Suffering without the Camp
“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” — Hebrews xiii. 12.
IN one sense, sanctification, is wholly the work of the Lord Jesus Christ; but there is another meaning, which is more usually affixed to the term, in which sanctification is rightly described as the work of God the Holy Spirit. Many disputes have arisen concerning this doctrine, because all men do not distinguish between the two meanings of the same word. There is one kind of sanctification which signifies setting apart; and, in that sense, God’s people were sanctified from all eternity. They were sanctified in election, before they had a being, for they were even then set apart from the impure mass, to be vessels of honour meet for the Master’s use. Further, as redemption has in it much of peculiarity and speciality, God’s people were sanctified, or set apart, by the blood of Christ, when on Mount Calvary he offered up himself, an offering without spot or blemish, for the sins of his people. So it is true that Jesus is not only made unto us wisdom and righteousness, but also sanctification.
You will remember that, in one of my recent sermons, the text of which was “Jesus only,” I made the remark that it was “Jesus only” for sanctification; and I have not had any reason to retract that expression; for there is a sense in which sanctification, as far as it means setting apart, is an eternal work, and is a work wholly completed for us by the election of the Father and the blood of Jesus Christ. Still, sanctification sometimes, and most generally, too, signifies another thing; it means the work of the Spirit within us. There is a work which God the Holy Ghost carries on, from the first moment of our spiritual birth, to the last moment when wo are taken to heaven, — a work by which corruptions are overcome, lusts restrained, faith increased, love inflamed, hope brightened, and the spirit made fit to dwell with the glorified above. That is the work of God’s Holy Spirit; yet we must remember that, even though it is the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ even in this still sanctifies his people. For with what does the Holy Spirit sanctify them? Beloved, he sanctifies them with the precious blood of Jesus. We know that, when our Saviour died, his sacrifice had a double object; one object was pardon, the other was cleansing; and both the blood and the water flowed from the same source, to show us that justification and sanctification both spring from the same divine fountain; and, though sanctification is the work of the Spirit in us, yet, to accomplish this purpose, the Holy Spirit uses the sacrificial blood of Jesus, and the sacred water of his atonement applied to our heart, sprinkling us from dead works, and purging us from an evil conscience, that we may serve God without let or hindrance.
So, then, Christian, in thy sanctification, look to Jesus. Remember that the Spirit sanctifies thee, but that he sanctifies thee through Jesus. He doth not sanctify thee through the works of the law, but through the atonement of Christ. And wilt thou therefore remember that, the nearer thou livest to the cross of Jesus, the more of sanctification, and growth, and increase in all spiritual blessings will his Spirit give to thee? So, then, we see that, whatever sanctification may mean, the text is still true: “Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
Let us pause here a minute, and let each of us, as we begin a new year, ask this question, — How far has Christ’s purpose of sanctifying me been answered in my own case? I know that, in one sense, I am completely sanctified; but, in another sense, I still feel my imperfections and infirmities. How far have I progressed in sanctification during the past year? How much has my faith increased during the year? How many of my corruptions have I overcome? How much nearer am I living to Christ, now, than on the first Sabbath of last year? How much do I know of the Saviour? How much closer do I approach in my likeness to him? Have I more power in prayer? Am I more careful in my life? Is my spirit more loving than it used to be? Am I more decisive for that which is right? At the same time, am I more meek in standing up for it? Am I, in all respects, more like my Master than I was a year ago? Or, on the other hand, have I been going backward? Stand still, I cannot; I must either go forward in grace or go backward. Which have I been doing during the past year? And I charge thee, O my heart, whatever answer thou hast to give to these questions, still to remember that, if thou art never so much sanctified, thou hast not yet attained perfection. I beseech thee, forget that which is behind, and press forward toward that which is before, looking still unto Jesus, who is both the Author and the Finisher of faith. The Lord give you so plenteously of his grace that you may be sanctified wholly, body, soul, and spirit; and I pray God to preserve you all unto his coming and glory.
I. But now the principal subject, upon which I wish to discourse, is the fact that JESUS CHRIST SUFFERED WITHOUT THE GATE.
