iv. Interpretation It has been already observed in the course of the notes that the writer of the Epistle everywhere assumes that there is a spiritual meaning in the whole record of the Old Testament. This deeper sense is recognised in the history both personal (Heb. 7:1 ff.) and national (4:1 ff.): in the Mosaic ritual (9:8): in the experience of typical characters (2:13 note); and in the general teaching (2:6 ff.). Every detail in the record is treated as significant; and even the silence of the narrative suggests important thoughts (7:3).
Generally it may be said that Christ and the Christian dispensation are regarded as the one end to which the Old Testament points and in which it finds its complete accomplishment, not as though the Gospel were the answer to the riddle of the Law (as is taught in the Letter of Barnabas: see Introd. § XIII.), but as being the consummation in life of that which was prepared in life. Those therefore who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, when they realised His Nature, could not fail to see that He had abrogated the outward system of Judaism by fulfilling it.
It follows that the historical truth of the Scriptural records is everywhere guarded, but the recorded facts are treated as ‘signs,’ and the believer is led to see in them a fuller meaning as the course of life is unfolded. The records are not changed, but men are changed by gaining deeper insight into nature and history.
The use which the author makes of Holy Scripture is, in other words, not dialectic or rhetorical, but interpretative. The quotations are not brought forward in order to prove anything, but to indicate the correspondences which exist between the several stages in the fulfilment of the divine purpose from age to age. The Christian faith is assumed, and on this assumption the Hebrews are taught to recognise in the Old Testament the foreshadowings of that growing purpose which the Gospel completes and crowns. This being so, the object of the writer is not to shew that Jesus fulfils the idea of the Christ, and that the Christian Church fulfils the idea of Israel, but, taking this for granted, to mark the relation in which the Gospel stands to the Mosaic system, as part of one divine whole. Looking back therefore over the course of the divine discipline of humanity, outlined in the Old Testament, he indicates how Christ, Lawgiver and Priest, fulfilled perfectly the offices which Moses (Heb. 3), Aaron (ch. 5) and Melchizedek (ch. 7) held in typical and transitory forms; and yet more than this, how as Man He fulfilled the destiny of fallen man through suffering (ch. 2). In regard to God, the whole history of the Bible is, according to the teaching of the Apostle, a revelation of the progress of the unchanging method of salvation through which creation is carried to its issue. In regard to man, it is a revelation of the necessity and the power of faith, by which he attains to a realisation of the eternal and the unseen, through suffering and failure, in fellowship with the Christ (Heb. 11:26).
These general remarks require to be justified in somewhat fuller detail. The affirmation of the correspondence of the many stages of life according to that which we speak of as the divine plan contains, as has been already said, the principle which regulates the whole interpretation of Scripture in the Epistle. This principle is plainly laid down in the opening words which announce that there is a divine education of the world. Little by little men are brought to the end for which they were designed, now in one way and now in another. The final revelation in Him Who is Son was preceded by other revelations in many parts and in many modes. From the first, in our language of time, there was an end answering to the beginning: a consummation answering to creation: a destiny of humanity answering to its nature. God appointed His Son heir of all things, through Whom He also made the world. In Scripture then we are taught to see how the Son—Son of God and Son of man—reached His heritage in spite of the self-assertion of man whose nature He took to Himself.
1. The significant connexion in which the writer of the Epistle places the fulfilment of man's destiny with the record of creation suggests a most pregnant figure of the purpose of God for the being whom He made in His own image (Gen. 1:27). God promised to man ‘to enter into His (own) rest’ (Ps. 95:11). The rest of God is symbolised by that ‘Sabbath’ which followed the Hexaemeron (Gen. 2:1-3). Nothing therefore less than such a rest of communion with God can satisfy the capacity of man. Each partial and limited rest points forward to that which is more complete and more farreaching. Each promise fulfilled brings the sense of a larger promise. The promises connected with the possession of Canaan (for example) quickened a hope of far greater blessings than the actual possession gave (Gen. 17:8; Lev. 26:4-12; comp. 1 Cor. 10:1 ff.). And we are constrained still to say, whatever may have been attained: there remaineth a Sabbath-rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9) But this ‘Sabbath-rest,’ the ‘rest of God,’ can only be enjoyed by those who, as the issue of their discipline, have gained the divine ‘likeness’ (Gen. 1:26). In this condition therefore is involved the necessity for the long education of the world, of which the Old Testament is the comprehensive summary.
