By James H. Brookes
The Pauline Epistles
Of the seven epistles to Gentile churches, that to the Romans is properly placed at the head of the list. It was not the first that was written, but it is first in the importance of its relations to Christian doctrine, if one may distinguish where all is divine. It lays broad and deep the foundations of gospel truth, showing what man is by nature; how helpless and hopeless he is, even in the midst of his highest attainments in a Godless culture and religion; the wonderful scheme of redemption accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ; its application to the believer by the Holy Ghost; God's absolute sovereignty in its bestowal; the eternal security of the Christian; and his affectionate obedience as a dear child, notwithstanding the unchangeable badness of the nature he has received from fallen Adam. It sets forth with the clearness and force of inspiration in every word, God's righteousness, our justification by faith alone, our sanctification through oneness with our risen Lord, our present freedom from condemnation, the impossibility of our separation from His love, our election irrespective of any good works as the procuring cause, and the fruit of all this as seen in a life filled with love to God and man.
It must be borne in mind, while reading this epistle, that the division of the English Bible into chapters and verses is of human origin, and often the divisions exhibit very little spiritual intelligence. But with this fact in view, the following may be regarded in general as appropriate titles of the various chapters: The ruin of man, chap. i. God's judgment on man, chap. ii. All under sin, chap. iii. Righteousness by faith, chap, iv. Results of faith, chap. v. Dead to sin, chap, vi. Dead to the law, chap. vii. In Christ Jesus, chap. viii. God's sovereignty, chap. ix. Israel's failure, chap. x. Israel's future, chap. xi. The Christian's character, chap. xii. The Christian's relation to civil rulers, chap. xiii. The Christian's relations to the brethren, chap. xiv. The Christian's labors, chap. xv. Christian salutations, chap. xvi.
God is kept prominently in view throughout the epistle. His name occurring twenty-one times in the opening chapter, where we read of the gospel of God, the Son of God, the beloved of God, the will of God, the power of God, the righteousness of God, and the wrath of God. In connection with this we see in the same chapter the progress of the human race apart from God, (vs. 21), the results of human culture, (vs. 22), the achievements of the human intellect, (vs. 23), the manifestations of human virtue, (vs. 24), the end reached of human love of truth, (vs. 25), human religion when man is left to his own resources, (vs. 25), and the true picture of society, -after philosophy, science, and art had done their best for the Greek and Roman world, (vs. 26-32).
In the next chapter the Jew receives yet heavier condemnation, by reason of his exalted privileges, for while resting in the law, making his boast of God, knowing God's will, approving the good, instructed in the law, having confidence in himself, and instructing others, the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles through his disobedience. Hence in the third chapter, both Jew and Gentile are all proved to be under sin, first by negative and then by positive testimony, and it is a sin manifested in the throat, 'tongue, lips, mouth, feet, ways, eyes, the whole man, both inward and outward, being utterly defiled, depraved, and ruined. If therefore he ever gets righteousness, it must be the gift of God, as shown in the fourth chapter, and illustrated and confessed by Old Testament saints. This righteousness becomes ours only in answer to faith, which means that we cease from our own efforts, and trust wholly in Christ, thus obtaining peace or a permanent state of acceptance with God. Thus, too, God continues to observe the principle upon which He was pleased to constitute the race, that one should stand as the head and representative of the many, all of which is brought out in the fifth chapter.
Then follows the old and the new objection of ignorance to grace, that it leads to sin. But the inspired Apostle shows that the believer is dead to sin, and dead to the law, by virtue of his union with the risen Christ, and that he can obtain deliverance, neither from the one nor the other, by looking at self, and struggling with self, but only by looking away from self, and by resting on Christ day after day, hour after hour. This we have in the sixth and seventh chapters, and in vs. 7-25 of the latter chapter, "I," "me," and "myself" occur forty-nine times. No wonder it is the passage of despair. But the eighth chapter is a shout of triumph, commencing with "no condemnation," ending with "no separation," and "God for us "in the middle.
The next three chapters deal largely with Israel, making manifest that the church dispensation is a parenthesis, interrupting the flow of special grace to God^s ancient people, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," when it will be resumed in unchanging covenant mercy, and flow on in its millennial brightness and beauty, waters to swim in, a river that can not be passed over, (Ezek. xlvii. 5). The remainder of the book is occupied with exhortations and incentives to personal consecration of soul and body, and to mutual love and forbearance in our relations to the brethren.
The three divisions that are usually made of the epistle are first, Doctrinal, i.-viii.; second, Dispensational, ix.-xi.; third, Practical, xii.-xvi. But if it will be helpful to any, it may be described as setting forth, first. The ruin of man, i.-iii.; second, Salvation by grace, iv., v.; third. Dead to sin and the law, vi., vii.; fourth. Safe in Christ, viii.; fifth, God's way with Israel, ix.-xi.; sixth. Christian character and conduct, xii.-xv. ) and seventh, Christian salutations, xvi. The phrase, "it is written," occurs eighteen times; and there are sixty-one quotations from the Old Testament, besides obvious allusions to the ancient scriptures, which the apostle recognized as the authoritative voice of God.
This Epistle was dictated by the Holy Ghost in the year of our Lord 57, toward the close of the Apostle's three years' residence in Ephesus. In Acts xviii. we learn that this devoted servant of Christ had labored for more than a year and a half in Corinth, a magnificent commercial city situated on a narrow isthmus between the Ionian and Ęgean seas. It was a city noted for its wealth, culture, luxury, and licentiousness. The Acrocorinthus, towering two thousand feet above the sea, commanding a view of unsurpassed loveliness, including the Acropolis of Athens, was the site of the temple of Venus, in which more than a thousand priestesses, all of whom were prostitutes, daily ministered to the lust of men.
After the Apostle's departure many of the church, gathered by his faithful testimony and service, yielded to the corrupt influences around them, and fell into grievous sin. The beginning of their decline can be readily traced to the pride of intellect, and the vain boastings of philosophy, leading to party spirit, to seduction " from the simplicity that is in Christ," to a contemptuous rejection of the humbling doctrines of grace, to an excuse for the natural but lawless gratification of the appetites, to a disregard of marriage ties, to a blunted conscience touching the worship of idols, to a subversion of the divinely appointed relation between man and woman, to forgetfulness of the very purpose of the Lord's Supper, to ambition and self-seeking, and at last to a denial of the fundamental truth of the resurrection of the body.
