Depths and Heights
“His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of bis 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.” — Hebrews i. 2, 3.
I HAVE nothing to do to-night but to preach Jesus Christ. This was the old subject of the first Christian ministers: “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” When Philip went down to the city of Samaria, he “preached Christ unto them.” When he sat with the Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot, he “preached unto him Jesus.” As soon as Paul was converted, “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues.” For once, we count the venerableness of our subject well worthy of mentioning. We shall not be ashamed to preach what the apostles preached, and what martyrs and confessors preached. We hope to proclaim this glorious gospel of the blessed God as long as we live; and we hope that, when this generation of preachers shall have passed away, unless the Lord shall come, there will be ever found a succession of men who shall determine to preach nothing “save Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
For, after all, this is the subject which men most of all need. They may have cravings after other things, but nothing can satisfy the deep real want of their nature but Jesus Christ and salvation by his precious blood. He is the Bread of life which came down from heaven; he is the Water of life whereof, if a man drink, he shall never thirst again. Hence, it becomes us to be often dwelling upon this theme, for it is most necessary to the sons of men. This is the subject which God the Holy Ghost delights to bless. I am sure that, other things being equal, he honours preaching in proportion to the savour of Christ that is in it. I may preach a great deal about the Church, but the Holy Spirit does not take of the things of Christ to glorify the Church. I may preach doctrine or practice apart from Christ; — that would be giving the husk without the kernel; —but where Jesus Christ sweetens all, and savours all, there will the Holy Spirit delight to rest upon the ministry, and make it quick and powerful to the conversion of men. And I am sure, dear friends, that the preaching of Christ is ever sweet in the ears of his own people. “Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.” And this theme is most pleasing to God the Father, who loves to hear his Son extolled and exalted. He delights in his Son, and those that delight in him are friends of God. When Jesus Christ is lifted up, it is as God the Father would have it, it is as the Holy Ghost would have it; and, where this is the case, we may expect to have seals to our ministry, and souls for our hire.
I want, at this time, as it were, to let Jesus Christ speak for himself. I cannot speak for him as he can speak for himself. Shall I hold my candle to the sun, as if he needed it in order to reveal his light? No, certainly not; and, therefore, I shall, with studied plainness, try to set the text itself before you, and so to speak of it that you may not so much remember what I have said of it as that you may remember the subject itself. My theme is to be the Saviour, — the only Saviour, — the Saviour who must save you, or else you must perish, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” I am about to speak of him, and I think that all who are aware of the necessity of being saved will only want to hear about him, and to know how they may get to him, and how he may be made their Saviour; and if they can but be told this, they will be only too glad to listen.
So, first, I shall speak of who the Saviour is. Let me read the text to you again: “His Son,”— God’s Son, — “whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also 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.” That is who Jesus is. Then, in the second place, I shall speak of what Jesus did: “when he had by himself purged our sins.” Then, thirdly, I want to tell you what he enjoys. After he had finished his great work of salvation, he “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
I. It is not possible that any language can fully express WHO JESUS IS; yet, by the Holy Spirit’s gracious teaching, I must tell you what I know of him.
First, Jesus is God’s own Son. What do I know about that wondrous truth? If I were to try to explain it, and to talk about the eternal filiation, I should but conduct you where I should soon be entirely out of my depth, and very likely I should drown all that I could tell you in floods of words. Deity is not to be explained, but to be adored; and the Sonship of Christ is to be accepted as a truth of revelation, to be apprehended by faith, though it cannot be comprehended by the understanding. There have been many attempts made by the fathers of the Church to explain the relationship between the two Divine Persons, the Father and the Son; but the explanations had better never have been given, fro the figures used are liable to lead into mistake. Suffice it for us to say that, in the most appropriate language of the Nicene Creed, Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” He is co-equal with the Father; though how that is, we know not. He stands in the nearest possible relationship to the Father, — a relationship of intense love and delight, so that the Father says of him, “This is my beloved Son.” Yea, he is one with the Father, so that there is no separating them, as he himself said, in reply to Philip’s request, “Shew us the Father,” “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.”
