From the Preface: "The 'Summer School for College Students,' held at Northfield, Massachusetts, from June 30 to July, 12, 1887, was an occasion in many respects without precedent. During the twelve days of its continuance, at least four hours each day were spent in listening to addresses and discussions. . . ."
John A. Broadus was one of the speakers; three of his lectures were printed in a twenty-two chapter book entitled A College of Colleges. The sessions were led by D. L. Moody; T. J. Shanks was editor of the book.
The Epistle to the Hebrews
By John A. Broadus
Address by the Rev. Dr. Broadus — Key-Note of the Book — The Hebrew Christians Tempted to Relapse into Judaism — Reasons for Perseverance in the New Faith — Jewish Arguments Reversed — The Son of God Superior to Angels, to Moses, and to the Levitical Priesthood — Dignity of the Messiah.
I wish to speak of the Epistle to the Hebrews. My object is to come as near as I can to giving an off-hand specimen of the treatment of a Bible book as a whole. The Epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, from Italy, to the Christian Hebrews. You know there has long been a dispute as to whether it was written by Paul or not. I shall not go into that, except to say that I think the strong probability is, it was written by Paul. This Epistle is mentioned in the very earliest Christian writing in existence — the Epistles of Clement, in which it is repeatedly quoted. I don't think there would ever have been any doubt it was written by Paul, except for the fact that the Alexandrian critics, who were very particular about Greek, saw in it certain differences of style from the other of Paul's Epistles. But what if there are differences of style? That is exactly like Paul. I am inclined to think the most probable opinion is that which was advanced by Origen, the greatest of early scholars and critics, and which he derived from his teacher, Clement of Alexandria — that it was really a discourse which Paul delivered, and which was reported by some one else. Christ's discourses were reported. The discourses in the Book of Acts were reported
by Luke. There is nothing incredible about the hypothesis, and it meets every point of the enigma, how the book could contain so much that was like Paul, and yet in a style so much unlike Paul.
But I wish to speak of the contents of this wonderful Epistle. It is remarkable, probably, as no other for its absolute unity. One idea runs all through this Epistle. There are not more than two or three sentences in it that you can interpret without taking account of that one idea. Now, there are several Epistles in which there is a manifest key-note. If you study Philippians you will find that "joy" is the key-note; if you study Colossians, it is ''complete in Christ"; and in Ephesians, "one in Christ"; and so in Galatians and Romans, "justification by faith"; etc. But here there is more than a key-note. One idea runs right through it, and that idea is to restrain the Hebrew Christians from abandoning Christianity. "Let us hold fast our profession." That is the object — to restrain the Hebrew Christians addressed from abandoning Christianity. "Let us hold fast our profession." "Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering." "Let us hold on." "Let us hold on to our faith in Christianity." That is the practical lesson in everything in this Epistle, and its arguments are brought to bear upon that design.
"Don't give up Christianity." The Hebrew Christians addressed had been much persecuted. They had not yet suffered bloodshed; but they had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods. However, some of them had got into the way of forsaking the assembling of themselves together. It was the manner of some not to go to their religious meetings, because that might become an occasion of further persecution. But besides the persecutions, the Jews had brought to bear upon them very
subtle and powerful lines of argument to persuade them to abandon Christianity. I shall state these very loosely at first, and then in a form in which you can understand their bearing. There were three lines of argument which the Jews were accustomed to employ to convince the Christians that they had better give up Christianity and go back to the religion of the Jews. They would say: "We used to suppose that this Nazarene religion of yours was only a new sect of Judaism, like the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or what not. But it looks as if you were going to set it up for an independent religion. And now, if Christianity is to be set up for an independent religion apart from Judaism, just see how inferior it is to the religion of our fathers, in regard to (i) the angels on Mount Sinai; (2) Moses; and (3) the priesthood, the Temple, the law, and the sacrifices." They would say: "The religion of our fathers was given through holy angels on Mount Sinai." That isn't recorded in Exodus; but it was the belief of the Jews, as recorded in Stephen's speech in the 7th of Acts. It appears here: "The religion of our fathers was given through holy angels. Are you going to turn away from that which came straight from the holy angels, and take up with the new-fangled religion of the Nazarene?" Then secondly: "Our religion was given through Moses." Moses was to the devout religionists of the time a sort of combination, I suppose, of all that we feel toward George Washington, and that we feel toward the Apostle Paul. It is very hard to realize how the Jews revered Moses. "Are you going to turn away from the religion of Moses, just to follow the religion of the Nazarene?" Thirdly: "The religion of our fathers is a religion. See its daily service, its smoking altar, its daily sacrifices, through which men may seek forgiveness. This religion of yours has no altar, no sanctuary,
no sacrifices, no priest — nothing but a Nazarene. Why, it is nothing at all. It isn't a religion. It hasn't any of the marks of a religion. Are you going, to abandon the religion of our fathers — with the priesthood and the sacrifices — for a religion that has nothing, and is nothing ?"