It is easy, therefore, to see how applicable are the solemn admonitions and entreaties and instructions of the Epistle to our own times; and it should be kept in mind that it is addressed, not only "unto the church of God which is at Corinth," but also to "all that in everyplace call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's." The same experiment is made now, that was made then, when the Apostle testifies that "the world by wisdom knew not God," and "the natural man, [the psychical, or as Rotherham says 'the soulical man,' man using merely his intellect] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The danger which threatens the church to-day is precisely the same that nearly ruined the church of Corinth, for every fresh discovery and invention of the human intellect is carrying men further from God, and deeper into manifold errors and vices. Hence the profound significance of the Epistle in its bearing upon the state of. things at present existing.
A general outline of the several chapters may be presented as follows: The salutation, introduction, the rebuke of party spirit, and the foolishness of man as contrasted with the wisdom of God, chap, i. The true preacher knows nothing, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and delivers his message in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, chap, ii. Divisions among Christians reveal a carnal state, and those who, not having an eye single to the glory of Christ, put poor material into the building of God, will have their work burned at last, although if on the only foundation, they themselves shall be saved, yet so as by fire, chap. iii. Faithful ministerial service attested by a thorough denial of self, and the preaching of the gospel, chap. iv. Impurity rebuked, and discipline exercised, chap. V. Believers forbidden to go to law against one another, and fornication defiling the body, which is redeemed to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, chap. vi. The law of marriage, chap, vii. The believer seeking the good of his brethren in abstaining from that which in itself is harmless, chap. viii. Self-denial the privilege of saints, and the way to win the crown, chap. ix. Warnings against self-indulgence, and positive prohibitions to make any compromise with idolatry, chap. x. Woman's place in relation to man, and the importance of properly observing the Lord's Supper, chap. xi. Concerning spiritual gifts, and the unity of the body, chap. xii. Concerning the best gift, which is love, of which Christ is the embodiment and the exponent, chap. xiii. Directions for public worship in the church, where woman, in subserving the design of God in her creation and redemption, is to keep silence, chap. xiv. The resurrection, chap. xv. Contributions for Christian purposes part of the worship upon the first day of the week, and farewell exhortations and greetings, chap. xvi. It will thus be seen that the Epistle sweeps over a vast range of practical subjects; and to these words nothing must be added, from them nothing must be taken. They still form a rule for the guidance of the Christian and the Church, and how much they are needed may be gathered from a glance at the condition of things all around, and at the evils which are here so sharply censured. First, party spirit, and the following of men in the things of God, receive severe reproof, i.-iv. Second^ remissness in the exercise of discipline, and the failure of the Church to exclude immoral members, v. Third, brethren fought against brethren before heathen magistrates, revealing a state of heart and mind, that at once accounts for their lack of personal purity, and of loyal consecration to Christ, and of fidelity in the marriage relation, vi., vii. Fourth, in order to make their " religion genial," they sadly compromised the truth of the gospel by compliance with the customs of the world, viii.-x. Fifth, women were leaving their place of subjection and modest retirement, to push to the front, while there was strange ignorance of the nature of the Lord's Supper, and there was no longer a mutual dependence of the members, one upon another, xi.-xiii. Sixth, speaking in a language that nobody could understand, thus exciting admiration, was unduly coveted and ostentatiously displayed, xiv. Seventh, the literal resurrection of the dead, involving the utter destruction of the gospel, was denied then, as it is now, xv. If Rome was the symbol of power, Corinth was the seat of culture, and we see where it leads, when not kept beneath the cross. Blessed be God, the coming of the Lord, so often mentioned in this Epistle, is the bright end to which man's failure is hastening.
SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
Soon after the first epistle was written, the Apostle left Ephesus, owing in part at least to the uproar which his preaching had excited, to go into Macedonia. Titus, his fellow-laborer and travelling companion, was sent to Corinth to learn the effect produced by the inspired admonitions and instructions; and Paul anxiously awaited his return at Troas. There he continued "to preach Christ's gospel," and he says, "a door was opened unto me of the Lord;" but as week after week passed, and Titus did not make his appearance, he had no rest in his spirit, and at length his extreme solicitude about the Corinthian Church led him to continue his journey to Macedonia, and no doubt to Philippi, where his friend rejoined him, and where in all probability the second epistle was written, in the year of our Lord 58.
This is a suitable place to make a brief statement about the second epistles of the New Testament in general. Of the seven Gentile churches formally addressed by the Holy Ghost, the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians received but one epistle each, and the moment the contents of these various epistles are clearly understood, it will be seen that nothing can be added to them. They are complete in themselves. But the reasons for second epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians are equally obvious. The condition of these two churches demanded second epistles; and it was not by chance, or oversight, or forgetfuluess on the part of the Holy Spirit to say something in the first epistles which needed mention, that two of the seven churches are addressed a second time.
Moreover there is a profound significance in all of the second epistles, which should not escape the notice of careful students of God's word. Besides the two to the Corinthians and Thessalonians, we have the second epistle to Timothy, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John. In all of these much is made of the proper ministry of the word, much is made of the truth; and there are solemn warnings and awful denunciations against false teachers. This fact, taken in connection with repeated references to the second coming of Christ, shows that the Holy Ghost in the second epistles designs to make a special application to the last days of the truth brought out in the first epistles. Hence the peculiar value of the second epistles at the present time, when all manner of false doctrine is rapidly increasing on every hand. They are surely worthy of a more diligent perusal than they usually receive.
In the second epistle to the Corinthians the inspired writer, having learned from Titus the practical results of his former epistle, and desiring to eradicate wholly the errors and evils still existing among the brethren so dear to his heart, expresses Ms thanks to God for the comfort derived from the tidings that had reached him, and promptly meets the charge of fickleness which the Judaizing teachers alleged against the absent apostle, chap, i. He then refers to the "much affliction and anguish of heart '' out of which he had previously written, exhorting them with great tenderness to deal gently with the erring brother, and exulting in the continued triumph of the gospel, chap. ii. This is followed by a defence of his ministry, which was exercised under the new covenant of grace, and not under the old covenant of law, chap. iii.; and by a vindication of the manner in which he discharged his ministry, that in his personal weakness and insufficiency only the more exalted the power of God, who sustained him in his trials, chap. iv.; giving him the assurance of a habitation in heaven, "a building of God, a home not made with hands," so that impelled by the constraining love of Christ, he cared for nothing save to be approved of Him, whose ambassador he was, in beseeching men to be reconciled to God, chap. v.
