Sermon 2529. Compassion on the Ignorant
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, AUGUST 8, 1897.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, APRIL 3, 1884.
"Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way." Hebrews 5:2.
THE ignorant have need of compassion. "That the soul is without knowledge, it is not good." Every kind of ignorance, likedarkness, is evil, and knowledge, which is light, is, according to its kind, good, or better, or best. For a man to be ignorantof Divine things is a very sorrowful piece of business. To be going into eternity and not to know anything about it-yes, andeven to be passing through this life and yet to not know the way everlasting which leads to Glory, but to be stumbling uponthe dark mountains of mere thought and vain imagination-this is a very dreadful thing! Ignorance of God, ignorance of theright, ignorance of Christ, ignorance of mercy, ignorance of Heaven-these are things for which men are to be blamed, but forwhich they are also to be pitied. Wherever we see ignorance about the things of God, let our hearts go forth in tenderness,but let our prayers arise to God in love-and let our efforts be made in true benevolence that the ignorance may be removed,for, if we are men of God like our Great High Priest, it will be true, also, of us that we "have compassion on the ignorant."
Now, dear Brothers and Sisters, it becomes every man to have compassion on the ignorant because the ignorant man is stilla man! However little he knows, he is still a man, and you and I need not be excessively modest if we put ourselves, also,down among the ignorant, for what if we are better instructed than others? How little do we know, after all! The most intelligent,the most experienced-the man who has dwelt nearest to his Lord-yet how much there remains even for him to know! He knows thelove of Christ, but it passes his knowledge. He knows many things, yet he is obliged to confess that here he only knows inpart-and it is not till the hereafter that he shall know even as he is not. Therefore, seeing you are a man and, in your measureignorant, you are to have great compassion upon your fellow man and upon his ignorance.
And inasmuch as the ignorance here meant is the ignorance of sin, which is constantly described in the Old Testament as folly,so that every sinner is declared to be a fool-yet concerning this, you and I may well have compassion because we are sinners,too! If God has made us to differ, yet that difference is all the result of His Grace and, therefore, not to be taken to ourselvesas a reason for pride and lifting ourselves up above others. No, a sinner yourself, you should be very tender to all othersinners. Yourself indebted-oh, how deeply-to Infinite Love, you should be very gentle to others who need that love! What ifyou are cleansed from the pollution of sin? It was a fountain filled with blood in which you were washed! Therefore, be youanxious that your fellow man should be washed there, too! What if the power of your sin is conquered? It was the Holy Spiritwho worked this victory in you! Should you not desire that other captives should be set free, that other rebels should besubdued, that others who are under the domination of sin should be brought under the rule of your Divine Lord? If you area man, a gracious man, a man of God, a chosen man, a blood-washed man, you should "have compassion on the ignorant, and onthem that are out of the way."
But, dear Friends, under the old dispensation, there were some who were chosen of God to take up a peculiar relationship totheir fellow men. These were the priests and especially the High Priest-the one man who, alone, of all Israel, might oncein the year enter into the Most Holy Place with the blood of the atonement. He who has to deal with men for God must be, aboveall others, very tender and very patient. It was a most trying experience for Hannah, when she went up with her sorrowfulspirit to the house of the Lord, that God's High Priest was not a man of tender and compassionate spirit, for Eli spoke verysharply to the good woman, and well-near broke that heart which God would have to be healed!
It is a very sad thing when a man who is ordained of God to speak to men for God, is hard, cold and cruel-as if he were ajudge rather than a father, or as if he were a butcher to slay the sheep rather than a shepherd to fetch it back from itswandering!
The Lord Jesus has made all His saints to be priests-we offer no sacrifice of blood-but He has made us kings and priests untoGod, and we have to deal with men for God, all of us, I mean, not ministers, alone, but all of you who are the Lord's ownpeople! And it ought to be said of all of you who are kings and priests unto God that you "can have compassion on the ignorant."A Christian without compassion seems to me to have missed a very vital part of the Christian character. A hard-hearted Christian-isnot that a complete contradiction? Must not our hearts have been broken before we could, ourselves, be penitent? And He whobound them up and healed them, did not harden them with His gentle touch! I reckon that He gave them an additional tendernessby the very act of binding them up with His own dear pierced hands! And we ought to be very gentle-as a nurse with her child,as a mother with her darling-in dealing with the ignorant and those that are out of the way. Our sympathy ought to be alwaysflowing, like a crystal fountain that is never dried up in summer, nor frozen in winter. The Lord has chosen us and calledus to this office, that we should "have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way," not only becausewe are men, but because God has made us priests-not only because we are, ourselves, children of God, but because we are nowservants of God, set on purpose to look after the lost sheep and bring them into the fold.