Now, I don't know a more remarkable example in all literature of a writer taking the arguments of his opponents and turning them right against them: as though soldiers charged up a hill against some battery, and seized the guns, and then turned them against the enemy. For every one of these arguments the writer turns exactly in the other direction ; and from being a ground for rejecting Christianity, he finds in them a ground for holding on to Christianity.
A large part of the Epistle consists of a comprehensive argument on this whole question, but with warnings and exhortations interspersed. See chapters i. to x. 18. In this argumentative portion the writer takes up these three lines of argument. He replies, first: The Son of God is far superior to the angels. He is far superior to the angels, through whom the law was given on Mount Sinai. That is the topic of the first and the second chapter — the Son of God, through whom Christianity was given, is far superior to the angels, through whom the law was given. Now, open your Bibles and look, as I just point out rapidly how every time the argument is taken right out of the Bible — with applications, exhortations, and warnings, all red-hot. Recollect what that point was: "The religion of our fathers was given through holy angels on Mount Sinai. What have you got to equal that?" "Why, this," says the writer, "that Christianity is given through the Son of God, who is far above the angels." Notice how he begins. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners (God
who in many parts and in many ways) spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." In other words, "The old religion was given in many different parts, and in many different ways." Now, here is a new part which God has given — not through prophets any longer, but through His Son. "Through His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, through whom He made the worlds; who, being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, 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, being made so much better than the angels." There we touch the point. "Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." The rest of the chapter is taken up with proofs that the Son of God is superior to the angels. Then if the law was given through angels, Christianity has the authority of the Son of God, who is more than the angels. Please notice at the end of the first chapter an expression which is constantly misunderstood. "To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool"; — as He did say to Messiah, in the 110th Psalm. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister " — not sent forth to reign, as the Messiah was, on the Father's right hand. The angels are ministering spirits, "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." That "for" means "for the sake of " — "for the benefit of." "Sent forth to minister to God (not to reign with God) for — for the benefit of — the heirs of salvation." People have got a notion that the angels are sent forth to minister to them. They have got the idea that the angels minister to Christians. They minister
to God for the benefit of Christians. The idea is the same in the last result.
Notice, now, that having set forth that statement, that the Son of God through whom Christianity is given, is far superior to the angels, and proved it by quotations, the writer immediately proceeds, without going any farther, to make a practical application of it. He can't wait to get through his argument. That is like Paul. He is going to begin his application; the argument may take care of itself after. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest haply we drift away from them." What a striking Greek phrase that is. It suggests drifting in a boat along something important on the shore. "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Not "the great law"; but "so great salvation." And then he goes on to tell how great it is. "Which at the first began to be spoken through the Lord." Not "through angels"; but "through the Lord." He had this to start with, that it was spoken through the Lord Jesus Christ. "And was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him" — His own immediate followers. "God also bearing them witness (or uniting with them in bearing witness) both with signs and wonders, and with manifold miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will." Now then: "Will it do to neglect the Gospel? You see what became of the men who slighted the law, that was given through angels on Mount Sinai — they received the just recompense of reward. How, then, shall we escape if we neglect the revelation that was given through the Son of God, confirmed by all that heard it, and ratified by all manner of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit?"