The true character of his ministry was attested by his sufferings, through which his love for the brethren could carry him even joyfully, while the same love poured itself forth in earnest entreaty to avoid all worldly and dangerous alliances, chap. vi.; and it had been kindled to a warmer glow by the favorable account of their affection and obedience, communicated by Titus, chap. vii. As a proof of their affection and repentance,, he exhorts them to imitate the example of their Macedonian brethren in the contribution made for the poor saints of Judea, chap. viii.; and begs them to justify his boasting of their liberality, chap. ix. He also deplores the necessity of asserting and exercising his apostolic authority and power against false teachers who would seduce them from the gospel, chap. x.; apologizes for the appearance of self-commendation, because forced to contrast his preaching and labors with the arrogant assumptions of these false teachers, chap. xi.; alludes to a remarkable vision he had enjoyed more than fourteen years before, and to other evidences of his apostleship, chap. xii.; and closes with an announcement that he would vindicate his denied apostleship in the condign punishment of obdurate offenders.
A brief summary of the epistle may be presented as follows: First, the noble anxiety of a true minister for those under his spiritual care, and the certain success of the gospel in all that it was designed to accomplish, i., ii. Second, the characteristic features of a true ministry exhibited (1) in preaching Christ only, (2) in the accompanying energy of the Holy Ghost, (3) in greatly exalting the word of God, (4) in self-abasement, (5) in meek endurance of afflictions and in incessant labors, (6) in assurance of faith and hope, (7) in singleness of aim, ambitious to please the Lord Jesus alone, iii.-vii. Third, the divine principle in giving, which requires that our contributions should be voluntary and liberal, viii., ix. Fourth, the power of true ministry, x. Fifth, the courage of true ministry, that can be intimidated by no danger, xi. Sixth, the glory that is to be revealed hereafter, and the sufficiency of Christ's grace here, enabling His true servants to take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for His sake, xii. Seventh, strength in weakness, xiii.
THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS.
We learn from the inspired history that the Apostle twice visited Galatia, a central province of Asia Minor, whose inhabitants were originally Gauls. The first visit was during the progress of his second missionary tour, (Acts xvi. 6); and the second was some years later, during his third missionary journey, when he "went overall the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples/' (Acts xviii. 23).
The message which he communicated by the Holy Ghost to the church of Corinth was followed up by his return to that city, in order to correct personally the numerous and shocking evils into which the brethren there had fallen. His heart must have been burdened with much anxiety and sorrow, as he threaded his way among the pleasure seeking crowds on the streets, and thought of the delusive and dangerous power which the god of this world had gained over many of his brethren, who were more precious to him than his heart's blood. But the burden must have been heavier, when he heard the astounding tidings from the churches of Galatia, that Judaizing teachers were at work, substituting the law for the gospel, and, to effect their purpose, undermining his influence, by a denial of his apostolic authority. Accordingly he wrote with his own hand the epistle before us, probably in the winter of 57-58, and from Corinih.
It was his habit to employ an amanuensis; but so deep was his concern for the condition of the Galatian Christians, he departed from his custom, and says, "Ye see how large a; letter [literally, *with what large letters,' referring to their size,. and not the length of the epistle] I have written unto you with mine own hand," (vi. 11). This may have resulted either from a defective vision, as some plausibly suppose, or from a desire to give strong emphasis to his admonitions and entreaties. At all events he exhibits more solicitude about the false doctrines which had crept in among the Galatians, than he does about the evil practices indulged by the Corinthians. It is quite the fashion in these days to say that it matters not what a man's creed may be, so his life is right. But the life can not be right before God, unless the creed is right; and the Apostle keenly felt, as every loyal Christian still feels, the foul dishonor done to the Lord Jesus Christ by a wrong creed.
Hence, while in Romans he proves the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, apart from the works of the law, in Galatians he vindicates the doctrine against ignorant or evil minded teachers, who sought to bring in the law as the joint means of the believer's salvation. First, he asserts that he had received his commission directly from the risen Lord Himself, and from God the Father, enabling him to act independently of those who were apostles before him, and even to rebuke them. He had graduated, not in man's theological seminary, but God's; and if any man, or an angel from heaven, preached any other gospel to them, than he had preached, and they had received, the curse of God was upon him, i., ii. 1-14.
Second, he shows that the law, to which their false teachers sought to lead them, could not give (1) justification; (2) nor life; (3) nor love; (4) nor the Spirit; (5) nor redemption; (6) nor the inheritance; (7) nor the relationship to God of children. In this connection he announces that "as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse.". Whoever, that is to say, seeks to please God on the do principle, instead of the believe principle, which sees that all is done, is under the curse. Men were justified by grace, and entered into a covenant of grace, long before the law was given, which, at best, is only a light to reveal our uncleanness, a plumbline to prove our want of uprightness, a rule to exhibit our unevenness, a jailer to shut us up to the necessity of deliverance, a child conductor, (Rotherham and Young), with rod in* hand, to keep us from playing truant until Christ came, ii. 15-21 and iii.
Third, The liberty of full grown sons, and their war with that which is born of the flesh. Those who desired to go back to the law for justification were like men wishing to return to infancy, like freemen preferring to become bond-slaves, and to live under guardians and trustees, rather than to exult in the consciousness of mature sonship, and to look up into the face of God with the joyous cry, "Abba, Father." The bond and the free can have no fellowship, any more than could Ishmael and Isaac; and in the use of this unexpected "allegory," the apostle leaves a margin for the discovery, if not of types, at least of significant and valuable suggestions of spiritual truth in all of the Old Testament narratives, iv.
Fourth, the absolute necessity of standing fast in the truth and liberty and grace of the gospel, rejecting every temptation to be justified by the law; for whosoever is justified by the law is fallen from grace, and this is the only kind of falling from grace the Bible knows about. The Spirit is received, not by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith; and practical victory over indwelling evil is achieved by walking, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, v.
Fifth, the connection is then most appropriately shown between sowing and reaping in the dealings of God with men; and it may be said that the sacred scrip tares from beginning to end are designed to set forth His grace and government, vi. 1-13.