Meanwhile, during the time of growth, of education, of training, of discipline, there remain for the support and for the guidance of men the two thoughts of ‘the inheritance,’ and of ‘the promise.’ The idea of ‘inheritance’ is that of possession marked by the fulness of right which rests upon the personal position of the heir. Because the heir is what he is, he vindicates his right to that which he claims or holds (compare Additional Note on Heb. 6:12).
The heirship of man to the divine blessing answering to his nature is founded on God's purpose in creation, on the gift of His image with the power of attaining to His likeness. But we are conscious of disorder and corruption. We shrink from that holy Presence in which alone is perfect rest. We lack the qualification of heirs. The normal growth of man into the divine likeness has been interrupted. Hence, lest it should seem that the divine destiny of man had been made void by man's self-will, it has been confirmed by the promise in which God has repeated His counsel of love (4:1; 6:13 ff.; 7:6; 8:6; 9:15; 10:23, 36; 11:9, 11, 17; 12:26).
This promise confirming the heirship carries with it the certainty of final victory (1:13; 10:13, 36 f.).
2. The fulfilment of the divine purpose for man necessarily required a long preparation. Even if he had not fallen he would have needed the discipline of life to reach the divine likeness through a free moral growth. The sinless Son of man ‘learnt obedience’ (5:8). As it is, the necessity of discipline is twofold. Divine gifts have to be exercised: and human failures have to be repaired. The capacities and needs of man have to be revealed and satisfied. Thus the purpose of God for man indicated in creation is wrought out in two ways, by that which we may speak of as a natural growth through the unfolding of the life of the nations, and by a special discipline. Both elements are recognised in the Epistle. Melchizedek is set forth as the representative of the natural growth of man in fellowship with the Divine Spirit. The revelation to Israel (the ‘Law’) is interpreted as the special preparation and foreshadowing of a fellowship of man with God, in spite of sin and death.
(a) The appearance of Melchizedek is of deep interest from the point which he occupies in the religious history of the world. ‘The King of Salem,’ ‘the Priest of the Most High God’ comes forward suddenly at a time of decisive change (Gen. 14:17 ff.), and then he passes away from the record of Scripture. His name does not occur again in the O. T. except in the phrase of the Psalm which is quoted by the writer of the Epistle (Ps. 110:4); and he is mentioned in the New Testament only in this Epistle. But the significance of his single appearance is unmistakeable. He stands out as the representative of the original revelation, of the primitive and normal relation of God and man, still preserved pure in some isolated tribe. He is a high-priest, so to speak, of men, of humanity, and not of a chosen race. He does not derive his office, so far as the record shews, from any special appointment. He is, as he appears in the history of revelation, ‘without father, without mother, without genealogy’ (Heb. 7:3). In him also civil and religious life appear in their true unity, as they must be finally united (comp. Zech. 6:13). Abraham marks a new departure, the beginning of a new discipline resting on a personal call (Gen. 12:1). Experience had shewn (Gen. 11) that the natural development of the divine life had been fatally interrupted. ‘But before the fresh order is established we have a vision of the old in its superior majesty; and this on the eve of disappearance gives its blessing to the new. So the past and the future meet, the one bearing witness to an original communion of God and man which had been practically lost, the other pointing forward to a future fellowship to be established permanently without the possibility of loss. At the same time the name of the God of the former revelation and of the God of the later revelation are set side by side, and identified (Gen. 14:22; comp. Deut. 32:8 f.).’ (p. 199; Additional Note on Heb. 7:1.)
(b) But it is on the special revelation of God through Israel and the Christ that the writer of the Epistle chiefly dwells. This falls into two great divisions, corresponding essentially with the two ‘ages’ which sum up for us the divine history of the world, ‘this age’ (‘these days’) and ‘the age to come’ (6:5). God spake ‘in the prophets’ and then ‘at the end of these days,’ at the close of the first age, He spake in Him who is Son (1:1, 2a).