Isn't that turning the argument the other way? Isn't that showing a reason why they should not neglect Christianity or abandon it? The rest of the second chapter goes on in a similar manner — showing that the Founder of Christianity is preferred to the angels.
Take the second argument — in regard to Moses. The Son of God is far superior to Moses. This extends from chapter iii. 1 to iv. 13. The Jews had the greatest veneration for Moses. And the sacred writer here in iii. 1, after introducing Christ Jesus, calls Him by two names, "Consider the Apostle" — that is, commissioner, or missionary; the term is taken in a literal, etymological sense. "Consider the Commissioner and High Priest of our profession" — that is, the one Son of God — "the Apostle of our profession, Christ Jesus." "Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house." This statement is repeated: "in all His house" — that is, in God's house. That is borrowed from Numbers, as you see in the margin (Numbers xii. 7). The writer says, "Moses was faithful in all His house," and founds his argument upon that. "Moses was only a servant of God. He was a faithful servant, but he was only a servant in the house; and the Founder of Christianity is the Son of God, and a son is more than a servant. Well, then, if you say that the religion of our fathers has this dignity, that it was given through Moses, the servant of God, I grant it; but Christianity has this higher dignity, that it is given through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Son is more than the servant." That is his argument. It is a very short argument. He builds it in the 5th and 6th verses, and then he falls to application again. As Spurgeon says, "where the application begins the sermon begins"; and certainly the writer of this Epistle has not kept all the application to the last. His object is to
restrain these people from abandoning Christianity and going back to Judaism. See the application he makes in chapter iii. and chapter iv. It is all founded upon the idea that we have a Leader and Apostle who is greater than Moses, and then greater than Joshua. "If our fathers were bound to follow Moses, the faithful servant of the Lord, and if our fathers wouldn't, and perished in the wilderness, although they had such a leader, what will become of us if we fail to follow our Leader, who is greater than Moses or Joshua? If our fathers wouldn't follow their leaders, and perished through their unbelief and disobedience, let us labor to enter into that rest, lest we fall after the same example of unbelief." I need not go into details. There is the argument: "The Founder of Christianity is greater than Moses." Then the application: "If our fathers were ruined by refusing to follow Moses in their unbelief, how much greater ruin will befall us if we refuse to follow a greater than Moses — that is, the Founder of Christianity."
Now we come to the third argument, and the principal one. It occupies the far greater portion of the book. His priesthood is far superior to the Levitical priesthood. This extends from chapter iv. 14 to x. 18, inclusive — forming the bulk of the argumentative portion of the Epistle. It begins with an exhortation. The argument covers a great deal of ground, and so the writer begins with an exhortation. I pointed out how, in the first case, he broke into the middle of his argument with an exhortation. Now he actually begins with one. That is like Paul. He is going to talk about the fact that the Son of God, the Founder of Christianity, is a priest. He calls Him a priest: "Having, then, as we said a while ago, a great High Priest." He is going to elaborate that — the proof will come afterward. "Having, then, a great High Priest, that is passed through the heavens."
That is a bad mistake in the translation — "passed into the heavens." The image of the heavens corresponds to the veil in the Temple. As the high priest passed through the veil and out of sight into the sanctuary beyond, so our High Priest passed through the visible heavens. "Passed through the heavens" makes a great difference there in comprehending the image. "Having, then, a great High Priest that is passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." That is the key-note of the Epistle. "Let us not neglect our salvation. Let us not fail to enter into that rest, as our fathers failed through unbelief. Let us hold fast our profession." "For," — you all know the passage, but let me lose no opportunity to repeat it. O precious words — O sacred truth, that has come home unnumbered times to sin-burdened, struggling, troubled human hearts! "For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace." I used to hear some good men, when I was a boy, change that. They always prayed, "come with a holy boldness." They thought it would be too bold to say, "come boldly," and they wanted to come with a holy boldness — a humble boldness. Why that? Because they didn't understand the "therefore." "Therefore — because we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, and is ever interceding, and can sympathize with our infirmities — let us therefore, and thinking of Him, and of His holiness, come boldly." I have a very dear friend who preached a whole sermon from this word "therefore." Let me say in regard to all of Paul's Epistles: if you can understand every "therefore," and every "for," you can understand any of his writings. Never mind about the
rest. Take care of the pennies and the pounds will come out straight.