You know that, when the high priest offered the sin-offering, because it typified sin, it was so obnoxious to God that it might not be burned upon the great altar, but it was always burned without the camp, to show God’s detestation of sin, and his determination not only to put it away from himself, but also to put it away from his Church. Now, when our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to be our Sin-offering, it behoved him also to be put outside the camp; and it is very interesting to note how remarkably Providence provided for the fulfilment of the type. Had our Lord been killed in a tumult, he would most likely have been slain in the city; unless he had been put to death judicially, he would not have been taken to the usual Mount of Doom. And it is remarkable that the Romans should have chosen a hill on the outside of the city to be the common place for crucifixion and for punishments by death. We might have imagined that they would have selected some mount in the centre of the city, and that they would have placed their gibbet in as conspicuous a spot as our Newgate, that so it might strike the multitude with the greater awe. But, in the providence of God, it was arranged otherwise. Christ must not be slain in a tumult, he might not die in the city; and when he was delivered into the hands of the Romans, they had not a place of execution within the city, but one outside the camp, that by dying without the gate, he might be proved to be the Sin-offering for his people.
Concerning this great truth, I have one or two remarks to offer to you very briefly. First, I want to ask you a question. Do you know who the people were who lived outside the gate? If you could have gone to the great camp of Israel, you would have seen the tents all placed in order, the standard of Dan there, of Judah there, of Ephraim there, — surrounding the ark of the covenant; but you would have seen a few wretched huts far away in the rear, outside the camp; and if you had asked, “Who lives there? Who are the poor people that are put away from kith and kin, and who cannot go up to the sanctuary of the Lord, to present their offerings unto him, or to join in the songs of praise unto his holy name?” — the answer to your enquiry would have been, “The people out there are lepers and others who are unclean.” And if, in later days, you had walked through some of the shady glens around the city of Jerusalem, you might have heard in the distance the cry, “Unclean! unclean! unclean!” — a bitter wail that sounded like the sighing of despair, as if it came from some poor ghost that had been commanded to walk this earth with restless step for ever. Had you come nearer to the unhappy being, who had uttered so mournful a sound, you would have seen him cover his upper lip, and again cry, “Unclean! unclean! unclean!”— to warn you not to come too near him, lest even the wind should blow infection towards you from his leprous skin. If, for a minute, he had moved his hand from his mouth, you would have seen, instead of those scarlet, ruddy lips of health, which God had originally put there, a terrible white mark not to be distinguished from his teeth. His lips were unclean, for there the leprosy had discovered itself; and, in a minute, he would have again covered up that lip that had the white mark of disease upon it, and again he would have cried, “Unclean! unclean! unclean!”
Of whom was that leper a type? He was a picture of you and me, my brethren, in our natural state; and if the Holy Spirit hath quickened us, and made us to know our ruined condition, we shall feel that the leper’s cry doth well become our unholy lips. Mayhap, I ha.ve, within the walls of this house of prayer, a hearer who is to-day separate from all mankind. With worldlings, he dares not associate any longer; the harlots and others, with whom he spent his living riotously, are not now his companions; he cannot bear their pleasures, for they are dashed with bitterness. With the children of God, he dares not go; he feels that they would put him outside the camp, for he hath no hope, no Christ, no faith; he cannot say that Christ hath died for him; he hath no trust in Jesus, not so much as one pale ray of hope hath stolen into his poor bedarkened heart; and, to-night, the inward wail of his now-aroused spirit is, —
“Unclean! unclean! unclean!
Unclean, and full of sin,
From first to last, O Lord, I’ve been
Deceitful is my heart.”
Leper, leper! be of good cheer; Christ died without the camp, that thou mightest be sanctified through his blood. I see the leper now stealing through the desert places, not daring to sip of the clear stream that lies in his track, lest he should communicate contagion to the next person who drinks from it; but seeking out some filthy puddle, that there he may satisfy his thirst, where no others are likely to drink. I see him covering up his lip. If his father met him, he must run away from him; if the wife of his bosom saw him, she must shun his presence, for a loathsome disease is in his skin, and in his garments; and in the very breath that comes from his lips there is death. Well, suddenly, as he steals along, he sees a cross, and on it lifted up One who is dying. He standeth there astonished; he thinketh that surely he may come near to a dying man, leper though he be; to the living, he must not approach, but to the dying he cannot bring a new death. So he draweth nigh to the cross, and the lips of the dying man are opened, and he says, “Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Oh; what joy and rapture rush through his poor leprous spirit! How his heart, that had long been heavy, and baked like a black coal within him, begins again to burn with lambent light! He smiles, for he feels that that marvellous Man upon the cross has forgiven him all his sins; and ere he has begun to feel it, his leprosy is cleansed, and, soon, he goes his way, for his flesh has come unto him like unto the flesh of a little child, and lie is clean. O leprous sinner, hear this, and believe it for thyself! To-night look unto him who died without the camp, that poor unclean sinners might find a Saviour there.