Let me just pause here, and say to everyone who is seeking salvation, — What a comfort it should be to you that he, who is come to save men, is Divine! Therefore, nothing can be impossible to him. Nay, I do not say merely that he is Divine; I will go further, and say that he is the Deity itself; Christ Jesus is God, and being God, there can be no impossibilities or even difficulties with him. He is able to save you, whoever you may be. Though you have gone to the very verge of eternal ruin, you cannot have gone beyond the range of omnipotence; and omnipotence is inherent in the Godhead. O dear friends, do rejoice in this wondrous truth, he that was a babe at Bethlehem, was God incarnate! He that, being weary, sat on the well at Sychar, was God incarnate. He that had not where to lay his head was God incarnate. And it is he who has undertaken the stupendous labour of the salvation of men; and, therefore, men may hope and trust in him. We need not wonder that, when angels heard of Christ’s coming to earth, they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” for God had taken upon himself human flesh that he might save the sons of men. So, the first words in our text — “His Son” — are full of good cheer.
Now notice, in the next place, that Jesus Christ is the “Heir of all things.” Of which nature of Christ does the apostle speak in this sentence, “whom he hath appointed heir of all things”? I do not think that Paul here separates the two natures, so as to speak with absolute reference to either one or the other; but he speaks of the person of Christ, and in that person there is God, and in that same person there is most surely and most truly man. But we must take this description of Jesus Christ as appointed “Heir of all things” in his person as man, and as God and man combined; for, as God alone, Christ is necessarily “Heir of all things” without any appointment; but in his complex person as God and man conjoined, the Father has appointed him to be “Heir of all things.”
Now, what does this mean but that Christ possesses all things as an heir possesses his inheritance, that Christ is Lord of all things, as an heir becomes lord and ruler among his brethren. This appointment is to be fully carried into effect by-and-by; for, “now we see not yet all things put under him.” Christ is Lord of all the angels; not a seraph spreads his wing except at the bidding of the “Heir of all things.” There are no bright spirits, unknown to us, that are beyond the control of the God-man, Christ Jesus; and the fallen angels, too, are obliged to bow before his omnipotence. As for all things here below, material substances, men regenerate or unregenerate, God has given him power over all flesh that he should give eternal life to as many as his Father has given him. He has put all things under his feet, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” He is Heir, or Master, and Possessor of all things; — let me say, of all sorts of blessings, and all forms of grace, for “it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” and, as surely as time revolves, and you mark the fleeting minutes upon the dial’s face, the hour is coming when Christ shall be universally acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords. Already I seem to hear the shouts go up from every part of the habitable globe, and from all heaven and all space, “Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” All must willingly, or else unwillingly, submit to his sway, for his Father hath appointed him “Heir of all things.”
To my mind, this is another wondrous encouragement to anyone who is seeking salvation. Christ has everything in his hand that is needed in order that he may save you, poor sinner. Sometimes, when a physician has a sick man before him, — suppose it is on board ship, — he may have to say to him, “I think I could cure your disease if I could get such-and-such a medicine; but, unfortunately, I have not the drug within my reach.” Or the doctor might have to say to the sufferer, “I believe an operation would effect a cure, but I have not the instrument that is necessary for it.” Never will the great Physician of souls have to talk like that, for the Father hath committed all things into his hand. Oh, have we not beheld him as the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth? You great sinner, you black sinner, Christ is not lacking in power to save you; and if you come, and trust yourself in his hands, he will never have to look about to find the balm for your wounds, or the ointments or liniments with which to bind up those putrefying sores of yours! No, he is “Heir of all things.” So again I say, “Hallelujah!” as I preach him to you as the blessed Saviour of sinners, the Son of God, the “Heir of all things.”
