The Present Service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

C E Stuart

Introductory Notice

The following papers originally appeared some years ago in the pages of a magazine which has ceased to exist. They are now reprinted, after revision by the author, at the suggestion of a friend, in the hope that they may yet be used of the Lord to the profit and blessing of His people.

Reading, January, 1887.

Contents
1. — For His Saints.
2. — The Shepherd of the Sheep.
3. — The Bishop of Our Souls.
4. — Washing our Feet.
5. — An Advocate with the Father.
6. — High Priest of Our Confession.

1. — For His Saints.

To minister, not to be ministered to, did the Son of Man come; and, though He accepted the ministrations of women (Luke viii. 3), and learnt what it was as a man to be waited on in the wilderness (Mark i. 13), and strengthened in the garden by angelic agency (Luke xxii. 43), yet, as God's servant upon earth, He came to minister to man. How simply can such a fact be stated, but what a fact it is! The Son of Man, under whom all things in heaven and earth will one day be openly placed, He it is who has been upon earth in humiliation, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. He came to minister! To the disciples of John He gave a slight sketch of some of the marked features of His ministry in Israel, by which their master might be assured that He was the Christ. The blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf, the dead, and the poor, these were the classes benefited by His services as He walked about amongst men. A new era had dawned upon earth, when the First-born of all Creation could be found occupied with such. To all in Israel, who had wants or desires, was He thus willing to minister. The impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, friendless and helpless as he was, could witness of His readiness to heal him; and the poor woman, who for eighteen years had been afflicted by a spirit of infirmity, could tell with gratitude of His words addressed to her, and His hands laid on her in the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Luke xiii. 12, 13). Was His presence desired anywhere, He would graciously hearken to the request, as Peter's wife's mother knew well; and Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, as well as the Gentile Centurion, could attest it. No time nor place was out of season. When He had not time so much as to eat bread (Mark iii. 20), and His friends hearing of it, went out to lay hold of Him, thinking He was beside Himself, He did not check the importunate crowd which surrounded Him; nor, when at a later date His privacy with the twelve was invaded by much people, who ran afoot out of all cities, and outwent them, did the Lord resent the seeming intrusion; but moved with compassion for them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd, He began to teach them many things (Mark vi. 31-34). Again, on His last journey to Jerusalem, He stopped the whole procession by Jericho at the sound of the blind beggar's voice; and, on the morrow after His transfiguration on the mount, He attended most patiently to that poor distracted father's account of his afflicted son, and manifested that, though He could be in the cloud of glory, and was the Father's well-beloved Son, His presence on earth was indispensable to fallen men when under the dominion of the enemy.

To all classes was He accessible. As Messiah He met the need of the children of Israel, and healed, as we read, all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people (Matt. iv. 23). The Samaritans of Sychar tasted of His graciousness and of His grace; for, though a Jew by birth, He could give even to the Samaritans living water springing up unto everlasting life. The Samaritan leper, a stranger according to the law of Moses, was healed in common with the other nine, and, from his turning back in the fulness of his heart to thank the Lord for having compassion on him, we learn that Christ had made no difference in His dealings between the rest and him. All alike were healed, though one only, that stranger, gave glory to God by confessing it to the Lord. And the Syrophoenician woman was a witness that, even a dog, a Gentile, when she took her true place dispensationally before Him, got all the request of her heart fulfilled without delay and without reserve: "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour" (Matt. xv. 28).

But not only in ministering to the wants of the body do we read about Him, for He taught, He sympathised, He comforted. On the shores of the lake of Galilee (Luke v.), in the wilderness (Mark vi. 34), in synagogues, in the Temple, and in private houses (Mark ii. 1, 15; Luke vii.), He taught. The widow of Nain could tell how, from His compassion towards her, He had healed her broken heart, by restoring the dead son to his mother; and those at the side of Lazarus' grave could bear witness to the tenderness of His love to the sisters in their sorrow. Nor was this all. As the Shepherd He had got access to the sheep in the fold, ministered the suited truth to them, and got hold of their hearts preparatory to leading them out.

But He died, and that active ministry, carried on by Him during life, stopped when He was taken down from the cross, and was laid in the grave. Did His ministry cease then, never to be resumed? His general ministry amongst men, as carried on when upon earth, did then cease, and has not since been resumed; but, as miracles are the powers of the age to come, we learn from the character of His works before His death what the blessings are men will owe to Him when He reigns, when prayer shall be made for Him continually, and daily shall He be praised (Ps. lxxii. 15). Before, however, that time arrives for earth, the heavenly people will learn on high what His ministry will do for them there. Their work for Him on earth ended, and having watched for His return, "He will gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them" (Luke xii. 37). The servants will then sit, and He Himself will attend on them, thus maintaining that character He declared was His, when He ate the last supper with the apostles. "I am among you as — ho diakonon — the one who serves" (Luke xxii. 27). But this character of service will be exercised only on behalf of His people, those who belong to heaven, and whose life on earth has ended.

Before the cross He could minister to Jew and Gentile; by and by all nations on earth shall rejoice in what He will provide for them; but on high His own will behold Him in that character, outwardly assumed for the moment at the last supper, of the girded Servant, serving, not one above Him, but those whose privilege it had been to be reckoned amongst His servants and followers when on earth. This, however, is a heavenly scene to be witnessed when both He and they are together on high, as the powers of the age to come will be enjoyed by men on earth, when He returns to reign over them. But what a time that will be — what a scene will then be witnessed, when the Master will wait on those who have served and waited for Him!

Thus in time past, and in the future, will the Lord manifest Himself as the One who serves. But a new thing was inaugurated when He went on high — a Man, crowned with glory and honour, serving God's saints on earth. That heavenly beings should minister to men in their mortal state was nothing new, for as soon as Adam and Eve fell, and expulsion from the garden was found to be part of the consequences of their sin, the cherubim, placed eastward in the garden, guarded with the flaming sword every way to the tree of life. A ministry this was of goodness and mercy to the fallen pair. From that day till the time of the patriarch Abraham we read nothing about angelic ministry to men; but from his days and onward to the close of the canon of Scripture, we meet with statements of their service and intervention, providentially or judicially, or otherwise, in the affairs of men.

By the visit of two to Sodom, Lot was rescued, and by one Peter was brought out of prison. By the destroying angel the first-born of the Egyptians were smitten, and by an angel was Israel chastised in the reign of David. An angel ministered to Elijah in the desert, and appeared to Paul on board ship in the storm. The angels of God met Jacob at Mahanaim, and surrounded Elisha and his young man on the mount. An angel was sent to Daniel to tell him about the future, and the revelation of Jesus Christ was signified to John by one of those heavenly messengers. To men in general, without distinction of race or spiritual condition, do they attend, it would appear; for the Lord acquaints us with the fact about little children, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of His Father in heaven. But to God's people in particular do they minister. Thus Messiah was to be the object of their providential care, as the Psalmist declared (Ps. xci. 11); and the nation of Israel, as God's earthly people, is specially cared for by Michael their prince (Dan. x. 21; xii. 1). And now, that Israel and God's people are not one and the same class, we learn from Hebrews i. 14 that the angels are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation. Thus men, Israel, and God's saints, though inferior to angels in rank, intelligence, and power, are cared for by them.

But since the Lord Jesus went on high, a new thing has been instituted — His service, whilst in heaven, to souls upon earth, not superseding in the least angelic ministry to men, as the Acts of the Apostles abundantly evidence, nor carrying on exactly the same service in which He engaged when on earth. Personal service it was then, personal service it is now. He as much concerns Himself with individuals as ever He did, we have to say with reverence and with thankfulness; but He does not now do what He did then. To heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people is not the special feature in His ministry now. To restore the dead to desolated homes and hearts is not His present service. He may, He does, answer prayer for bodily wants; but, since to depart, and to be with Christ, is the better thing for God's saints, we look not for Him to restore the dead to life, except, as in the case of Dorcas, for a testimony to the reality of His power and exaltation to God's right hand, whom men nailed to the cross. In the early days of Christianity, when the disciples went forth preaching everywhere, the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs following (Mark xvi. 20). This manifestation of His continued interest in His people and in God's work on earth we see not now, yet the Lord's ministry is as real and as constant now as ever it was, though only on behalf of His own; for, though on earth He ministered to men irrespective of their soul's condition, since He has been rejected by the world, He carries on His service, whilst on high, only on behalf of His saints.

Of this feature in His present ministrations we have intimation in His discourse with His disciples in the upper room on the night before His crucifixion. Sorrow filling their hearts at the prospect of losing their Master and Friend, He comforted them with the assurance that He was going to His Father's house to make ready a place for them within it. He was leaving earth; the world would see Him no more, but His own left upon earth would have a place in His heart. He would, when absent, prepare a place for them. When any child of God dies, their service for those on earth ceases, and we read not of anything such can do in the unclothed state; nor is it till we meet with the elders clothed upon with their house from heaven, and having golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints (Rev. v. 8), that we learn how saints in heaven can be occupied on behalf of saints upon earth. With the Lord, however, it was different. To prepare a place for us in His Father's house was one thing He was to do; to answer the prayers of His disciples, offered up in His name, was another. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it" (John xiv. 13, 14). Never, then, would they be forgotten by Him; constantly would they be cared for, and their desires granted, when expressed in His name. "I will do it," are His words, expressive of His active interference on their behalf.

Remembering who spake those words — the Son of the Father, who has gone to prepare a place for His people in His — not merely the Father's house — how favoured, how blessed, must those be who are the objects of His solicitude now, part of that company for whom He will come to receive them unto Himself. Gone to prepare a place for them, fulfilling their desires, and waiting to come for them to have them with Himself, such was the brief outline He gave His disciples on the night of His apprehension, of what would be His care and thought, when separated from them in person for a season.

But this little outline, wonderful as it is, does not unfold to us the varied nature of His present service on our behalf. It assures us of His unabated interest in those who, bearing His name, and really believing on Him, yet understood so little about Him. It shows us that that interest, which will not be satisfied till His people are with Him in His Father's house, was quite independent of their intelligence about His person, His origin, and whither He was going. Yet must we turn to other Scriptures, if we would learn the different characters He sustains in relation to His people, who came to earth, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and who, though seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, still stoops to serve. John xiv. assures us that His interest in His saints on earth will never flag; other Scriptures particularise His ministry whilst in heaven.

