Hebrews 10; Hebrews 13:9-16.
C. H. Mackintosh.
The power of our path — of our walk in this world, is the understanding, through the Holy Ghost, of our identification with Christ in all our ways, and our being set in the world to manifest Him, not merely to know that we have salvation, and the purging of our consciences through His most precious blood. The testimony of a Christian bears this character, he is treading in the footsteps of Christ. "To me, to live is Christ:" again, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." That puts each of us in the place of responsibility as to our ways, our habits, our feelings, and objects. Are we realizing the responsibility of living Christ? That is really what the Church of God is set in the world for — to be the expression of Christ in His absence. A Christian's conscience often satisfies itself with handing to the unconverted man the Bible, so that he may read what Christ was; but this is not the object for which Christ has left us here. — "Ye are the epistles of Christ, known and read of all men." Are we such an epistle as persons can read? It is not a person's coming to me, and saying, What is your creed? What views do you hold? and the like. If I am not an expression of the ways and feelings of Christ, I am a stumbling-block, rather than otherwise. The Christian should be the living, breathing expression of Christ — of the principles, features, graces, of the character of Christ. Alas! the whole of Christianity is often made to consist in a set of opinions: one gets his place and is characterized by what opinions he holds. We are called upon necessarily to live the Christ in whom we believe; we are one with Him, and are called to show forth what He is. But the whole power, by which I am to act and to show that, is the understanding that I am one with Him.
There are two great stages of Christ's path, and of the believer's, as identified with Him, presented to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The first ends (Heb. 10) where the soul is set in "the holiest." Up to that the Holy Ghost is conducting us along, step by step; there He sets us down in this blessed place, "having boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh."
The power of intelligent devotedness is the understanding of the perfect purging of our consciences. Many do not understand this; they are aiming at getting it, and that is a complete reversing of God's order. I have a purged conscience; I go on, not to obtain it, but because I have it. How do I get it? Not by anything that I have done, by my frames or feelings, as a matter of attainment or experience; the Holy Ghost teaches us that it is by the blood of Jesus.
He shows the glory of the person of Christ, as contrasted with angels and with Moses; that of His priesthood as contrasted with Aaron's; that of His sacrifice, as contrasted with the sacrifices under the law. And what is the result? We have a purged conscience. He has set us down within the veil. It is not what one Christian has, and what another is struggling after, but the common platform of all — we all have a purged conscience. Some suppose that the blood of Christ has put away our sins before conversion; and then, as to what becomes of those after, they are met by the priesthood of Christ; but this is not what He says: it is by the blood of Christ; we are within the holiest with a perfectly-purged conscience, with "no more conscience of sins." It is just worthy of the sacrifice of Christ to put me in possession of this, and nothing short of it; all my sins, not some of them, blotted out. There, where the High Priest could go in once every year, and only then, the simplest believer is set down.
When one comes to deal closely with souls, one discovers what doubts, clouds, fears, and anxieties, have possession of and distress them. If the blood of Christ does anything for us, it sets us there without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near," etc. There is no difference here between apostle and others; the apostle Paul and the thief on the cross: in other words, all alike have a common place within the veil.
The priesthood of Christ comes in to maintain me practically where the blood of Christ has set me. As in the expression in the Epistle of John, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous [Jesus Christ is at God's right hand on all principles of righteousness], and He is the propitiation [the mercy-seat] for our sins." "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." It is a much easier thing for a child to ask for pardon for some fault than to confess it. We may be asking for pardon for any special sin, and we have no Scripture warrant to know that it is put away; but when we confess it, it is a matter of faith to know that it is put away. I am speaking now of a believer: were it the question of an unconverted person, the blood of Christ meets that. God is "faithful and just (not gracious and merciful merely), to forgive us our sins," etc. The moment I have judged myself about it, I am entitled to know that it is gone.
What a very wondrous place to set the believer in at the very outset of his course of discipleship! — washed from his sins, his conscience purged, set down in the unclouded sense of the light of God's own countenance! But what to do? to rest there? No; that is the foundation on which the superstructure of practical devotedness is based. Legalism and antinomianism are alike met. What does the system of legalism say? You must work yourself up into this place of acceptance. The gospel says, Christ has put me there. I never could get there; the law has proved that. When God gave the law, what was He doing? "You shall do this," "You shall not do that," brought out what man's heart was; it was impossible he could do what God was telling him he ought to do, and impossible he should not be what God was telling him not to be: — "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." I can never, by works of law, get into the holiest of all. I am put there as the result of what Christ has accomplished for me on the cross; and this is stated at the very outset of the epistle: "When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). Why does it say "sat down"? To evidence the completion of the work. Aaron never sat down; there was no seat prepared for the priest, either in the tabernacle or the temple.