Notice, next, that Jesus Christ is the Creator: “by whom also he made the worlds.” However many worlds there are, we know not. It may be true that all those majestic orbs that stud the midnight sky are worlds filled with intelligent beings; it is much more easy to believe that they are than that they are not, for, surely, God has not built all those magnificent mansions, and left them untenanted. It were irrational to conceive of those myriads of stupendous worlds, vastly bigger than this poor little speck in God’s great universe, all left without inhabitants. But it matters not how many worlds there are; God made them all by Jesus Christ: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” I see him standing, as it were, at the anvil of omnipotence, hammering out the worlds that fly off, like sparks, on every side at each stroke of his majestic arm. It was Christ who was there, — “the wisdom of God and the power of God,” as Paul calls him, — creating all things. I love to think that he who created all things is also our Saviour, for then he can create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me; and if I need a complete new creation, — as I certainly do, — he is equal to the task. Man cannot create the tiniest midge that ever danced in the summer evening’s ray; man cannot create even a single grain of dust; but Christ created all worlds, so he can make us new creatures by the wondrous power of his grace. O sinners, see what a mighty Saviour has been provided for you, and never say that you cannot trust him! I agree with good Mr. Hyatt who, when he was asked on his death-bed, “Can you trust Christ with your soul?” answered, “If I had a million souls, I could trust them all with him” And so may you; if you had as many souls as God has ever created, and if you had heaped upon you all the sins that men have ever committed, you might still trust in him who is the Son of God, “whom he hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”
Now go a little further, and see what Christ is next called: the brightness of his Father’s glory. Shade your eyes, for you cannot look upon this wondrous sight without being dazzled by it. The Revised Version renders it, “the effulgence of his glory;” but I do not see much more in that expression than in the word “brightness.” Some commentators say — and it is not an ill figure, yet we must not push any figure too far, — that, as light is to the sun, so is Jesus to the glory of God. He is the brightness of that glory; that is to say, there is not any glory in God but what is also in Christ: and when that glory reaches its climax, when God the Ever-glorious is most glorious, that greatest glory is in Christ. Oh, this wondrous Word of God, — the very climax of the Godhead, — the gathering up of every blessed attribute in all its infinity of glory! You shall find all this in the person of the God-man, Christ Jesus. There is a whole sermon in those words, “the brightness of his glory;” but I cannot preach it to-night, because then I should not get through the rest of my text.
So let us pass on to the next clause: “and the express image of his person.” I said, a minute ago, “Shade your eyes;” but I might now say, “Shut them,” as I think of the excessive brilliance described by these words: “the express image of his person.” Whatever God is, Christ is; the very likeness of God, the very Godhead of Godhead, the very Deity of Deity, is in Christ Jesus: “the express image of his person.” Dr. John Owen, who loves to explain the spiritual meaning in the Epistle to the Hebrews by the types in the Old Testament, — which is evidently what Paul himself was doing, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, — explains the brightness of the Father’s glory by a reference to the Shekinah over the mercy-seat, which was the only visible token of the presence of God there. An extraordinary brightness is said to have shone forth from between the cherubim. Now, Christ is God manifesting himself in his brightness. But, on his forehead, the high priest wore a golden plate, upon which was deeply engraven, in Hebrew letters, the inscription, “Holiness to [or of] Jehovah.” Dr. Owen thinks there is a reference, in this “express image of his person,” — this cut-out inscription of God, as it were, — to that which was on the forehead of the high priest, and which represented the glorious wholeness or holiness of Jehovah, which is his great glory. Well, whether the apostle referred to this or not, it is for you and me to take off our shoes from our feet in the presence of Christ, “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” To me, these words are like the bush in which God dwelt, yet which, was not consumed, they are all on fire; what more shall I say of them?
Now, Christ being all this that Paul describes, who will dare to turn his back on him? If this be the Shepherd who has come to seek the lost sheep, — O poor lost sheep, wilt thou not be found of him? If this be God’s Ambassador, who comes, clothed in the crimson robe of his own blood, to redeem the sons of men, who will refuse the peace he brings?
