his seed after him. That was before the birth of Isaac. And when God called him to give up the dearest object of his hope, his son Isaac, it was a question whether he would take the bare word of the living God, or hold on to what he had in Isaac. He had to give up Isaac, the child of promise, unto death, and receive him back, in a figure, in resurrection. In view of that obedience of faith, God declares with an oath, in a mediatorial way, He interposes His oath, He could swear by none greater — men always Call to witness the greater — God swears by His own great self that He will bless this man of faith, who has nothing for a present possession, and that He will fulfil every word that He has promised. It is as though God had said that, as long as He is God — as if He would have to cease to exist before the faith that counted upon Him should be disappointed.
Look at that lonely old man, without a foot of ground to call his own, and yet the inheritor of it all! We will see when we come to the eleventh chapter that he had his eyes on a better inheritance, even a heavenly. But look at him here, without a thing to call his own, yet what did he have? O brethren, he had God's word and God's oath; and so have we; a strong consolation for us who have fled for refuge to lay hold of — not upon some present possession, not upon something that we can hold up to the world and say, See our wealth, or our glory — but upon the HOPE set before us. These are evidently the "two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie" — His word, confirmed by His oath. Abraham had these, and so have we. It has been suggested that these two things are our Lord's eternal priesthood and kingship — His Melchizedec priesthood. While these do abide eternally, and are the witness of the perpetuity of all our blessings, they are not what is immediately before us here, and we would be obliged to ignore the oath and promise of God given to Abraham.
This, then, is the basis of that strong consolation which the weakest saint has. Put that side by side with the apostasy. There we saw those who, with their backs turned to Christ, and, like thorns and briars, are going on to the burning: here are those who have fled for refuge to Christ and laid hold of the hope set before them, and it is for them a strong consolation, that which buoys up the soul, which sustains it in every difficulty until faith and hope are changed to sight, and we enter into the joy of the Lord — the inheritance that is reserved for us. So God is not unrighteous to forget the fruits which His own grace has produced, and He is not untruthful to deny Himself and the oath which He has given.
"Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, where Jesus is entered, a forerunner for us; being made for ever a high priest after the order of Melchisedec."
The hope is the anchor. We are like ships in the midst of a storm; the waves are beating against our frail barks; tribulation, temptation sorely try and test us. If it were only the frail bark, who could weather the storm, who would not be dashed to pieces upon the rocks, who would not be apostates like the rest? But oh, that anchor of the soul is sure and steadfast! There is nothing in us sure and steadfast. It is not the stability of our purpose, nor the loyalty of our devotion. The anchor has laid hold upon that which is within the veil, which separates the unseen from the seen, which also barred the way into the presence of a holy God. The anchor has reached hold of that solid anchorage beyond all that is seen, and taken hold even there. So we can sing —
"The storm may roar without me.
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And shall I be dismayed?"
We are held fast by the anchor, on the hope that is set before us. And lest there should be any misunderstanding as to what that anchor is, he says, Whither Christ the forerunner, has entered, — the pledge that we too shall enter, in God's good time. Christ has entered within the veil, a High Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.
And so the Spirit of God returns to His theme.