2. — The Shepherd of the Sheep.

Among the different titles descriptive of the Lord when on earth, there is one most attractive to the heart, suggestive as it is of care, labour, and watchfulness, undertaken on behalf of dependent creatures. The Prophet He was, and the Christ, the First-born of all creation too, as well as the Son of Man, reminding us by these titles of relations in which, as man, He stood to God, to Israel, to creation in general, and to this world in particular. Besides these, however, he spoke of Himself as a Shepherd, and that in a twofold way.

Born into this world, the heir to David's throne, which had been vacant for centuries, awaiting the arrival of its rightful and expected occupant, He was by birth the Shepherd of Israel (Matt. ii. 6, Greek); for by such a term, indicative of their relation to their subjects, are kings spoken of in the Old Testament Scriptures (1 Kings xxii. 17; Isaiah xliv. 28; Ezek. xxxiv., xxxvii.; Zech. xi. 17). As such, all Israel were the sheep whose interests and whose welfare the Son of David would be expected to promote. So, when addressed by blind Israelites as Son of David, and His gracious intervention on their behalf solicited, the Lord at once gave ear to their request (Matt. ix. 27; xx. 30-34); whereas to the petition of the Syrophoenician woman, based on the same ground, and pressed with all the urgency of a mother's heart, He resolutely turned a deaf ear. The blind men, because of the seed of Israel, could get immediate relief when they turned to the Son of David; the Gentile could get nothing, as long as she preferred her request on grounds which were valid only for the descendants of Jacob. For His words, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel," showed that He recognised, as established by God, a marked dispensational distance between Israel and the Gentiles.

Had this been the only character of Shepherd in which He appeared, we, who are not children of Abraham after the flesh, might have admired His care and labour as a Shepherd for Israel, but would have known that the proverbial tenderness and vigilance of pastoral care, as exhibited by Him, we could never hope to experience at His hands. But in John x. the Lord introduces Himself as Shepherd in a different manner — not of Israel, as such, but of God's saints, and tells us that His work as the Shepherd was to feed, to shelter, to tend those whom He there calls "His sheep" (v. 27).

Here, then, the Lord presents Himself to us on different ground from that on which the blind men claimed His help. For, as the Shepherd of God's saints, natural descent from Abraham, however faultless the genealogy might be, could give its possessor no title to share in His pastoral supervision. For none but those who are God's saints, whether from amongst Jews or Gentiles, belong to that one flock, the mention of which, as about to be formed by the Lord, we first meet with in that chapter of the Gospel by John (x. 16), though the thought of God's saints, as such, being Jehovah's sheep, we are all familiar with from the language of the Twenty-third Psalm. Whilst, however, an analogy may be traced between the thoughts of that Psalm and those of the Gospel, there are also great differences. In both, God's saints are the sheep; but in the Psalm God's saints are so viewed, when Israel are owned as the earthly people; in the Gospel, God's saints are so regarded during the time of that people's rejection. In the Psalm, too, Jehovah is the Shepherd, who provides for, refreshes, and preserves the saints in life upon earth. In the Gospel it is the Lord Jesus, who was to die, who is the Shepherd, and who proves His claim to that office and title by (1) entrance through the door into the fold, (2) by giving His life for the sheep, (3) by His intimate acquaintance with them, and (4) by giving to them eternal life.

Now to Him, as the true Shepherd, the godly remnant of the Jews were drawn, and even publicans and sinners were attracted. And, as knowing His voice, as He said His sheep would, the beggar, once blind, confessed Him at the risk of excommunication and many resorted to Him and believed on Him, when He went shortly afterwards beyond Jordan, to the place where John at the first baptised, and there abode, affording souls, by His temporary retirement from Judea, the opportunity of practically illustrating His words, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me." Not long after this He died. The shepherd of Israel was smitten, and the sheep of the flock (the nation) were thereby scattered abroad, in fulfilment of Zechariah's prediction, which the Lord applied to Himself (Zech. xiii. Matt. xxvi. 31).

By His death, also, His claim to be the Good Shepherd was permanently established (John x. 11, 14, 15). All who had preceded Him, who had attempted to lead the sheep out of the fold, were thieves and robbers, desiring only, as He tells us, the furtherance of their own ends. But He, the Good Shepherd, thought of the sheep, and surrendered all for them, acting in a manner the exact opposite of the thief, and undergoing that from which the hireling, to spare himself, would run away. Did the Lord, then, by death cease to be a Shepherd? With men this would be the case. Not so, however, with Him. For though Messiah, as Daniel predicted, was cut off, and the national hopes for a time dashed to the ground, we learn that the Lord will yet reign over all Israel as God's servant David, and as their Prince and Shepherd (Ezek. xxxiv. 23-24; xxxvii. 24). But, besides the fulfilment of this hope, which concerns the seed of Jacob, God's saints at the present time are taught from Heb. xiii. 20, that He brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ. He, then, who died as Shepherd, was raised as Shepherd, the Old and the New Testament together bearing witness that death could not despoil Him of that office, whether looked at as the Messiah of Israel, or as the great Pastor of God's people. Israel look to see the Messiah, their Shepherd. In this they will not be disappointed. And the godly Jewish remnant will welcome Him with gladness, when they shall have reaped the bitter fruits of their forefathers' sin in rejecting the Shepherd, the stone of Israel (Gen. xlix. 24), after being subject to the ravages and will of the idol shepherd, the Antichrist, who will reign over them by the will and power of the Beast (Zech. xi. 16-17). But not Israel is it only who expect to see the Shepherd. His saints have been taught that they shall see Him in that character, which He sustained on earth in His life and death, and in which He was brought again from the dead. For Peter, exhorting the elders, told them, that, when the Chief Shepherd should appear, they should receive an amaranthine crown of glory (1 Peter. v. 4).

But this is still future. Another question arises — Does the Lord, while absent in person from the earth, bear, not the name only, but sustain also the character of the Shepherd of the sheep? By His death His Shepherd character as Messiah fell into, and remains in abeyance. Not so, however, that of which we have mention in John x. for Peter, writing to the strangers of the dispersion, tells them, that they were as sheep going astray, but, as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, had returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls (1 Peter ii. 25). In this character, then, the Lord still acts, as Peter teaches, and Paul also, addressing the Hebrews, clearly intimates. And it is in those portions of the New Testament which are especially addressed to the faithful from amongst God's ancient people, that we meet with the term Shepherd, as applied to the Lord Jesus, to remind them, it would seem, that though, as Messiah, He does not now do the Shepherd's part, they can count on the Shepherd's heart as much as ever, and look to Him to care and provide for those, whom He now acknowledges as His sheep, and for whose blessing He was concerned, when He publicly reinstated Peter in a place of confidence and service after His resurrection (John xxi. 15-17).

And what He does we learn from Himself: — "I am the door: by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John x. 9). Such is the Lord's own description of Himself, as the one absolutely needed by all. Through Him, and Him alone, is there entrance into blessing, but, through Him, into all blessing which the sheep are capable of enjoying. He came that we might have life, and might have it abundantly (perisson) — life through His death, life in Him, life in its fulness, so that its possessor should have no need to turn elsewhere to have, what the Lord can give, supplemented by something He cannot supply. Freedom, too, without the burdensome restraint under which Israel was placed, and pasture suitable and sufficient, would be found, and that for any one who would enter in by Him. All, then, that the sheep want would He supply, for that is the work of the Shepherd, which He so graciously took up, and which, though He has died, He still carries on, and thereby manifests the significance of His three titles, the Good, the Great, and the Chief Shepherd. By His death for the sheep He manifested Himself to be indeed the Good Shepherd. Raised up as the Great Shepherd of the sheep, we learn that His relations with them now continue unbroken; and, as He is the Chief Shepherd, we understand, that there are those under Him, who tend the flock in person during His absence from earth.

When on earth He was Shepherd, and there were none beside Him. But from the glory He has provided those who shall minister to, and care for His sheep — a token of His affection and abiding interest in their welfare, till they see Him, and are with Him where He is. For besides giving apostles, prophets, and evangelists, He gave also some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting (along with the other gifts) of the saints, unto the work of the ministry, unto the edifying of the body of Christ. In what close relation to Him are we here reminded His saints stand! But care for the sheep in shepherding them is not confined to pastors, those gifts bestowed on men by the ascended Christ; for Peter tells the elders in Asia Minor of pastoral work to be carried on, and Paul, when exhorting the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, speaks in the same strain: — "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you," wrote Peter (1 Peter v. 2). "Shepherd the Church of God," said Paul (Acts xx. 28). The former, by his language, reminds them that God owns now but one flock, as the Lord had taught in John. The latter, in his address, affirms that the flock and the assembly, or church, are the same company of souls. And were not these apostles, in the exhortations they gave — entering, as they did, so fully into the circumstances and necessities of the saints living examples themselves of the pastoral care of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by their ministry and active service, and not by theirs alone, would have His sheep tended and fed? By and by the Chief Shepherd Himself will appear, then the service of shepherding the sheep, committed to some of His people, will end; but, till all are safely housed, the Lord Jesus will continue to manifest His watchfulness over, and His interest in them.

And not only while absent in person has He provided gifts by which souls may be fed, and their spiritual interests fostered and furthered, but He concerns Himself directly with His own, as the history of the Acts abundantly confirms. "I know my sheep," He says, "and am known of mine, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father." A knowledge on His part, at once intimate and perfect; a knowledge on theirs, both intimate and fitted to engender confidence.

Philip, the evangelist, learnt how the Lord knows His sheep, when, in the midst of his usefulness in cities and the haunts of men, he was ordered to go toward the south, to the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert, to meet one man, the Ethiopian eunuch — a sheep unknown as such to any on earth, but whom the Lord would have instructed in the truth ere he returned to his own land. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning; the Scriptures which spoke of the Lord Jesus being still as a sealed book to him, when, lo! in the desert, a stranger accosted him, and preached to him the glad tidings of Jesus. It was what he wanted, though doubtless unknown to himself. The Shepherd's eye had been on this sheep, and had brought the evangelist a long distance on purpose to meet with him and teach him. That done, and the eunuch baptized, they parted — the eunuch to continue his journey homewards, Philip to be found at the seacoast.