Note yet once again what Christ is, as I mention the sixth point in the apostle’s description: “upholding all things by the word of his power.” Just think of it This great world of ours is upheld by Christ’s word. If he did not speak it into continued existence, it would go back into the nothingness from whence it sprang. There exists not a being who is independent of the Mediator, save only the ever-blessed Father and the Spirit. “By him all things consist,” that is, continue to hold together. Just as these pillars uphold these galleries, or as the foundations uphold a house, so does Jesus Christ “uphold all things by the word of his power.” Only think of it; those innumerable worlds of light that make illimitable space to look as though it were sprinkled over with golden dust, would all die out, like so many expiring sparks, and cease to be, if the Christ who died on Calvary did not will that they should continue to exist. I cannot bring out of my text all the wondrous truths that it contains, I only wish I could; but, surely, if Christ upholds all things, he can uphold me. If the word of his power upholds earth and heaven, surely, that same word can uphold you, poor trembling heart, if you will trust him. There need be no fear about that matter; come and prove it for yourself. May his blessed Spirit enable you to do so even now!
Where there is so much sea-room, I might well tarry, but I must hasten on to the next point.
II. Follow me with all your ears and hearts while I now speak to you about WHAT JESUS DID.
He who is all that I have tried to describe, did what? First, he effectually purged our sins: “when he had by himself purged our sins.” Listen to those wondrous words. There was never such a task as that since time began. The old fable speaks of the Augean stable, foul enough to have poisoned a nation, which Hercules cleansed; but our sins were fouler than that. Dunghills are sweet compared with these abominations; what a degrading task it seems for Christ to undertake, — the purging, of our sins! The sweepers of the streets, the scullions of the kitchen, the cleansers of the sewers, have honourable work compared with this of purging sin. Yet the holy Christ, incapable of sin, stooped to purge our sins. I want you to meditate upon that wondrous work; and to remember that he did it before he went back to heaven. Is it not a wonderful thing that Christ purged our sins even before we had committed them? There they stood, before the sight of God, as already existent in all their hideousness; but Christ came, and purged them. This, surely, ought to make us sing the song of songs. Before I sinned, he purged my sins away; singular and strange as it is, yet it is so.
Then, further, the apostle says that Christ purged our sins by himself; that is, by offering himself as our Substitute. There was no purging away of sin, except by Christ bearing the burden of it, and he did bear it. He bore all that was due to guilty man on account of his violation of the law of God, and God accepted his sacrifice as a full equivalent, and so he purged our sins. He did not come to do something by which our sins might be purged, but he purged them effectually, actually, really, completely. How did he do it? By his preaching? By his doctrine? By his Spirit? No “By himself.” Oh, that is a blessed word! The Revised Version has left it out, but the doctrine is taught in the Bible over and over again. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” “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?” He gave himself for us; not only his blood, but all that constituted himself, his Godhead, and his manhood. All that he had, and all that he was, he gave as the ransom price for us; can any of you estimate the value of that price? The acts of one, Divine as he is, are Divine actions; and there is a weight and force about them that there could not be about the deeds of the best of men or even of all the holy angels: “he by himself purged our sins.”
Now, let every believer, if he wants to see his sins, stand on tiptoe, and look up; will he see them there? No. If he looks down, will he see them there? No. If he looks round, will he see them there? No. If he looks within, will he see them there? No. Where shall he look, then? Where he likes, for he will never see them again, according to that ancient promise, “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” Shall I tell you where your sins are? Christ purged them, and God said, “I will cast all their sins behind my back.” Where is that? All things are before God. I do not know where behind God’s back can be. It is nowhere, for God is everywhere present, seeing everything. So that is where my sins have. gone; I speak with the utmost reverence when I say that they have gone where Jehovah himself can never see them. Christ has so purged them that they have ceased to be. The Messiah came to finish transgression, and to make an end of sin, and he has done it.
O believer, if he has made an end of it, then there is an end to it, and what more can there be of it? Here is a blessed text for you; I love to meditate on it often when I am alone: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” This lie did on Calvary’s cross; there effectually, finally, totally, completely, eternally, he purged all his people from their sin by taking it upon himself, bearing all its dreadful consequences, cancelling and blotting it out, casting it into the depths of the sea, and putting it away for ever; and all this he did “by himself” It was indeed amazing love that made him stoop to this purgation, this expiation, this atonement for sin; but, because he was who and what he was, he did it thoroughly, perfectly. He said, “It is finished,” and I believe him. I do not — I cannot — for a moment admit that there is anything to be done by us to complete that work, or anything required of us to make the annihilation of our sins complete. Those for whom Christ died are cleansed from all their guilt, and they may go their way in peace. He was made a curse for us, and there is nothing but blessing left for us to enjoy.