What does antinomianism lead men to say? "I have it, I possess it all in Christ," and there it ends. But no! the gospel puts me there, to run the blessed race that is set before me, in ardent, earnest breathing of the soul to become like Christ.
If the first division sets me down within the holiest, the second places me without the camp. I find Christ, as it regards my conscience, "inside the veil." I find Christ, as it regards my heart, "outside the camp."
It does not become us to take only the comfort which flows from our knowing Christ to be within the veil — the comfort His sacrifice gives us, I must seek practical identification with Him outside the camp. Christ within the veil tranquillizes my conscience. Christ outside the camp quickens, energizes my soul to run more devotedly the race set before me. "The bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" (ver. 11-13). No two points are morally more remote than inside the veil and outside the camp, and yet they are brought together here. Inside the veil was the place where the shekinah of God's glory dwelt; outside the camp the place where the sin-offering was burned — no place gives such an idea of distance from God as that. It is blessed to know that the Holy Ghost presents to me Jesus filling up all that is between these two points. I have nothing to do whatever with the camp. The camp was the place of ostensible profession (in type, the camp of Israel; in antitype, the city of Jerusalem). Why did Christ suffer without the gate? In order to show the setting aside of the mere machinery of Israel's outward profession.
We may be clear as to the work of Christ being done for us (and God forbid there should be a cloud cast across the blessedness of that), knowing the conscience to be made perfect; but is tranquility of conscience all I want? is there no responsibility? is Christ's voice from within the veil all? has He no voice outside the camp? It will be found that, after all, the joy, peace, liberty, flowing from our hearing Christ's voice inside the veil, is very much dependent on our listening to His voice outside the camp. Those who know most of suffering with Him, and bearing His reproach, will know most of the blessedness of His place within the veil. Our conduct, our ways, our path through the earth, must be tested by Christ. — "Would Christ be there? would Christ do this?" The Holy Ghost must be grieved if the saint pursues a course contrary to that which Christ would have pursued; and then the soul must be lean. How can a grieved Spirit testify of Christ — how can He give the soul the comfort and joy and peace of His testimony to Him? How can I be enjoying Christ if I am not walking in company with Him? We know that we cannot enjoy the company of a person unless we are where that person is — where then is Christ? "Outside the camp." — "Let us go forth, therefore, to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach." This is not to go forth to men, or to opinions, to a church, or to a creed, but to Christ Himself. We are not of the world — why? Because Christ is not of the world; the measure of our separation from the world is the measure of Christ's separation. "For here have we no continuing city;" do our hearts seek one? — some set of circumstances or the like, a something on which to lean? Are we saying, as it were, "Oh do leave me something"? like Lot pleading for Zoar, "Is it not a little one?" do not take it all away, "is it not a little one; and my soul shall live!" Lot's was a heart going out after a little of the world still. When the heart is filled with Christ it can give up the world, there is no difficulty in doing it then. The mere saying, "Give up this," or "give up that," to one loving the world, will be of no avail; what I have to do is to seek to minister to that soul more of Christ.
I am outside the camp, I am seeking a city that is to come, I am waiting for Him who is to come. In this condition, of dislodgement from the world and from its system, I find myself in two positions — one towards God, and the other towards man. The first, "By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (ver. 15). The second, the lovely development of the spirit of active benevolence of the next verse, "But to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (ver. 16).
I am within the veil with Christ, — outside the camp in the world, "bearing His reproach;" and, whilst thus delivered from the profession around me, that is not of Him, I am engaged in worship and doing good to all.
In regard to my hope, it is not, as people say, the "holding the doctrine of the second advent," but "waiting for God's Son from heaven." This is not a dead, dry doctrine. If we are really waiting for God's Son from heaven, we shall be sitting loose to the world.
I have Christ for my soul's need, and I am only "waiting for God's Son from heaven," for Christ to come from heaven to take His Church to Himself, that where He is we may be also, and that may be this night. I am not looking for antichrist, for signs, for movements amongst the nations, but for this one holy, happy thing, I am waiting for God's Son from heaven. Oh do not let us be inconsistent, do not let us contradict that — seeking to grasp Christ with one hand, and hold fast the world with the other. If we know our position "within the veil," we must know our position "outside the camp," reproached, it may be, scorned, hated, suspected, of all who are not outside, but in the joy of fellowship with Him. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also then shall appear with Him in glory."