Writings Vol. Three
"OUTSIDE THE CAMP."
Hebrews xiii. 8.
I MAY say that is part of the appendix to the epistle to
the Hebrews, beloved friends. It is the appendix as to doctrine - the final
word of the apostle to the Jews - to Jewish Christians,- telling them that now
the decisive time had arrived at which they must go forth from Judaism
altogether - they must go forth from the camp. They must not any longer serve
the tabernacle. They could not serve the tabernacle and eat of the Christian
I want to put a little completely before you the subject we have here,- a very connected one, as we shall find,- and of course to enforce and apply it for our days. We shall find that it is as applicable to us now as it was to the Jewish Christians then.
Now, in the first place, notice that already a long time (for this epistle was written long after it) the decisive period had arrived in which the glory of God for the third time had left its place in the midst of Israel. You remember that when God brought them out of Egypt, He took His place in the midst of them and led them in the first place to Mount Sinai, and at that mount He proposed to them in view of what He had done,- He had done every thing to bind their hearts to Himself, He had displayed His power and His love toward them in Egypt, He had accomplished a wonderful deliverance for them, He had met their wants and their murmurings in the wilderness by repeated grace, and now He says, "You have seen how I have borne you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. If now you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine; and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." And the people answered, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do."
Alas! beloved, it was all simple that they ought to have obeyed His voice and kept His covenant; but on the other hand, had they known themselves better, they would have dreaded to promise as to what they would do. God then gives them the law from Mount Sinai - the ten commandments; His whole manner changing as He does it, for it was a fiery law He was giving. Alas! it was not a law under which they could stand. But they needed it, and God saw their need, to test their condition, that they might see where they were. And Moses goes up into the mount, in order to receive from the Lord those same commandments written on tables of stone, that they might be kept abidingly amongst them.
Moses was there forty days in the mount, and before he came down again, before as yet therefore the people had received the tables of the covenant, they had broken them, and were worshipping the golden calf before the mount that had shaken and trembled in the presence of Jehovah.
That, beloved, was the end of the first trial - a very brief trial, but a very complete end so far. The glory, as a consequence, or the tabernacle which was connected with the glory, moved out of their midst. "Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it, not the tabernacle of the congregation, for that is really a very wrong translation of the word, but he called it the "tent of meeting;" for all that sought the Lord, it says, now went outside the camp, or the congregation, to the tabernacle. It was not, therefore, the tabernacle of the congregation; it was not in the midst of the congregation at all, nor did it belong to them, but it was outside the congregation as a mass, and individuals who sought the Lord went out to meet Him them. It was therefore called the tent of meeting.
But this, the first trial, was over,- it ended in judgment; but it ended also in the display of God's sovereign mercy -"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion;" and He takes them up again. But now, if He gives the law a second time, He gives it, beloved friends, accompanied with other declarations, different from any thing that had gone before,-He now couples His mercy with it, He declares the name of the Lord - the name of Jehovah; and as He passes by Moses He proclaims, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." Thus, while He gave them the law again, He now accompanied it with a declaration of His goodness and patience,- aye, and of His forgiving sin. It was still law,- they were still under responsibility to keep that; but now He was going to exercise patience, He would forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin; and yet, beloved, at the same time, He could not clear the guilty.
Now, that was a new state of things. As the first giving of the law tried man as to what he was as godly or ungodly - his present state (it proved, alas! that he was ungodly), so the second giving of the law was the testing of whether man (for I say, "man," not merely Israel; for "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man,")- of whether man, I say, with all the opportunity that He could give him, had power to recover. Still he had to keep the law, but God would give him abundant opportunity, and assistance to him who had failed, to try again.. It was really what you find written in the prophet Ezekiel- "When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness which he bath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." You see, at the first giving of the law, there was no question of saving one's soul at all. It was not salvation, nothing was said of it. Now, if a man were a wicked man, here was God's mercy toward him. He could say now, if you turn from your wickedness, and do what is lawful and right, you shall save your soul alive. That is, He would cancel the blotted page of his life and permit him to turn over a clean page - a new leaf, as people say. Only, mark, if he turns over a new leaf, he must keep the new leaf clean,- he must do what is lawful and right. What is lawful is measured by law; he has to do that which is lawful and right.
