The epistle to the Hebrews is a call to Jewish believers to leave the Law completely. The time had come for a final break. The Law given by Moses had served its purpose. The intervening period of transition between the death of Christ and the destruction of the Temple was nearly over.
God did not just give Israel a bare command to leave the Law. Rather He gave, in this epistle, a beautiful, satisfying, reasoned explanation and revelation of the infinitely better way in Christ. This is the message of Hebrews -- how Christ so beautifully fulfills every type, answers every question, supplies every need.
It was a time of tremendous transition for the Jewish believer. Moses and the Law had been ingrained into every fiber of their national being for so long. Now the Old Covenant had waxed old and was ready to vanish away. The glorious New Covenant -- the Abrahamic -- was in force, established by the blood of Christ.
Those who were blindly wedded to the ritual of the old were lost and dismayed. But those who saw the purpose and meaning and deep typical significance of the glorious Law God had given Israel through Moses, were ready and eager for the change. Chapter 13, the final chapter, consists of personal exhortation and the great call to go forth in faith unto Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach.
Bro Growcott - Go Forth To Him Without The Camp
1 Let brotherly love continue.
There can be nothing more certain than that the sentiment of love, which is here referred to, is at the very bottom of the whole scheme of the truth in which we rejoice; there can be nothing more certain than that the very object of the truth is to manifest God's love to us, and to develop God's love in us; there can be nothing more certain than that the truth in its ultimate and eternal development, as we might say, will present the very highest form of this impulse of love; and there can be nothing more certain, either, than that those who are not carried along by this prevailing impulse-which originates the truth, and which we may also say is the essence of the truth-will be left behind.
Those who are not of love are not of God. John distinctly says that God is love, and that those who are of God walk in love. And he says "He that sayeth he loveth God and hateth his brother, is a liar, and deceiveth himself." Such a case as this we can conceive to be possible, where a person may know the truth and may console himself with the idea, which so far is legitimate, that knowing the truth and having been immersed, he is a child of God; and yet who, notwithstanding his legal status in the matter, is personally destitute of the principle in which it has its origin, which is here expressed by the word "Love."
We have the distinct assurance of John, of Paul, of Jesus, and of all who in fact have spoken in the name of God, that such individuals are spiritual abortions-out of harmony with the system with which they are connected-excresences upon it, as it were, which will in due time be cut away. Such unfruitful branches will be lopped off. Jesus says
"Every branch in me that beareth not good fruit shall be taken away."
Now if we only look this sentiment in the face, we shall see it to be a very attractive one, and capable of affording the highest happiness-a sentiment which when once it begins to control our mental being, will, without much difficulty, hold the sway. If we only reflect for a moment what the object of existence is, we shall then see that the Scriptures, in presenting the fact that God is love, and that love is the highest object of being, is presenting us with something, both the most sensible and attractive that can possibly be considered.
People live to be happy; as soon as persons cease to be happy, they cease to have any object in life. We see this practically illustrated in the case of the suicide. He has lost every sort of happiness, and the consequence is, that having no object in existence, he deprives himself of it. If that be true (and it is true,) what we have to think about is, the fact that love is the highest source of happiness, whether existing in our own bosoms, or manifested by others toward us. In fact, the longer we live, and the more we study, the more we shall find that the deepest sources of happiness-happiness that will be genuine and enduring-are only to be found in connection with the things of God; for God has associated the highest blessedness with the things which pertain to Himself-with those actions of the mind which he desires.
There is no blessedness apart from these. Love is the highest and the strongest. There is no sentiment capable of giving a man or woman more power for enduring, or for accomplishing an object, or of being really happy, than this one of love. There is nothing can equal the pure delight that springs from the love of another. I do not now mean the love that exists between the sexes; though that might be referred to as an illustration. since it is chosen to represent the relation that exists between Jesus and the ecclesia. I refer to friendship in its purest and most disinterested form; the pleasure it gives surpasses all the gratifications in which men ordinarily indulge.
