Reply to Brother S. R. Burgess:
“But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the First Born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
The Hebrews, as such, were brought up under the ritual and ceremonies of the Levitical law, and seemed very strongly inclined to cling to the observance of legal traditions, works and customs, from which the inspired writer labored to convert them. The whole epistle is devoted to that end. The two covenants are compared and contrasted, the priesthood of Christ, shown to be of a far superior order to that of Aaron and his sons; the one by the law of a carnal commandment, the other by the power of an endless life. But in the changing of the priesthood there was of necessity a changing of the law. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Thus the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me (the saints) free from the law of sin and death. Being therefore redeemed from the dominion of the law and brought under law to Christ, the saints are required to obey the precepts of Christ from higher and nobler motives; and they are qualified for their new allegiance to Christ, not by fleshly or carnal ability, but by being made partakers of the same power of an endless life. Instead of being licensed to sin because grace abounds, and because abounding grace has made them free from the law, the apostle urges their obedience to Christ from that very consideration. “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and to the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake) (Hebrews 12:18-21).”
“Not to the terrors of the Lord,
The tempest, fire and smoke;
Not to the thunder of that word
That God, on Sinai, spoke.”
“But ye are come unto Mount Sion” (or Zion), which place literally was the highest eminence in Jerusalem, and the place of power, where stood the royal palace of the King of Israel, enclosed by invincible towers and walls of strength; a place of safety, etc. In all respects Zion was a type of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, in her highest elevation, the palace of the great king, the center and throne of the spiritual Israel of our God. Hither, by grace, the saints of the gospel dispensation have come to worship the Lord their God in his holy hill. Not to be terrified by blackness and darkness, which even Moses could not endure without fear and quaking, but a peaceable habitation, a quiet dwelling place where those who come are seated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to go out no more forever. Zion, the perfection of beauty, out of which God hath shined, for God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.
“And unto the city of the living God.” Jerusalem in the type was the consecrated city of God, and Mount Zion was embraced and enclosed within her sacred precincts. The very name of the city signifys the vision of peace, beautifully illustrative of the church of God in her gospel splendor. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, upon the sides of the North; the city of the Great King. The glory of this city is more perfectly delineated in the vision of John, as he saw her descending from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband. See Revelation 21st and 22nd chapters. It is the city of the Living God, not of some imaginary or idol god. He is the God of Life, who lives independently, being self-existent and eternal; the source and fountain of life, especially so of all spiritual eternal life; the true God and Eternal Life, in whom the life of all the saints with Christ is hidden. All other gods are dead; without vitality themselves, they can impart no quickening power to their worshipers. The God of our salvation lives, and blessed be our Rock. The city which the living God himself hath built, and in which he has set his throne, in which he will dwell forever, because he hath desired it, is truly the city of the living God; and to this city the saints are come. This city of the living God is the Heavenly Jerusalem. Contrasted with the earthly or typical Jerusalem, which like Hagar the bond-woman, gendering to bondage, being herself a slave, she can not be the mother of a free posterity; she is in bondage with her children; they shall not be heir with the children of the free woman. But Jerusalem, which is above, is free; and it is just as impossible for her to be the mother of a slave as for Hagar to be the mother of a free child. Those who are born of Jerusalem, which is above and is free, are as Isaac was; they have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father.
“And to an innumerable company of angels.” The term angels is variously applied in the scriptures; sometimes, and perhaps generally, to an order of beings superior to men, as the angels of glory, such as announced the birth of our Savior; and frequently the name is applied to the messengers or ministers of the gospel, as in I Timothy 5:21, and also the angels of the seven churches in Asia. But in this text we understand the term as applied to the spirits of just men made perfect; the disembodied spirits of the saints in glory. Although there is a definite number of these, perfectly known to God, yet the multitude of them cannot be counted by men, and therefore they are an innumerable company, and in the same kingdom or city into which the saints in the gospel church have come. They have come from the East and the West, the North and the South, and are set down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of our God; not with the fleshly bodies of the patriarchs, for they have long ago returned to dust, and in their graves await the voice of the Arch Angel and the trump of God to raise them up spiritual bodies in the last time. The kingdom of Christ being a spiritual kingdom, cannot be inherited by flesh and blood, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption (I Corinthians 15:50). Thus the apostle could speak of being absent in body, but present in spirit, with the saints. This is blessed spiritual society to those who are born of the Spirit, and whose angels do always behold the face of their Father in heaven (Matthew 18:10).
“To the general assembly and church of the First Born, which are written in heaven.” This general assembly is the church of the First Born, the church of Christ, for he is the First Born. He was not the first born in his flesh, for millions were born in the flesh before his incarnation; but he is the first begotten of the dead (Revelation 1:5). And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first born from the dead (Colossians 1:17). The first born of every creature (Colossians 1:15). And God has predestinated whom he did foreknow to be conformed to his image, that he may be the first born among many brethren (Romans 8:29). His church called out from all the tribes of the earth, come in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man; unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. All the members of his body, the church, shall come to him in general assembly, called out from the world and brought with singing to Zion; gathered with his arm and carried in his bosom. His church is the general assembly, for all the saints are assembled within her sacred precincts. And their names are written in heaven. “And in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:16).” “They are written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).” See also Revelation 20:12 and 15. The record of the saints in heaven implies not only their personal election in Christ before the world began, but also their recognition in his gospel church, registered in and fellowshiped by the whole general assembly as the living in Jerusalem, as citizens with the saints and of the household of God.