But, Brothers and Sisters, our text concerns our Lord Jesus Christ. So now let me say that I speak not merely of what oughtto be, but of what is true of Him. He is a Man, a Brother to every man! He is a Man, the Friend of all mankind. Yes, the friendof His bitterest foe-and He is always tender towards all the sorrows and the griefs of men. Then He is also a Priest in asense in which you and I are not, a Priest above Aaron and all mere earthly priests, the Great High Priest in whom all thetypes unite and from whom our priesthood is derived. He, above all others, "can have compassion on the ignorant, and on themthat are out of the way." It is to that one point that I have to call your attention, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, as God'sordained High Priest, having compassion upon the ignorant. I pray that the words I speak may help some trembling, cloudedspirit, with its eyes blurred by the mist of earth and sin. May there strike out of this starry text a living beam of lightfor you! He can have compassion on you who mourn your ignorance! May He have that compassion even now-plentifully, practically,permanently, savingly-and may many who, until now, knew Him not, learn to know Him and never to forget Him throughout eternity!
I. So, first let us ask, WHAT IS THIS IGNORANCE here mentioned?
Well, it is common enough in all ranks of society. I read, the other day, the opinion of a good man that most preachers givetheir congregations credit for knowing a great deal more than they do. And I think that it is very likely true, for thereare sermons which are preached upon various Truths of the Gospel in which certain other Truths of God, necessary to the understandingof the whole, are not explained because it is taken for granted that they are already known. Yet in any large number of peoplethere must be some who are entirely strangers, even to the most elementary Truths of Revelation. I am sure that it is so!There is, perhaps, nothing more amazing in this century than the ignorance of men about the things of God. It is certain thata knowledge of Scripture does not keep pace with the growth of knowledge of other things and that the understanding with regardto eternal realities is not so instructed as it is with regard to politics, to science and to other matters which are of temporaryimportance for this present life.
This ignorance is to be found among the poorest of people. They have had very little or no education, but that is of smallconsequence comparatively. They have forgotten what they learned in the Sunday school. Perhaps they never grasped what theyheard preached because they did not understand it. As I heard one say, the other day, "I went to the place of worship nearmy house, but it was no good to me. There was not a single sentence of the sermon that I understood, for the words were allnovel to me." I am afraid that is the case in very many places-the talk of the theological hall is not understood in the cottage-andcommon phrases which reading people understand at once, are not understood by multitudes of people. But the pity is that thereare also thousands of reading people who are totally ignorant of the things of God-some of the wealthiest, some of the besteducated, yes, some, even, of those who have been to the university-and some who put the, "D.D.," after their names! "No,"you say, "that cannot be!" I say that it is and if you, yourself, know the way of salvation, you have but to talk with someof these people to find that what I say is true! This is a Truth of God that is learned by the teaching of the Holy Spirit-notby the teaching of theological professors!
A man might spend a century under the best ministry, or in the best school that ever existed on earth and yet, at the endof one hundred years, he might not know the things of God, for these Truths must come as a revelation to each man and God,the Holy Spirit, must teach them to each one, or they will never be learned. This is the standing miracle in the Church ofGod-and unless we see it continually worked, we have not the clearest evidence that our religion is supernatural and Divine!Every man who really receives it, receives it not because it suits his taste or his palate, but because the Spirit of Godsends it home to his heart! Every man who truly knows Christ, knows Him not because with his own faculties he found Him out,but because it pleased God to reveal His Son in him. And, apart from this, there is and must be, to the end of human life,an absence of all real knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. First, "You must be born again." And then, being born again, youmust be taught of the Spirit of God. And, if we are not, as the strongest light cannot make a blind man see, and the greatestheat cannot make a dead man warm, so, neither can anything that we do, as long as the soul is unrenewed, ever cause it toknow God and His Grace aright! It is a common ignorance, then, in all ranks of society.