Having begun with this exhortation — to hold fast because we have such a High Priest — the sacred writer goes on to argue this matter out. He shows that the general characteristics of the high priest are to be found in Christ (chapter iv. 1-9). Christ, the Founder of Christianity, has the general characteristics possessed by one who is what a high priest ought to be. That is the first point. Then he shows that Christ's priesthood is superior to the Levitical, because it is after the order of Melchisedec, and constituted with an oath (chapter v. 10 to vii. 28). This is one of the most important parts of the Epistle, in which the writer proves that Christ's priesthood is superior to the Levitical because after the order of Melchisedec, and constituted with an oath. But having mentioned Melchisedec, he pauses. He is afraid they won't understand him — or at least, that a great many won't understand him. "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when, for the time (considering the time, how long you have been professing Christians), ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one should teach you again, and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." In other words: "Considering that you have been a long time professed Christians, you ought to be able to digest heavy food; yet here you are wanting milk still." "For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness." Oh, how full our churches are — churches away from here, for politeness requires that we should except ourselves — of such people, who are not feeding on the Scriptures. They want nothing but milk, and some of them want that sweetened. "But heavy food belongeth to them that are of full age (grown-up people — supposed
to be), even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Gentlemen, the more you know of God's Word, the more you can know God's Word; and the more you are living by God's Word, the more you can understand God's Word. And if you keep it at arm's length, and dally with it, and play around it, then the years and years may come and go and we still may not know how to enter into its deeper meanings. The Apostle feels like a teacher who has put his pupils through a lesson, and wants to put them through an examination. "Are you not going on," he says, "into the difficult questions? Must I go back over the A, B, C of the business? No; I won't do any such thing. Therefore let us leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on unto perfection" — that perfection of which he spoke in chapter v. 14, namely, the maturity of Christian growth — the being grown-up people, and not mere babes. "Let us leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ and go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation" — the A, B, C. "I will go on to something else. There will be some of you that can't understand it, I know; but there is no use in staying with them and bothering with them any longer." That is about the way the writer speaks. There are many pupils who remain away behind all the time, and you take a great deal of trouble with them, and finally you say to yourself: "I have fooled with them long enough. I'll give my attention to some of the rest." I am trying to illustrate the best way I can the idea of the sacred writer. He reproves those people who can't understand things, because they have so long been professed Christians and have made no progress, and want him to be forever repeating the A, B, C's of Christianity. He says: "Let us go on. As for those other people, there is no use doing anything. Some of you understand."
Q. Were those people renewed?
Dr. Broadus — In the first place, you don't know; and in the second place, I don't know; and in the third place, I don't know who does know; and I believe we won't stay — we will go on. Gentlemen, the solemn warnings that are given in this Epistle of what will happen if we give up Christianity, apply to us as they did to those people. Apart from Christianity we have got nothing to go upon — nothing to depend upon. Without stopping to decide the question whether your Christian experiences have been genuine or not — you haven't got to go into the rubbish of the past — if you give up Christianity you are gone. That was true of them; it is true of you and me. That is all there is to it, that I can see. Next, the writer goes on to apply consoling words to the better class of them. "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." "Those there are among you that really have made progress in Christian truth and Christian living, and we don't mean to condemn you." And so he goes on to the end of that admonition. The admonition extends from chapter v. 11, away to the end of chapter vi. Then at the end of chapter vi. he comes to the High Priest again — "Even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." Now, observe — here is the point: Christ's priesthood is superior to the Levitical, because it is a priesthood after the order of Melchisedec, found mentioned in the 110th Psalm: "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec." All the Jews understood this reference. His point now is that the Messiah is a priest,
and a higher kind of a priest than the priests of the Levitical dispensation. Now, don't get befogged about Melchisedec. We don't know much about Melchisedec. There are two things shown to us: First, he is a priest continually — he "abideth a priest continually" (vii. 3). The priesthood of Melchisedec as it stands on the page of history is a continual priesthood. It is not a priesthood like the Levitical, that is derived from a father and handed down to a son, and is established on genealogy. There is no mention of any father or mother — no mention of any father or mother — no mention of any genealogy — no mention of the beginning of his days or the end of his life. There it stands, a priesthood all the time. That is a picture of the priesthood of Messiah, which is a priesthood not derived from ancestors and handed down to successors, but a perpetual and continual priesthood. Who is Melchisedec? — and what is Melchisedec? That about Melchisedec; and so far as I can see, only that and nothing more. You can write the rest of his life, perhaps, because you don't know. What a man doesn't know is an immense field for prospecting.