Cornelius, too, had experience of the Shepherd's intimate knowledge of His sheep, and Peter likewise — the former, when commissioned to send for the apostle, from whom he should hear words by which he should be saved; the latter, since his name, place of sojourn, position of the house, with the owner's name and occupation, were all told to Cornelius by the angel. The Gentile centurion proved how fully the Lord knew his soul's condition, his desires, and his ways. Peter had an illustration of his Master's acquaintance with his movements. So Paul, when needing some one to minister to him after those three days of fasting and blindness, was visited by Ananias, sent by Christ to the former disciple of Gamaliel. Ananias knew not till the Lord told him of the change that had taken place in Saul, and Saul probably knew nothing of Ananias till after he had entered Damascus. But the Lord directed the latter to the street and the house in which he would find this vessel of God's choice, and at the same time prepared the neophyte, by a vision, for the visit of Ananias, one of the so-called sect of the Nazorζans. In each of these instances the servants of Christ had no previous personal acquaintance with those to whom they were to minister, and knew not that their services were needed by these souls, till commissioned directly to speak to them.

Again, when Paul was at Corinth, and open opposition was aroused, who encouraged him to stay there to labour but the Great Shepherd Himself, who told him that He had much people in that city? (Acts xviii. 10). He knew who they were, and where they would be found — whether at the river-side, like Lydia, or in the gaol at Philippi, or among the Areopagites, as Dionysius, or among the crowds of the metropolis of the Roman province of Achaia. And when the word by His servant reached these Gentiles, they became, as gathered in, the illustration of the Lord's gracious declaration: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock, one Shepherd" (John x. 16).

But not only have we examples of the sheep being sought out and fed, but we learn also how the Shepherd was fully acquainted with their circumstances, and met them in their need. Of this Peter and Paul are proofs — the one in his prison at Jerusalem, the other when standing before the Roman Emperor, Nero, at Rome (Acts xii.; 2 Tim. iv. 17). The former was brought out from his prison at night, the latter was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And when death, for Christ's sake, was imminent to Stephen, the protomartyr, looking up to the heavens, laid open that day for him alone, saw what was just suited to sustain him in the hour of suffering — the Son of Man, for whose sake he was about to die, standing at the right hand of God. How timely was this sight! what strength must it have given him, Heaven's seal appended to the dying martyr's ministry! And must not those words of the Lord, addressed to John in his banishment at Patmos, have come as a balm to his soul: "I am He that liveth and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of Hades" (Rev. i. 18). A communication this was fitted to sustain him and others in their testimony for Christ, by the assurance that, if death for Christ's sake should be in their way, He for whom they would die had the keys of Hades, where the soul would be, and of death, into which the body would enter. Placed beyond the reach of man's help and power by death, they never could be where the Lord would not have absolute control over, and full possession of them.

But not only to His people in their circumstances did the Lord from the glory minister. He could, He did stand by His failing servant, Paul, in his prison cell at Jerusalem. Cut off, as he was at that time, from the expression of human sympathy, without any companion, as at Philippi, with whom he could have communion, the Shepherd knew where the sheep was, and when all the world were asleep, He stood by him, and encouraged him, both by His presence in the cell, and also by the assurance that, though he had not attended to the direct utterance of the Spirit (Acts xxi. 4), he should still be allowed the privilege of bearing witness for his Master in Rome. How gracious of the Lord was this, thus at midnight to visit His servant, testifying by it that the relation formed between the Shepherd and the sheep could never be broken, even when failure had come in!

He knows His sheep, and they know Him. Of this, too, we have examples in the conversation between Ananias and the Lord in the vision at Damascus, and in Paul's answer to Christ, when in the trance at Jerusalem (Acts ix. 10 -16; xxii. 17-21). What freedom of intercourse was there between them and Him!

But are these examples of the personal care of the Shepherd indications of what could go on only in early days? Surely not. Surely we are to view them as samples of the thoughtfulness, the watchfulness, the tenderness of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Cannot the experience of saints in subsequent ages supplement what the history of the Acts has furnished? Without that history some, when specially cared for, or directed by the Shepherd, might have feared that they were the victims of delusion. With it they learn the reality of His presence and pastoral supervision. How comforting is the assurance that He knows His sheep! How comforting, too, is the declaration of their everlasting security, held firmly in the grasp of His hand! No seed of decay from within them can induce destruction, no power from without can pluck them from His hand, for His Father who gave them to Him is greater than all, and none can pluck them out of the Father's hand (John x. 28, 29).

Truly no simile but that of a shepherd could teach what the Lord Jesus does for His own. Yet this, as a simile, falls short of the reality. For, what no shepherd could do, that He has done, and what none could say of themselves, He can, and will make good of Himself. He died that the sheep might live. He lives that they might be saved. He holds them fast in His hand, and none can pluck them out of it.

3. — The Bishop of Our Souls.

"Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Peter ii. 25). In two characters does the Apostle here present to us the Lord Jesus Christ, which, though closely connected, are yet to be distinguished. Having looked in a former article a little at the one, let us now examine the other.

Bishops, or overseers, episkopoi, is a term with which all readers of the New Testament are familiar, and one with which the students of the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament were not unacquainted. For in matters as well civil (Isaiah lx. 17; Neh. xi. 9, 14, 22) as military (Num. xxxi. 14; 2 Kings [iv. Kings LXX.] xi. 15), and in such as concerned the oversight of priestly service (Num. iv. 16), we meet in that translation with those called overseers or bishops. But whilst in the Septuagint the term is applied to overseers of various services, in the New Testament it is, with one exception, used only of those men who had the oversight of such as professedly belonged to the assembly of God's saints. That one exception we meet with in 1 Peter, who applies the word bishop in a manner not elsewhere met with in the sacred volume, when he writes of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory as the Bishop of our souls. Bishops there were upon earth, witness those at Philippi in Europe, and at Ephesus in Asia (Phil. i. 1; Acts xx. 28); for the Greek word, translated "overseers" in the latter passage, is that elsewhere translated bishop. Provision, too, was made for their appointment by Titus in the different cities in Crete (Titus i. 5-7). Peter, however, writes of one different from all these; inasmuch as He received not His appointment from men, and can have no successor in His office, and who therefore stands out as alone in His work, when described in the Word as the Bishop of our souls.

But what are we to understand by this term? and wherein does it differ from that of shepherd? All bishops shepherded the flock, but every pastor or shepherd was not a bishop. For a shepherd or pastor proper is a term of wider import than that of a bishop. The latter was concerned with God's saints in the local assemblies, with which in God's providence he was connected. The former might find work wherever he met with a single sheep of the flock of God. A shepherd intimates very close relations between the sheep and himself. With all their interests he is concerned; he feeds them, he leads them, he tends them. They confide in him, and receive from him. A bishop, on the other hand, found his special sphere of service in taking care of the assembly of God, and in preventing, by vigilance and timely counsel, being taught in the Word, the introduction of disorder or false teaching into the flock. A shepherd suggests to the mind one who has a heart for those entrusted to his care. A bishop, brings before us the thought of one able to rule in the assembly.

Bishops, then, in the New Testament, had confided to them the care of the local assembly (1 Tim. iii. 5). To take the lead therein was their special duty, though some of them laboured in the word and doctrine as well (1 Tim. v. 17). All elders or bishops, for though the words are different the office was the same (Titus i. 5-7), were to take the lead, proistanai, though all did not labour in the word and doctrine; for teachers are gifts from the ascended Christ (Eph. iv. 8-11), whereas bishops were set in their places by the Holy Ghost (Acts xx. 28), through the instrumentality of apostles (Acts xiv. 23) or their delegates (Titus i. 5). Sound in the faith such officers were to be, able, as St. Paul wrote to Titus (i. 9), to exhort with sound doctrine, as well as to convince, or confute, the gainsayers. Conversant, then, they must have been with the truth, possessing, among other qualities enumerated, that of aptness to teach (1 Tim. iii.; Titus i.), the opportunity for which, in the faithful discharge of their duties, would surely arise, if encouragement was needed, or gainsayers had to be refuted.

As their sphere was the local assembly (Titus i. 5; Acts xiv. 23), the flock of God, which was among them (1 Peter v. 2), we understand why the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, did not choose elders on their first missionary journey till assemblies had been formed. An assembly must be in existence before bishops would be requisite. Gifts from the ascended Christ, evangelists, etc., must have laboured in the locality before an assembly could be formed, and, till it had been, episcopal service with reference to it could clearly have had no place; but, when formed, that class of service, whether done by those officially appointed, or taken up by such as were qualified and willing for the work (1 Cor. xvi. 15, 16; 1 Thess. v. 12), was much needed, and to be highly prized. We see, too, as we understand their special line of service, why Paul summoned the elders of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, instead of convoking a conference of the teachers and pastors from that city, for he wished to warn them, as those to whom had been entrusted by the Holy Ghost the care of that assembly, of the dangers that would beset them from the incursion of grievous wolves, not sparing the flock, as well as from the rising up from amongst themselves of men speaking perverse (or rather perverted) things. On account of this they were to watch. Teachers might show what was wrong, and instruct the faithful in what was right, but the elders could act with authority in the discharge of their duty of watching over the assembly, and in this manner shepherding the flock, as both Paul and Peter enjoined on them (Acts xx. 28; 1 Peter v. 2, Greek).

Tracing out from the Word what the work and sphere of a bishop was, we can understand the class of service to which Peter refers when he writes of the Lord as Bishop of our souls. Bishop, he calls Him. For though the terms, elders and bishops, designate the same people in the Church of God, elder was the title of respect borne by the individual, whilst bishop was descriptive of his work. Elders of the assembly, or church, such people were called; never bishops of the assembly, though, as elders, such officials took the oversight of or, as we might say, bishoped the flock. In accordance with this, Paul, writing to Titus, reminds him that he was left in Crete to establish elders in every city, but, as soon as he touches on the qualifications needed by the individuals, and the duties of their office, he gives them the title of bishops. Again, when writing to Timothy about the proper treatment of such labourers, he makes mention of them by the name of elders — their title of respect (1 Tim. v. 17-19); but when describing the class of people fitted for the work, he styles them bishops, and their work episcopal service (1 Tim. iii. 1, 2). The same difference of terms are met with in that chapter of the Acts already referred to. Paul summoned the elders of Ephesus, but reminds them that they were bishops in, not over, the flock. The terms are not convertible, though both can be used of one and the same individual. As an elder, we think of the man; as bishop, we are reminded of his work.