It is also an ignorance concerning the most important matters, for the men of whom I am now speaking are, first, ignorantof themselves. They are ignorant of their own ignorance and, perhaps, there is no ignorance that is so hard to deal with asthe utter ignorance of men as to their own ignorance. "What? You call me ignorant?" a man asks. "I know everything! I haveread from Genesis to Revelation and I understand it all! I could preach as well as anybody." Yes, but that kind of talk showsthat you do notknow, for he that knows, knows that he does not know-and there is no man less inclined to boast of his knowledgethan the man who has a good deal of it! Whenever I find the men of the modern school of thought, as they are continually doing,sneering at the orthodox because we are all uncultured, and so forth, I think to myself, "And if you only had a little culture,you would not sneer so often." It is a mark which will never mislead you, that he who thinks that he knows is a fool! Andhe who says that he knows more than anybody else and can afford to deal out his sneers liberally to others is a gentlemanwho, if justice were dealt out to him, would be, himself, sneered at! Those who are strangers to themselves do not know theirown ignorance-and that is lamentable ignorance, indeed.
They are also unaware of their own depravity-they do not think that their heart is corrupt, or depraved at all. No man canlong know anything of himself without discovering that he has a biastoward evil-that if let alone, quite alone, his thoughtsgo the wrong way! He finds that he needs to school himself to be right, kind and loving, but that he needs no effort to beproud, domineering, and revengeful! He finds that sin is indigenous to the soil of his heart, while everything that is goodneeds cultivation, watching and tender care. He finds, in fact, that his heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperatelywicked." But the ignorant who are described in our text, do not know that-and do not believe it.
They are also ignorant of the heinousness of their sin. They have never done much amiss, nothing very greatly wrong. Theyhave not been all they ought to have been, but they have been within a shaving of it-and if they have fallen a little short,they can pick up, again, and make up for all deficiencies, by-and-by! They do not feel that there is much amiss about theircharacters-in fact, if they have to seek another place and have to give themselves the character they feel that they deserve-itwill be a very fine one, indeed! Ah, But this is gross ignorance, for he who knows himself will say, "All our righteousnessesare as filthy rags. And we do all fade as a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
These ignorant people are also ignorant of their present and eternal danger. They do not suppose that sin puts them into anyperilous condition with regard to God. Truly, He is very merciful, but they ignore the fact that He is as justas He is merciful,and they put aside all idea of any judgment to come, or of the wrath of God that abides on the wicked. Though these solemnTruths of God are clearly revealed in Scripture, they have left all such old-fashioned notions far behind, for they are "abreastof the times." So they go on and, though often reproved, they harden their necks and persevere in the way which will surelylead them to everlasting destruction from the Presence of the Lord and the Glory of His power. Surely, this is utter ignoranceof the worst kind!
Yet these people vainly imagine that they can turn from sin whenever they like! They have only just to will it and they shallcertainly become Christians, if that is necessary, before they die. They do not know their inability, or their weakness-andwhile they are naked, poor, blind and miserable, they content themselves with believing that they are rich, increased in goodsand have need of nothing! May God, in His infinite mercy, save such ignorant persons from the terrible consequences of theirfolly before it be too late!
While ignorant of themselves, they are equally ignorant of the way of salvation. But they hear it, do they not? Yes, theyhear it, but they do not understand it. It is to me a very curious thing-often an amazing thing-when I am seeing persons latelyconverted. I have known those who have heard the Gospel in its simplicity from their childhood and yet, as soon as ever theyare awakened to a sense of sin, they try to save themselves by their good works! They know better, yet they turn to that delusivesystem and, if they get weaned from that, then they think they must be saved by their feelings. They have been warned againstsuch a folly thousands of times, yet they run to it! That simple principle, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shallbe saved," is an enigma, a perfect riddle. to any man until he is born again. He thinks he knows all about the Gospel, yethe does not. And though we try, by explanation and illustration, to make it as plain as possible, and put it into easy Saxonwords, and say that salvation comes by a simple trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet, as far as they are concerned, we mightjust as well have spoken it in Hebrew, or in Dutch! They do not comprehend what we mean, but still fumble about after somethingof their own, instead of looking altogether out of themselves unto Him who is able to save them by what is in Himself-notby what is in them! Ah, dear Friends, these people I am trying to describe are ignorant of the very way of salvation!
