"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17)
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Heb. 2:14) How do you and I feel about the children? Do we love the children? Why do we love the children? Is it because we discover in them the image, the grace of Christ. Now, I know, the more I can see of, his humbling grace, his likeness, the more union I feel to his people. And yet that is the very reason why the wicked hate the saints: they hate the likeness of Jesus in them, because in themselves is the image of the devil. How do you feel toward the saints?
I am glad of any right, vital feeling in my soul. I think it was three years ago this morning, when the hymns on the birth of Christ were sung, that I had that bedewing I have never forgotten: I had a little of it this morning.
I thought not long since about Judas: when they came to take Jesus, he stood with them. I felt it vitally in my soul; he stood with them. If death finds you with the world, you will perish with world; and if death finds you with the children you will spend a happy eternity with the children. A man is known by the company he keeps. Do we get nigher the world or nigher the church in spirit and practice? It is a simple question. If, in spirit and practice, we get nigher the world, we are getting nearer hell: and, if we get nigher the saints, we are getting nigher heaven.
I never can express the desire I have in my soul for the peace, increase and welfare of Zion. I feel a hearty desire for every child of God. And "we love him because he first loved us." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another." My very soul longs, pants and desires the peace, welfare and increase of Zion.
"Forasmuch then as the children." Do you and I feel the love of the children and love to them for Christ's sake? Have we the humility of the children? The humble soul ascends to heaven; the proud will descend to hell.
"No big words of ready talkers,
No dry doctrine will suffice;
Broken hearts and humble walkers,
These are dear in Jesus' eyes."
And what brings a state of humility in the soul? A knowledge of ourselves and of salvation by Jesus Christ. He saveth the humble in spirit.
Have we the needs of the children? Well, I thought, what do the elect feel? Godly sorrow for sin: and they need mercy through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. These are the fruits of electing love in the soul; for "whom he did predestinate them he also called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified them he also glorified." (Rom. 8:30) Have you the needs of the children,--their spiritual needs, their spiritual infirmities? "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19) Have you the tenderness of the children, the uprightness of the children, the honesty of the children? Do you, like the children, more or less make the world the footstool, and climb from time to time on the Rock against which the gates of hell shall not prevail?
"Forasmuch then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." Oh! what a necessity there was that God's co-equal and co-eternal Son should take our nature, in the virgin's womb, by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost! Mary was amazed, and said "How can this thing be?" "Why, "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34,35) There is a necessity he should take the children's nature, and, by imputation, the children's sins,--bear the children's curse, to open the kingdom of heaven to all that believe in him: that he might say at last, "Behold I and the children which God hath given me." (Heb. 2:13)
Christ is set forth by Jacob's ladder. The top rested in heaven, the Father standing at the top to welcome home to glory all the ransomed, with a Father's everlasting smile. And the foot of the ladder rested on the earth: and there is the humanity of Christ. Take away his Deity, and down goes the ladder: and take away his humanity, the ladder cannot reach us nor we it. Oh! the suitability of this Ransomer, who has the nature of both parties in one Divine Person! He can lay his hands on God and sinners, and bring them together in a lasting, holy bond of love. But, if you are favored with an atom of faith in him, it will be amazingly tried.
The "children" are warned of their danger: they believe in the wrath to come. The prudent man foreseeth the evil and wants to hide in Christ, but the simple pass on and are punished. None can tell the anxiety of heaven-born souls.
"Heavenly Bridegroom: 'tis thyself we long to know." (Most people's thought of heaven is merely to escape hell: as to the glory of Christ it seems the last thing with them: the great point is there own safety.) Oh! the happiness of the "children" around the throne of God! "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy Truth's sake." (Ps. 115:1)
Take away the Deity of Christ, and where is the efficacy of his blood? Where is the merit of his obedience? And take away his humanity where is blood to atone; where is our near kinsman to redeem? And yet, nobody knows how I have been harassed for many years,--not about my interest;--I know I have had Christ revealed to my soul, and cannot give up the reality; but I am so tried by the devil working on my reason. It comes, How can a poor despised man be the Almighty God? And yet,
"No less Almighty at his birth,
Than on his throne supreme;
His shoulders help heaven and earth,
When Mary held up him."