Alas! beloved friends, it was as impossible at last as at first. It was impossible ever to produce for God that unblotted leaf He wanted. It was impossible to bring to God His requirement, however low that requirement might be, God could not accept the blotted leaf, and man could never bring the unblotted. Thus now the testing proved that he was without strength - not only ungodly, but without strength also. Those are the two parts of man's condition, and these the two givings of the law show. I do not want to dwell on this now, but it is of immense importance, beloved friends; because, in reality, what many think is the gospel in the present day is just man turning from his wickedness to save his soul alive. And it is that the apostle says, in the third chapter of the second epistle to the Corinthians, that it is "the ministration of death" arid "of condemnation." That is all it accomplished for man. True, that was something- nay, a great deal, and a very real "ministration." A strange expression perhaps you think it. A ministration of grace you understand, but you don't perhaps understand a ministration of condemnation. Now, that was man's first want: what he wanted was, to have the knowledge of himself, to see that he must be debtor entirely to God's mercy. What he wanted was, not mere help to save himself, but God's salvation.
Now, that second testing by the law lasted a long time, for God had revealed Himself as forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; so He went on, forgiving and forgiving, and trying generation after generation, to see if any one could be found who could fulfill His requirements. Under that covenant, with those tables in their ark, they went into the land; but, as you know, that ark itself went captive into Babylon. God had to disown the people after all, by the prophet Flosea, and say they were not His people. So that testing came to an end. The glory went outside a second time. Ezekiel, if you remember, sees the glory leave the city, and now you find a remarkable expression in the books that give that time of the Babylonish captivity, God is now called the "God of heaven." If you look back to the time when the ark passes through the Jordan to its place in the land, you will find that it is said, "the ark of the covenant of the God of all the earth passed through." God in Israel had His place on the earth; He dwelt between the cherubim; but after this time He is called the God of heaven.
Nebuchadnezzar comes and establishes his empire where formerly had been the throne of God. God takes up Nebuchadnezzar and delivers the kingdom to him. "God hath made thee a king of kings." He puts everything into Nebuchadnezzar's hands as to the earth, and if He rules still, as He must, it is as Daniel says,- providentially - "in the kingdom of men."
But God allowed a remnant to come back from Babylon into the land once more - into the city which had been ruined through their folly and rebellion, to raise it up again, and again to build their altar and temple. But, beloved, there was this remarkable difference now,- there was no glory. When they came back, they came as "not God's people"-"Lo-ammi;"- under the Persian kings, which God had set over them for their sins; without the ark of the covenant; without the Urim and Thummim. The ark was where His throne was, and the Urim and Thummim were the means by which God spoke to them ordinarily.
There was therefore now no dwelling of God amongst them: nothing but an empty temple, and and no ordinary means of communication with God. He could raise up prophets, and so He did; and the prophets of that time, Haggai and Zecha-riah, look onward to a future time, owning the ruin which had come in, and basing all their expectations on the coming of the Deliverer.
It was the time in which the great lesson was the lesson of their failure; it was not now any keeping of the law, so to speak, at all. I don't mean to say that the law was repealed, but that was not the point. They had all failed. Their very return there under their changed masters was the thing which marked out the different condition in which they were from any thing before; and now, as I say, the lesson was this: that they should accept humbly the judgment which was upon them, and wait in brokenness of spirit for the Deliverer.
But now, alas! you find again what the power of Satan is, and how subtly he can blind, through man's folly, the heart of man. It is very striking, and people generally notice it as favourable to them, that after their return, they were no more idolaters.
It had been their special sin. The prophet asks, you remember, "Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit." Even from the wilderness they had. There was first the golden calf, and all through the wilderness they had taken up "the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of their god Remphan, figures which they made to worship them." God had declared that He was the one God, but they were idolaters to the core of the heart. But as soon as there was no God in their midst - as soon as the temple was empty and the glory had departed - as soon as they were in the ruin which their sin had brought about, then immediately Satan came forward, not in the garb of idolatry any more, but now to resist the sentence which God had pronounced upon them,- now to persuade them that after all they were not Lo-ammi- that they were God's people, and to say, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord." In fact, pharisaism was the growth of that period, and pharisaism was the self-righteousness which resisted God's sentence upon them, pretending to have a righteousness when God had emphatically declared that man had none. So it was when that Deliverer prophesied of came, and when the glory, in a deeper and more wonderful way than ever, was once more in their midst,- aye, the "glory of the only begotten Son, in the bosom of the Father "- the Antitype of the glory of that tabernacle of old,- when He who was to come did come, and was amongst them in love and grace, ready to meet them with all the mercy and tenderness,- not coming to be ministered to, but to minister,- not requiring, but to give with both hands - to give without limit - to give as God,- alas! these Pharisees could turn comfortably to one another and say, "Which of the Pharisees have believed on Him?" Pharisees they were who slew the Lord of glory.