That is my first lesson from the text; if the Lord the Spirit shall graciously apply it to your souls, it will be a very precious one to many a sin-distracted heart.
But, believer, didst thou never feel as if thou, too, wast unclean, and without the camp? Brethren, let me tell you just a little of my own heart’s feelings, and let me see whether you have ever felt the like. You have often known yourselves to be children of God; I have felt myself, with much joy, to be certainly assured of my interest in Christ; but, suddenly, sin has surprised me, some unhappy propensity has developed itself, and I have felt as if I could not meet my God. When I was on my knees in prayer, I seemed as if I could not pray; I felt like the unclean one that must be put outside the camp, — like Miriam, who, though the leprosy was but for a little time, would still be unclean for seven days. And when I have come to the house of God, I have felt as if the meanest Christians there were so much superior to myself that I would but have been glad to have been a footstool at their feet. I would have crept into any part of the fold, if I might but have known myself to be the meanest lamb in the flock of Jesus. I have 'seen the deacon, and I have seen the church-member, and I have thought, “Brethren, you are happy; but my heart is sad, for I am not worthy to be called God’s son. Father, I have sinned; I have done grievously, and have transgressed against thee.” For a little while, faith hath seemed sluggish, and hope hath been dull, and the sense of sin hath rested on us, and we have seemed to be quite put away from our Lord’s presence. We have read the Bible; but we could get no comfort there. The heavens seemed like brass above our heads; no shower of grace fell upon our thirsty souls; both God and man seemed to put us outside the camp. I believe that, many times, in a Christian’s experience, he will have to feel what I have been describing. I do not mean merely little Christians, but I mean the greatest Christians, those who have lived nearest to their God, those who have been eminent in the Lord’s service, — God’s Aarons and Miriams, who sometimes have to be put without the camp. Who, then, is there amongst us who will not sometimes be unclean? Surely, not any of the great ones of Israel could always live without contracting some ceremonial defilement; for you know that, under the Jewish law, the sitting upon the bed of a leper made a man unclean; and many things that happened to men rendered them unclean for seven days. And who can wonder if, through the infirmities of our bodies, through the companionships into which we are called, through the evil thoughts of our mind, we are often unclean as the Jews were? And who wonders that, sometimes, the Lord should put us, as it were, out of the camp for a little season, till we have been purged with hyssop, and have been made clean, — till we have again been thoroughly purified by the washing of water through the Word?
Ah! but, brethren, what a mercy it is that, when we are outside the gate, Christ is outside the gate, too! O poor backslider! doth thy conscience shut thee out of the Church today? Remember, Christ shut himself out, too. He was “despised and rejected of men.” Dost thou feel, to-night, as it thou couldst not come to his table, — as if thy Master would spurn thee from it? Remember, if thou art his, thou art welcome; for his table is where his cross is, and his cross is outside the gate. Come, sinner! Come, backsliding saint! Come, and welcome! God may seem to have put thee away, but it is only seeming; for we know he has written that he hates to put away. Come, thou, and though thou be without the gate, behold thy Lord, who, “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
II. I have only one more thought to bring before your notice. The apostle says, in the next verse to our text, “Let us go forth, therefore, without the camp, bearing his reproach.” So, AS CHRIST SUFFERED WITHOUT THE CAMP, LET US NOT BE ASHAMED TO SUFFER THERE, TOO.
I do not think much of the religion of that man who is not put without the camp. If thou canst dwell with the wicked, if thou canst live as they live, and be “hail-fellow well met” with the ungodly, if their practices are thy practices, if their pleasures are thy pleasures, then their god is thy god, and thou art one of them. There is no being a Christian without being shut out of the world’s camp. I can scarcely conceive it possible for any man to be a true saint, a holy man, one who is set apart unto God, and sanctified in Christ Jesus, unless he is reproached whilst on earth for being too strict, too Puritanical, mayhap, sometimes too melancholy. There must be a grave distinction between a Christian and a man of the world; and where there is no such distinction, or only a slight one, there is most solemn cause for suspicion that all is not right. When I see a man dress like worldlings, when I hear him talk like worldlings, when I know that all his outward carriage is just like a worldly man’s, when I can detect no difference, when I see no mark of the Lord Jesus upon him, when I can hear no “shibboleth” in his speech, whereby he is to be detected from a sibboleth-speaking world, when I discover no distinction between him and others, then this I know, “God is not mocked;” that, man is in the flesh, and he shall “of the flesh reap corruption.”