The character of service, then, carried on by the Lord, to which the Apostle makes reference, we can understand, as we observe the use of the term bishop. And may not the order in which the Shepherd and Bishop are mentioned by the inspired writer be worthy of notice? For, as a pastor would find opportunities for the exercise of his gift before a bishop would have a sphere in which to work, so the Lord, as the Shepherd, has to do with the sheep before His episcopal care could be called into exercise. The sound doctrine must first be made known before it can be applied to encourage or confute. But, besides noticing the order, we should mark likewise the phraseology employed. Bishop of our souls, he calls the Lord. Not merely bishop, not bishop in the flock, for such there were upon earth, appointed by the Holy Ghost, but he calls Him Bishop of our souls, as the One who, in His grace, manifests episcopal care for each of His people individually. And, what it must be to Him to see His people walking in an orderly manner, we can in some feeble measure understand from the sentiments expressed by Paul to the Colossians (ii. 5), and by John to the elect lady (2 John 4), and to his well-beloved Gaius (3 John 3, 4). For both apostles had drunk deep of the Spirit of Christ.

Bishop of our souls the Lord is, and as such takes the oversight of His people individually. For though He has sat down on high, having accomplished the work given Him to do in making atonement on the cross, He is occupied with His own in their orderly walk whilst on earth. The words of Peter make this clear, the term Bishop used by him being explicit, and those to whom the Apostle thus wrote must have understood it. He is the Bishop of our souls, whatever believers may think about it, or are conscious, or not, of His personal service to them in that capacity.

But have we, it may be asked, any illustration in the New Testament of such care for His people? Was it not acting somewhat in that capacity that the Lord presented Himself to the angels of the Seven Churches in Asia? As Son of Man, John saw Him in the vision about to deal judicially with the Churches, as by and by He will with the world. But does He not also appear in these seven addresses in the character of One, who, fully cognisant of the state of each assembly, desires the real welfare of every individual who would hearken to what the Spirit saith unto the Churches? Evangelistic labours had professedly gathered out these souls from the midst of the abominations of heathendom, as well as from that moral condition of things called in Scripture the world (1 John ii. 15, 16). Pastors, too, doubtless, they had possessed, and teachers likewise, who had ministered to their spiritual wants, and had instructed them in the truth. The assemblies having been first formed, then it was the Lord came forward, and manifested by these epistles, that though, as Son of Man, He must deal with what is wrong, if not corrected, yet He was in their midst, as one who not only surveyed all, but sought by His admonitions to get the wrong put right, and by His encouraging words to sustain the faithful in their path. No new truth is brought out, no fresh revelations are vouchsafed, beyond the announcement, by promises of what He would give to the faithful, and by warnings as to the way He must deal with the impenitent. Of all the truth that they wanted, to deal with anything that was wrong, the assemblies were already in possession, as we learn from the Lord's exhortation to the angel of the Church in Sardis, to remember how he had received and heard, and to hold fast and repent. To feed the flock, then, was not the character of His ministry amongst them at this juncture; nor did He at this time intervene in answer to entreaties from His people. He came on the ground of authority to address them, having the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, as He told the angel of the Church in Sardis.

Comparing the tenor of these epistles with the rest which we have in the New Testament, we must be conscious of the difference between the sheep being ministered to of the things of Christ, and souls being admonished as to their ways, or cheered by the Lord's approbation of their faithfulness to Him. Much that was wrong in the different assemblies to which he wrote Paul had to correct, but he did it by ministering to them truth in that aspect of it which would especially meet their condition, and at times (1 Cor. xv. 51; 1 Thess. iv. 15) by revealing things previously unknown to them. What was wanted at Corinth would not have suited the assembly at Thessalonica. What he wrote to the Galatians would have been out of place had it been sent to the saints at Philippi; and the line of teaching needed by the Colossians would not have met the Hebrew saints in their difficulties from old associations, and the determined opposition of their countrymen. Yet, differing as these epistles do one from another in the line of truth dwelt on, they all minister Christ to the soul, and thus act as the suited corrective to whatever required it in the assemblies to which they were addressed. Now it is just this class of teaching which is absent in the Lord's communications to the seven assemblies in Asia. Yet He is as much concerned with His people in these addresses as He was when Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote the different epistles ascribed to them. There the saints were taught truth here they are admonished, and the faithful encouraged — just the work of a bishop, as Paul, writing to Titus, sets forth (i. 9).

But, as Bishop of our souls, the Lord takes the oversight of individuals. So, in these epistles, which are illustrations of episcopal supervision, the Lord's care of individuals is also exhibited. Addressed always to the angel, the closing exhortation takes notice of individuals. Besides this, "the rest" are especially addressed in Thyatira (Rev. ii. 24), and the Lord speaks with special commendation of the walk of the undefiled in Sardis (iii. 4); and, if He condemns in most unsparing terms the wicked conduct of Jezebel at Thyatira (ii. 20-24), He mentions with marked approval the name of His faithful witness, Antipas, at Pergamos (ii. 13). Again, whilst He states what is in store for Jezebel's children, He opens a door for those to repent, if they would, who had committed adultery with her, seeking to arrest in their downward course those who were hastening on to everlasting ruin, as well as to uphold to the end those who were mindful of Him. Hence we may turn to these epistles to learn in some measure how the Lord exercises oversight over saints individually, and what He desires for them.

"Admonishing the saints" characterised those who were over them at Thessalonica (1 Thess. v. 12). "Addicting themselves to the ministry of saints" is the description we have of some who laboured at Corinth (1 Cor. xvi. 15). A similar service does the Lord carry on for all who are His own. Time, circumstances, or locality make no change in His service for us. Death could not sever the Shepherd from His sheep, and now, as risen from the dead, we read of Him, not only as the Shepherd, but also as the Bishop of our souls.

4. — Washing our Feet.

On the fourteenth day of the month Abib, 1491 B.C., according to Usher's Chronology, the children of Israel kept their first passover, and commenced their march out of Egypt. They had cried by reason of their bondage, and God had heard (Exodus ii. 23), and the Arm of Jehovah was now made bare on their behalf and whilst the Egyptians were engaged with the burial of their dead (Numbers xxxiii. 4), the persecuted, downtrodden nation of slaves was waking up to the reality of being Jehovah's first-born, redeemed by Him out of the house of bondage.

On the fourteenth day of that same month, more than fifteen centuries afterwards, the disciples were assembled in the upper room at Jerusalem in company with the Arm of Jehovah (Isaiah liii. 1), a man amongst men, to commemorate the nation's departure out of Egypt by partaking of the paschal supper; for that deliverance is a blessing never to be forgotten, and the results of it can never be effaced. Often had the children of Israel kept the passover — at times under adverse, at times under propitious, circumstances but the twelve were about to commemorate the exemption of their forefathers in Egypt from the visit of the messenger of destruction, under special and peculiar circumstances. Under special circumstances, for the Arm of Jehovah, who had cut Rahab in pieces, and wounded the Dragon (Isaiah li. 9), was sitting at the table with them. Under peculiar circumstances, too, had they this time met; for it was the Lord's last passover before His death, and the last before that of which it was a type — shelter by the blood of the Lamb — should be an accomplished fact. Israel in Egypt had proved God's power and faithfulness. The disciples during the supper had an illustration of the enduring nature of divine love, and of the lowly service to which the Lord would stoop on behalf of His own: "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end."

For it was not simply to inculcate a lesson of humility that the Lord Jesus Christ washed the feet of the apostles that evening. It is true, for the Lord told them, that they were to learn from it a lesson of humility, as, resuming His place at the table, He said, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (John xiii. 14, 15). All must understand that He here sets us an example to stoop to lowly service on behalf of other Christians. Peter's exclamation, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" tells us what he thought of the act; and his unhesitating assertion, "Thou shalt never wash my feet," shows clearly the light in which he viewed the matter. The Lord's humility is apparent, and His reasoning about it cogent. He has stooped in a way and measure impossible to us. He, our Lord and Master, has stooped to serve His disciples. They may well stoop to serve one another. For if they thus minister to one another, who may often need a similar service to be rendered to them, they can only do it as first taught by Him, who, never requiring such service Himself, set them the example on the night of His betrayal.

From Peter and the rest the deep symbolical meaning of the Lord's act was then concealed; but, the Lord told him, that afterwards he would understand about it: "What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." There was more intended in the act than what met the outward eye. And now, since the Holy Ghost has come to guide into all the truth, the time to which the Lord referred has arrived; so we shall not be prying into mysteries beyond the Christian's spiritual comprehension, if we endeavour to understand what the Lord meant by this new and, to the disciples, startling illustration of the service which He, whilst in glory, would render to them.

And first, as to the terms He made use of in answer to Peter's request to be thoroughly washed: "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit" (10).

Washing with water was an action with which all Jews were familiar. There was (a) the washing of the garments or nets, expressed in the New Testament by the verb plunein (Rev. vii. 14, xxii. 14; Luke v. 2) (b) the washing (brechein) by the woman (in Luke vii. 38, 44) of the Lord's feet with her tears; (c) the ceremonial washing of the person, or parts of the person, and of utensils, expressed in the New Testament by the noun baptismos (Mark vii. 4, 8; Heb. vi. 2, ix. 10), and the verb baptizein (Mark vii. 4; Luke xi. 38); (d) the act of washing the whole body, for which louein is used (John xiii. 10; Acts ix. 37, xvi. 33; Heb. x. 22), to which, if we follow the common reading, we must add Rev. i. 5; and its compound apolouein (Acts xxii. 16; 1 Cor. vi. 11); and (e) the washing of the parts of the body, whether the face (Matt. vi. 17), the eyes (John ix. 7, 11, 15), the hands (Matt. xv. 2; Mark vii. 3), or the feet (John xiii. 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14; 1 Tim. v. 10), for which niptein is employed. A glance at the references given above show that the verbs louein and niptein are the only ones made use of by the Lord in His discourse with the disciples on the night before He suffered. So, dismissing all further reference to (a), (b), (c), let us turn to mark the distinction noticed by the Lord between (d) and (e), as He said, in answer to Peter: "He that is washed (leloumenos) needeth not save to wash (nipsasthei) his feet, but is clean every whit" — a distinction which his hearers doubtless comprehended, and with which the readers of the LXX. must have been acquainted. For we read in that version that, when Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated, they were washed all over with water once for all — an act expressed by the verb louein (Ex. xxix. 4, xl. 12; Lev. viii. 6). But, as often as they or Moses entered the holy place, or ministered at the brazen altar, they washed their hands and feet in the laver of the tabernacle, or molten sea of the temple, to express which act the verb niptein is used (Ex. xxx 19, 21, xl. 30-32; 2 Chron. iv. 6).