And when the Lord of life and glory died, the glory once more departed, the Lord went outside of the gate, outside of Jerusalem, outside of the holy city, outside of the people. I say, the glory went outside when the Lord suffered without the gate. It was the third time this had taken place, and a tkird is a more than sufficient witness. Two witnesses are true, but a threefold witness is given here that there is nothing in man's heart for God. Not only when he had the law he broke it, but, alas! the carnal mind was enmity against God,-a cross was all they had for the Saviour and Deliverer. The glory of God had gone without the camp when the Lord Jesus Christ suffered without the gate, and now there was not only decisive rejection of the people, but a decisive sentence upon man as man. He was ungodly; he was without strength; the mind of the flesh was enmity against God: that was the threefold condemnation.
And now, beloved, as a matter of course, Judaism ends; and why? Because Judaism was the seeking, upon God's part, something from man, as long as there could be any hope of it, so to speak. Of course, He knew perfectly how it would be; He had pronounced upon man, in fact, before ever there was any law at all; He had said that every imagination of man's heart was only evil continually. And the testing could only bring that out. Man would not believe it, and forced it to be experimentally brought out. As I say, therefore, that which had been instituted for his trial,- that which was to be the means, if possible, of establishing his righteousness, necessarily passed away. As to this, all was over; there was nothing in man to be brought out, save that which God had pronounced long before, that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
Now, if you look at Judaism, there was every thing to lay hold of man naturally in it. There was every thing for the eye, a brilliant ceremonial; every thing for the ear, all the concord of sweet sounds there could be. There was every thing naturally to make man religious; every tie of nature was to act on him,- the whole nation,- children with the fathers, rulers and people, to follow the Lord together. There was every kind of motive that could be brought to bear upon man: natural affection, gratitude, (his history,- nay, his present, full of divine intervention on his behalf,) self-interest, for if obedient, he would be blest in basket and in store. If he had an ear to hear, if he had a heart to understand, if there were any thing in him susceptible to divine cultivation, God would thus bring forth fruit unto Himself. All failed, and the cross was the solemn sentence upon man that there was nothing in him whatever for God; no righteousness, and more than that, no strength; more than that, no response in his heart to the fullest grace: he crucified the Lord of glory.
And now, beloved, you will understand how, though God did bear long with those who clung to Judaism,- although He took into account all the sanction which He Himself had given it for His own wise purposes for a certain time, and was slow to break the links that bound them to it, yet, of necessity, the time must come which should snap those links forever. There must be a weaning-time; but when Isaac was weaned, so to speak, Ishmael's nature was brought fully out. He and his mother must be put out of the house. The law and the children of law must depart; and now the apostle's word to these Christian Jews is, You must come outside the camp. There must be no more dallying - no more delay. There must be decision now: you must come outside of the camp altogether: God has gone out; it is a mere forsaken ruin.
Now, beloved, we want to apply this to ourselves. As I have said already, that was not Israel's sentence merely. Are we better? that is what the apostle asks-Are we better? God took up that nation, dealt with them by the law, but for what? "We know that whatsoever the law saith it saith to them that are under the law." But for what? "That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God." It was not merely that Israel, but that all the world, might become guilty before God. In fact, the cross was not Israel's sin alone. It was not merely the Jews that put the Lord to death, but the Gentiles also; and, beloved, that cross was, as the Lord Himself says, when He was looking forward to it, "the judgment of this world." It was the judgment of the world - not the judgment of Israel simply, but the judgment of the world.