(a) The special preparatory revelation of God is described in words which cannot be quoted too often: polumerw'" kai; polutrovpw" pavlai oJ qeo;" lalhvsa" toi'" patravsin ejn toi'" profhvtai"...(ejlavlhsen hJmi'n...); and it is of interest to notice that in his main argument the writer dwells by name on the three men who mark the three great epochs in the divine history, Abraham (6:13; 7:1 ff.), Moses (3:2 ff.; 7:14; 8:5; 9:19; 10:28; 12:21), and David (4:7); while in his outline of the victories of faith he continues the record through the primitive fathers of mankind, the Patriarchs, the Lawgiver and the Conqueror, the Judges, the Prophets, to the heroes of a later age in the last great struggle against heathen tyranny (11:35).
Thus the Epistle brings out clearly step by step that the advance towards the realisation of the inheritance of the promises is made through long-suffering and faith (6:12). Or, to put the truth in another light, the teaching of the O. T. as a whole is a perpetual looking forward. Under the symbols of earth spiritual thoughts are indicated. Canaan becomes as it were, a sacrament of the Divine Presence and Indwelling (Heb. 4:8 f.; Lev. 26:4-12): the Kingdom, a Sacrament of a Divine Sovereignty. Compare Heb. 11:13, 26, 39 f.; Matt. 5:5; 25:34; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:9.
(b) The final revelation ejn uiJw'/—in Him who is not prophet only but Son—is recognised at once in its essential completeness and in its progressive unfolding to men according to their power of apprehension. God ‘spake’ (ejlavlhsen) with one absolute message on the verge of the New Order (Heb. 1:2), and He speaks still from heaven (12:25), not to give any new gospel but to guide men to the fuller understanding of that which they have received. In this sense the old words ‘to-day if ye will hear His voice’ have a direct application to Christians in every age (3:15), especially if it be a period of outward change. There is danger still lest a natural reverence for the Old should deprive believers of sympathetic sensibility for fresh visions of the one Truth.
In this comprehensive view of the whole course of revelation the writer necessarily dwells almost exclusively upon the past. He does not attempt to trace the future action of the powers of the world to come which he has realised: it is enough to point out how the divine end, the coming of the new age, was reached. This history offers a figure of that which, as we may expect, still awaits us. Looking back we can see, written for our instruction, how God was pleased to use for the fulfilment of His will both the society and the individual, and how He endowed both in due measure with the gifts of the Spirit. We recognise in the revelation which is recorded in the Old Testament the work of the Messianic nation, ‘the people of God, the Church’ (Ex. 19:5 f.), and the work of the personal Messiah, typified on the one side by the Davidic king and on the other side by the afflicted and faithful servant of the Lord (comp. Jer. 32:16; 23:6). Both factors in the accomplishment of the counsel of God must be taken into account. Both are marked in their main outlines in the Epistle.
(a) In dealing with the work of the Messianic nation the writer of the Epistle emphasises the three great stages in the determination of their privileges and their office: i. The original promise; ii. The discipline of the Law; iii. The new promise. These three crises mark three special forms of the Divine Covenant (Dispensation), by which God has been pleased to enter into a living fellowship with His people, the Covenant of grace, the Covenant of works, and the final Covenant of divine fellowship based on perfect knowledge and sympathy (for diaqhvkh see Heb. 7:22 note).
i. The promise to Abraham is given in its final form, when it was repeated ‘with an oath’ after the surrender of Isaac (Heb. 6:13). Only the first clause is quoted, but the whole is necessarily carried with it. In 11:8 ff. the salient points in Abraham's life of faith are noticed, and the great end for which he looked: the city that hath the foundations. It was for this the nation was to be disciplined.
ii. But it is natural that the writer should speak chiefly of the Law, as moulding day by day the religious life of the Israelite; and specially, in view of the failures of men, he seeks to interpret the Levitical ritual as a provisional system for atonement. The Tabernacle with its characteristic institutions, divisions, limited approaches to God, was a parable he says for the time now present (9:9). It had lessons to teach. It witnessed to the needs of men; and yet the whole ritual which it embodied could not reach beyond the outward and visible (9:10, 13). Thus we see in the Epistle that the Levitical system discharged a two-fold office. It had an educational value, as enforcing the great thoughts of Judaism; and it had also an immediate value, as dealing under the conditions of the Mosaic Covenant with the sins and weaknesses of the people of God.