Sixth, the cross of Jesus Christ the only ground of glorying for the new creature, as it alone fully demonstrates the utter worthlessness of the flesh and the world. The cross, the cross, should be the battle cry and battle flag of every believer, vi. 14-16.
Seventh, "from henceforth let no man trouble me J for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.'' The Greek word here is stigma, and refers to the brands which the master put upon his slave. Oh, that all of His servants might covet more earnestly, and display more fearlessly, the signs and proofs of His divine and blessed ownership, vi. 17, 18.
This sublime epistle was written by the Holy Ghost through Paul, probably in the year of our Lord 62. The Apostle had been a prisoner in Rome for at least twelve months, and while there had been previously led by the Spirit to indite the epistle to Philemon, and the epistle to the Colossians. The account of his remarkable labors in Ephesus, a splendid and renowned city of Asia Minor near the sea coast, is given in the Acts of the Apostles. There we learn that after his stay in Corinth for a year and six months, he visited Ephesus (Acts xviii. 19-28), and after a brief sojourn took his departure, with the promise of returning. This promise he fulfilled, at the beginning of his third missionary journey, and remained "by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks," (Acts xix.).
The effect of his preaching in the power of the Holy Ghost was so great, that the idolatrous worship practiced in the famous temple of Diana was threatened with extinction. One Demetrius, who earned his living by the sale of silver shrines, brought it as a charge against him in a public assembly, "that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands," so mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed." The uproar that followed caused the Apostle to depart into Macedonia, but on his last visit to Jerusalem, "he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church "to meet him on the coast. The touching farewell address which he delivered to them presents a lovely portrait of a faithful gospel minister, and can scarcely be read at this day by a true Christian without tears, (Acts xx. 16-38).
Then came the arrest in Jerusalem, the two year's imprisonment in Caesarea, the perilous voyage to Rome, the confinement there for more than a year, awaiting his trial, when his heart was stirred by the Spirit of God to write to the beloved Ephesians in the loftiest strains of divine revelation. In none of his other Epistles does he soar to such heights, or make known such wondrous truth, showing that he must have carried their thoughts over a. magnificent range in his preaching to them, and that they had been prepared by the diligent study of God's word for the unfolding of the deep things brought to view in the epistle.
Christ the measure of the believer's standing and blessing, is the general subject, or as it may be put in another form, Christ in the believer, the believer in Christ, and the result manifested in the daily life. The expression, "in Christ," or its equivalent occurs twenty-eight times in the first chapter, and this is the key-note to the epistle, which may be divided as follows: First, God's eternal and electing love to us individually, chap, i. Second, what we were when God so loved us, chap. ii. Third, God's love to us corporately, Christ and the Church, chap. iii. Fourth, our walk toward the Church in view of this love and unity, - chap. iv. 1-16. Fifth, our walk toward Christ, in view of His love and of our union with Him, chap. iv. 17-32; v. 1-21. Sixth, the relative duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, springing out of relation to Him, chap. v. 22-33; vi. 1-9. Seventh, we are to maintain our high standing, clad in the panoply of God, chap. vi. 10-24.
The thoughts that crowd upon the mind in the perusal of the epistle are altogether too numerous and too great for utterance, and it should be studied verse by verse, and word by word. Thus in the first chapter we have election, redemption, inheritance, the Spirit as the seal, as the earnest, God's calling, the body of Christ; involving His sovereign choice, adoption, our acceptance, forgiveness, hope, resurrection, and reigning.
In the second chapter we have our death, captivity, misery, guilt, ruin, helplessness, and low estate, set over against life, liberty, God's mercy, grace, love, strength, and our sitting together with Christ in the heavenlies. Gentile sinners are described as uncircumcised, without Christ, aliens, strangers, without hope, without God in the world; but believers are made as nigh by the blood of Christ to God as He is, for He is so entirely our peace, it may be truly said. He brought it. He made it. He preached it. He gives it, He preserves it, He is the source of it, He is the channel by which it is conveyed.
In the third chapter the mystery is not Christ, nor the Church, but Christ and the Church, which leads the Apostle into a contemplation of His love, that is like an ocean without a bottom and without a shore. He conducts our thoughts into infinity, and abruptly stops. But such love should make manifest the unity of the saints, secure their personal loyalty and holiness, and dignify and sanctify every relation of life, as set forth in the remainder of the epistle.
It is sad to know that, years afterwards, a church honored with such a revelation was rebuked by our Lord, because it had left its first love, (Rev. ii. 1-7), and started that downward course of the professing Christian body, that is now fast hastening to a shameful and melancholy end. The candlestick has long been removed out of its place in Ephesus; and the most advanced saint will walk in darkness, unless he keeps his eye singly and steadily fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
While the Apostle was still a prisoner in Rome, and about the time the epistle was prepared for the Ephesians and perhaps for other churches in Asia Minor, he was led by the Holy Ghost to write to the Philippians. These brethren were no doubt specially near to his heart, for they were the first fruits of his ministry in Europe. In Acts xvi. we have an exceedingly interesting account of his access to a new continent, and of the trials and perils through which he fought his way, to plant the banner of the cross in the face of Grecian culture and Roman power.
Being "forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia," he "assayed to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not;" and while waiting at Troas, "a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.''
The first convert was a woman; "and when she was baptized, and her household," he became her honored guest. But on his way to prayer-meeting one day, he and his companions were followed by a poor girl "possessed with a spirit of divination," who kept crying, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation." The name of Jesus Christ, pronounced in faith, expelled the demon; but her masters, seeing that the hope of their gains was gone, as she could no longer engage in fortune telling, had Paul and Silas arrested; "and the magistrates rent oft' their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."
It was just here the two happy believers exercised the office of "a holy priesthood," for they "prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." It was just here too they exercised the office of "a royal priesthood," for the terrified jailer was soon at their feet with the anxious inquiry, "What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou Shalt be saved, and thy house." The same hour he "was baptized, he and all his, straightway," and brought them into his house, and served them at his table, "and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
Several years had passed since that eventful night, and he wrote to his beloved brethren from a prison, but still rejoicing as of old in the grace that was always sufficient for him. Indeed it is peculiarly the epistle of joy, for the words joy and rejoice occur in it eighteen times, and the word sin not once. Yet it is the very epistle in which salvation in its fullest sense is looked at as still in the future, for it is to be completed at the second coming of Christ. Even before the goal is reached, therefore, the runners may pursue their course with a gladness of heart that grows brighter and brighter, as they approach nearer and nearer the end.