Now mark, beloved friends, then, the Lord has gone outside the camp. If man is given up in that way,- totally given up as to having anything in him whatever for God, what remains? Well, this: either absolute judgment or absolute grace. Nothing else will do, no middle ground is possible. That is where the world is left now. Not, mark, beloved friends, under trial with the issue undetermined. That is really how people look at it. They speak of being under probation, and they are doubtful as to how it will turn out with them; but there is nothing doubtful about it. People are not under probation, beloved; they have been under probation, and the result is, that "there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." That is the judgment of the world, and man, as man, is a prisoner under condemnation, under sentence,- not on trial, but under sentence. But mark, then, what an aspect that gives now to the blessed gospel, that it is God's message of mercy in the midst of this state of things. The only question is now, Will man accept this grace? will he accept this wondrous grace of God? No question as to being lost,- "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." No question as to being condemned, -all the world is guilty before God. No chance of getting a new trial; no pleading will avail for that. But now, blessed be God, God is in grace coming out to the lost,- to man without strength and ungodly,- to man a sinner,- aye, an enemy. Listen to the apostle Paul, who was the expression of that in his own person: he says, "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly;" while we were yet sinners Christ died for us;" and again, "When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." That is where the gospel meets those who are ungodly and without strength, as the two givings of the law have proved men,- enemies, as the cross has proved. God's own blessed grace nevertheless is here for every one who will accept it.
Now mark, if one accept it, he must, on the other hand, accept too God's sentence about himself. Unless he accept the sentence upon himself, he cannot really accept the grace that is offered him; and that is why those two things go together, which it is of the utmost importance to keep together,- repentance and faith. They were the two things, you know, which God bore witness to by Paul,-"Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Repentance is acceptance on man's part of the sentence under which he lies; faith is the acceptance, on the other hand, of the mercy which comes to him in that condition. I would dwell just a moment upon it, because of its real importance. You know, in many men's minds repentance is man's turning round and doing what is lawful and right, to meet God half way, and to save his soul alive. Now that is exactly what the second giving of the law showed man never could do.
But now the point is, Will man accept the sentence upon him? Will he set to his seal that God is true? Will he learn his condition from the lips of God Himself, and bow his head and know where he is? The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost. But, beloved, unless man believes he is lost, what then? He doesn't want such a Saviour. That is how in Luke xv. the Lord puts it there. The Pharisees find fault when the publicans crowd to Him. He puts this parable: "What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it; and when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost." Now, beloved, what is His own application of that? An application very plain in view of those by whom He was surrounded at that moment. But what was His own application? "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance"- who, never knowing they are lost, never will be debtors to God's mere mercy. Such were those Pharisees who were finding fault with grace. What is the definition, then, that the Lord gives of a repenting sinner? A "lost sheep." You see, He was speaking to the heart - not mere doctrine. He was speaking thus in order to lay hold of the souls round about Him. These poor sinners, at least, would know that the lost sheep meant them, - aye, and these Pharisees too that the ninety-nine that needed no repentance were themselves. In fact, there were no such persons.
The lost sheep is one who has come to an end of himself, and is debtor wholly to the grace that comes after him, to seek and to save him where he is. To put it again - take as an illustration, beloved friends, what the Lord has given us elsewhere about this very thing - repentance. Who was Job? The very best man upon the earth. When God wishes to teach us the lesson of repentance He does not go to the jails. People do that. God takes up the very best man on earth. He says deliberately of Job, "There is no one like him on earth." But what does He do? He passes that man through unexampled sorrows which have made his name a proverb, and, beloved friends, for what? What are the last words of Job? "I repent in dust and ashes"-" I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Was lie turning over a new leaf? was he repenting of his sins? Why, beloved friends, he was the best man upon the earth at any rate; so if he had to repent and turn over a new leaf, it would be pretty hard for any body else. Was he a drunkard delivered from his cups? was he a criminal just let out of prison? He was the very best man on earth. What did he repent of?
Himself,-he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes. What was Job's repentance? Turning over a new leaf and cleaving faster to his righteousness and all that? No, beloved: his repentance was giving up all pretension to righteousness, and taking his place in self-abhorrence before God. Job was a child of God, - a saint. -That makes it so solemn. "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, 0 Lord; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified."