I do not know where to find a former believer in the Incarnate Mystery than my unworthy self; and yet nobody knows how I am harassed by my reason: can the Carpenter's Son, the man everywhere spoken against, be the Almighty God? But,
"The feeblest saint shall hell subdue,
Where Jesus Christ is born."
You have heard me say what a blow this temptation in me once had with this consideration,--what your reason stumbles about is his humanity; and that is what constitutes him a fit Saviour for you. Oh! what a deliverance it was for the time being! Take away his humanity, the very thing our reason stumbles at and where is our near kinsman? But "upon this Rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18) "He also himself likewise took part of the same," by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost in the virgin's womb,--God in our nature. And he wears our nature still. All he did here on earth he did in our nature; all he suffered he suffered in our nature; and God in our nature fills the throne of heaven: and, had he not taken our nature, we must have gone to hell. What a double tie of union! he took our nature, and we are made partakers of the divine nature.
"'Tis heard by mere nature
With coldness or scorn,
That God our Creator
An infant was born."
If this be foolishness, it is the foolishness of God what is wiser than man.
"That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." There is a necessity for his bitter death. He must die the death for the children or the children perish in their sins. How few concern themselves about the bitter death of Christ! Why? Because they have never been favored to look on him whom they have pierced; they sorrow not for the burden of the King of Princes. Think of the breaking of his body: they made their long furrows on his back. But what was the breaking of his body compared with the millions of hells that burst on his soul? He was wounded in body but bruised in soul for our iniquities. "He hath put him to grief." He must grieve or we are undone. And, if you are anxious to know if he died for you, let me ask the question,--hath it pleased the Holy Ghost to bruise you for your sins? Here is a bruised Christ for bruised sinners: here is a grieved Christ for grieving souls: here is a Christ exalted of God for all living penitents that seek him sorrowing.
"When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father." (Gal. 4:4-6) "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness." (1 Tim. 3:16) It is faith's mystery and reason's stumblingblock. God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit:" (1 Tim. 3:16) "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Heb. 9:14) "Seen of angels." And you have been singing,
"To hail his birth they left the skies,
We lodged him with the beasts."
Though he came to seek and to save the fallen sons and daughters of Adam.
"Vast were the settlements of grace
On millions of the human race."
"Preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." (1 Tim. 3:16) "For unto us,"--the church of the living God, "a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder." ( Isa. 9:6) "Of Benjamin he said, The Beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long; and he shall dwell between his shoulders." (Deut. 33:12) "And his name shall be called Wonderful." Everything connected with him is wonderful. He will bring his people off more than conquerors.
"They may on the main of temptations be toss'd,
Their sorrows may swell as the sea,
But none of the ransomed shall ever be lost,
The righteous shall hold on his way."
Christ is the Mighty God; he is the Everlasting Father of his people: he is the Prince of Life and glory, and "him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31)
"That he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." The seed of the woman, Jesus Christ the Lord has bruised the serpent's head; and our accuser is cast down by Christ Jesus the Lord. And he came to deliver them who, through fear, were all the lifetime subject to bondage. Now, there is something very terrific to our nature in temporal death: but that is nothing to the dread of eternal death when God warns thee of thy danger: and there is no refuge but the Rock.
"Who, except Jesus shew his face,
Can meet the monster with a smile."
You may trifle with death in time of health; but let death look in at the window, and get a glimpse of one that follows him;--"and hell followed with him." "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27) It is true we all die: what a mercy to be brought to judgment here! And it will make a man shake to the center for death to look in, while hell is to be seen following. Though most people die with their eyes shut: millions will never have their eyes opened till they are opened in hell never to be shut again. When the Holy Ghost convinced me of sin, natural death appeared but a trifle compared with eternal death: with me it was not the dread of the grave, of being put under the ground merely. Oh! to be warned of God of the burning wrath of Almighty God! "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" These are they Jesus Christ came to seek and save,--they that have fearful forebodings of the wrath to come: he came on purpose to save them, and to deliver them who, through fear of eternal death due to sin, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. To have a complaint constantly and to be subject to it are two different things: God's people are subject to this bondage: Christ came to deliver them.