The following titles of the various chapters have been suggested as appropriately expressing their leading thoughts: Christ the believer's life, chap, i.; Christ the believer's pattern, chap. ii.; Christ the believer's object, chap. iii.; Christ the believer's strength, chap. iv. But perhaps a better analysis would be, The gospel, and Christ the theme, chap, i.; Humility, and Christ the pattern, chap. ii.; Earnestness, and Christ the object, chap. iii.; Peacefulness, and Christ the strength, chap. iv.
In chap, first the inspired writer announces his confidence that He which had begun a good work in them would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; and yet this was not inconsistent with their solicitude in working out their own salvation. He also longs after them all "in the tender heart of Jesus Christ," as Alford renders it, and is sure that everything which had befallen him would turn to his salvation through their prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the word supply referring to the Choregus among the Greeks, who was responsible to furnish all needed refreshments to the choir. Christ was so entirely his life, he longed to depart and be with Him, and unto them it was given in His behalf, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
In chap, second the example of Christ in humility is commended; and the working out of their own salvation with fear and trembling is in view of the Apostle's absence, casting them in entire dependence upon God, who was working in them. Hence they were to work out what He worked in, and this explains their constant joy.
In chap, third Christians are described as those who worship God in, or by, the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, flinging from them with disgust their own righteousness, and pressing on with Singleness of heart and of aim to lay hold of that for which they had been laid hold of by Christ Jesus, doing the one thing of seeking to attain unto the out-resurrection, that one from among the dead, and waiting for the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven. Surely there would be more of this eager looking and watching, if believers felt now, as they felt then, that our citizenship is not here, but in heaven.
In chap, fourth the Lord is viewed, according to heaven's mode of reckoning, as at hand, for according to this reckoning He has not been absent two days; the secret of peace is revealed, careful for nothing, prayerful in everything, thankful for anything; the believer is able to do ail things through Christ which strengtheneth him; and God shall supply all his need, not all he wants, according, not to his need, nor to his asking, nor even to his. faith, but according to His own unsearchable riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
There are many points of resemblance between this epistle and that to the Ephesians, written from Rome at about the same time, and sent by the hands of the same messenger, (Eph. vi. 21, 22; Col. iv. 7, 8). But there are also points of difference that will not escape the attention of the careful reader. The epistle to the Ephesians tells us that we are Christ's fulness, (Eph. i. 23), the epistle to the Colossians that He is our fulness, (Col. ii. 10); the former that we are in Him, (i. 3), the latter that He is in us, (Col. i. 27); the former is largely occupied about the body, the Church, and the latter about the Head, Christ.
Conybeare and Howson in their valuable Life of St. Paul present two extended tables of resemblances between the epistles, and add in foot note, "From the first of the above tables it will be seen, that there is scarcely a single topic in the Ephesian Epistle which is not also to be found in the Epistle to the Colossians; but on the other hand, that there is an important section of Colossians (ii. 8-23) which has no parallel in Ephesians. From the second table it appears, that out of the 155 verses contained in the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians, 78 verses contain expressions identical with those in the Epistle to the Colossians. The kind of resemblance here traced is not that which would be found in the work of a forger, servilely copying the Epistle to Colossse. On the contrary, it is just what we might expect to find in the work of a man whose mind was thoroughly imbued with the ideas and expressions of the Epistle to the Colossians when he wrote the other Epistle."
But it was the Holy Ghost, who brings out both the resemblances and the differences of the two epistles, and therefore in both we have needed truth, expressed in precisely the proper form. In the latter He shows, first, what the Lord has done for us, and who He is. Here we learn that it is the privilege of believers to give thanks unto the Father, "which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son; in whom we hays redemption through his blood." This dear Son is then declared to be divine, truly, fully, absolutely divine; and the testimony is so clear and complete that it settles the question forever with every one who is subject to the word of God, i. 1-18.
The second section shows what we were, when God made peace through the blood of His cross, and for what the mystery has been manifested. We often hear that such and such a person, especially if dying, made his peace with God; but the already condemned sinner is in no condition to make peace. God made it, and preaches it through the gospel to every one that believeth; and is now making known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in us, the hope of glory, i. 19-29.
Third, the inspired writer then expresses the most intense desire that this mystery may be practically understood, "wherein [margin] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'' But as the mystery is Christ in us, the hope of glory, it is equally true that in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Hence the earnest exhortation to believers, that as they have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we are not only to walk in Him, but to be rooted and built up in Him, ii. 1-7.
Fourth, this is followed by the most solemn warning against rationalism and ritualism, or a reliance for salvation upon the observance of religious rites and ecclesiastical ordinances. We are complete In Christ, and do not need the wisdom and philosophy of this world to understand the gospel, nor ceremonial worship, however attractive and imposing, to render our salvation more secure. We are buried together with Him, quickened together with Him, risen together with Him, and the result is that God has already forgiven us all trespasses, or as the word means, "every thing about the fall." Hence we are to stand aloof from philosophy, and legalism, and asceticism, and curious speculations about the unseen world, and confidence in feast and fast days, adopting as our maxim with regard to all such things, "Touch not; taste not; handle not,'' ii. 8-23.
Fifth, How we should walk as dead and risen with Christ. He is so completely our life it may be said, By Him we live, as Creator of all things; From Him we live, as the source of our spiritual and everlasting life; Through Him we live, as the channel for the transmission of God's wondrous grace and love; In Him we live, as united to Him and identified with Him in all His work of redemption; Under Him we live, as our rightful and recognized Lord; For Him we live, as the one supreme object in view; and With Him we live here and hereafter. Because He is our life, and at His second appearing we shall surely appear with Him in the glory, we are to make a corpse of our members which are upon the earth j and whatsoever we do, to do all in His name, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him, iii. 1-17.
Sixth, relative duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, all of whom may live in abiding peace, and in mutual helpfulness and love, if they will keep Christ constantly before them, and learn to do, and to endure, for His sake. He can sweeten the bitterest cup, and dignify the lowliest lot, iii. 18-25; iv. 1.
Seventh, personal exhortations and Christian salutations, among which we learn that Onesimus, a runaway slave, was returned to his master in Colossse with Tychicus as his companion and brother. We also learn that there were many dear servants of the Lord sharing the labors, the sorrows, and the joys of Paul's prison life, iv. 2-18.