Unfortunately, we are in a state of society in which the selfish instincts rule, and we very rarely get an opportunity of realising this love. We have endless opportunities of kindness, but few for real, spontaneous, unchecked love. There are two kinds of love; and one is more enjoyable and easy to accomplish than the other. To love a person who is lovely, is delightful and costs no effort. This is perhaps the most perfect form of love, the form which exists in the complete body of Christ prospectively contemplated. When the shattered fragments of that body, (at present mostly hid in the dust,) are united, and the community of the righteous made perfect by resurrection and judgment, love will prevail over all. All will love, for all will be lovely.
Christ will have blown away all the chaff, rejected every unworthy person, and there will remain only those who are truly distinguished by their love to God, to Christ, and to each other.
Bro Roberts - Exhort No1.
Brotherly love is the key to everything. Without it, nothing can succeed; with it, nothing can fail. It was especially important at this great crisis of doctrinal transition during which the apostles wrote. It is equally important in the problems of today. We talk so much of love, but we so easily forget it, when issues are raised and emotions are aroused. Let us ever remember James' searching words:
"Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."
In our ignorant self importance, we so often think our anger can advance God's glory. *
2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Notice the word "strangers." This is a command of God just as much as baptism is a command. Do we do it? Do we entertain strangers? When did we do it last?
There are two kinds of people in the world. One group is very large, one is very, very tiny -- the small-minded and the big; the fleshly and the spiritual, the self-centered and the self-sacrificing. The Scriptures call them: goats and sheep, tares and wheat, unfaithful and faithful stewards of God's goods. It is quite easy to tell which group we belong to: "If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged," "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers." The thought is broader than simply entertainment or hospitality. Literally it is, "of the love of strangers be not neglectful."
As the apostle says elsewhere (Gal. 6:10) --
"Do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Not just as an incidental, self-pleasing, meaningless hobby, but a full time, wholehearted, dedicated way of life. *
3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
This is the second greatest command --
"Love your neighbour as yourself "
Not just love your neighbour, that's quite common and meaningless in various self-satisfying degrees, but --
"Love your neighbour AS YOURSELF."
There is a world of difference.
Thank God there are some like this today! And their life is a glorious fulfillment of what life was meant to be. But how few they are! But they alone are Christ's true brethren and sisters, the only ones he will recognize when he comes. He makes this so abundantly clear in Matthew 25 --
"When saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison?"
How blind we can be if we do not want to see! *
4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Rather, more correctly, as in the Revised Version and the Diaglott, "Let marriage be honorable among all." It is an exhortation, a command. Let everything to do with this major aspect of natural life be pure and beautiful and spiritual and in harmony with the glorious ideal that God established at its beginning.
The world has made such a sad travesty and corruption and degradation and failure of what could be life's most beautiful and comforting and helpful natural aspect. How man always cheapens and degrades everything he touches! How childishly, how pitifully, they deck out and adorn their poor corrupting bodies, but how naked are their souls! God will judge all who corrupt His pure and holy ways. *
5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Happiness is not a matter of being pleased when things are the way you want them. Happiness is the capacity and understanding to be content and thankful when present things are far from what you would like them to be.
Happiness is related to, and based upon, eternity and eternal things. A "happiness" that is in any way a precarious hostage to the cheating vagaries of the present is no happiness at all in the real or scriptural sense. It is a worthless sham. It will desert you at the very moment you need it most.
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
"Conversation" here means "custom, way of life, frame of mind, character, outlook." Covetousness is simply wanting something we do not need; and our needs are very, very few. This is the mainspring of the whole world's activities, but the brethren of Christ are called to a higher, more satisfying way of life. They are called to free themselves from the shackles of selfishness and desire, to fill their minds with the infinitely more satisfying joy of service to God and to man.
"Be content with such things as ye have" (v. 5).