The latter function of the Law has been already touched upon in considering the provision which was made by the Levitical sacrifices for maintaining and restoring the outward divine fellowship with which it corresponded (p. 288).
The educational value of the Levitical system is affirmed in the Epistle both in respect of its general character (8:5; 9:24), and even in details (9:21, 23). As a ‘copy’ (uJpovdeigma) it could not but carry the thoughts of the devout worshipper to the archetype: as ‘a shadow’ it suggested the reality to which it bore witness. The ordinances testified with eloquent insistence to the two central facts of man's inner life, that he is constrained to draw near to God, and that he has no free access to Him. In other words they kept before the faithful Israelite the essential conceptions of man's destiny and man's sin.
These thoughts were brought out especially by the institutions of the priesthood and the offerings. In both there was a recognition at once of a fundamental need of human life, and of the inadequacy of the manner in which it was met. The priests themselves had no inherent right to the privilege which they were allowed to exercise. They had no personal fitness for approach to the Divine Presence (7:27); and they had no continuance in the exercise of their office (7:23). The living offerings again were both irrational and involuntary (10:4), and alien in nature from those whom they represented. At the same time priests and offerings were fitted to keep alive the sense of an ideal Son of man who should ‘walk with God’ according to the purpose of creation, and of a perfect sacrifice rendered in the glad obedience of life and death under the actual circumstances of humanity (7:16; 10:5 ff.).
The ‘Law’ is thus presented, according to St Paul's image, as the ‘tutor’ (paidagwgov") appointed to lead men to Christ (Gal. 3:24; comp. 1 Cor. 4:15) unto the freedom of mature life; to deepen the feeling of God's righteousness and man's sin, and at the same time to suggest the thought of forgiveness, through which that which was ‘naturally’ impossible was to be reached in due time, when a new Melchizedek once more in the dignity of a true manhood united for ever the elements of the fulness of life in one Person, as Priest and King.
iii. This consummation was brought emphatically before Israel in a second promise when their first hopes had failed most signally. Looking out on national disruption, overthrow, captivity, the prophet declared that the purpose of God had not failed; that a new Covenant would be established on grace and not on law, spiritual and not external, uniformly efficacious, bringing a complete forgiveness (Heb. 8:7 ff.). So at last Israel was to fulfil its priestly work for the nations to which it was called (Lev. 19:2), and which for a time it could not face (Ex. 20:19; Deut. 5:28).
The comprehensiveness of the references to the record of the revelation in the Old Testament will appear in a tabular arrangement.
i. The original promise. The Covenant of grace. Abraham: the Patriarchs.
(a) Abraham. Gen. 22:16 f. (comp. Heb. 12:3; 13:15 ff.; 17:4 ff.): Heb. 6:13 ff.; 11:8 ff.; Gen. 21:12; Heb. 11:18. Comp. Gen. 23:4; Heb. 11:13. Abraham offers an example of faith in self-surrender (11:8), patience (9 f.), influence (11 ff.), looking beyond the outward (9 ff.) and through death (17 ff.).
(b) The patriarchs, to whom the promise was repeated, shewed Abraham's faith (11:9, 20 ff.).
More was implied in the promise than Abraham obtained (6:17, 15).
Hence the full force of ‘a seed of Abraham’ (2:16 note).
ii. The Law. The Covenant of works. Moses: Joshua.
(a) The circumstances of the history.
(1) The lessons of the Exodus. Ps. 95:7 ff.; Heb. 3:7 ff.; 4:1 ff.
A continuous revelation bringing with it a continuous trial (‘to-day’).