FIRST AND SECOND THESSALONIANS.
These are the first of the fourteen epistles dictated by the Holy Ghost to the apostle Paul. They were both written from Corinth, the former toward the close of the year 52 A. D., or early in the year 53, and the latter a few months later. But they are appropriately placed in the Bible as the last of the seven epistles to the Gentile churches, because they are chiefly filled with "the last things," or the coming of the Lord.
Conybeare and Howson in their very interesting and instructive "Life and Epistles of St. Paul," although ignorant of the truth of Christ's premillennial advent, truly say, " The royal state of Christ's second advent was one chief topic which was urgently enforced, and deeply impressed, on the minds of the Thessalonian converts. This subject tinges the whole atmosphere through which the aspect of this church is presented to us. It may be said that in each of the primitive churches, which are depicted in the apostolic epistles, there is some peculiar feature which gives it an individual character. . . . And if we were asked for the distinguishing characteristic of the first Christians of Thessalonica, we should point to their overwhelming sense of the nearness of the second advent, accompanied with melancholy thoughts concerning those who might die before it, and with gloomy and unpractical views of the shortness of life, and the vanity of the world. Each chapter in the first epistle to the Thessalonians ends with an allusion to this subject, and it was evidently the topic of frequent conversations, when the Apostle was in Macedonia."
Yet the same authors inform us that, notwithstanding the "melancholy thoughts," and "gloomy and unpractical views of the shortness of life," the congregation of believers at Thessalonica was celebrated for hundreds of years as "the Orthodox Church," famous for sound doctrine, famous for purity of life, famous for missionary zeal, famous as a bright light shining through surrounding darkness. Within the past few years quite a good-sized book has been written and published to show that the Thessalonians constituted the "Model Church." Is there no connection between the "Orthodox Church," the "Model Church," with its "melancholy thoughts," with its "gloomy and unpractical views," and the coming of the Lord as the great incentive to fidelity and earnestness?
However this may be, no one can fail to see that the subject which occupied the mind of the Holy Spirit in the first epistle addressed to believers, was the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is mentioned in every chapter of both epistles, in one verse out of every five, and in every instance, unless in 2 Thess. ii. 8, it is not denied by expositors of any class or school of interpretation, that the coming is literal, personal, and bodily.. Is it not unspeakably humiliating and painful that the doctrine which furnished the basis of all argument, the point of all appeal, the motive to all exhortation, the stimulus to all activity, has dropped out of the faith of most preachers and Christians, as if it were worthy only of contempt? But so the predictioDs of these forgotten epistles are fulfilled before our eyes.
From the word of God we learn that the Apostle laboured at Thessalonica but three weeks, when he was driven away by a mob of Jews, and "certain lewd fellows of the baser sort," (Acts xvii. 1-10). He may have remained a little longer, but the inspired record mentions only "three sabbath days." Yet this was long enough for him to teach them the truth concerning the coming and kingdom of Jesus Christ, for he afterwards wrote to them, "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?" (2 Thess. ii. 5). He had, therefore, been diligent, through a three weeks' meeting, to instruct them concerning the second advent of Christ, and the direful apostacy which will occur previous to His personal manifestation on the earth.
The difference between the two epistles may be described in a single word: " Christ coming for His saints "is the subject of the first; " Christ appearing with His saints" is the proper title of the second. In the former he describes the Thessalonian converts, of whom Gentile believers formed the larger part, as having "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come," (1 Thess. i. 9, 10). He also confidently expects to meet his brethren " in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming," (1 Thess. ii. 19). Hence he prays to his ascended Lord, "to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints," (1 Thess. iii. 13). They need not therefore be in distress concerning their believing friends who had fallen asleep, for "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." We which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not precede the sleeping ones, but they shall have the first place of honor. Then when they come forth from the grave in response to His shout, intended only for their ears, we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, (1 Thess. iv. 13-18).
Hence they had nothing to do with times and seasons, for they knew perfectly, because the Apostle had carefully instructed them during his three weeks' meeting, that "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." That great and terrible day will come as a thief upon the unbelieving world; " but ye, brethren," he adds, "are not in darkness, that that day should overtake YOU as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness." All his anxiety about them was expressed in the one longing cry, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be p're served blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,'' (1 Thess. V. 1-6, 23).
The second epistle treats largely of the appearing of the Lord with His saints, when He "shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," (2 Thess. i. 7-10). But a rumor prevailed among the Thessalonian believers that He had already come, leaving them out of His promised kingdom, (1 Thess. ii. 12; 2 Thess. i. 5); and " those who encouraged this delusion," as Conybeare and Howson well say, "supported it by imaginary revelations of the Spirit; and they even had recourse to forgery, and circulated a letter purporting to be written by St. Paul, in confirmation of their views." Consequently the Apostle reminds them, not that the coming of Christ is not at hand, but that the day of the Lord is not at hand, or, as every critical expositor on the face of the earth admits it ought to be rendered, "is present," or, "is come."
He tells them that "that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first [Greek, the apostacy], and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." Even in the Apostle's day "the mystery of iniquity "was already at work, only the hinderer to its full developement, the Holy Ghost, stayed its progress, until the Hinderer shall be taken out of the way; "and then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit [breath, Isa. xi. 4] of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness [elsewhere translated appearing] of his coming [translated presence in 2 Cor. X. 10; Phil. ii. 12], (2 Thess. ii. 1-12).
It is of interest to know that the city of Thessalonica was named after a sister of Alexander the Great, by her husband Cassander, out of whose dominion, in all probability, the Antichrist of the last days shall arise, (Dan. viii. 21-25). Men talk and write learnedly of evolution; and there shall surely be a complete evolution of the tremendous evil introduced by the fall of Adam, until the boasted culture of the age shall be developed into that Wicked, and "all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," (Rev. xiii. 8). May the Lord direct our "hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ," (2 Thess. iii. 5).
FIRST AND SECOND TIMOTHY.
According to Clement, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and, it may be added, the whole of the early Church, the devoted Apostle was acquitted of the charges brought against him, and released; from his long imprisonment, at his first trial; before Nero. These authorities also inform us that he immediately resumed his missionary work | for the Master he loved so well, and journeyed as far west as Spain, preaching the glad tidings wherever he went. It appears, however, from the inspired record, that he first directed his way eastward, and finding that his sad prophecy to the Ephesian elders (Acts xx. 29, 30) was already fulfilled, he left Timothy with their church tostrengthen the things that remained.