Contentment is a wonderful blessing. It is one of God's greatest gifts to His children. It is the essential foundation of happiness and peace. Paul said to the Philippians, writing in bonds and from prison --
"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Surely one of the Spirit's greatest and most essential lessons! Until we learn this, we are children, wanting, wishing, desiring, seeking a mocking illusionary joy in getting and possessing -- accumulating and hoarding, ever fearful of the morrow.
When we have learned this, we are men. We are ready for God's work; we have cleared the decks, we have girded our loins. We are ready to be useful in the divine purpose. We have become spiritual adults. We have found true peace and satisfaction and happiness and security.
This was said to Jacob when he left home in fear of his brother and started out alone into the unknown.
It was said to Joshua, when he lost Moses, and found himself alone with the whole burden of Israel.
It was said to the humble young Solomon as he was about to take on the rulership of the nation after David.
Have we a right to appropriate the promise to ourselves? --
"I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE OR FORSAKE THEE."
Clearly, from Paul's words here, we have, though it was never spoken generally, but to specific individuals at specific times. There is a comforting lesson here. God is no respector of persons.
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope."
Do we believe this promise that He will not forsake us? Are we willing to trust ourselves to it in faith? Are we willing to do, to our fullest means and abilities and resources, what comes to hand TODAY and leave provision for the MORROW to God? We are told earlier in this epistle that --
"He that cometh to God MUST BELIEVE -- must have faith"
-- and faith, says James, calls for deeds, not words. Why are we reminded (in Heb. 11) of all these wonderful things that ordinary weak, fearful men and women like ourselves have risen to through the power of living Faith? Is it not to teach us the solemn, vital truth that we, too, must, in perfect faith, follow the same path if we would reap the same reward? *
"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Thus saith God to every faithful brother and sister. The statement is of inestimable worth for God does not exaggerate. What a sense of security does it bring-a peace of mind which the wicked know nothing of.
It is gratifying to have the assistance and protection of mortal man. But to be under the guidance and care of the controller of the Universe!-of Him who can turn a man's heart whithersoever He will (Prov. xxi. 1, -who can make even our enemies to be at peace with us (Prov. xvi. 7, )!
Unfathomable comfort our privilege contains. We should strive to reach a fuller realisation of it. There is much to make us dull and insensible to it. God appears to be far, far away, and we are apt to imagine that He is uninterested in and uncognisant of our puny affairs. Bad trade and unhealthy climate confront us, and the thought arises, are not we and the alien equally effected by these evils, and is not God, therefore, excluded from our affairs?
To grapple with these fleshly, lying suggestions, we require to be of quick, spiritual understanding. This quickness can only be attained by a daily study of the Oracles of God. Such a study will produce that full assurance of faith which will enable us to wield an "it is written" to our own satisfaction, even if not to the conviction of our adversaries.
Bro A Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Nov 1887
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
If this was suitable language for saints of the first century, how is it unsuitable now? It cannot be so. It can only be a saintship having a name to live but dead, that finds such language awkward. Of course, there is such a thing as cant: no righteous man would advocate that; but there is such a thing as the other extreme. There is such a thing as being proud before God; not broken and contrite in heart; not humble under His mighty hand; ashamed to acknowledge our dependence on Him.
This is the natural man, who is strong with us all to start with. But we have put on the new man, if we be Christ's; and the language of the new man is a different thing from that of the old. The language of the new man is to be learnt in the Word. The Spirit of the new man is to be drunk in there. Let this Word dwell richly in us, and we shall soon be at home in those pure, lofty, dignified forms of speech in which it finds expression. If we fail to read the Word continually we shall fail in this matter of salt-seasoned speech.
We always speak like the company we keep. If we are all the while among the foul-mouthed gabblers of the flesh, we cannot expect to be free of their Sodomite brogue. If we read nothing but the literature of Atheistical refinement, we shall never rise above that thin, proper, superficial, cold style of talk, in which a practically godless state of mind expresses itself. Give us the atmosphere of the Spirit and the company of the Spirit's watchmen in the Word, and we are in altogether a healthier land.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth He meditate day and night."