With these two washings, then, for those who approached God in the tabernacle or temple, all were familiar. So it was no unmeaning distinction, nor one of which the disciples were ignorant, which the Lord drew between the being washed all over and the washing of the feet. First washed all over — a washing which was never repeated — the priests, as often as they entered the tabernacle or ministered at the altar, had to wash both hands and feet in the place and vessel appointed by God. Washing with water for them was a requisite never to be dispensed with, and the washing in these two ways was absolutely necessary. The having been once washed all over could never be a substitute for the frequent ablutions enjoined them; nor could the washing of one day, however often repeated, if they had afterwards left the sanctuary or altar, be pleaded as availing for the next day. They had to wash in the laver as often as they required it. Of this rule there could be no relaxation; but, unless the washing all over once for all had first been effected, the other ablutions could never have taken place.

As with the priests of old, so with believers now. Two kinds of washing the former required; of two kinds must those, who are to be with Christ, partake; and, as the priests were reminded of the positive need of frequent ablution in the brazen laver, if they would not be cut off by death for non-compliance with the divine command (Ex. xxx. 21), so believers are taught how indispensable for them is that frequent washing, without which, as the Lord declares, they could have no part with Him. Washed once for all, of which we read in 1 Cor. vi. 11, Titus iii. 5, speaking of us as individuals and in Eph. v. 26, where the Church is treated of, we need the frequent washing of the feet, of which the Lord assures us in John xiii. But here the difference between being dealt with on the ground of law and on that of grace is apparent. For whereas, neither the frequent washing by the priests of their hands or feet, nor the washing of our feet could be dispensed with, the responsibility of the former rested on the priests — they had to do it; the latter is provided for by the Lord Himself — He does it. So this washing will never be omitted, for, how often soever we may need it, He will do it. Contact with defilement defiles. Saints may often need to have their feet washed. What is man! But as often as they need it He will do it. Such is the Lord Jesus Christ, who has sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

But when and how is this effected? The service to be done tells us something about the when, and the symbolical meaning of water instructs us as to the how. As often as our feet are soiled they need washing. If we sin, we need the offices of the Advocate to restore the soul to communion (1 John ii. 1). If tried by the difficulties of the way, we can count on the intercession of the High Priest, and so approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace for seasonable help (Heb. iv. 16). The washing of the feet, however, is needed, in order to have part with Christ, if defilement in any way has been contracted. Sin, of course, defiles, but not actual sin only.

The priests had not sinned each time that they washed in the laver, yet they needed that ceremonial cleansing ere they could re-enter the tent of the tabernacle, or minister afresh at the altar. So believers now may often need the washing of their feet with water, apart from all questions of actual sin. And though we may not always be conscious of our want of it, the Lord, by His lowly service, will recall it to our mind. That we may have part with Him, He thus washes us with water — the symbol here, as elsewhere, of the Word of God. For, as water effects a separation between our flesh and that which defiles it, so, in a similar way, does the Word act on our soul (Ps. cxix. 9; John iii. 5, xv. 3; Eph. v. 26).

That we may have part with Christ, He washes us. We read (Ps. xvii. 14; Luke xvi. 25) of some who have their portion in this life, and of those who will have their part or portion in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. xxi. 8). The Lord's people are to have theirs with him, and therefore He stoops to wash their feet now. Amazing grace! He applies the Word as it may be needed — the right word in the right way, and at the right moment. Nothing that is wanted will He leave undone, for us to share with Him in the blessings in store for God's saints. The tenderness of the Shepherd, and the vigilance of the Bishop, are in constant exercise on our behalf. Here we learn of this personal service the application of the Word by the Spirit as often as each may require it. "If I wash thee not," He said to Peter, indicating that, though the service might be a frequent one, He would not fail to perform it. Hannah, in the joy of her heart, could say of Jehovah, "He will keep the feet of His saints" (1 Sam. ii. 9). We can say the Lord Jesus now in glory washes them. Clean His disciples were (Judas excepted) by the Word He had spoken to them (John xv. 3, xiii. 10, 11). Yet they would need this washing; for, though they were to act to others as the Lord had to them, their washing of each other's feet could not supersede the necessity of His acting in this manner to each of them. "If I wash thee not," He said to Peter, "thou hast no part with Me." Not that this washing of the feet gives life, for Judas was washed on this occasion with the rest; but those who have life require this personal service of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to have a portion with Him. Thus does He maintain, and would have us remember, the holy character of that place into which we are introduced by His atoning work; and at the same time He makes provision by this act which proclaims it for us to have part with Him, who are prone to contract defilement by the way. For it is the feet He washes, not the hands or the head; just that which is suggestive of the walk, and which, therefore, tells us of the character of the road along which we travel.

But on what occasion did the Lord first present Himself to His disciples in this capacity? It was on the last evening of His life on earth, when His disciples, assembled with Him to eat the passover, partook for the first time of bread and wine in remembrance of Him (Luke xxii. 15-20). Then it was that they learnt that something else was needed by them to have part with Him besides redemption by His blood. That they were ever to remember. But on the same night, and whilst they were seated at the table at which they first partook of the Lord's Supper, their feet were washed by Him. Washed all over as they once had been, they would nevertheless need this washing. Had, then, the first washing failed in its efficacy? By no means. Once done it was never to be repeated, and the Lord on this very occasion affirmed its abiding validity, as He said to Peter: "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." The washing of regeneration can never be repeated (Titus iii. 5; 1 Cor. vi. 11). Yet we cannot dispense with this gracious service of Christ; nothing can be substituted for it, nor do we read that any one can take part with Him in the administration of it. For John tells us that, rising from supper, He "laid aside His garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." None helped Him, or attended on Him, in this lowly service. He prepared Himself for the work. He provided all that was requisite. He washed and wiped their feet, and did not resume His place at the table till He had waited upon each of them in turn. "Knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God, He riseth from supper." For what? To ascend His throne? No. But to stoop, in a way He had never done before, to wash the feet of His disciples. And that, not as an isolated act to stand out in all time to come as a token of the humility that was in Him, but as an illustration of the real and personal service in which He would engage, when on high, for each of those who should believe on Him; the inauguration of a ministry to them which will not cease till their course on earth has ended.

He passed over none of them; nor could the treachery of Judas, or the ignorance of Peter, divert Him from His purpose. The treachery and malice of Judas (John xiii. 2) brought out into full relief the divine affection in the heart of Christ towards His own, like a rainbow, the brightness of whose colours stand out in marked contrast to the thick dark masses of clouds behind it. The ignorance of Peter, on the other hand, gave occasion for the calm yet decided answer of the Lord, which tells us of the need we have to be ministered to by Him. Judas might sit unmoved throughout this scene. What a contrast between the thoughts of his heart and those of Christ's! How different was Peter! When his ignorance was graciously exposed, the ready answer of his lips told of the trueness of his heart to Christ. If to have part with Him that washing was needed, all his desire was to have it fully done. Judas was ready to enrich himself at the expense of Christ. Peter desired to share with his Lord and Master: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Peter's words testify how he valued a portion with Christ; the Lord's service to ensure it shows us in what light He must view it.

5. — An Advocate with the Father.

In considering what the Scriptures tell us of the present service of the Lord Jesus Christ, we find that the subject naturally divides itself into two parts — (1) Service rendered to us; (2) Service entered into for us. As the Shepherd of the sheep, as the Bishop of our souls, as the Washer of our feet, the Lord Jesus Christ ministers to us; as Advocate with the Father, and as High Priest, He is engaged in Heaven for us. The former character, that of Advocate, is treated of by John; the latter, that of High Priest, is dwelt upon by Paul.

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not," are the words of the Apostle John. At first sight they might seem to be merely a repetition of thoughts, expressed in the Old Testament Scriptures, under the form of God's commands to His people not to sin. But looking at them in the original, we are taught their true bearing, and discern how different is the way here taken by God to impress on believers His desire for them, from that of which of old He was pleased to make use. At Sinai He gave Israel commandments, which forbade the activity of the evil nature that by birth is in each one of us. Whilst they were in the wilderness He commanded them, by Moses, to be holy, because He, the Lord their God, was holy (Lev. xix. 2). Now, such injunctions proclaim the holiness of God, and the sinner's proneness to do wrong, but they do not strengthen him to act aright, nor do they of themselves imply that he can obey them. On the contrary, as was afterwards dogmatically taught, "the law entered, that the offence might abound" (Romans v. 20). "It was added because of transgressions" (Gal. iii. 19), to bring home to Israel, who alone were placed under it by God (Romans ii. 14), what they really were in His sight. And the right action of the law on a quickened soul produces this judgment of itself, leading it to confess, that in itself dwells no good thing, and whilst it approves what is right, it is powerless of itself to do it (Romans vii.). But the law never leads a soul into liberty, nor can it give life (Gal. iii. 21), nor is it able to bring the flesh into subjection (Romans viii. 7). So God's commands by Moses, whilst they told Israel what they ought to be, and reminded them of the holy nature of the One who was their God, left them powerless to obey, calling on man, as they did, for that which he could not in his own strength, as a fallen creature, render to his God — viz., the obedience of his heart, the subjection of his will. John, on the contrary, wrote to those who were enabled to keep from sin. "My little children, these things write I unto you, in order that ye may not sin." Their liability to sin is expressly declared, their proneness to it, if unwatchful, is, clearly implied; God's holiness, too, is maintained, as His wish for His children is thus conveyed to them, but their ability to conform to it is most evidently assumed.