Oh, if there is any soul that needs God's blessed gospel, it is His gospel that God's grace comes to you just where you are; - just as it met Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus. What sort of man was he? The best man on earth? The chief of sinners. This wonderful grace can meet the chief of sinners as well as the best man on earth. He had done the best he could to blot out the name of Christ from under heaven; but God met him there, not merely ungodly and without strength, but an enemy, and reconciled him to Himself through the death of His Son. Beloved, how outside of every thing in man's thought that is! Blessed be God, that is the only gospel that is worth any thing,- good news that comes to man where he is and as he is, and meets him with complete salvation, where he is and as he is. But now mark, then, that is the giving up of Judaism. You see, Judaism is not given up because it is worthless, but because it has accomplished its work. The schoolmaster has given his lessons well; but the result is, for every body that has learned those lessons - there is none that has done good. If he takes his place there, grace can meet him; and thus Hagar is Sarah's handmaid, but not to be put in Sarah's place. Now mark, the exhortation to these Christian Jews is to go forth to Him without the camp. What a solemn thing that is! Look at His cross - there it is, without the gate. Here is a people whom God has been nurturing for centuries, whom He has dealt with in constant and tender love, delivering them again and again, making manifest His power before their eyes, giving them His commandments, line upon line, and raising up prophets and sending them to them, carefully educating them for this present time. And what do they do? When He of whom all the prophets have spoken comes to His own, what do they do? Reject Him utterly! Beloved, that is what we all of us are, apart from God's sovereign grace.
Therefore you will notice that when the apostle goes out to men, he tells us, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling; and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." "We preach," he says, "Christ crucified; to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness." We preach a Christ who could not commend Himself to the world. How vain to try by eloquence to win man's heart! How vain to try by any human power! It must be the power of God's own blessed Spirit, and nothing else. But let us, beloved friends, before we pass on, look at this cross again - the wonderful cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to show you what atonement is here. It was death that was needed. Man was under death, and the Lord Jesus Christ had to come and take his sentence; but was it only death? was it only death? The death of Christ was God's sentence upon man, but is there not more than that? Ah, yes! Scripture says, "After death, the judgment."-" It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." - the blessed Son of God, then, would come into our place to save us, is it only death that He must take? No, He must take judgment also.
Mark, then, how it is put here. "The bodies of those beasts," says the apostle, "whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest for sin, are burned without the camp." You see, it was only one kind of sacrifice of which the blood could go into the sanctuary to be presented to God. We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Where, then, is that blood? It is in the sanctuary, on the mercy-seat, right before God. But what was the blood that could penetrate there? There were a great many sacrifices,- there was the paschal sacrifice, there were the burnt-offering, the peace-offering, the trespass-offering, besides other grades of the sin-offering itself. Of all, there was only one offering whose blood could be put upon the mercy-seat, which could really avail to open the way to God. What was that? It was that in which the body of the victim was burned outside the camp. What does that mean? It has the most unutterably solemn meaning, beloved friends. What it says is this: that death alone would not do; that a violent death alone - the shedding of blood-would not do. Outside the camp is where it is insisted the sacrifice must be; that is, outside the place of all recognized relationship with God; for such a place, while He remained in connection with the people, the camp was. If a man were a leper, for instance, and defiled, he was put outside the camp. Outside the camp was the place of the unclean,- of those who, as the leper, were cut off, not merely from the people, but from the approach to the Lord at all. So you find of Uzziah, the king of Israel though He was, but for his sin a leper.
That, only in the full reality of it, is the judgment which awaits guilty man; when, as rejecting God, God shall in His righteousness reject him. That awful distance! who knows (blessed be God that we do not know!) what it is? We are in a world where yet God's mercies come, as the sun upon the evil and on the good, or His tender rain upon the just and unjust. It is only here, encompassed by the infinite compassions of God, that one can dare to dream of doing without God; but to do without God is nothing short of HELL. It is the "outer darkness" of which Scripture speaks, where no ray of light is; for God, the Light of lights, is absent! Thank God, we do not know it. May none among us here ever know it. Only One ever did, to come out of it again; and we, permitted, as it were, to stand by the cross in the awful hour of the Saviour's agony, may look at least upon its outside, if we cannot (as we cannot) penetrate its inner reality. For what meant that darkness which in full day wrapped the cross? People talk about nature sympathizing with her Lord, and all that. It was no such thing. God is light, and darkness is the withdrawal of light. God had withdrawn. Out of the midst of it He proclaims its nature when there breaks from the lips of the Holy One that terrible cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" That was the Sin-offering; that was the Victim burned outside the camp. It was the One away, in our place of distance,- away from God.