And specially sad is it that they are ignorant of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. They hear of Him, yet do not know Him. Theydo not know how loving, how kind and how full of Grace and power He is, but they think of Him as though He were austere andunwilling to receive them. They are so ignorant of Him that they do not come to Him that they may have life!
They are also ignorant of the Holy Spirit and of His power to change the heart, renew the mind and deliver us from the thralldomof sin. They have heard about regeneration-they know a little about the doctrine-but what it is to come savingly under thepower of the Holy Spirit, they do not know.
This ignorance is most ruinous in its consequences and ought, therefore, to excite the compassion of all good men! Even nowit robs the mind of joy and deprives the spirit of the best of blessings-but the future consequences will be still more terrible.Alas, this ignorance is often willful! No man is so blind as the man who will not see. No man is so deaf as he who refusesto hear. And there are none so ignorant as those who do not want to learn and will not submit themselves to the teaching ofGod.
II. Here comes in the mercy that the Lord Jesus Christ can have compassion on the ignorant. So now, very briefly, I want toanswer a second question, which is this-WHAT IS THERE IN THIS IGNORANCE WHICH IS SO PROVOKING TO US AND, THEREFORE, DEMANDSCOMPASSION?
I reply, first, its folly. If you have ever taught children, or if you have ever taught young men who have been very carelessand indifferent and, by no means anxious to learn, you have sometimes been provoked even by their ignorance, itself. You havesaid, "What? Don't you know that?" Have you never heard a teacher speak very sharply concerning some point upon which a youngman ought to have been well-informed and he has found him a very dolt, and he has said, "What? Not know that?" and he hasseemed to look at him almost with contempt for not knowing such a simple thing!
Ignorance is also usually accompanied with a great deal of pride. There is nobody who thinks he knows so much as he who knowsnothing. He is always sure, positive, certain-he does not need you to tell him anything. In his own conceit, he is wiser thanseven men that can render a reason-roll seven clever men of reason together, and you have not as much knowledge as this onepoor feel fancies he has! That silly pride is very provoking to the man who is trying to instruct a fool, while the fool thinksthat his instructor is the one who lacks wisdom.
And then, with ignorance, there generally goes prejudice. A man has imbibed certain ideas and he does not want to know anythingcontrary to them. He says, in his boorish brogue, "What's the good of it? I don't want to know nothing about it. I knew aman once who did know something about it, and it was no good to him." Well, just what the countryman says about some branchof teaching, the natural man says about the things of God! "I don't want to know. I already know enough. My father and motheralways went to such-and-such a place and they said, 'You do your best and Jesus Christ will make up the rest.' And I don'twant to know about your Gospel" Now, this foolish and wicked prejudice is a very provoking thing-and you may say to the man-"Whywill you not listen and hear for yourself, and let me tell you about it?" "No," he says, "I don't want to know," and you turnaway sad and grieved.
There also generally goes with ignorance a great deal of obstinacy. The man will not believe what you tell him. You say tohim, "Why, it is as plain as the nose on your face!" "Yes," he says, "but I can't see my nose," and he does not mean to seethis particular Truth of God that you are bringing under his notice. You may prove it as plainly as two times two make four,yet, as he never did see it, so he never will see it! This is provoking to anybody who is anxious to give instruction uponmatters that are really vital.
Sometimes ignorance is attended with a degree of very gross unbelief. When the man is made to know after a certain sense,yet he says that he cannot believe it. I am always grieved when I heard anybody say, "I cannot believe in Christ." It doesseem shocking. If you cannot believe in me, I do not at all wonder! You may know something about me that may lead you to distrustwhat I say. But to say, "I cannot believe in Christ," is a very horrible thing! Did He ever lie? Is there anything untrueabout Him? Is there anything about our blessed Master that savors of a sham? Surely you can believe in Him-may God give youthe spiritual power to believe in Him, now, and to say, "I do believe. I will believe in Christ who died for me. I will cometo Him and trust in Him." But that unbelief which goes with ignorance is full of provocation.
This is, I think, the most striking thing of all, men are ignorant through sheer willfulness. They will not know any better.How many men fight against knowledge that troubles them! "Oh," says one, "I do not want to go to hear that man again! He touchesupon some point that will not let me sleep at nights." I have read a great many accounts of myself that have been far fromtrue, but, the other day, I met with one which greatly pleased me, because it said, "He is a man who stands up on a Sundayand troubles more people's consciences than anybody else does." "Oh," I thought, "that is exactly what I meant to do and whatI always want to do-to trouble people's consciences when they ought to be troubled." There are some of you who know that youcould not go and drink again if you gave your hearts to God. If you came and learned the way of salvation, you could not befound in that company which now pleases you. Perhaps there is one who has beguiled you into sin, from whom you would haveto separate if you were joined to Christ.