But why this difference? The answer is simple. God is now dealing with individuals who are of the number of the elect, and not, as formerly, with an elect nation. Dealing with Israel on national grounds, individuals amongst them might be lost, but the nation never can. The nation was, and is, an elect nation (Isaiah xlv. 4), but that did not ensure the everlasting security of every individual who by birth belonged to it. Dealing now with individuals, each one of whom is a member of that company chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, God addresses them as His children born of Him. And since the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal life has been manifested, and we, who, believe on Him, have Him for our life, we should learn from His walk how we ought to walk. So God can write to us in order that we should not sin, because we possess through His grace a nature, which in itself is impeccable, though we, who partake of that nature, are liable to sin every day.

Thus we distinguish, and it is important that we should, between person and nature. The Christian possesses two natures, the one, the old man — the other, the new man. By birth he has received both. By natural generation he partakes of the evil nature, by being born of water and of the Holy Ghost he receives the new nature. The character and actings of each nature are unchangeable. Of the incorrigibility of the flesh we are taught, when we read, that it is "enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans viii. 7). The undeviating course in which the new nature runs is as clearly traced out, as we hear John declaring, that "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world" (1 John v. 4); for the world, we learn (1 John ii. 15, 16), is in direct opposition to the Father, and all that is not of the Father is of the world. And again, "Whosoever is born of God sinneth not" (1 John v. 18). Man, then, acts as his nature inclines him. Man, in the flesh, cannot please God. But the Christian, having a new nature, Christ being his life, and being indwelt by the Holy Ghost, is responsible to act in accordance with the dictates of that nature. For responsibility attaches to the person, though the acts are the natural outcoming of the nature within. But, as a nature can only act in accordance with what it is, John, when viewing the Christian abstractedly, declares that "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John iii. 9). On the other hand, viewing him, not abstractedly, but as a person possessed of two opposite natures, either of which may at any given moment, if he allow it, dominate over him, he writes, he tells us, to believers, in order that they should not sin. Thus the absolute impeccability of the new nature is affirmed, and the Christian's ability now through grace to keep from sin is declared; yet his liability to fall into it, and therefore his constant need of watchfulness against it, are ever kept before him.

"In order that ye may not sin." Our God would then display His grace and power by enabling creatures to refrain from sin, who are not merely able to sin as Adam was before he fell, but who are prone to it, because conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity. The weakness of man in himself was evidenced when the devil succeeded in his design on Adam and Eve, who till then were innocent. The inability of fallen man to conform to God's will in his own strength was demonstrated in the history of Israel, to whom Jehovah gave His statutes, and showed them His judgments, "which, if a man do, he shall even live in them"; but they did not observe them, and their captivity by the Assyrians and by the Babylonians was the consequence of their failure. Now, God would exemplify in Christians the ability of those born of Him, but who were first born in sin, to keep themselves from it when walking as new creatures in Christ. The ability is theirs, as born of God, and indwelt by the Holy Ghost. But, though strength is freely bestowed on His children to do His will, the sense of personal responsibility is constantly maintained, and the need of watchfulness is impressed on us, as such exhortations, God's recorded desires for His people, are read and pondered over by us; and as we are reminded of the blessing, which every Christian, who is walking aright, can now enjoy — viz., communion with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

That we should have fellowship, then, in this with John and others, the Apostle wrote (1 John i. 3). Enjoying it himself, he desires those whom he addressed to share it with him. Fellowship, or communion with the Father, all that that is, John wished them to know and rejoice in. The knowledge of the Father's thoughts and purposes, and all that He has unfolded to us of the Son, this John wished them to enjoy. Fellowship, or communion with the Son in all that He has told us of the Father, and in all that He has declared to us of God, this, too, the Apostle earnestly longed for for them. But to enjoy this, the possession of a nature capable of understanding such things is requisite. Hence we must be born of God. And, since communion implies the sharing of God's thoughts and purposes, we can only enjoy it on the terms prescribed. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." To have fellowship with Him, and to walk in darkness as well, is impossible. Between light and darkness there is, there can be no communion. But we, who are addressed in this Epistle, have sin in us (1 John i. 8), and we often yield to it. How, then, we can be restored to that communion, which by our unwatchfulness has been interrupted, is a most serious question to be considered, but one to which, thank God, we have a very clear and a very full answer. This leads the Apostle to acquaint us with the active ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ on high for us, as Paraclete, or Advocate* with the Father, a term only met with in the New Testament in the writings of John, applied by the Lord Jesus in the Gospel to the Holy Ghost who was to come (xiv., xv., xvi.), applied here by the Holy Ghost to the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. Often, when reading the First Epistle of John, we are reminded of truths dwelt on in his Gospel, and especially of those touched on by the Lord in that last discourse with His disciples on the night of his betrayal (John xiii. — xvi.). The hostility of the world, the new commandment, abiding in Christ, the character of God, the water and the blood — these, as John treats of them in his Epistle, carry us back in thought to his Gospel, and the designation of the Lord Jesus in the Epistle, as Paraclete or Advocate, throws light on the Lord's own description of the Holy Ghost, as "another" Paraclete or Comforter. For the Holy Ghost was not to be a substitute for the Lord, making up, by His presence with the disciples, for the loss they had sustained through His departure; but He came as an additional Paraclete, engaged on earth on behalf of God's saints (Rom. viii. 26), whilst the Lord Jesus would be occupied with their affairs in heaven. Yet the office of the Lord in heaven was not a new one, created for Him only after His return to glory. The term "another" implied the existence of one already, and the Lord's words to Peter, before he fell, illustrate to us how He could take up the cause of His failing people before they would be aware of their need of it (Luke xxii. 32). What He was for Peter then Christ's words told him. But now, since His atoning death has been accomplished, His advocacy, based upon it, can be treated of for our instruction and comfort.

{*The Roman patronus, whence our English patron, pleaded his client's cause in the court; the advocatus gave advice, but did not plead. Hence patron, if understood in the sense of patronus, would express more exactly the Lord's service than advocate as used in Roman law. But now by advocate we understand one who pleads; by patron, one who does not.}

"If any man sin, we have an Advocate." Then this service is called forth, when sin has interrupted the communion we may enjoy with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ; for though the fullest grace is ours now in Christ, and we possess a nature, which, if active in us, would make us keep from sin, yet, in spite of all that we really know and all that we have, we do fail, and how often that is, the history of each soul could surely tell. But He, who died to save us from the outpouring of that divine wrath which we have so justly merited — He, who is our life, takes up also our cause on high, that we may afresh enjoy that communion about which we have manifested so little concern.

"An Advocate with the Father." How sweet are these words to a Christian who mourns over his sins! From God Himself we learn about this, not from man, though a man has been the channel of the divine communication. As of old the Israelite knew, on the authority of Jehovah, through the instrumentality of the lawgiver, that his sins were forgiven him when he had brought his offering, and that offering had been duly dealt with at the altar, so we learn on the same authority (God's word) of His gracious provision for us who are His children. In human affairs, the man who has need of an advocate selects one, and entrusts his matters to him. In divine things, it is God who has selected the Advocate, and that Advocate needs not, nor waits for, any instructions from us. He acts when, and as He sees fit.

"With the Father." Then the link of relationship, the birth-tie, we are assured, has not snapped. Thank God, it never can! And at such a moment He reminds us of it. He is our Father, and we are His children, however naughty we may have been. Restoration to communion, nevertheless, is no light matter, since it needs the active service of the Lord Jesus Christ as Advocate to effect it. But had He not first made atonement, it never could be done. "Jesus Christ the righteous." Of what He is in Himself we here read. "The propitiation for our sins." What He is before God for us we are also to remember. Thus we are turned to a consideration of His person in this double character — righteous in Himself and the propitiation for our sins.

And here divine wisdom is manifested, as the written Word treats of the Lord Jesus. How often is the language of a Christian who has failed, "I must go back to the blood" and ground is taken, in words at least, as if he needed a fresh atonement to be made for him to blot out the sin which, unhappily, he has committed. The Spirit, however speaks not to us here of the blood, but of the personal fitness of the Lord Himself to take up our cause, and of what He is for us before God. Righteous He is, so can always be heard. The propitiation for our sins He is, so can act for us who have failed. "He is the propitiation." Not He was it, not He will effect it, but He is it. Not a thought is ever allowed to weaken in the least the sense of the abiding value of His atoning work. No suggestion have we that we need a renewal of the sacrifice. "He is the propitiation." Then its value remains unaltered before God; to it we can add nothing, and time can make no change in either its character or its efficacy. Man's teaching would often unsettle in the soul the fixed sense of the perpetual validity of Christ's work, by telling us we need, as saints, after each sin, to be washed in Christ's blood or, by affirming the necessity of a renewal of the sacrifice in some shape or other. God's Word shuts the door against both these errors, and that at a most critical moment of a saint's history. He is "the propitiation for our sins," are words indited by the Spirit of God, to fall on the ear of a Christian when really repentant before His Father for something, by which he has brought dishonour, it may be, on the name of Christ.

Do we, then, no more need the blood of Christ? some may ask. We do need it, and that constantly, is the answer provided by God. For "if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another" yet, besides that, John adds, "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John i. 7). How different are the thoughts of God from those of men, and even of Christians, unless they are subject to the Word. Men teach too often the need of recurrence to the blood, when it is a question of restoration to communion. God at such times recalls to our remembrance who, and what, He is before Him, who has undertaken the office of Advocate on high. Our standing remains unaltered and unalterable, because He, who is our Advocate, is the propitiation for our sins. But when it is a question of our being before God, walking in the light, as God is in it, a wonderful thing to be allowed, and to be able to do, the Word reminds us that the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin. At such a time we assuredly are not sinning, yet it is then we as saints need the blood of Christ. Not that we are then to be sprinkled with it, nor that the High Priest again takes it in before God on our behalf, for the language of the Apostle points, not to any fresh dealing with it, but to its characteristic action before God. "It cleanseth." Shut up to this at such a moment, nothing else will avail us, but nothing more is wanted. It cleanseth. Its virtue abides unimpaired. John had proved it surely, and the Holy Ghost, writing by him, asserts its characteristic efficacy. Where the Christian then might have thought, in his ignorance, that he needed not the blood, the Apostle tells him it is everything to him. Where men, would have brought it in, the Apostle, divinely guided, leaves it out. Nothing but the cleansing action of the blood can enable a fallen creature to be at rest in the light before its God, where no stain of sin can remain concealed. Our need of the blood constantly is most fully affirmed, but the everlasting validity of the atoning work is as unhesitatingly declared.