Then the second argument which he makes about this matter, is: The greatness of the Messianic priesthood, as proved by the fact that Abraham gives to Melchisedec a gift of a tenth part of the spoils. The Melchisedec priesthood was a very exalted kind of priesthood, you see. The argument, then, regarding the priesthood of Christ is, first, it is a continual, permanent priesthood; second, it is a very exalted priesthood. This is proven in two ways: First, Abraham gave Melchisedec titles; and second, The Messiah was declared to be a priest with an oath. ''The Lord swore, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec" (chapter vii. 21). The Founder of Christianity
is a priest of a higher sort than the priests of the Levitical priesthood, as is proven by His being a priest after the order of Melchisedec, and a priest constituted with an oath. Now, I beg you before you leave that, to notice in vii. 25 a passage that everybody preaches about, but often, I think, failing to get the great and glorious meaning. In the 23d verse the passage begins: "And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death." There was a long succession of numerous priests, because they were not suffered to continue. " But this man," the Founder of Christianity, the Messiah, "because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" — not a changeable one, a transmissible one, handed down to Him and then handed by Him to a successor. He is a priest forever, untransmitted; and stands always the same. "Wherefore," because His priesthood is untransmissible, "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Why; a Pope of Rome has to build himself a tomb for fear his successor will not care enough about him to build him one at all. And if you put anything that takes hold upon eternity into the hands of a mortal man, he soon finds he has got to die, and has got to have a line of successors ; and how do you know they will remember you, and care anything about you, and put through what he has undertaken to do for you? But the Messiah holds His priesthood forever — untransmissible. He ever lives to make intercession for them who come to God through Him; and if you put your salvation in His hands, He does not have to turn it over to any one who may or may not carry it out. "He is able to save them unto completeness, because He ever lives to carry on the work He undertook to do for them." Some people understand this to mean:
"He is able to save unto the worst sinners." That is a great and glorious truth, but that is not the idea here at all. "He is able to save forever and forever, because He is the same unchangeable priest." "To save unto completeness" — not simply to begin it and keep at it awhile, but to completeness. Oh, the wrecks in human history of things that men began with noble intent and sustained with high endeavor, but they died, and their work fell through and passed away. Our Saviour "is able to complete the salvation of them that come to God through Him, seeing He ever liveth." Now, gentlemen, you can forget all the rest of what I have said, if you lay hold of that for yourself and for everybody else — for the troubled ones who try to live in this life of sin and sorrow. But let us go on.
The next part of the argument covers the rest of the argumentative portion of the Epistle. Christ ministers in a higher sanctuary than the Levitical, and offers a better sacrifice. This the writer elaborates at considerable length in the next two chapters and a half. Please think about it. The Jews were saying that the Christian religion lacked the very elements of being a religion. It had no priesthood, no sanctuary, no altar, no sacrifice — it was no religion at all. The sacred writer proceeds to show that the Founder of Christianity — the Messiah, the High Priest — has a sanctuary, has an altar, has a sacrifice; and that these are all superior to those they had been telling him about and wanting to go back to. The Messiah has a better sanctuary, a better altar, and a better sacrifice than the Levitical. Now, see. Open to chapter viii.
