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world has not changed its character. Shall we not leave them and go to Him, though on His cross? There He is, cast out of the holy city, as unworthy even to die within its walls! But who is this hanging on the tree of shame and agony? A man approved of God—the Holy One and the Just. And He is wounded for our transgressions, He is bruised for our iniquities. He is undergoing the chastisement of our peace. He has borne our sins, our liabilities, in His body to that tree; and He will leave them there, no more to burden either Him or us. Shall we then seek to secure and enjoy the wealth, and honours, and pleasures of the world, by remaining among His murderers ? Shall we not leave the city, and take our place by the Saviour's cross ? Would it be anything unreasonable that, in support of His cause, we should be required to be crucified for Him who was crucified for us? Our hearts are not in the right place if we are not prepared for this, should this be required of us. The period for exertion and suffering in His cause will soon
Here we have no continuing city ; this is not our home. But we have a home. He has prepared for us a city—a stable residence, where we shall dwell for ever with Him. Let us be habitually seeking that city to come. It has foundations, and its builder and maker is God. Strengthened by the spiritual provision of which we have been discoursing, let us prosecute our pilgrimage, leaving every day the world, the city of destruction, more and more behind us, and drawing nearer and nearer that city of the living God of which we have become denizens—the citizens of no mean city, the freedom of which has been obtained for us at great price, not of corruptible things, as silver and gold, but of blood—the blood of a sacrifice —the sacrifice of the Son of God. And while moving onward and upward, let us through Him, our great High Priest, who offered for us Himself as the great, the only efficacious, atoning sacrifice, offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name; and in the ordinary duties of life, as well as in the solemn ordinances of religion, let us present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is reasonable service. This is rational worship.
THE GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP.
HEB. XIII. 20, 21.—"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
It has often been remarked, that one of the best methods that a teacher of morals can adopt for securing the desired practical effect of his instructions on the conduct of others, is to exemplify them in his own. Recommendations, however urgent, are not likely to be complied with, or indeed 'attended to, which are habitually disregarded by him who gives them. On the other hand, exemplified precept is calculated to serve the double purpose of direction and of motive. We find the Apostle adopting this plan, with reference to the duty of mutual intercession, in the passage which now lies before us for illustration. He had just been requesting an interest in the prayers of the Hebrew Christians : “ Brethren, pray for us ;” and he immediately proceeds to show that they had an interest in his. He asks them to do nothing for him, but what he himself does for them. He requests from them only what he was ready to give to them. It is as if he had said, · Brethren, pray for pray for you.' And what is his prayer? It is a brief, but a most comprehensive one. “ Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working
you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
This sublime prayer, which is to form the subject of our
discourse, well deserves, and will richly reward, our most considerate attention. It is full of instruction-full of consolation. “A glorious prayer it is,” says Dr Owen, “ enclosing the whole mystery of divine grace in its original, and in the way of its communication by Jesus Christ.” It divides itself into three parts, to which, in succession, your attention shall be directed: The ADDRESS ; the PETITION ; the DOXOLOGY. The prayer is addressed to God, the only proper object of prayer, as the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” The petition presented to this God of peace is, that He would make the Hebrew Christians “perfect in every good work to do His will, working in them that which was well-pleasing in His sight, through Christ Jesus." And the doxology is contained in these words : “ To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
I. Let us then, in the first place, consider the address of the prayer, or, in other words, inquire into the import of the appellation here given to the great object of prayer,
.« The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant."
Before, however, we enter on this inquiry, it will be proper that we endeavour to settle a question respecting the proper construction of the clause, “ through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” the determination of which materially affects the meaning of the passage. These words may be connected with the clause, “ brought again from the dead,” or with the dignified title here given to our Lord—“ the great Shepherd of the sheep;” or finally, with the prayer that God would make the Hebrew Christians “ perfect in every good work to do His will.” A good sense may be brought out of the words according to any of these modes of connecting them. In the first case, they teach us that it was in consequence of, in reward of
, our Lord Jesus shedding His blood, as the sacrifice by which the everlasting covenant was confirmed, that God raised Him from the dead. In the second case, they teach us that our Lord became the great Shepherd of the sheep by the shedding of this blood of the everlasting covenant. And in the third case, they teach us that the perfecting men in every good work to do
God's will, -i.e., all divine influence and operation necessary to the sanctification of men,-are the result of the shedding of this blood. These are three important truths, all of them clearly revealed in other portions of the New Testament revelation. Looking merely at the words of the original, I would be disposed to say that the last mode of interpretation is the least probable, if not altogether inadmissible; and that, of the two others, the second seems at first sight the more natural mode of connecting the clause, bringing out this idea, that Christ became the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the everlasting covenant; that is, in plain words, that He obtained for Himself that
peculiar property in, and supreme authority over, the Church of redeemed men, which is indicated by the appellation great Shepherd of the sheep." Yet when I consider, that though it is most true that Christ purchased the Church with His own blood, and was exalted in consequence of His expiatory sufferings as Head over all things to His body, which is the Church, “ the fulness of Him who filleth all in all,” He yet in the days of His flesh takes to Himself the appellation of the Good Shepherd, and that it was as the Good Shepherd—in the discharge of the duties rising out of this character—that He laid down His life for the sheep, it appears to me more probable that it is the first method of connecting the clause which brings out the Apostle's true meaning; and that he intends to represent our Lord's resurrection from the dead as having been effected by the God of peace through the blood of the everlasting covenant. What is the precise import, will, we trust, become apparent in the course of our illustrations.
Having thus endeavoured to settle the question of construction, let us now proceed to the exposition of the appellation here given to the object of prayer. In order to bring out distinctly the different thoughts in their natural connection, contained in such a complicated form of expression as that now before us, it is often found advisable to reverse, or at any rate considerably to alter, the order in which they stand. The following are the thoughts involved in these words, in what appears to be their natural order :-Jesus Christ our Lord is the great Shepherd of the sheep. As the great Shepherd of the sheep, He submitted to death. As the great Shepherd of the sheep, He has been brought from the dead by God. When