Another question may be asked. If the Lord is our Advocate, do we need to ask Him to act for us? We never read that we are to go to the Advocate at all. "We have an Advocate," John writes. He is that always, and when it is needed He exercises His advocacy before God. Peter was prayed for by the Lord before he had sinned, and certainly before he felt his need of the Lord's intervention. So the Lord acts as our Advocate without our asking Him, and we reap the fruit of His service, when brought to feel the need of confessing what we have done wrong. Confession is our part, advocacy is Christ's. Unless we had Him for an Advocate with the Father, restoration to communion would never be effected. Unless we confess when we have sinned, it can never be enjoyed.

Gracious and merciful He is — He thinks of us — He knows all about us. And, as we learn from Peter's history, He knows all that is before us. Communion with the Father and with His Son is a wonderful favour, and restoration to it, as often as it has been interrupted by our sinful ways, should surely be prized very highly, when we learn the need of an Advocate for the purpose, and know who He is, "Jesus Christ the righteous, the propitiation for our sins."

6. — High Priest of Our Confession.

From the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ we learn that He is the Shepherd of the sheep. From His words to Peter, and His lowly service on the night of His betrayal, we are taught what the Lord does to His people, that they may have part with Him. Peter writes of Him as Bishop of our souls; John acquaints us with His gracious service as Advocate with the Father; and Paul, writing to the Hebrews, dwells at some length on the present service of the Lord Jesus Christ as High Priest of our profession, or rather confession.

When Israel kept their first passover in Egypt they had no divinely appointed order of priesthood among them. Shelter by blood was effected without the intervention of a priest. They travelled from Egypt to Sinai, and took part in the ratification of the covenant, when the young men of the children of Israel, sent by Moses, offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed peace-offerings under the hill, and the blood of the victims was sprinkled by the lawgiver on the altar and on the people; and they saw the tabernacle erected, before Aaron stood forth, on the eighth day of his consecration, arrayed in the pontifical garments of glory and beauty, and, with hands uplifted as High Priest, from the altar of burnt-offering, bestowed his first blessing on the nation. The Aaronic priesthood, then, was instituted by God for those who had a recognised position before Him as His people, and none else could avail themselves of its ministrations, but those who, in a measure at least, were associated with the nation of Israel as proselytes (Acts ii. 10), or the stranger which sojourned among them (Lev. xvii. 8; Num. xv. 26-29). Aaron was High Priest for Israel, so the stranger, which sojourned among them, could never have made use of a divinely appointed priesthood, had not God established it for His redeemed ones. The very existence, therefore, of such an institution betokened the presence on earth of those whom Jehovah owned as belonging to Himself; and the stranger, as often as he profited by the services of the priesthood, confessed by his action that God had a people on earth, while he himself was, in a measure, the witness of grace to be enjoyed by Gentiles at a future day.

Again, when Israel brought of the herd or of the flock to offer it on the altar to the Lord, the priest had nothing to do with the offerer or the offering, until it had been killed (Lev. i). Death intervened before the priest had any official relation with the offerer of the victim. These remarks may help some to understand why it was that the Lord never acted as Priest when on earth. He was not of the race of Aaron, so could never have ministered in the earthly sanctuary, for God maintains inviolate the priesthood which He establishes. A comforting thought this is for God's people. But besides this, whilst the Lord tabernacled down here, the shedding of His blood, of course, was not an accomplished fact. Until it was, the service of the High Priest, following out the analogy drawn from Israel's history, had no place in the sanctuary on high. But, atonement by blood having been made, there was found an High Priest who could abide in the heavenly sanctuary, Jesus the Son of God. It is this grand subject which occupies such a prominent place in the Epistle to the Hebrews, wherein we read of the person of the High Priest, of His title to the office, and of the order and character of His service, as well as of the sanctuary in which He ministers for His people. For the High Priest is to represent the redeemed people, on whose behalf He acts before God; and His abiding presence in the sanctuary as High Priest bears witness of redemption effected, and of a people in a recognised relationship to God. For God, not Father, is the idea always connected with the work of High Priest. A son has free access to his father at all times. A people, who needed redemption, are provided as redeemed, with a representative before God.

Accustomed as the Hebrews had been to the service of the Aaronic priesthood, in which, as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, they could no longer have part, one can see why to them this Epistle, which treats of the High Priesthood of Christ, should have been originally addressed. For surrounded — those of them at least who dwelt at Jerusalem — with constant reminders of the institution by God of the Aaronic priesthood, as the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly offerings were brought to the altar, and duly dealt with, there was danger from the trials to which they were exposed, by their constancy to the truth, proceeding from those who still conformed to the Mosaic ritual, there was danger, we must remember, of their apostatising from Christianity, by falling back to that which had been unquestionably established by divine appointment, and which the Lord Jesus, when on earth, openly upheld (Matt. viii. 4). For them it was essential to know, that, in renouncing all obedience to that ritual, they were carrying out God's mind for His people and, further, that in giving up what He had once enjoined, they were not worse off than before, since they had, in the heavenly Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, what never had been, and what never can be enjoyed, by those who are called to have part in the earthly order of things. And those, to whom he wrote, knew well what God had provided for His people of old. All that they gave up. Their position, then, was very different to that of believers from amongst Gentiles. These last turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and to enjoy redemption and an inheritance as theirs in prospect blessings they had never even dreamed of. Israelites had known what it was to share, in a way, in such favours. Gentiles renounced heathenism, to be blessed most richly. Jews gave up what they had from Jehovah, to find, indeed, far more in Christ, and with Christ, but they surrendered what had been theirs by divine appointment.

The importance, therefore, of the line of teaching in the Hebrews becomes apparent, as the sacred writer ministers to his countrymen truth about the Lord Jesus, and the results of His work, fitted to keep them stedfast to the end. The surpassing excellence of the Lord over Moses and Aaron is set forth, and privileges are enumerated which now belong to those who believe on Him. Free approach to the throne of grace is theirs. A conscience purged, the assurance of everlasting redemption through the blood of Christ, and entrance with boldness into the holiest — these were blessings of which they could partake. An altar, too, was theirs, of which those had no right to eat who served the tabernacle. Privileges, then, the possession of which could never have been enjoyed under the Mosaic ritual, they had everlastingly secured to them. What Israel never will know, what the priests, the sons of Zadok, never shared in, they knew, and could partake of, by virtue of the accomplished sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Things tangible and visible, such as even the world could value, they surrendered, to have for ever and ever part and lot in what faith then alone could make real, but which will, by and by, be visible, present, and everlasting. And besides all this, they had a great High Priest (Heb. iv. 14), so named to distinguish Him as surpassing, in the excellence of His Priesthood, Aaron and his successors, who has passed through the heavens, and has traversed, on His road, the distance which, speaking in accordance with the types, lay between the altar and the mercy seat. And His name, by which He was known upon earth, is the name He bears still — Jesus, the virgin's son, but the Son of God likewise. To His person attention is pointedly directed.

Son of God, declared to be that by the words of Jehovah addressed to Him, and recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures for our instruction, He is the Son of Man as well, and proved to be such from the Old Testament Scriptures likewise, but with this difference. When it is a question of His being God's Son, Jehovah attests it, addressing Him directly as such (1). But when the question is as to His being Son of Man, He speaks, and openly confesses it (2). God's Son as born in time, He is yet Jehovah also, the Maker and Upholder of the universe, whose handiwork we see everywhere around us. Now seated in heaven, where none but He, who is God, can sit, He was, He is a Man, and His humanity is a subject of true, practical importance to God's people. He became man that He might die, and so taste of death for everything (hyper pantos). He partook of flesh and blood, because the children are partakers of it, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. He became man to make atonement, for without shedding of blood is no remission, and by His blood, as High Priest, He has made propitiation for the sins of the people. As man, He is the example for the people how to begin and to finish the course of faithful testimony to God (xii.). As man, too, He knows what men feel, and is able to sympathise with God's saints in their trials, having been tempted in all points like as they are, yet without sin (iv. 15). Thus, by His manhood, He is fitted to understand all the difficulties of the saints in their service and testimony for God; and, as having suffered being tempted, He knows how to help those who are tempted. And this knowledge, acquired before His death — for though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered — made Him suited at once to discharge all the duties of His office. Aaron might acquire fresh experience each day that he lived as High Priest, and so, as time went on, he would be better able to sympathise with the people in their varied difficulties, the range of his experience increasing day by day; but the Lord finished the career of faith, and was the Leader and Completer of it (xii. 2) before He entered on His Priesthood, and so was perfectly fitted to understand, and to compassionate, as well as to help, the people of God, from the first day that He entered on His office.

But how did He become High Priest? The High Priest had to do with God, so none could appropriate this office to themselves. Aaron was called to it, as the Scriptures declare. Not less was the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ of divine appointment. And though none witnessed His consecration to the office, as the people of Israel did the introduction of Aaron into the high priesthood, we know on equally sure grounds — the Word of God — that He only entered on His Priesthood pursuant to the divine warrant. For He that said unto Him, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," saith also in another place, "Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec." Thus was He saluted of God as High Priest (v. 6, 10), and the form in which this was done testifies to the surpassing excellence of His Priesthood. Aaron and his sons were made priests by command of God. The Lord Jesus Christ was made Priest with an oath of God. "The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever" (vii. 21). No more solemn form of appointment could be conceived; and this form was only used with reference to His appointment, to manifest, when the time looked forward to by the Psalmist should arrive, that He, whom the world rejected, is the One by whom God will be approached as the Representative of His redeemed people.