The very Son of His bosom He was, and yet when He was made sin for us, though He knew no sin, He must know its desert. Only the blood of a Victim burned outside the camp could open the way for us to God. There was no altar, therefore, in such a case; it was the holy Sin-offering, and yet it was burned upon the ground without an altar. And what is that altar? The altar that sanctifles the gift is surely the type of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This it was that gave value to the gift; it was what He was Himself that made His offering so perfectly acceptable; and the gift upon the altar, as in the burnt-offering, showed the perfect acceptability of it all, - not the perfect judgment of sin; that was in the sin-offering, of which I was speaking,- but the perfect acceptability of the person and of the work of Christ.
On the other hand, in the sin-offering we look at the judgment of sin, and do not see, so to speak, who the person is. It is simply one in the sinner's place, and thus as if it were the sinner; no thought of His personal perfection comes in to prevent or turn aside the judgment due. Man's portion was death and judgment; He bore both - bore in His own soul the judgment before God, and, because man was under death also, died. Each of these has its place in the atoning work; and as corresponding to the one, the vail of the temple was rent in the midst; in correspondence with the other, the earth too was rent, and gave up her dead. How beautiful that testimony to the sufficiency of the work, and what it had accomplished! The vail of the temple was rent, because the darkness was gone from the face of God, and, man's judgment borne, he could draw near. For those who believe in Him, the darkness gone is gone forever. But more: death too is gone; the keys of death and hades are at the girdle of the risen Saviour. Therefore the rent earth gives up her dead. Thus we find as to the work accomplished.
But thus we see that it was not only necessary that the Lord should die. Never mistake - never think of it as if mere death would satisfy. Look at the twenty-second psalm, and you will find His was such a death as never was before. It was the death of a righteous one; yet when was a righteous one ever forsaken? which of the righteous had God turned His face from? Outwardly, indeed, He might give them up to their enemies,- aye, let them go through death in its worst form; but after all, only to make their triumph more assured. For He was there to minister to them, to turn the shadow of death into morning. He was there to sustain their souls, and with His rod and His staff to comfort them. Yet here was He in whom God had proclaimed His delight, and, in the hour of His unequalled need, He was forsaken. Why, beloved? Faith surely can give the answer. You will find, if you look closely, that the psalm itself gives it. Is it not the answer, when after that "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" the Sufferer exclaims, "But Thou art holy, 0 Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." Thus alone could a holy God dwell amid the praises of His people. But this, then, was the cross; and in the cross what do I find? Surely the complete judgment of man; his judgment taken, but his judgment owned by the One who comes to take his place. Beloved, we cannot lay hold upon that cross without accepting that judgment. We must go "outside the camp" to Him. He is there,- He has had to go outside, I must go outside too.
From this point it is, in the passage in Hebrews before us, that we find all the blessedness of these sacrifices beginning to be told out to us. We have come to God by the Sin-offering; what do we find next? An altar of which I have a right to eat. That is not the Sin-offering, for there is no altar there. It is the Peace-offering. An offering in which part went up to God, part furnished the table for the offerer, and part of it was for the priest. So that God and man, and the mediator between God and man (Christ in type), can sit down and rejoice in one common joy. An altar from which the sacrifice is gone up to God, on the other hand, furnishes from that same sacrifice a portion for man. "We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle." Do you understand that? He says, You cannot eat that and serve the tabernacle. How can you?