III. Now, lastly, I have to speak of WHAT CHRIST NOW ENJOYS: “When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Here again I shall have to say that I am quite out of my depth; I have waters to swim in, but I am not a good swimmer in such blessed deeps as these.
There is an allusion here, no doubt, to the high priest who, on the great day of atonement, when the sacrifice had been offered, presented himself before God. Now Christ, our great High Priest, having, once for all, offered himself as the sacrifice for sin, has now gone into the most holy place, and there he sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Notice, first, that this implies rest. When the high priest went within the veil, he did not sit down. He stood, with holy trembling, bearing the sacrificial blood, before the blazing mercy-seat; but our Saviour now sits at his Father’s right hand. The high priest of old had not finished his work; the next year, another atoning sacrifice would be needed; but our Lord has completed his atonement, and now, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,” for there remaineth no more sin to be purged. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” There he sits, and I am sure he would not be sitting if he had not finished the salvation of his people. Isaiah long before had been inspired to record what the Messiah would say, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” But Christ is resting now; my eye, by faith, can see him sitting there, so I know that —
“Love’s redeeming work is done;
Fought the fight, the battle won.”
Notice, next, that Christ sits in the place of honour; “on the right hand of the Majesty on high” Of course, we are talking figuratively now, and you must not interpret this literally. Jesus sits on the right hand of his Father, he dwells in the highest conceivable honour and dignity. All the angels worship him, and all the blood-washed host adore him day without night. The Father delights to honour him.
“The highest place that heaven affords
Is his, is his by right,
The King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And heaven’s eternal light.”
Not only does Jesus sit in the place of honour, but he occupies the place of safety. None can hurt him now; none can stay his purposes, or defeat his will. He is at the powerful right hand of God. In heaven above, and on the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, and on every star, he is supreme Lord and Master; and they that will not yield to him shall be broken with a rod of iron, he shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. So his cause is safe; his kingdom is secure, for he is at the right hand of power.
And, last of all, Christ at the right hand of God signifies the eternal certainty of his reward. It is not possible that he should be robbed of the purchase of his blood. I tremble when I hear some people talk about the disappointed Christ, — or about his having died at a peradventure, to accomplish he knew not what, — dying for something which the will of man might give him if it would, but it might possibly be denied him. I buy nothing on such terms as that, I expect to have what I purchase; and Christ will have what he bought with his own blood; especially as he lives again to claim his purchase. He shall never be a defeated and disappointed Saviour. “He loved the church, and gave himself for it;” he hath redeemed his loved ones from among men; and he shall have all those whom he has purchased. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied;” therefore, let us again say, “Hallelujah!” and fall down and worship him.
It does seem to me that there is no proof of men’s natural blindness that is so conclusive as this, that men will not go and trust in Jesus. O sinners, if sin had left you sane in heart, you would come at once, and fall down at his feet! There is all power laid up in Jesus, and there is all the Father’s love concentrated in Jesus; so come and trust him. If you will but trust him, you will prove that he has given himself for you. That simple trust is the secret mark that distinguishes his people from all others. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” To those who rejected him when he was upon the earth, our Lord said, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” O poor souls, do you mean for ever to wear the damning mark of unbelief? If you die with that brand upon your soul, you will be lost for ever. Oh, may you have, instead, that blessed mark of faith which is the token of the Lord’s people! May you even now hang out the scarlet line as Rahab hung it out of her window, — the scarlet line of confidence in the crimson blood of Jesus! And while Jericho falls, — while all the earth shall crumble in one common ruin, — your house, though built upon the wall, shall stand securely, and not one who is within its shelter shall be touched by the devouring sword, for all who are m Christ are in everlasting safety. How can they be otherwise, since he has purged their sins? God give to every one of you to have a part and lot among this blessed company, for his dear name’s sake! Amen.