Bro Growcott - Strangers and Sojourners
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Again, it is better in the Revised Version -- "them which had the rule over you, which spoke unto you the Word of God." It is a calling to remembrance. He is clearly reminding them of former leaders, and their faithfulness to the end of their lives: "considering the END of their conversation (way of life)."
James (who was put to death by Herod) is the only one of the apostles whom we know would be in this category, but doubtless by this time, just before the destruction of Jerusalem, others had sealed their testimony with their blood. The last days of terrible vengeance were about to come on the guilty nation as Jesus had foretold. Patriotism would soon be at a fever pitch, and all who did not enter into the defense of the Mosaic institutions would be branded as traitors and cowards. This was the "time of trouble" of which Jesus had warned. *
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
The emphasis is on the contrast between that which is eternal and unchanging, and that which is temporal and passing. The Law was a temporary arrangement. Christ is an eternal, living reality. Paul's reference clearly is back to the quotation from the Psalms given in chapter 1, which he applied there to Christ --
"Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."
Tremendous changes were impending for the Jewish race -- God's ancient people -- terrible, convulsive, destructive changes. They were to be cast out and scattered, the temple burnt, the city destroyed, the land plundered and desolated.
In the process, the whole Mosaic framework would of necessity collapse and come to an end. How urgent, then, that they be anchored to that which would never, could never, change.
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever."
The one fixed point in all Creation; the Nail fastened in a sure place, the Cornerstone of the eternal Temple, the Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, made --
"Not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life."
For us, too, the message is the same. The changing background is different but the eternal alternative to which we are called is the same.
"The things that are seen are temporal"
-- for the Gentile just as for the Jew. We live as Israel did then, at a time of tremendous and revolutionary change. Change in everything in the world around us, its standards, morals, way of life, the patterns of world power and control and influence -- all are in violent flux. There are no fixed points of reference anymore. The sea and the waves are roaring.
Nations throughout the earth who have slept in backward obscurity while the white man has ruled and seized and plundered, and oppressed, are now rising in long pent-up and held-back blind fury. Warfare -- domination of his fellow man -- always man's chief occupation and delight, is daily opening up broader avenues of cruelty, horror, and mass murder on a hitherto undreamed of scale. This is twentieth century civilization.
And in what was once the Christadelphian body, vast and destructive changes are well advanced with their pernicious work, and gathering momentum.
Surely, as in the last terrible days of Israel's Commonwealth, we need to be reminded, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever." Here alone is reality, stability, continuity, eternity. *
* Bro Growcott - Go Forth To Him Without The Camp
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
There is at present a sad tendency in some groups to take all the robust passages concerning fellowship which have preserved and guided sound Christadelphians for over one hundred years, and surgically isolating and dissecting them, one by one, by contortion to endeavour woolily to rationalize away all their force and meaning: to progressively talk them to death and water them down and down so that no weapons are left for the defense of the Body of Christ from corruption and error.
They say, rather smugly, of those who stand aside from error: "By their fruits ye shall know them": Their interpretation of this is: "Look at 'them,' the divided few, and look at 'us,' the undivided many: obviously OUR way must be right."
We can see the logic of the Catholic Church using this argument, but it falls strange from the lips of those who profess to recognize the call to "Come out and be separate." Can it not with far truer logic be said from the opposite point of view: "Look at the bitter intra- and inter-continental recriminations, the tolerated errors and confusions, the fearful paralysis of inaction against creeping error, the glaring differences transparently and precariously papered over for the sake of an appearance of 'unity,' the deplored but tolerated assiduous eating away of the sound foundations laid by the pioneers."