(2) The giving of the Law. Ex. 19:12 f.; Deut. 4:11 f.; Heb. 12:18 ff.
The awfulness of revelation. Physical terrors symbols of the spiritual. Comp. Deut. 32:35 f.; Heb. 10:30.
(2) The Service. The Day of Atonement. ‘The Day.’ Lev. 16; Heb. 6:19; 9:12 f.; 28; 10:4; 13:11, 13.
Essentially provisional, representative, transitory.
iii. The later promise. The Covenant of Divine Fellowship.
(a) The promise. Jer. 31:31 ff.; Heb. 8:8 ff.; 10:15.
Forgiveness. Personal knowledge of God.
(b) The conditions. Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:26 ff.
The eternal revealed through the removal of the temporal.
All the quotations are peculiar to the Epistle except those referring to the promise to Abraham.
Throughout it will be noticed that the words quoted are hints sufficient to recal to the reader the main thoughts of the passages referred to.
(b) The fulfilment of the great prophetic promise of a dispensation of divine fellowship leads to the thought of the work of the personal Messiah. The nation is gathered up in its perfect representative: the ‘seed’ (many pl.) in the one ‘seed’ (sing.) (Gal. 3:16 and Bp Lightfoot's note; 28 f. ei|"; Matt. 2:15; for the history of the word ‘Christ’ see Addit. Note on 1 John 5:1).
The personal Messiah is presented in the Epistle with singular completeness of portraiture. In no other Book of the New Testament is He shewn with equal fulness of delineation; and each trait is connected with some preparatory sign in the Old Testament. In Him, as has been already indicated in part (Additional Note on Heb. 2:13), i. The Divine Son, ii. The Divine King, iii. The manifestation of God, iv. The Priest-King, v. The true Man, are perfectly united. He is all, satisfying every hope and every claim, without change or loss.
i. The Divine Sonship of Christ is proclaimed at the beginning of the Epistle. By this He is distinguished from all earlier messengers of the will of God, and that in respect of His work for man and of His work for God (2:2), of His priesthood and of His sovereignty.
ii. As Son in this unique sense Christ satisfies all the expectations which were stirred by the glory of the Davidic kingdom (1:8 f.).
iii. And yet more than this. He ‘through whom the world was made’ (13:2) is identified with the ‘LORD’ of the O. T. The Covenant with Israel finds its issue in the Incarnation (1:10 ff.).
iv. But the office of Christ goes beyond Israel. He fulfils as Priest-King the ethnic type of Melchizedek, in whom the highest authority in civil and religious life is seen united (1:13; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11 ff.; 10:12 f.).
v. And thus Christ, without the least derogation from His dignity, is recognised as a true man, who reaches through suffering the destiny of fallen humanity (2:6 ff.). In the accomplishment of this work, He fulfilled three marked types of different service, (a) the type of the king rising through sorest tribulation to his throne (2:11 f.), (b) the type of the prophet who kept his faith unshaken in the midst of judgments (2:13), and (c) the type of the servant who is able to do with perfect obedience the will of God which he knows with perfect understanding (10:5 f.).
By distinguishing and combining these different aspects of the work of Christ we can see how the manifold teachings of the past in life and in institutions were concentrated on the final revelation of the Gospel. They had their fulfilment at the Coming of the Christ; and no less the spiritual experiences of those to whom they were first given have an application to Christians still. Whatever of encouragement was written for Israel on the entrance into Canaan (Heb. 13:5), on the approach to the sanctuary (Heb. 13:6), in the prophetic delineation of the Messianic age (Heb. 12:12 f.), and in the words of the wise (Heb. 12:5 f.), was of force for the Hebrews in their crisis of trial and is of force for the Church in all time. Counsels of patience (Heb. 10:37 f.) and warnings of judgment (Heb. 10:27) from the Prophets and the Law are still addressed to those who are under a divine discipline. In one sense the revelation given through the Son is final and unchanging (Heb. 10:26), but its meaning is brought home to believers by a living voice, and we also must listen heedfully if haply the voice may sound in our ears ‘To-day’ with a fresh message for us (Heb. 3:7 & c.).