But more. The statement of the Psalmist predicted a change in the priesthood. What he knew and shared in was the service of a priesthood after the order of Aaron; but he wrote of One to arise after the order of Melchisedec, made priest, "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (vii. 16). For the priesthood of Melchisedec was peculiar in this — that there was no predecessor to the King of Salem in that office, nor was there any successor. He stands forth in the Book of Genesis as the sole representative of his order. Aaron died, and Eleazar came down from Mount Hor, clothed in his father's garments, in token that he had succeeded Aaron as High Priest, but no one succeeded Melchisedec. When he entered on his priesthood is shrouded in mystery; when he ceased to exercise it is a fact unrecorded in history. As a fact, he passed away, but of the beginning or ending of his priesthood we never read. We hear of him only as priest and king. So after his order is the Lord Jesus Christ a Priest, continuing ever, because He hath an unchangeable Priesthood (vii. 24). Differing, then, as the order of the Melchisedec priesthood does from that of Aaron and his successors, it surpasses it also in dignity and to this point the sacred writer likewise calls attention, as he dwells on the significant fact that Abraham, from whom Levi, Aaron's ancestor, was descended, paid tithes to Melchisedec, and received from the royal priest a blessing. To Abraham was the promise made, not to Melchisedec; yet Abraham was blessed by Melchisedec, the priest of the Most High God. Thus the superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood over that of the Aaronic is demonstrated. Levi, as it were, paid tithes to Melchisedec, and the ancestor of Aaron was blessed by the King of Salem. "And without all contradiction," as the sacred writer affirms, "the less is blessed of the greater." Thus, that otherwise mysterious passage in Abraham's history receives elucidation, as the Holy Ghost, who directed Moses to write it, was pleased, centuries afterwards, by the Apostle to explain it, the name of the king, and the order of his priesthood finding but once only a place in the sacred volume, between the history of the days of the patriarch and the writing of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which was years after the Lord had been crucified.

Priest after the order of Melchisedec, the Lord acts as High Priest after the character of the Aaronic priesthood. Melchisedec blessed God, and blessed Abraham, and brought forth to Abraham, as the victor, refreshment after his warfare. But we read not of a sanctuary in which he ministered. The character of his priesthood, as exercised on behalf of Abraham, did not require that. As priest of the Most High God, he blessed. Aaron also could do that. But it was the conqueror who had done his work that Melchisedec blessed. Aaron, indeed, could bless, but it was a people in the wilderness who received his blessing, and the form and purport of it is recorded in the Word. But Melchisedec blessed the conqueror, returning from the battle, having done his work. The character of that blessing we also read of, and comparing the two — that in Genesis xiv. with Numbers vi. — we cannot but note the difference. Aaron blessed Israel in accordance with what they wanted. Melchisedec blessed Abraham with reference to what he that day was (Gen. xiv. 20). Abraham did not seek an interview, that we read of, to solicit his assistance and intervention before he went forth to the war. It was when all danger was over, and he was returning with his spoils, trophies of his victory, that Melchisedec met him. Mark, it was Melchisedec met him, not he Melchisedec, and unasked, as far as we know, the royal priest blessed him.

But a priesthood of this character, adapted to the patriarch's condition at that moment, would not meet the wants of God's saints in their journey, nor would it so minister to them that they might go forward and overcome. A different character of priesthood is therefore requisite whilst the day of conflict lasts, and the weakness of the creature is felt at momentous stages of its career, and that God has provided in the Aaronic character of priesthood, according to which the Lord Jesus Christ now ministers on high for God's people. For this, however, a sanctuary is wanted, and a sacrifice to be accepted by God, as the basis upon which the High Priest can intercede for the saints. Of both of these the Epistle to the Hebrews treats. Propitiation for the sins of the people has been made by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (ii. 17), and by that blood we have boldness to enter the holiest. And the sanctuary in which He ministers is defined to be the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man, heaven itself, the true holiest of all, into which He entered once by His own blood, now to appear in the presence of God for us (viii. 2, x. 19, ix. 12, 24).

Had they lost, then, by becoming Christians, any privilege which they enjoyed as Jews? On the contrary, they had gained. They had an High Priest, chosen of God, in the sanctuary on high, continually acting as such on their behalf; a Priest of an order more enduring and more exalted than that of Aaron and his sons — One who, like Melchisedec, could bless God, and bless the people, as He will by and by; but, like Aaron, could enter into, and better than Aaron, fully understand all the weakness and trials of the people, and intercede for them before the throne of God, to procure the grace and assistance of which they were so constantly in need. It was true that the Lord, when on earth, could never enter the holy place of the temple at Jerusalem, though it was His earthly house. But now in a sanctuary through which Aaron never passed, of which the earthly tabernacle was antitypical (ix. 24), He ministers for the people, having an unchangeable Priesthood.

For the Aaronic priesthood had a double service to perform, as Aaron made propitiation every year within the vail (Lev. xvi.), and as the wants of the people were provided for during their wilderness career. Of this latter service we are taught in Numbers xix., xx., xxvii., just after the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, in rebelling against the priesthood, had been visited with condign punishment. Then it was that the people learnt the value and need of priesthood; first, as Aaron on the following day stood with a censer full of burning incense, kindled from the altar, between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed (Num. xvi. 48); next, as the services of Eleazar were needed to prepare the ashes for the water of separation, lest death should overtake any one defiled, either by its entrance into their tent, or by contact with a dead body, a bone, or a grave (xix.). Again, when water was wanted for the host, towards the close of their wanderings in the wilderness, Moses was directed to stand with Aaron's rod, and to speak to the rock, and the refreshment, so, much desired, would flow out copiously typical of the efficacy of the Lord's Priesthood, by which all that the saints require of spiritual refreshment may be obtained for them on their way. Moses and Aaron disobeyed God, and the former smote the rock, having, however, the rod which budded in his hand. The symbol of the Lord's Priesthood was then there, that rod which gave tokens of life in its completeness, having blossomed and fruited, when according to nature it could only have been reckoned dead, so God allowed the water to flow forth, though His word to Moses had been by him disobeyed; but punished His servants, by refusing to allow them to lead the people into the land of their inheritance (xx.). How, then, should the people enter into Canaan and conquer? The need of priesthood is again manifested, as Moses was commanded to set Joshua before Eleazar the High Priest, when about to install him in his office, and was told that Joshua should stand before Eleazar the priest, who should ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord. And "at his word," we read, "shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation" (xxvii. 21). For Israel then to enter the land, and possess it, the services of the High Priest were essential, Joshua and Eleazar typifying the Lord Jesus Christ, who unites in His person the two characters of Captain of God's people, and the High Priest who ministers in the sanctuary. Thus, what Israel had to learn about the priesthood, the Hebrews were in their turn to take up, and to understand. So in this Epistle, especially addressed to them, that subject has a very prominent place.

But here we must mark a difference. Israel had to learn not only how needful were the services of the High Priest to procure the blessing of the water from the rock, and to direct as to their warfare in the land, but also the absolute need of Aaron's ministrations, to stop the disastrous consequences of their sin in murmuring against the leader, and the High Priest appointed by Jehovah. The incense in the censer, kindled by live coals from off the altar of burnt-offering, arrested God's dealings in government with the stiff-necked people of Israel. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, however, the present service of the Lord, as High Priest, is never mentioned in connection with sins. Like Israel, surely we often sin, and the Lord's hand in government we may feel, if we do not judge ourselves (1 Cor. xi. 30, 31); but the service in connection with the question of His people's sins is taken up in John, when he presents Him to us as the Advocate, whereas the Epistle to the Hebrews introduces Him as actively engaged in His character of High Priest, because of the people's infirmities and trials. The service of the High Priest in connection with sins is set forth in this Epistle as a service settled and finished for ever, and He has sat down in token that propitiation has been made, and He remains within the sanctuary because eternal redemption has been found.

Paul's object, then, in writing the Epistle to the Hebrews, is to strengthen the saints to stand firm in spite of all the difficulties in their way; and this he does by telling them of the person and service of Christ, as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, as well as of the sacrifice once for all offered up on the cross. In John, the relationship of believers to the Father is kept before them. In Hebrews, the saints are looked at as on their way to God's rest. For them, under these circumstances, two things are provided — the Word of God, and the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. By the former, God's mind is revealed, that whatever is of the flesh in us may be detected, for sharper is the living Word than any two-edged sword, and it can do, what no human instrument is fine enough to effect — viz., pierce even to the dividing asunder of the soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma), two divisions of man's tripartite nature (1 Thess. v. 23), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. By the latter, what the saint may need by reason of his infirmities and trials, whilst journeying along the road, is abundantly procured for him.

How suited the Lord is to act in this capacity the Epistle makes clear to us, as it recounts how He entered into heaven, and why He remains there (ix. 12); telling us likewise of His personal fitness for the office, being holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (vii. 26); reminding us, too, where he is, viz., in the sanctuary — the true tabernacle — which the Lord pitched and not man; and disclosing His very attitude and place on high, being seated on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. His ability, likewise, to fill the office of High Priest is insisted on, as we learn that He is able to succour (ii. 18), able to sympathise (iv. 15), and able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him (vii. 25). Nor are we left in doubt as to what He does, not renewing His sacrifice, nor dealing afresh with His blood before the throne. That He did once for all. His service now, as High Priest, consists in interceding for His people.

But how, it may be asked, can we avail ourselves of His priestly help? By going to the throne of grace. And the Apostle, be it remarked, to encourage those to whom he writes, exhorts them to come to it as the common privilege and blessing belonging to all believers. He, an Apostle, did not go there instead of them, though he could, and we may, intercede for others. Nor did he address them as one who needed not the assistance of which they were in want. He did not send them there as a place to which he did not resort. Apostle though he was, following the Lord very closely as he did, as a man, a saint, and one who had need of preventing as well as of upholding grace, he exhorted them to approach the throne, to reap the fruits of the Lord's gracious intercession on their behalf. Do we need to present a petition there, before we can expect to receive what we require? Must we wait till an answer comes? We read not of this; we go to receive; we are not told even to ask. We go to get, not to wait for a favourable answer to be vouchsafed us. Christ has interceded, and we go to receive the fruits of His priestly act of intercession, even mercy, and to find grace for seasonable help. Varied are the trials of God's saints, but the High Priest can understand them all, having been in all points tempted like as we are and having suffered being tempted, never yielding, He has learnt the full extent to which they can go. The trials and infirmities of His people He then fully understands, and procuring for them, by His intercession, all that they need, He is able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by Him. With what thankfulness, then, may we say, "We have an High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God."