(a.) He is "a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle" — not merely a man's tabernacle, but a tabernacle beyond the sky, of which the earthly tabernacle was a type. "By how much also is He the mediator of
a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." He ministers in the true tabernacle, under a better covenant.
(b.) Now, the sacrifice is His own blood. The sacrifice He offers is His own blood. Gentlemen, we are used to that; but there is a sense in which that is the most stupendous fact that ever came into our minds. The eternal heart of God was made flesh, and came to be a teacher, and a priest also — to offer a sacrifice consisting. of His own blood. You never heard of that in your life in any other except the Christian religion. It is most amazing — the sacrifice is His own blood! Look at chapter ix. 1-22. Notice in verse 11, for instance: "Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption." That word is emphatic here, you see. His own blood wins eternal redemption. The writer will repeat these thoughts presently. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and 'the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purify your conscience." That is the great central thought of the Atonement: the sacrifice of His own blood, not the blood of bulls and its, shall "purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
(c.) This sanctuary and sacrifice are not typical, but heavenly and true. This is stated very briefly in chapter ix. 23, 24: "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these" sacrifices of the blood of animals. The earthly
copies made of the heavenly sanctuary had to be purified with the blood of animal sacrifices. "But the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." So then, the true sanctuary, of which the earthly place of worship was but a picture, had for its sacrifice the blood of Christ Himself.
(d.)The sacrifice is not repeated, but once for all — once for all, and all-sufficient. That is the rest of the argumentative portion — chapter ix. 25 to x. 18. His sacrifice is not repeated, but once for all, and all-sufficient. "Not repeated" — that is the emphatic point. Now look at the text a moment there — see how it brings it out — chapter ix. 25: "Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others: for then must He often have suffered from the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." See x. 12: "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice of sins forever." Again, verse 14: "For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." See how often this idea is repeated. The sacrifice was not every day — not every year; but His own blood was offered once for all, all-sufficient, forever. That completes the argumentative portion.
Now, the rest of the Epistle — x. 19 to the end — is a further exhortation of a nature akin to the previous exhortation — to hold on to Christianity; not to abandon it, and go back and be mere Jews. Because, "Haven't I proven that in all the points in which the religion of
our fathers deserves reverence, Christianity deserves only a greater reverence?" The writer isn't content with the exhortations he has thrown in by the way; but now he expands "as the Lord gives light and liberty" — as the old preacher used to say. He expands the argument.
1. He exhorts them to hold fast because of having such a High Priest. This comes immediately after the preceding section — chapter x. 19-25: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus . . . . let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." This is the same thing he said before, you know — "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, because we have such a sacrifice. Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering."
2. He states the terrible results of apostasy. He refers to them as a reason for not stopping to argue any more with those who have abandoned Christianity. "If you go back and have anything more to do with the Jews, just see what the end will be." Chapter x. 26-39: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." He bears on again with the law: "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." Now, don't stop to ask any of your theological questions. I believe in theology, but this is a matter of history.
And then these were not the last people in this world who, having once been professing Christians, have been tempted to abandon their faith in the name of science, in the name of culture, or in the name of nonsense; and there will be temptations hereafter, and arguments to persuade men to abandon Christianity. Oh, many have been tempted and tested in that way many times. One good thing to think is: "If I abandon Christianity, what then? — what then? 'To whom shall we go?' If I abandon Christianity, I have got to believe something. What is there better worth believing than Christianity? I have got to believe something — what else is there to believe in?" It is useful to go to the very edge of a precipice and see how deep it is, if you turn and get away as fast as ever you can. If that doesn't suit your theology, so much the worse for your theology. But I am not talking theology.