It is unnecessary to add any comments on this general summary of the lessons which are based upon the quotations in the Epistle. It amply justifies the conclusions which were drawn from a fuller examination of the quotations in the first two chapters (pp. 69 f.). It enables us to feel, as was said there, that the O. T. does not simply contain prophecies, but that it is one vast prophecy, in the record of national fortunes, in the ordinances of a national Law, in the expression of a national hope. Israel in its history, in its ritual, in its ideal, is a unique enigma among the peoples of the world, of which the Christ is the complete solution.
The different aspects of the Christ which have been distinguished above are traced in a wide range of quotations.
i. The Divine Sonship of the Christ. Ps. 2:7; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; 2 Sam. 7:14; Heb. 1:5; Deut. 32:43 (LXX): comp. Ps. 97:7; Heb. 1:6.
His work for man and for God, and His final victory. Comp. Hab. 2:3 f.; Heb. 10:37.
ii. The Christ the Sovereign of the Divine Kingdom. Ps. 45:6 f.; Heb. 1:8 f.
The King with His people. Comp. Heb. 12:28.
iii. The Christ, the revelation of ‘the Father’ (the Lord). Ps. 102:25 ff.; Heb. 1:10 ff.
The Son the Creator. Comp. Heb. 1:2 (11:3).
iv. The Christ the Priest-King of humanity. Ps. 110:1; Heb. 1:13; 10:12 f.; Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11 ff.
The work of the Christ for the world. Comp. Heb. 1:2 klhronovmo" pavntwn.
v. The Christ the Son of man: true, perfect, representative man. Ps. 8:5 ff.; Heb. 2:6 ff.; Ps. 22:22; Heb. 2:11 f.; Ps. 8:17 f.; Heb. 2:13; Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:1 ff.; Ps. 2:7; Heb. 5:5; Ps. 40:6 ff.; Heb. 10:5 ff.
The Christ fulfils the destiny of man though fallen, and realises the types of king, prophet, lawgiver, high-priest, servant.
The absence of references to Isa. 53 is remarkable.
The broad principles of the interpretation of Scripture, and the view of the gradual unfolding of the counsel of God through the education of the nations and of the people, which are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, are of present importance to ourselves. The lessons of the Old Testament to the Church—the lessons of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms,—have not as yet been completely learnt. Each age must find in the divine record new teaching. Our fathers were not in a position to learn the social lessons which the Old Testament contains for us. They could not distinguish the many sources from which precious fragments were brought together to contribute to its representative fulness. They could not compare the Sacred Books of Israel, either as to their contents or as to their history, with the Sacred Books of other nations. Fresh materials, fresh methods of inquiry, bring fresh problems and fresh trials. Difficulties of criticism press upon us now. It is well then to be reminded that there have been times of trial at least as sharp as our own. When the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, it might have seemed that there was nothing for the Christian to do but either to cling to the letter of the Jewish Bible or to reject it altogether. But the Church was more truly instructed by the voice of the Spirit; and the answer to the anxious questionings of the first age which the Epistle contains has become part of our inheritance. We know now, with an assurance which cannot be shaken, that the Old Testament is an essential part of our Christian Bible. We know that the Law is neither a vehicle and a veil
for spiritual mysteries, as Philo thought, nor a delusive riddle, as is taught in the Epistle of Barnabas (comp. Introd. § XII.). We know this through the trials of other men.
For that new ‘voice’ on which the Apostle dwells in the Letter was not heard without distressing doubts and fears and sad expectations of loss. Such indeed is the method of the discipline of God at all times. Many must feel the truth by their own experience in the present day, when, as it seems, He is leading His people towards a fuller apprehension of the character of the written word than has hitherto been gained. New voices of God are heard ‘to-day’ as in old time, and there is still the same danger of neglecting to hear them. The Hebrews had determined in their own minds the meaning which the divine message should bear: they had given a literal and outward permanence to the institutions of the Old Covenant; and when the voice came to them to leave that which they had identified with their noblest hopes, they were in danger of apostasy.