Why, that death of the Lord Jesus Christ means the complete putting an end to all that is connected with Judaism. All Christian ground is outside this camp. You must go outside. Hasn't He gone outside? Yes, He has gone outside, and He remains there. You must go outside to Him. There is your altar - an empty altar. Do you see? Ah, if we are Christians, we have got to believe profoundly in that empty altar. The work is accomplished; it is not accomplishing; it never needs to be accomplished any more; it is accomplished once for all; it is done. And we have got an empty altar; empty, because the sacrifice is accepted and gone up to God. What is this empty altar for? Look at what the apostle says. "By Him therefore," he says, "let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually." The altar is what sanctifies the gift. The Lord Jesus Christ it is who gives our praises power to ascend to God. By Him we offer - no propitiatory offering now, but a sacrifice of praise for propitiation accomplished. Do you see, then, what you have done? You have crossed from the court of the tabernacle to the holy place; from the altar of burnt-offering passed to the golden altar, which is now - the vail being rent - right in the presence of God. We have left the altar of sacrifice, and we have come to the priest's altar in the holy place. We have come to offer our sacrifice of praise continually, that is, the fruit of our lips confessing ("giving thanks" it is, but in the margin "confessing") His name,-" that is, the fruit of our lips confessing His name." Oh, beloved, what a sweet and blessed thing that is - to be able to come to God to confess His name - to utter the name of Jesus before Him! Oh, there is not any thing so sweet to God as the true confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not any thing that so delights Him as when He sees a soul profoundly conscious of the value of Christ, who when he comes before Him has nothing to speak of but the name of Jesus. But now mark, there is another thing. This golden altar is an altar of sacrifice of praise continually - nothing else but praise. Is there any thing else? Well, there is this, although it is not really any thing else in character,-" To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Here are more sacrifices, offerings for the same incense-altar - not the fruit of the lips now, but the life. That is the character of a Christian life. How beautiful it is! A whole volume of doctrine in it too. A Christian life is a sacrifice of praise to God in which the infinite value of the Lord Jesus Christ is confessed to Him. It is a sacrifice of praise to God, the heart thanking God for what He has done. Not a new claim upon God, not a claim at all; but the answer to God's claim, the answer of praise to Him for all that He has done for us. Beloved, is there any one amongst us here who has any other thought of a Christian life than that?
Alas! many a so-called Christian has quite another; and many a true one also has thoughts that sadly mar the character of a Christian life. Praise is the instinct of every true heart; but there are prerequisites to be known before the life can be what it should be. And the first thing to be known (without which God Himself is not rightly known) is salvation,- full and eternal salvation. If all is not settled as to this,- if the grace of God is not apprehended by the soul, necessarily the only other principle will come in, and the life will be lived for self, however religiously, and not for God. "Fear which hath torment" will take the place of that love by which alone faith works. How can life be a sacrifice of praise and thanks-giving to One known as a Judge at whose bar it is possible we may be adjudged to hell? No, the hired servant necessarily had no place at the passover-feast; and we must know the value for us of the work of Jesus if our life is to be the thanksgiving of the incense-altar; for the sacrifice offered there is the confession of His name and of His worthiness, and that alone.
Now let us return to consider the exhortation of the apostle to the Jews here. What application to us has this going outside the camp? Has it any? For you may say, if the camp be Judaism, we are not Jews. Hear me, then, as patiently as you can, while I seek as plainly as I can to answer this question. It is quite true for all of us, I suppose, who are here today that Judaism in the full sense has no attraction and therefore no danger for us, but it would be very light dealing with what is of the greatest possible importance to us to dismiss the subject thus. Judaism in its essence may be where ceremonial Judaism has no place at all. Nor, when I speak of its essence, must any suppose that the rejection of Christ is part of this. It is the sin of Jews, but not the fault of what God instituted, of course. It is this that God instituted at first that here by the apostle He calls on them to leave.
We have seen what Judaism in its essence was. It was the trial of man - an ordained and of course needed trial. Nor was it a trial of man only, but of man's way also. You can easily understand that God Himself had no need for Himself of any experiment. He knew and had pronounced upon man long before the law. But man knows not himself, nor will believe the simple statement of God; and not knowing himself, nor his inability to stand before Him, His thought is ever of keeping law in some sense. If Hagar be its type, as the apostle says, God found Hagar in Abram's tent. He could not have first put her there. Finding her in this connection with the man of faith, He sends her back that the experiment He is making may be fully made. Abram shall have his Ishmael, but only to find that Ishmael is not the seed, nor Hagar she by whom he is to be really fruitful.
All human religion merely is law in some way. Grace is God's thought, which man never could anticipate. Alas! even when God has revealed it he turns back from it, as they were doing in Galatia, to experiment with himself by the law still. If he does not deny Christ, he supplements faith in Him with legal commandments, ceremonies, means to work upon the flesh and make it fruitful. He owns Christ, but brings Him into the camp again, instead of going to Him outside the camp. Hence the state of christendom to-day. If you dare to look, you will find what is essential Judaism every where: in forms, in doctrines; disguised with Christian names, whch noway alter its nature or hinder its effect.
Look at ritualism. It allows, of course, that Christ has come, and Christ has died; but it would seem as if only to insist on the inefficacy of His work. The value of His one offering is only to give mysterious virtue to a Jewish system of multitudinous offerings by which it is over-shadowed and eclipsed. It is in fact the shadow, these the substance; in which, they say, He is continually offered,-equaling Him only with the beast-sacrifices, whose constant repetition, the apostle tells us, shows that they could never take away sin! Therefore, as the necessary result, they can never tell you that sin is taken away, as they quote, "No man knoweth that he is worthy of favour or hatred by all that is before them."