And there is many a man who says, "No, no. Not just yet, not just now. I will think of it, by-and-by." And, meanwhile, justbehind you stands Death, the skeleton king, stretching out his bony hand and, perhaps, tonight, he will lay it on your shoulderand chill you to a corpse! What day you will be buried is not known, just now, on earth, but it is known above! Oh, that youand I, and all of us might have Grace to wish to know everything that makes for our peace! Especially would I ask you to wishto know the very worst about yourself. Pray God that you may never have anything kept from you, but that you may know thatwhich shall lead you at once to Christ, that you may find salvation through the blood of the Lamb!
III. Now I must conclude by answering a third question-How DOES OUR LORD SHOW HIS COMPASSION TO
He does it, first, by offering to teach them. If there is anybody here who desires to be taught, the Lord is willing and waitingto teach you! Is it a Mary? She may come and sit at Jesus' feet and He will not upbraid her, but He will say that she haschosen the good part. Is it a Zacchaeus? Would you steal into the House of God, as he climbed up into the sycamore tree, that,among the foliage, he might not be seen, but yet might hear? Well, the Lord Jesus Christ is willing to teach you and to bidyou make haste and come down, that He may abide in your house and your heart! He keeps a school which is always open and thereis no charge for admission. The poorer and the more ignorant you are, the more welcome are you to the school of Christ-andthis is how He proves His compassion to the ignorant. An ancient philosopher in Greece put over his door, "He that is ignorantof arithmetic must not enter here." He required some amount of knowledge before he would take a pupil, but the Lord JesusChrist puts over His door, "He that is simple, let him turn in here. As for him who is void of understanding, let him comeand learn of the Great Teacher! "Come, then, my poor ignorant Friend, for He will have compassion on you!
And His compassion is shown, next, by actually receiving all who come to Him. There is never one who comes to Christ but Hetakes him in to lodge and tarry with Him till he is instructed in the things of God. Come along with you, for Jesus said,"Him that comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out." If you know nothing except that you know that you know nothing, He willinstruct you unto eternal life!
Our Lord also shows His gentleness by teaching us little by little. If you Christian people look back upon your past history,you will be delighted to note how the Lord let the Light of God in gradually upon you. The blind man, whose eyes are opened,cannot bear the full light of noonday. And the Lord abounds toward us in all wisdom and prudence, teaching us "line upon line,precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little." I sometimes bless God that He does not give to some comers sucha sight of sin as they get afterwards. A full sight of sin, my Brothers and Sisters, without a sight of the precious bloodof Christ, would drive any man or woman among us mad! But we get a little glimpse of sin and we are appalled by it, and thenwe get a larger view of the Atonement, and we are comforted.
Perhaps no man has such a knowledge of the heinousness of sin as that man who is just going into Heaven. The Lord revealsour danger to us by degrees-we stand on a dreadful slope where a single slip means eternal destruction! And if the Lord wereto let us see where we are, it might cause our destruction. But He firstlifts us out of it and then lets us see where we usedto be-shows us our disease by our remedy-and lets us know, when we are getting well, how near to death's door we once were.Oh, what a compassionate Teacher of the ignorant is the Lord Jesus Christ!
He also shows His compassion by teaching us the same thing over and over again. "Why" said one to a mother, "you teach thatchild the same thing 20 times." "Yes," she said, "and do you know the reason?" "No," said the other. "Why, it is because 19times will not do!" Ah, how does the Lord teach us the same thing 20 times over and still we forget it! And then He teachesus again, and again, and again, and again till, at last, we learn it!
Another great proof of His compassion is seen in His never casting off those He has once taken into His school, even if theyare very dull and slow to learn and, perhaps, after 20 years, do not know much. The Lord had to say to one of His Apostles,"Have I been so long a time with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip?" But He did not turn Philip out as a dull boyand He will not turn us out! But, having once received us into His school, He will continue to use this means, and that, andthe other, and still another, till at last we drink in the eternal Truth of God and it becomes part of ourselves! And He permitsus to go where the Truth of God shall be seen in all its brightness and our heart shall be prepared to receive it. This isthe substance of all I have said-Christ Jesus has compassion on the ignorant and I do entreat you, if you feel as if you donot understand Divine things, to come to Him to give you an understanding heart that you may receive the Truth of God!