It may still be so with us, and that too in respect to our view of the Old Testament. It is likely that study will be concentrated on the Old Testament in the coming generation. The subject is one of great obscurity and difficulty where the sources of information are scanty. Perhaps the result of the most careful inquiry will be to bring the conviction that many problems of the highest interest as to the origin and relation of the constituent Books are insoluble. But the student, in any case, must not approach the inquiry with the assumption—sanctioned though it may have been by traditional use—that God must have taught His people, and us through His people, in one particular way. He must not presumptuously stake the inspiration and the divine authority of the Old Testament on any foregone conclusion as to the method and shape in which the records have come down to us. We have made many grievous mistakes in the past as to the character and the teaching of the Bible. The experience may stand us in good stead now. The Bible is the record, the inspired, authoritative record, of the divine education of the world. The Old Testament, as we receive it, is the record of the way in which God trained a people for the Christ in many parts and in many modes, the record which the Christ Himself and His Apostles received and sanctioned. How the record was brought together, out of what materials, at what times, under what conditions, are questions of secondary importance. We shall spare no effort in the endeavour to answer them. Every result which can be surely established will teach us something of the manner of God's working, and of the manner in which He provides for our knowledge of it. At the same time we must remember that, here as elsewhere, His ways in the fulfilment of His counsel are, for the most part, not as our ways, but infinitely wider, larger, and more varied. And when we strive to realise them on the field of life, we must bear ourselves with infinite patience and reverence as scholars in Christ's School, scholars of a Holy Spirit, Who is speaking to us as He spoke in old time.
Whatever else may be obscure, the main outlines of the history of Israel appear to be unquestionable; and it is of the greatest moment for us as Christians to strive, as we may, to enter into the spirit of Judaism; to study it not as a stereotyped system but as an advancing manifestation of the Living God; to see in it examples and types of the various modes in which God deals with His people; to recognise from the manifold fortunes of His kingdom in old time that He applies, enforces, interprets, in new and unexpected ways, what He has once given; to learn somewhat better, from an apprehension of the prophetic work, that He chooses His own instruments freely, that He speaks through the conflicts of social and political life, that the organisation which He has established for the due fulfilment of His service does not limit the manner of His operation, that He provides for progress as well as for order, or (may we not say?) that He provides for progress because He provides for order.
If we regard Judaism in this way, the history of Christianity itself will be quickened for us with a new life. We shall have before our eyes what is really by anticipation a divine commentary upon its most perplexing passages. Acts of faithlessness and apostasy in the history of the Church, self-willed divisions, premature settlements of practice or doctrine, will appear at once more significant and, for those who inherit the burden which they impose, more endurable. The record of the history of Israel is a concrete philosophy of history. If we read its meaning we shall be better enabled, and then only truly enabled, to look with hope upon the chequered annals of Christendom without extenuating the sins and issues of sin by which they are defaced.
In this respect the Epistle to the Hebrews brings before us a forgotten aspect of the divine working. It marks, as we have seen, the office of the Messianic nation no less than the office of a personal Messiah. By doing so its teaching falls in with the tendency of modern thought. Once again the social, the corporate view of life is gaining power if not predominance. By the help of this Book we can see how the view was recognised in the apostolic outline of the Faith, and gain encouragement for studying it with confidence and hope.
In the pursuit of this inquiry the Epistle reminds us that there is a correspondence between the Word of God in the heart, and the written Word: that both deal with the fulness of hope in man and in nature (Heb. 4:11, 13). Trusting to this living Word therefore we must gladly allow ourselves to be ‘borne forward’ to further knowledge, leaving that which we have already gained, or rather regarding it as our starting-point (6:1). Our highest joy is to recognise the divine law that each fulfilment opens a vision of something yet beyond. The Wilderness, Jordan, Canaan, necessarily take a new meaning as the experience of man extends. The outward ritual, the earthly kingdom, suggested hopes which they could not satisfy. So perhaps it is still. At least the words of the Psalmist as they fall on our ears every morning have an application which is never exhausted: To-day if ye will hear His voice (3:14, 15). As yet we do not see the end.