How can the Truth as so beautifully brought to light by brethren Thomas and Roberts be clearly and robustly presented at lectures if doctrine after doctrine -- Responsibility, Kingdom now, Holy Spirit possession, Nature and Sacrifice of Christ, clear-cut Creation, Rome is Babylon, one thousand year Kingdom, post-millennial revolt, Inspiration (Acts a legend, Genesis a myth) -- are pushed into a hazy, unmentionable twilight zone of "agreeing to disagree" for the sake of a false "peace"?
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
But how doth a sinner get into the Altar so as to be within it, and to be a worshipper therein? (Apoc. xi. 1). The only way is by his "believing the things concerning the kingdom of the Deity, and of the name of the Anointed Jesus;" and, if he believes these things with a "faith that works by love" and "purifies the heart," by being immersed into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Acts viii. 12; Matt. xxviii. 19).
In passing through this process, the sinner, who is by nature "dead in trespasses and sins," is quickened by the word understood and believed; word-life, or a new spirit, has entered into him, which is the spirit of a ready and willing obedience to all that is commanded; and the first command for such an enlightened sinner is, "be immersed upon (epi) the name of the Anointed Jesus into (eis) remission of sins."
In doing this, his love-working faith is counted to him for repentance and remission of sins, and he is inducted into the Altar. In passing through the water he passes through the Laver to the Altar; and in the passage, he becomes sprinkled in heart by the blood of sprinkling, which is the blood of the Altar-Covenant, through the faith which he has in the doctrine concerning it (Heb. x. 22; xii. 24; 1 Pet. i. 2; ii. 24). Such an one is no longer a sinner because he has touched the Altar; and "whatever toucheth it is holy," or a saint.
Now, to saints within the altar the apostle saith, "all sons of Deity are ye in the Anointed Jesus through the faith; for as many as into Christ have been immersed, have put on Christ ... and if ye be Christ's, then ye are Abraham's Seed, and heirs according to promise (Gal. iii. 26-29). They are in the Altar-Name.
There is a remarkable sentence in one of Ignatius' epistles, indicative of this subject being better understood in the reign of Trajan, A.D. 107, than contemporary with the fifth seal, or now. "Let no one," says he, "mistake; if any man is not within the Altar, he is deprived of the bread of the Deity;" which is equivalent to saying, if any man be not in Christ -- if Christ be not the covering of his nakedness, he cannot obtain eternal life in the kingdom of God.
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
Doubtless it is good, but still trying, and perhaps good because trying...
"Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope" (Rom. 5:4).
... Abraham was called to leave the land of his nativity, and go to a country of which he was ignorant, with apparently no practical object. Obeying the command, he came to the land of Canaan, and sojourned among the children of the land as a stranger. His sojourn was long and trying. He was promised the land for inheritance, jointly with his seed, but had no information as to the time to which the promise referred, nor any indication for many years that he was to have seed.
To the people of the land he must have appeared mad - a harmless neighbour enough, but indulging in the strange and unlikely fancy, that one day the whole country would be his, and that he would possess it jointly with a family as the stars of the sky for multitude.
...He must have had a dreary time of it, as all the people of God have had since his day. He had none of the historic landmarks which we possess, by which we are enabled to see a great part of the divine programme accomplished, and almost to feel the motion of the machinery which is hurrying on to the appointed consummation.
True, he had the advantage of personal intercourse, at intervals, with the Elohim, which would no doubt make up for a good deal. Still, it did not take the weariness from delay. In one sense, it would aggravate it, since the visible reality of the promise and the personages who had to do with the communication of it, would be apt to inspire him with the desire for immediate realisation, and corresponding impatience with unexplained delay.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
It was a call to Israel to leave behind every aspect of Gentilism -- the way of the world -- the mind of the flesh. Soon in our readings we shall read again John's words --
"Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world."
In leading up to the climax of his appeal, Paul calls attention to a strange and wonderful aspect of the Law -- a hidden mystery woven right into the fabric of the Law -- in fact, placed at the very heart and apex of the whole Mosaic system.