3. He speaks of their former patient endurance — x. 32-39. Just as before, when he spoke of the persons it was no use fooling over, and then turned to the better class; so now when speaking of the terrible results of apostasy, immediately after he says: "I don't mean this about you. You have done well." After a solemn warning concerning the fearful ruin resulting from apostasy, he puts in something encouraging — something comforting: "Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated (or enlightened), ye endured a great fight of afflictions." "Let that encourage you." Then in verse 35: "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." "Hold on! — as you have been holding on; and don't give up, for you see the ruin that would follow." "For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and
will not tarry." Here he quotes from Habakkuk (ii. 3, 4). It is the same passage that Paul quotes in Romans and Galatians. "Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." There is the warning. "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Oh, that chapter-maker — how he ruins the meaning sometimes. He was a good-natured, well-meaning old soul, who lived about six centuries ago. He used to divide tolerably well when he was at his best, but sometimes he has broken things right in two, as in this case. "We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now, believing is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It goes right on. People begin there — at the opening of chapter xi. — as if it was a new being in. creation, a new universe almost. They never stop to look back and see what precedes it. "We are of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now, believing is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I have heard it said very often that that is a Divine definition of faith, and I have these things to remark about it: First, I should think it a matter of concern if a Divine definition of faith contained as many words that were hard to define as that passage does; and, second, I can't see that these is any need of a definition of faith, Divine or human. Faith is as easy a thing to understand as anything that comes before the human mind. It is as simple an idea as there is. How can you explain what cannot be analyzed and made any simpler at all? I heard a definition of faith by an old colored preacher in Virginia. "Uncle Ben," said one of his people, "can you explain what is faith in the Lord and faith in the devil?" Uncle Ben drew
himself up and said: "Yes. Dere's in the first place faith in de Lawd, an' in de second place, faith in de devil. In de first place — firstly — dere's faith. Now, I'm goin' to 'splain faith. Now, faith — faith is just faith — an' nothin' mo', an' faith, an' nothin' less, an' nothin' but faith — an' I am done 'splainin'." When you get a better definition than that old negro preacher had, I wish you would write to me. Some people say they can't understand faith, when if they can't it is because they don't want to do it. If I want my child to love me, I don't go into metaphysics — I show myself lovely. Let me show myself lovely, and my child will love me; unless it is so constituted that it doesn't want to love me, and then no metaphysical definitions will help the matter at all. I think our definitions of faith only help objectors to find excuses for refusing to exercise it.
"We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." "In the power of this faith we should bear present trials, and press on through present difficulties till we get through and are received." The whole burden of this chapter is to present glorious instances of men who had so much faith in the things to come that they held out, and triumphed at last. The writer says in effect: "See how they put up with the trials of the present life, as you ought to do. Have patience. Keep on believing, unto the saving of the soul." And after a long list is given (in the 11th chapter), he begins the application of it. In chapter xii. 1, he says: "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses" — namely, those heroes of faith that have been described, and in their day had trouble and conquered it. And these persons are not simply spectators, but persons who have borne witness. The Greek here is*
* Literally: "We have environing us so great a cloud, or throng of persons, witnessing." — Ed.
"Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto" — and he doesn't say "looking unto Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses," because there came into his mind, just then and there in the midst of his exhortation, the thought that there is an example of faith and the power of faith in future good to sustain amid present trial and suffering that transcends all his roll of worthies, and so he says: "Looking away." That is what it is literally+ — "Looking away from ourselves, away from the heroes of past ages, to the one example, unique and incomparable, of the power of faith in future good to sustain us in present trial." "Looking away unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him" — and who believed in that joy that was set before Him. As Abraham believed in the promises set before him, and bore present trial; as Noah believed; so this higher One, for the joy that was set before Him, "endured the Cross, despising the shame"; and He has had the fulfilment of His faith — He has entered into that joy — He "hath set down at the right hand of the throne of God." So, then, let us not be of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul; for it is such belief in God's promises of future good that can enable us to bear all present trials, and triumph over all present
+ "Viewing with undivided attention by turning away from every other object; regarding fixedly and earnestly." — Ed.
difficulties, as did the heroes of faith in the past, and even Jesus our Lord and Redeemer.
Now there is more to say, but I must conclude. The rest of the Epistle is much to the same effect: further exhortations — and all based continually upon the superiority of the Christian priesthood and the Christian sacrifice to all the ideas of the past dispensation. There are only two or three sentences at the close that have no immediate connection with the burden of the whole argument.
[From T. J. Shanks, editor, A College of Colleges, (A Collection of Lectures), 1887, pp. 83-105. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. — jrd]
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