"Oh, but I do not know!" says one. Then come to Him who does know, and say, "What I know not, my Lord, teach You me." "Oh,but I feel so empty!" Just so and you are, therefore, all the fitter to be filled. "Oh, but I am so ignorant!" A sense ofignorance is the doorstep of knowledge! If you have come so far, I bless God that you are on the way to something higher andbetter. Come to Christ! You know, sometimes, when a boy who is a little dull goes to school, his master may not notice himamong so many. And the older boys may slight and despise him-and he feels very miserable. But what if his master, noticinghim, shall at once feel great tenderness for him and say, "Come here, child. I must make you the special objective of my laborand care"? That boy will surely get on, I think, and so, if you come into Christ's school, our compassionate Lord will say,"Come here! Come here! I will teach you more than others, I will teach you privately. I will give you lessons in your bed,at nighttime will I instruct you. In your sickness I will talk with you. Because you are so dull in your own esteem, thereforeI pity you and will take more care with you than with others."
The promise is, "All your children shall be taught of the Lord." Not one of the whole family shall go without an education-andthe very dullest shall still be "taught of the Lord." Will you go home, if you have never been instructed by Him, and seekHim in prayer? Ask Him to teach you. If the Gospel seems all a maze and a mist to you, go and say, "Lord, will You explainit to me?" One touch of Christ is better than years of study! You may try for many an hour to see in the dark, and yet seenothing. But if you go to Him who is the Morning Star and the Sun of Righteousness, you shall soon see. God grant that itmay be so, for Christ's sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: HEBREWS 4:14-16; 5.
Hebrews 4:14. Seeing, then, that we have a Great High Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us holdfastour profession. Why should we let it go? Jesus has triumphed, He has entered into Glory on our be-half-the victory on ouraccount rests with Him! Therefore let us follow Him as closely as we can. May He help us, just now, if we are in the leastdispirited or cast down, to pluck up courage, and press on our way!
15. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities but was in allpoints temptedlike as we are, yet without sin. How this ought to draw us to the Savior-that He was made like ourselves, that He knows ourtemptations by a practical experience of them and though He was without sin, yet the same sins which are put before us bySatan were also set before Him!
16. Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find Grace to help in time of need.We have a Friend at court! Our Bridegroom is on the Throne of God! He who reigns in Heaven loves us better than we love ourselves!Come, then, why should we hesitate? Why should we delay our approach to His Throne of mercy? What is it that we need at thismoment? Let us ask for it. If it is a time of need, then we see clearly from this verse that it is a time when we are permittedand encouraged to pray!
Hebrews 5:1. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both giftsand sacrifices for sins. The high priest of old was "taken from among men." Aaron was chosen and then his son; an angel mighthave been sent to perform Aaron's duty, but it was not so. And, glory be to our blessed Lord and Master, He is "One chosenout of the people," "taken from among men."
2. Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that He, Himself, is also compassed withinfirmity. Christ was not compassed with sinfulinfirmity, but He was compassed with sorrowful infirmity. His were true infirmitiesor weaknesses-there was no evil about Him, but still He had the infirmity of misery-and He had it even to a greater extentthan we have. The high priest of old was a man like those for whom he stood as a representative. And our Great High Priestis like unto us, though without sin.
3. And by reason hereof he ought.-That is, the ordinary high priest, chosen from among men ought.
3. As for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. But our Lord had no sins of His own. Do not, therefore, thinkthat He is less sympathetic with us because He had no sins-far from it! Fellowship in sin does not create true sympathy, forsin is a hardening thing. If there are two men who are guilty partners in sin, they never really help each other, they haveno true heart of kindness, either of them! When the time of difficulty comes, each man looks to his own interest. The factthat Christ is free from sin is a circumstance which does not diminish the tenderness of His sympathy with us, but ratherincreases it.
4, 5. And no man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himselfto be made an High Priest but He that said unto Him, You are My Son, today have I begotten You. The text is quoted from thesecond Psalm and it proves that Christ did not arrogate to Himself any position before God. He is God's Son, not merely becauseHe calls Himself so, but because the Father says, "You are My Son, today have I begotten You." He took not this honor uponHimself, but He was "called of God, as was Aaron."