The great day in Israel was the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month -- still kept in mechanical, ritualistic ignorance, but as a wonderful witness, three thousand years after its establishment, by blind, wandering Israel -- Yom Kippur.
All the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Mosaic dispensation focussed toward this one solemn, yearly event when the High Priest, in a completely deserted and empty Tabernacle, went into the Most Holy Place to make atonement with the sacrificial blood.
This supreme sacrifice -- the sacrfice whose blood entered the Most Holy -- must be burned without the camp.
It was not to be consumed upon the Altar, and no man in the whole Mosaic system might partake of its flesh.
The one great central sacrifice, to which all the year's repeated sacrifices pointed, must be burned entirely outside the whole Mosaic organization. Here, in its crowning event, the Law portrayed its own inadequacy and pointed to the one great sacrifice for sin who would establish righteousness and open a way over, above, beyond, and outside of the Law of fleshly ordinances given to Israel through Moses.
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. We have here no continuing city, no ties to the present, no interest in earthly things.
Paul concludes with a beautiful prayer that God may lead them to a practical application of these things to themselves, without which all is meaningless; that He may in His love, and by His marvellous power, make them perfect in purity and holiness without which no man shall see God. *
* Bro Growcott - Go Forth To Him Without The Camp
"Let us go forth, therefore, to him without the camp, bearing his reproach."
We cannot apply this to ourselves in a direct manner this morning. We are not Jews, who in accepting Christ, have had to turn our backs upon what is called Judaism, and to go forth with courage to brave the reproach of those remaining in the camp. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which we are called upon to submit to such an ordeal.
...We have learnt that the true "House of God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, is the pillar and ground of THE TRUTH" (1 Tim. iii. 15); and that men and systems may say, "Lord, Lord," and may even claim to have done wonderful things in his name, and yet have no claim to his recognition at his coming, by reason of their non- submission to his requirements.
... It is part of apostolic doctrine that we are not to be identified with any who bring not the doctrine of Christ, whatever their profession (2 John 10; Rev. xiv. 9; Rom. xvi. 17). Consequently, we could not remain in popular fellowship without the danger of being responsible for their errors. This is the explanation of our position this morning in having gone forth out of the popular camp, unto Christ, bearing the reproach incident in our professedly Christian day to a profession of his truth.
It is well also to recognise the fact that the principle which isolates us from popular communion isolates us also from the fellowship of all who reject any part of the truth. Some accept the truth in part, but are either unable or unwilling to receive it in its entirety, They believe in the kingdom but reject the Bible doctrine of death; or they hold the mortal nature of man but do not receive the restoration of the kingdom again to Israel; or they accept both, but deny the judgment; or believe in the judgment, but deny the kingdom; or accept all three, but reject the apostolic doctrine of Christ's nature and death, and so on.
Such persons are generally what is called very "charitable": that is, they are willing to connive at any amount of doctrinal diversity so long as friendliness is maintained. They are lovers of peace. Peace is certainly very desirable when it can be had on a pure foundation: but the charitable people referred to are not particular about the foundation. They will compromise the truth in some one or other of its integral elements for the sake of personal harmony.
This is a spurious charity altogether. We are not at liberty to relax the appointments of God. The exercise of "charity" must be confined to our own affairs. We have no jurisdiction in God's matters. What God requires is binding on us all: and the faithful man cannot consent to accept any union that requires a jot or tittle to be set aside or treated as unimportant. Such a man cannot consent to form a part of any community that is not "the pillar and ground of the truth."
Bro Roberts - Reproach
20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
"The sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."
These are the natural facts in the case. Their spiritual meaning is plain. The shepherd's voice is what Christ has said for the guidance of men, but with this is bound up much more than the precepts that actually came out of his own mouth. What he said himself is only part of the message of God to man. For the rest of the message, he refers us to Moses and the prophets: "Think not," said he, "that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil" (Matt. v. 17). "They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them. If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke xvi. 29). "If ye believe not his writings (the writings of Moses), how shall ye believe my words?" (Jno. v. 47). "The Scripture cannot be broken" (Jno. x. 35). "The Scripture must be fulfilled" (Mark xiv. 49).