Nay, I will go further still. In this age I can scarcely imagine it possible for a man to serve his Master faithfully unless he is sometimes shut out of the camp, even of the Church itself. I do not mean excommunicated, — I mean something far different from that; I mean, that the man, who serves his God aright, will often feel himself left in the minority, even in the Church. It is never his business so to act, and so to think, that others are obliged to differ from him; it is folly to be singular, except where to be singular is to be right; but so lax hath the professing Church become, so low in its doctrine, so light in its experience, and sometimes so unholy in its life, that, to be Christians now, we must be elect out of the elect, — elect out of the Church as well as elect out of the world. What pride, on the one hand; what sloth, on the other; what anger, what distrust, what covetousness, what worldly-mindedness, we constantly see! The most of us are too much mingled with the world, too much joined unto Egypt; and the man who is firm in the faith, and loves his Master well, is a rarity. The man of a loving spirit, the man of a large heart, and yet of a determined zeal, and of a steadfast mind, — such a man will have to go without the camp; and he will have to suffer now, even as all have had to suffer who have dared to go into the front of the sacramental host of God’s elect, in advance of the more tardy followers of the Lamb. If any minister of Christ dares to be too bold, too plain, too honest for the common run of professors, he must expect to be traduced. Let him reckon on that, and let him willingly go forth without the camp, for that is where his Master went before him.
If I turn to the page of history, to find out the best men who ever lived, do you know where I find them? I never find them among those who were called “respectable” in their time. There, in the page of history, I see great names, Erasmus and others, mighty and learned men; but on a dirty-thumbed page, I see the name of Luther associated with such epithets as these: “dog, adulterer, beast,” and everything else that Rome’s malice could suggest; and I say, “All! this is the man whom God chose, for he went without the camp.” That list of great divines, and of schoolmen, and of theologians — you may wipe them all out without much regret; but this man without the camp, he is somebody, depend upon it; he is the man whom God has blessed. Turn to another list of archbishops, bishops, deans, rural deans, rectors, and curates; there they are, all as respectable as possible, and great volumes of their sermons may be found on bookshelves, nowadays, with the dust of years upon them. I read their names; there is one, there is another, there is another; but there is nothing special about any of them. At last, I find a picture by Hogarth, — a caricature of a man preaching, with devils coming out of his mouth, and underneath it written, “Fire and brimstone!” I look at the portrait, and I say, “See, that is Mr. Whitefield.” Ah! there is the man of the age, depend on it; that man, all black, charged with crimes that Sodom never knew; that is the man! Not the curate in the oilier picture, who is preaching to a congregation all asleep; but this man here that is abused, that is laughed at, that is meeked; this is the man who is somebody.
So, you may go on as long as you like, and you shall always find that those “intruders into the ministry,” as some call them, those that the parliament of parsons dislikes, those that the great mass reject, and laugh and scoff at, — those are the very men whom God blesses. So, if you go outside the camp, you will be in very good company. The great and holy men of years gone by have all been put outside the camp. If an ungodly throng have thrust out our fathers, and have said, “Get you gone, we want you not,” it is true, their children build their sepulchres, and then they thrust us out. What if it be so? We are content to share the lot of so goodly a parentage. We think it a high honour to be thrust out of those gates whose only glory is that good men once passed through them, and whose great disgrace is that good men pass through them the wrong way, — not into them, but out of them. So, beloved, be ye content to be cast without the camp.
But mark, going without the camp in itself is nothing; it is suffering without the camp that is the great thing. Malting myself different from everybody else, is nothing; it is suffering for the truth’s sake that is the truly noble thing. It is being crucified with Christ that is honourable. It is not my being a Sectarian or a Separatist, it is not your going outside the camp that is any good; it is your suffering without the camp that proves you to be a believer. O Christians, if ye have to do the same, rejoice! And now, as you come to this communion table, I shall bid you only recollect that word suffered: “Jesus suffered without the gate;” and I shall ask you, as you sit there, to meditate upon that word. Turn it over again and again, and think how his body and his soul all suffered for you. Then, when you have meditated upon that great truth, will you be in a fit frame of mind to commune with him who has sanctified you by his own blood, by suffering without the gate.
May the God of mercies give to sinners grace, that, like lepers without the camp, they may look to Jesus crucified for them, and so obtain eternal life! Amen.