Such was the occasion of the first of the personal epistles, written probably from Macedonia toward the latter part of the year 65, or early in the year: 66 of our Lord. It is a remarkable fact that the inspired writer turns in his last epistles from addressing churches to individuals, as if in the last days only one here and another there will be found to receive the messages of the Holy Ghost. It is also remarkable that in the epistles to Timothy and Titus, he invokes "grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord," whereas in the epistles to the seven churches previously addressed, he leaves out the word mercy in his invocation. The church viewed as a whole has an unchangeable standing before God in the heavenlies, having already received mercy, while the individual in his personal failures, and in the midst of failures, still needs the compassion of our Saviour God for the wretched.
The church at Ephesus was in much confusion when the Apostle was led by the Spirit to address his son Timothy. Ceremonialism, foolish questions., vain jangling, legalism, and even the putting away of faith and a good conscience on the part of some, had taken the place of the sublime doctrines set forth in the epistle they had previously received. This called for the exercise of discipline, and it was administered by one who speaks of himself as the chief of sinners, chap. i.
This state of things had introduced disorder touching their relations to civil rulers, and the women were leaving their proper place of subjection to teach, and to usurp authority over the man. All of this is contrary to the mind of God, chap. ii.
The offices and characteristics of Bishops and Deacons are then defined and explained, as vitally affecting the welfare of the church, "the pillar and ground of the truth," the Jachin and Boaz standing before the spiritual temple of God, and responsible to uphold and maintain the truth at all hazards. The special truth to be sacredly guarded relates to the incarnation, the divinity, the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ, as the sole object of faith, and the only Lord of the conscience, chap. iii.
But "the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;" and then follows an accurate description of the Romish apostacy. These latter times refer to the middle ages, and they will develope into something worse, as shown in the next epistle. Hence the only safety for any minister of the gospel is to take heed, first to himself, and second to his doctrine, chap. iv.
Then comes the order of God's house again touching old men and women, widows, young widows, ruling elders; and as Timothy was tired and worn with so much care and labor, and his health was failing him, it is comforting to notice the tender solicitude of the Holy Ghost about His faithful servant, directing him to drink no longer water, but to use a little wine. Timothy's habitual temperance was still preserved, for it was a little wine only as a medicine, chap. v.
This is followed by exhortations to servants to render faithful and conscientious service, to the poor to be content with their lot, and to the rich to take heed how they employ the property God had given them, if they would lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come. It is a striking fact that the epistle closes with a solemn and tender warning against the "oppositions of science falsely so-called,'' which some professing erred concerning the faith in that day, as they do in this, chap. vi.
The second epistle is the last written by the beloved apostle, and it possesses all the interest which gathers about the farewell message of a dying father to his son. It obviously reaches on, not only to the latter times, as in the former epistle, but to the last days, when something worse than the Romish apostacy will come; for apostate Christendom will get back to ancient heathenism, as may be seen by comparing 2 Tim. iii. 1-8, with Rom. 1. 21-32. Hence the Apostle seeks to stir up Timothy, who seems to have been alarmed and discouraged by the turning away of all Asia from the servant of the Lord, even then awaiting death, chap. i.
This is followed by an exhortation which is of special value at a time when the professing body is almost in ruins; for it lays upon the conscience and heart a powerful motive to fidelity, and exhibits both sides of God's seal, showing the necessity of uncompromising firmness in separation from all that dishonors the Lord Jesus, chap. ii.
The only safeguard amid the perilous times of the last days is a strong hold upon the truth of the verbal inspiration of all scripture, refusing to yield the conviction of this truth, even if called to stand entirely alone in maintaining the absolute authority of God's word, chap. iii.
The closing warning is a most earnest charge, in view of our Lord's appearing and kingdom, to preach the word, with a distinct prediction of what is going on around us now, in the refusal of men to endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts hearing to themselves teachers, having itching ears, turning away their ears from the truth, and turning unto fables. But for the old and tried apostle a crown of righteousness was in store, and he departs with the shout of victory on his lips, although forsaken of men.
Paul the prisoner, and Timothy aroused, chap. i. Paul the soldier, and Timothy encouraged, chap. ii. Paul the witness, and Timothy warned, chap. iii. Paul the martyr, and Timothy charged, chap. iv.
The name of this servant of the Lord is not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and all that we know of him is gathered from the inspired epistles. He is referred to, however, in terms of warm commendation in 2 Cor. ii. 13; vii. 6, 7, 13-15; viii. 6, 16-23; xii. 18. In another place we learn that he was for a time at least the Apostle's travelling companion, and that, being a Greek. Paul refused to have him circumcised, in order that the freedom of Gentile believers from the law might be vindicated and maintained at all hazards, Gal. ii. 1-5.
It appears that the epistle addressed to him was written during the time that elapsed between the two epistles to Timothy. As the latter had been left in Ephesus to uphold the truth, which even then was assailed by the pride and perversity of man, so Titus had been left in the island of Crete to "set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city." It is the Apostle's testimony that there too there were '' many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped j who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said. The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies," i, 10-12.
Amid the instructions given about bishops, old men and women, young men and women, it is comforting to notice that one of the finest passages in the Bible springs out of an allusion to despised slaves. " For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," ii. 11-14. Grace first saves, then teaches, then holds out as the hope of the believer the coming of the Lord; and as the Apostle adds, "these things speak," it is obvious that the preacher who never speaks of Christ's second advent disobeys the apostolic injunction.
The relation of faith to good works is also clearly stated in this important epistle. "After that the kindness and love [margin, pity] of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Our good works, then, have nothing whatever to do with the cause of our salvation, but they are the necessary consequence of our acceptance wholly by grace. "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men,'' iii. 5-8. First faith, and then works; not first works, and then faith; nor faith and works, but faith followed by works.
This little epistle is very sweet, because it shows the tender interest of the Holy Ghost in a poor slave. There is an intimation that he had robbed his master, a Christian named Philemon, belonging to the Colossian Church, and then that he ran away. The fugitive slave and thief turned up at length in Rome, during the apostle's first imprisonment; and it is a significant comment upon Paul's preaching, that such a man either desired, or was induced, to hear him.