“And to God, the Judge of all.” All the saints were arraigned before God, in his judicial character, when they stood before the bar of justice, and before the mountain that burned with fire, and there they were stoned to death, and thrust through with cruel arrows. But their Surety appeared on their behalf and paid for them the ransom price. He was delivered up to die for their iniquities, and he arose again for their justification. Now being freely justified through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, they are redeemed unto God; brought nigh to God, and find him in Christ not only their Judge, whose decisions are final and irrevocable, but also their Advocate. “It is God that justifieth (Romans 8:33).” Now they rejoice in him as their Judge, and appeal to him as such, for they know that it is written, “The Lord shall judge his people. He is the Judge of all; of all beings, of all events, and of all worlds. He is the Judge of all their necessities, their supplies, their trials and their deliverances, their conflicts and their victories, and as they have confidence in him, they can freely, unreservedly and cheerfully commit their cause to him, and rest assured that justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne; righteousness and truth go before his face. Once they were in awful dread of appearing before him, but now his terror shall not make them afraid. Their longing spirits ardently cry out from time to time, “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God (Psalm 42:1,2).”
“And to the spirits of just men made perfect.” These we understand to be the same as are called the innumerable company of angels. They are the spirits of just men; men who are justified freely, fully and everlastingly, through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ; made perfect by that one offering by which Christ has perfected them that are sanctified; clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness. They were made perfect, they did not make themselves so; for “Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord (Isaiah 54:17).” These are just men, for God hath justified them; they are made perfect, for Christ has forever perfected them. Their bodies may be moldering in their graves, but we are in communion with their spirits; for all being born of the one spirit, there is one body and one spirit, even as we are all called in one hope of our calling. One Lord, one faith and one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. It is in the spirit we commune with them; the flesh profiteth nothing.
“And to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant.” In coming to this heavenly Jerusalem or city of the living God, we come to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant or testament. As Moses was the mediator of the Sinai covenant to the carnal Israelites; for they could not endure the words spoken to them, and prayed that God would speak to Moses, and through him unto them, thus making him a mediator between God and them in the dispensation of the fiery law, so in the new covenant with the spiritual Israel Christ is the Mediator, and all the saints come to him. A mediator is one who mediates between two parties and is qualified to equally represent both; equally allied, related and interested. So Christ as the Son of God on the one part, and as Head over all things to the church, which is his body, on the other, is the only divinely recognized Mediator or Daysman between God and men. “No man can come unto the Father but by me.” As there is but one God, so there is but one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time. We have not time or space here to treat at large upon the mediatorial glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we will briefly speak of him as the Mediator of the new covenant, as it is through his mediation this covenant of life and peace exists, is made, ratified, and ordered in all things and sure. By his mediation for his people the provisions and requisitions of the old covenant are met and canceled, and taken out of the way; for “He taketh away the first that he may establish the second (Hebrews 10:9).” His canceling of the old covenant annulled our marriage with Moses, that by the new covenant we might be lawfully married to Christ our risen Savior, who as the Head and Husband of his church is fully qualified to fulfill all the provisions of the new covenant to the honor of his Father, and perfect safety and salvation of his church. This covenant is in him, through him, and by him. He is the Surety of it, and as Mediator of it stands responsible for the fulfillment of all its promises. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people; I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.” Indeed, all the promises of God are in Christ Jesus, yea, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us. It is in him, through him, and by him as our Mediator that Jehovah is our God, and certainly it is only through him that we are redeemed unto God and recognized as his peculiar people. Through no other mediation is it possible that God should be merciful to our unrighteousness; there was no mercy in the law. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy,” and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; but in the provisions of the new covenant under the mediation of the Son of God, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalm 85:10).” His mediatorial fullness covers and embraces all his official relations to his people as Prophet, Priest and King; Shepherd, Bishop, Elder Brother, Husband, Head, Father, Way, Truth and Life; Leader, Ruler, Savior and Judge. We are not come to Moses to mediate for us, nor to Aaron, nor are we left to the mediation of men, or to attempt the work for ourselves. From all these we are come away, and are come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.
“And to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Answering to the figures of the ceremonial law. “For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinided both the book and all the people saying, This is the blood of the testament (or covenant, which means the same), which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:19-22).” “But 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 for us. 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, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament (Hebrews 9:11-15).” Thus in coming to Christ as the Mediator of the new covenant, we come to the blood of sprinkling, which being the blood of atonement, by which we are purged from dead works and purified from all defilement, it speaketh better things than that of Abel. The voice of Abel’s blood which had been shed by the fratricidal hands of Cain, called from the ground for righteous retribution upon the murderer. But the blood of Christ speaketh better things. It speaks of atonement, of pardon, peace, reconciliation, redemption, cleansing, purification and justification; yea, and of victory through the blood of the Lamb. Thus speaketh the blood of spriniding to which the saints have come. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: grace unto you, and peace be multiplied (I Peter 1:2).” “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 (Hebrews 10:22).” The sprinkling of the blood of victims sacrificed under the law, upon the books and the people, was to consecrate them ceremonially to the Lord. And the sprinkling the blood of the paschal lamb upon the lintel and door-posts of the dwellings of the Hebrews was to them a peaceful assurance of their redemption and deliverance from wrath. The destroying angel had no power to smite them. Even so the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all guilt, and saves from all wrath.
From all these considerations the apostle urges his solemn admonition, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.” If indeed we are come to mount Sion, to the city of the living God, to all these gospel privileges, we should endeavor to walk worthy of the high vocation wherewith we are called.
Middletown, N.Y., August 15, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 6
Pages 76 - 83