6. As He says also in another place.-In the 110th Psalm.
6. You are a Priest forever after the order ofMelchisedec. He does not assume the office on His own account, but it is laidupon Him. He comes not in as an amateur, but as an authorized Priest of God!
7. Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him thatwas able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared. This is to prove His infinite sympathy with His people andhow He was compassed with infirmity. Christ prayed. How near He comes to you and to me by this praying in an agony, even toa bloody sweat, with strong crying and with weeping! Some of you know what that means, but it did, perhaps, seem to you thatChrist could not know how to pray just so. Yet He did. In the days of His flesh, He not only offered up prayer, but "prayersand supplications"-many of them, of different forms and in different shapes-and these were accompanied with "strong cryingand tears."
Possibly you have sometimes had a dread of death. So had your Lord-not a sinful fear of it, but that natural and perfectlyinnocent, yet very terrible dread which comes to a greater or less extent upon every living creature when in expectation ofdeath. Jesus also comes very near to us because He was not literally heard and answered. He said, "If it is possible, letthis cup pass from Me." But the cup did notpass from Him! The better part of His prayer won the victory, and that was, "Nevertheless,not as I will, but as You will." You will be heard, too, if that is always the principal clause in your prayers. But you maynot be heard by being delivered from the trouble. Even the prayer of faith is not always literally heard! God, sometimes,instead of taking away the sickness or the death, gives us Grace that we may profit by the sickness, or that we may triumphin the hour of death. That is better than being literally heard, but even the most believing prayer may not meet with a literalanswer. He "was heard in that He feared." Yet He died and you and I, in praying for ourselves, and praying for our friends,may pray an acceptable prayer and be heard-yet they may die, or we may die.
8. Though Hie were a Son.-Emphatically and above us all, "a Son,"
8. Yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. He was always obedient, but He had to learn experi-mentallywhatobedience meant, and He could not learn it by the things which He did-He had to learn it "by the things which He suffered"-andI believe that there are some of the most sanctified children of God who have been made so, by His Grace, through the thingswhich they have suffered. We may not all suffer alike. We may not all need the same kind of suffering. But I question whetherany of us can truly learn obedience except by the things which we suffer.
9. And being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him. ' 'Being made perfect.""What?" asks one, "did Christ need to be made perfect?" Not in His Nature, for He was always perfect in both His Divine andHis Human Nature, but perfect as a Savior, perfect as a Sympathizer-above all, according to the context-perfect as a HighPriest. "Being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." Christ will not savethose who refuse to obey Him, those who will not believe in Him. There must be an obedient faith rendered unto Him, or elsethe virtue of His passion and death cannot come to us.
10. Called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. I t is a glorious mark of our Lord Jesus that He was "calledof God an High Priest." He did not assume this office to Himself, but this high honor was laid upon Him by God Himself.
11. 12. Ofwhom we have many things to say, andhard to be uttered, seeingyou are dull ofhearing. For when for the time youought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which are the first principles of the oracles of God.-I hopeit is not true of any of you, dear Friends, but it is true of many Christians that they learn very little to any purpose andalways need to be going over the A B C of the Gospel. They never get into the classics, the deep things of God! They are afraidof the Doctrine of Election, of the Doctrine of the Eternal Covenant, and of the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, for theseTruths of God are meant for men of full age, and these poor puny babes have not cut their teeth yet! They need some softerand more childlike food. Well, it is a mercy that they are children of God! It would be better, however, for them to growso as to become teachers of others-"You have need that one teach you again which are the first principles of the oracles ofGod."
12-14. And are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat For everyone that uses milk is unskillful in the Wordof righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of usehave their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Do not be frightened, you who have lately been brought into theLord's family! We are not yet going to feed you with meat! We shall be glad enough to serve you with milk for the present.At the same time, let us all be praying to the Lord to make us grow, that we may know more and do more, and be more what theLord would have us to be! A child is a very beautiful object. An infant is one of the loveliest sights under Heaven, but if,after 20 years, your child were still an infant, it would be a dreadful trial to you. We must keep on growing till we cometo the stature of men in Christ Jesus! God grant that we may do so, for Christ's sake! Amen.