We know not whether curiosity, or the demands of his own conscience, or the longings of his heart, or the kind invitation of some Christian, led him to attend the ministry of the Apostle; but we do know that the grace of God which bringeth salvation to all classes and conditions of men, appeared to Onesimus in converting and sanctifying power. He became a saved man; but the Apostle would not violate the law, and wrong his master, by keeping him in Rome; and therefore sent him back with a letter that surely secured for him a reception, not usually accorded to a fugitive slave.
"I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels [revised version, my very heart] whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord. If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself."
How touching and how beautiful is this love of the inspired Apostle for a runaway slave, and how certain it is that if the gospel had been permitted to work out its beneficent spirit, unimpeded by man's folly and depravity, it would have quietly removed the evils of slavery, and lifted the believing slave into the brotherhood of saints, and into the very place of Christ before the throne of God. Verse 18 gives us a striking definition of imputation. " If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account." The word rendered put that on mine account is translated imputed in Rom. v. 13. So the precious Saviour stands in the presence of His Father, and says in behalf of the believing sinner, "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account." It is blessed to know that we have One now at the right hand of the Father, who has given satisfaction for our wrong doing, and paid all our debts.
The titles of the different chapters in this precious epistle may be given as follows: Christ, the divine and eternal Son of God, i.; Christ, the captain of our salvation, ii.; Christ, the head of His house, iii.; Christ, the rest of His people, iv.; Christ, our great high priest, v.; Christ, our forerunner, vi.; Christ, our living intercessor, vii.; Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, viii.; Christ, our perfect sacrifice, ix.; Christ, perfecting forever them that are sanctified, x.; Christ, the only object of faith, xi.; Christ, the princely leader and pattern of faith, xii.; Christ, the great shepherd of His sheep, xiii.
Thus He is everything to the believer; and it is interesting and most suggestive to see how the greatness of the greatest is made to pale and disappear in the light of His superior glory. In chap. i. the angels are brought into view, but only to bow in lowly worship at His feet. In chap. ii. man in his original beauty and dignity is seen, but only as a fleeting shadow of Jesus. In chap. iii. Moses is mentioned, but only as a faithful servant in all his house, while Christ towers above him as a Son over His own house. In chap. iv. Joshua appears, but only to show his inferiority to Jesus, the Son of God. In chap. V. Aaron stands forth, but only as a stepping stone to the Son, who became the author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him.
In chap. vi. Abraham is named, but only to illustrate how strong is the consolation, and how sure the hope, of those who have Jesus as their forerunner and herald within the veil. In chap. vii. Melchisedek passes across the scene, but only to point to Him who was made a priest after the power of an endless life. In chap. viii. the old covenant, proclaimed amid the pomp and pageantry of Sinai, is exchanged for the new covenant, confirmed in Him, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. In chap. ix. the tabernacle with its imposing ritual is said to gather all its significance from its typical relation to Jesus, who by His own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. In chap. x. every priest standing daily ministering through all previous history only proved our need of this man, who, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God. In chap. xi. the heroes of the Bible, forming God's loved gallery of portraits, are brought before us; but only to bid the believer in chap. xii. to look away from the most beautiful picture unto Jesus, who in chap. xiii. is revealed as "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
Hence in this remarkable epistle to Hebrew Christians, which it is safe to assert, in the face of many modern critics, was written at the dictation of the Holy Ghost by the apostle Paul, the most illustrious persons and the most venerable institutions are made to give way to One, who was infinitely above and beyond them all in the dignity of His divine nature, and in the value of His atoning work. They are introduced one by one only to retire one by one before the presence of Him, who being the brightness or effulgence of the Father's glory, and the very image of His person or the exact expression of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. The acknowledged date of the epistle, standing between the first and second epistles of Peter, may throw light upon the words of 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.
Here all is eternal in contrast with the Mosaic ordinances, that disappeared in Messiah's finished sacrifice and ascension, as the gray dawn disappears in the splendor of the noon day sun. His throne is eternal, (i. 8); He became the author of eternal salvation, (v. 9); His priesthood is eternal, (vi. 20); He obtained eternal redemption, (ix. 12); He offered Himself through the eternal Spirit, (ix. 14); He has given us the promise of eternal inheritance, (ix. 15); and He has cleansed us with the blood of the everlasting covenant, (xiii. 20). Accordingly believers are viewed as not belonging to earth, but as "partakers of the heavenly calling," (iii. 1), knowing for themselves that they "have in heaven a better and an enduring substance, (x. 34). Hence too, the Holy Ghost, looking at, everything from the stand point of eternity, could say, "For yet a little while, how short! how short! the Coming One will be here, and will not delay," (x. 37, Rotherham's translation).
The epistle brings out clearly the characteristics of our great High Priest, Cp as by Himself purging our sins, i. 3; (2) as suffering, ii. 9, 10, 17, 18; (3) as sympathizing, iv. 15; (4) as of royal station and power, vii. 2, 14, 17; (5) as interceding, vii. 25; (6) as holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, vii. 26; (7) as appearing the second time, without sin, unto salvation, ix. 28. It also shows us that as our High Priest He is able (1) to. succor, ii. 18; (2) to give grace, iv. 16; (3) to cleanse from dead works, ix. 14; (4) to secure for us entrance with boldness into the holiest, x. 19-22; (5) to lead us forth without the camp of the world and the world's religion, xiii. 13; (6) that we may joyfully confess His name, xiii. 15; (7) and offer acceptable service to God, xiii. 16.
Indeed in the whole of His priestly work, He had special and primary reference to the glory of God, as shown (1) by the fact that He is a high priest in things pertaining to God, ii. 17; (2) that He uses the word of God, iv. 12-14; (3) that He was called of God, v. 10; (4) that He fulfilled the immutable counsel of God, vi. 17-20; (5) that He is now on the right hand of the throne of God, viii. 1; (6) that He offered Himself without spot to God, ix. 14; (7) that He came to do the will of God, x. 7. By the doing of His will, believers (1) have no more conscience of sins, x. 2; (2) they are sanctified, x. 10; (3) they are perfected forever, x. 14; (4) they have the witness of the Holy Ghost to their acceptance, x. 15; (5) there is no more remembrance of their sins, x. 17; (6) there is complete remission of their sins, x. 18; (7) they have freeness of access to God, x. 19; even when they know that our God, not God out of Christ, but "our God is a consuming fire," xii. 29.