Such are a few illustrations of the way in which, in so many words, he binds up the message of God in the "Old Testament" with his own personal word in the New. In addition to these, the instances in which he does so by implication, and in which such an association results of necessity from his teaching and his work, are more numerous and weighty than the casual reader of the Bible can be aware. The conclusion resulting from them all is that the Shepherd's voice is co-extensive with the Bible. The Shepherd's voice is the voice of the Spirit, as especially manifest from the pendant to each of the messages sent by Jesus to the seven ecclesias: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias: "concerning all of which messages, he says "I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the ecclesias" (Rev. xxii. 16).
Because, therefore, the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets are given by inspiration of God -- because their authors were "holy men of God who spoke (and wrote)as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" and not as impelled by human will (2 Pet. i. 21), those only truly listen to the voice of the shepherd who listen to those Scriptures, as interpreted and applied by the Spirit in Jesus and the Apostles. The voice of Jesus is not a different voice from the Holy Scriptures which were read in the Jewish synagogues every sabbath day in the days of Jesus, and now placed in the Providence of God in the hands of Christendom.
The voice of the personal Jesus is but a supplementary and explanatory expression of the same Eternal mind. The Old Testament Scriptures, in conjunction with the Apostolic testimony to Jesus as their fulfiller, were able to "make men wise unto salvation" in the days of Paul (2 Tim. iii. 15); and they are still able to work that great result for men if they will allow them. God not only spake by Jesus, but the prophets also, as Paul says: "God, who at sundry times and divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Heb. i. 1). So also Jesus teaches in the parable of the vineyard -- the proprietor of which sent first various messengers, and then his son.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 29.
Apostolic succession, then, especially through such a channel, is a mere figment of the carnal mind. The only succession of which any Scriptural idea can be formed is, the following in the steps of the apostles' faith, which no one, who understands the word of the kingdom, would affirm of the ecclesiastical guides of the people.
The power and the authority of the apostles died with them. Those who succeed to their faith are their successors only in this sense. Their word, which is also the Lord's word, dwells in such richly in all wisdom; and where the word of the Lord is found, there, by the belief of it, He dwells in the hearts of men. When they work according to this word they and their Lord work together. But this is not peculiar to a ministerial class, but is common to all the Lord's people; for He is no respecter of persons.
A successor to the faith of the apostles delights to feel he is a layman, that he is one of the flock, and the best of the sheep it contains, because his sole anxiety is to know and obey the Great Shepherd's voice (Heb. 13:20; John 10:27) He is not a wolf, nor a dog, rending, and devouring, the flock, and investing himself with its wool; but one who would be the servant of the least, that he may be exalted to an unfading crown of glory, when the Good Shepherd shall appear to give life to all His sheep for evermore.
Elpis Israel 2.1.
22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
As he [Bro Thomas] quietly walked in and was led forward to a front seat, there was a deep hush of attention. The meeting that followed was of the sort that goes deep into the memory. After hearty singing and preliminary exercises, the Doctor was called upon, and ascending the platform addressed the assembly.
He made no personal allusions of the kind that are common with public speakers. He did not say how pleased he was to be there; how gratifying to his feelings for such interest to be taken in his work, nor how deeply moved he was by the appreciation that had been manifested, etc., etc.
He simply said, in dignified and sonorous voice, "It is written in the prophets" (and proceeded to call our attention to the truth). I was a shorthand writer, but I was too deeply moved by the words of the speaker to take them down, and I am not aware that anyone else took notes of them. They were words of weight and power, such as we probably shall not hear again till we meet in the kingdom of God.
My days and my ways Ch 36