There are times of revival, when they have a sweet foretaste of eternal bliss. If Christ be out of sight, like Peter, we begin to sink. The adversary assaults the coming sinner as if there were no Christ. If he can only keep Christ out of sight, he gets the better of us: and, when our faith has to do with the Son of God and Son of Man, we get the better of him. You know, when Christ revives you, and causes you to cast anchor in him, you get a little peace. He came to deliver; and by and bye he will finally deliver. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14) At last he will give us the victory. He "came to deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage." "Well," say you, "if I could speak as you can of the revelation of Christ to you, I should be above temptation." Be but assaulted as I am. The devil tells some of you you have no interest in Christ; then he tells me Christ is not God. If he is not God how is he to save me? The devil leaves me as weak as you. When you and I are down, that is the time the devil and our fears come upon us like a flood.
"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels." He passed by the nature of angels; and, because there was no Mediator, they were damned in an instant and for ever. The Son of God passed by the nature of angels and "took on him the seed of Abraham." Think of his love and pity and determination to die for the children;--to come down to the bottom of his church's misery to bring her up to heaven. Well might it be said, "Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet: every one shall receive of thy words."
"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren." He is a brother for adversity. (Prov. 17:17)
"An earthly brother drops his hold,
In sometimes hot and sometimes cold,
But Jesus is the same."
"Made like unto his brethren."--sin excepted. He took our nature, bore our curse, brings in his righteousness, endures our hell and brings us to his heaven.
Then he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest." I cannot touch upon God's mercy to poor sinners without getting a little warm. He is full of mercy, abundant in mercy, delighting in mercy; and he saves according to his mercy. The promise is "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 8:12) Oh! to love mercy and walk humbly with our God! What! do you feel all sin? Does the dying thief's prayer suit you? Jesus Christ, the Friend of sinners, is full of truth and grace. What is truth? Everything that lays sin and sinners low. And what is a lie? Everything that makes God a mere cipher; and makes something of the poor, frail creature.
A God full of compassion: think of it. "That he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest." Oh! think of him,--a merciful and a faithful High Priest; faithful to his Father and to his saints.
"This victim vengeance will pursue,
He undertook, and must go through."
Bound to the altar of Deity, he overcame for his saints, and said, "I will never leave thee." "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest;"--a great Priest for great sinners;--a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,"--nothing touches him like it: he can be touched with the spirit of our infirmities: he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Oh! think of this great, merciful, compassionate, loving High Priest of our profession: he is able to save all them to the uttermost that come unto God by him. There are millions in heaven and on the way there that feel it must be a stretch of mercy for him to save them; and yet he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him. And God will destroy to the uttermost all that reject his dear Son and salvation by him.
"His precious blood did once atone,
And now he pleads before the throne."
"Such an High Priest became us who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens." He was the living God when the dying man on the tree. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, for hope of interest in Jesus Christ.
"That he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God." How about these things? How about these mountains that stand between God and the sinner? Such as "I will in no wise clear the guilty." Truth and mercy met in a precious Christ. Oh! think of it. "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Jerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it." (Zech. 4:7) His own hand laid the foundations, and his own hand shall finish it. The mountains must flow down at his presence,
"That says to the mountains, depart,
That stand betwixt Christ and the soul."
He will make of the mountain a way.
"In things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Oh! to have a Reconciler! (Fallen angels have none)--a peace-maker, God in our nature, Immanuel, God with us, making reconciliation for the sins of the people; God in Christ: reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. (2 Cor. 5:19) The Father was reconciled toward the church: he never beheld iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel: (Num. 23:21) they were comely in his Son; and then he sent forth the Mediator to reconcile poor sinners, who say, "I will have nothing to do with God but will do my best."
"Lord, what is man? A guilty wretch,
For hell he's full upon the stretch,
Till stopp'd by sovereign grace."
What is he then?
"A poor, distressed, praying man
He feels so vile and base."
Do you want God's forgiveness,--want God to accept you in his dear Son? The man whom God quickens wants a Mediator, is willing to be saved God's way, and is glad to find an Appeaser of God's wrath.
"Making reconciliation for the sins of the people." He was to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness. (Dan. 9:24) Thanks be to God for a good hope through grace.
"To make reconciliation for the sins of the people" Our fears and foes fright us as if there was no reconciliation. I hope never to forget when it was asked in my soul, What saved you? Why, the extension of the atonement. "And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, if I died in the attempt: "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom," (Job 33:24)--a Mediator, a Brother born for adversity, the Son of God and Son of man, Mary's child, who was willing to bear the curse, bring in everlasting righteousness and save sinners from the lowest hell by his blood and righteousness. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, his unspeakable gift.