But we need not travel so far as Rome, or her would-be imitators in other ranks. Little less dreary doctrine is proclaimed ofttimes by those who are loud in their rejection of her enormities. By how many is assurance of salvation denied as strenuously; and by how many is salvation itself reduced to a mere conditional forgiveness which renders peace with God, for a soul conscious of its real condition, a mere impossibility. Whenever this is the case, it is certain that grace is so far unknown; and wherever grace is unknown, some system of works - that is, of law - is the sure accompaniment. These are the two things the apostle opposes to one another as mutually exclusive.-" If it be of work, it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work." And again, "If it be of grace, it is no more of work; otherwise grace is no more grace."
And wherever these systems are found, necessarily a " camp" is the result - a people of God, on legal footing, under trial to see what the end will be with them, and as to whom you cannot pronounce whether they are really of God or not. No separation of children of God as such is possible: "tares and wheat," as they apply this, "grow up together to the harvest;" nay, the world is often openly gathered in, to be put under Christian influences, and Christian services again are made to take a form attractive to the world.
Then the eye and the ear and all the sensitive man are appealed to, as of old in Judaism; heedless of the lesson of the cross of Christ, which has pronounced once for all that not only is man ungodly and without strength, but also that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God. This is the solemn reality. Were it ignorance simply, educa-tion might remove the ignorance, as men still dream. If we have gone out to Christ outside the camp, it is impossible to accept this. With the complete judgment of man realized, Christ and His Spirit, and these alone, are left as of avail for him.
For the third and last time, the glory is outside the camp. On the failure under the law first given, it went outside, as we have seen. The end of the second dispensation of law was when God had pronounced them Lo-ammi-"not My people." Ezekiel it was who saw the glory then withdraw; and Nebuchadnezzar could then come and plant his throne where God had left His. The testimony of law was really then complete. Already its sentence was given,-" There is none righteous; there is none that doeth good." And when a remnant gathered again under their Persian masters to rebuild their temple, it was not to reopen a question completely settled, but to wait in the sense of their utter ruin for Him who should come in grace to deliver. It was at this time, alas! that Pharisaism arose, the invention of the prince of this world to bujid them up in self-righteousness, and make them refuse divine grace. The Lord came. The glory of God in deeper reality then ever shone in their midst, only again to go forth outside the city, when upon a cross the Lord of glory died. The testing of man was now over,-the full discovery of his condition reached,- and Judaism passed away, to be replaced for us here to-night by the "precious faith" of Christianity.
How deadly and disastrous, then, must the confusion be which would bring back again under a Christian dress the old rejected system, the exact opposite of the grace which has now been declared! Satan's work it is to destroy, if it might be, the glory of Him who alone is the wisdom and power of God for man's salvation. Are we clear of it, beloved friends? Have we gone forth from all that man has established of the Jewish camp, outside to Him, bearing His reproach? For reproach there still is, in various ways and different measures, according as our separation is complete or not; but reproach there is, and will be. Spite of the large going forth of the gospel now, for which, as God's mercy, we must surely praise Him, perhaps there never was a day fuller of schemes for man's improvement without (or up to) Christ; and these are very much one thing; and never perhaps a time in which there was so great a religious mixture and accommodation of Christianity itself to the thoughts of man. From the grosser systems in which Christ and His work are more openly set aside, to the singing of moving words to exciting music in an evangelistic meeting, men proclaim less or more openly that they have not given up hope of man, and that something else or less than Christ and the Spirit will avail toward his recovery. How different his spirit, who, preaching Christ crucified (to the Jew a stumbling-block and to the Greek foolishness) preached not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
I close, beloved friends; may He Himself apply it to our hearts. Honest hearts they need to be to endure the application. And yet if Christ be with-out the camp, to go forth to Him should not be cost, but gain. The real cost is what would keep us from the place where He is, and where communion with Him is fully to be enjoyed. "Let us go forth to Him without the camp."
F.W.G. Plainfield, N.J., July 3Ist, 1882.
Chapter Three "BUT ONE THING NEEDFUL."
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