In considering the impress of Evangelical Christianity upon the character of a nation, one is sure to conclude that it is in direct proportion to the number of devoted adherents of the faith to be found among the general population. What Dr. Henderson expressed as that "vital connection between religion and national character" has certainly evidenced itself among the Scottish people. "Nor have the religious history and institutions of Scotland been the least powerful factors in inflaming Scotsmen with an ardent love of their land. Scotland is a country rich in religious landmarks," he tells us, "Wherever we turn there can be pointed out spots where great things were done for Christ and His Kingdom; here the home of early saints whose great work in spreading Christianity among the rude inhabitants is borne witness to in the nomenclature of the land; there the regions where Reformation heroes did their work and Scottish Covenanters made their great confessions, churches where holy men have exercised their ministry and great spiritual awakenings have taken place."
Principally engaged in this "great work in spreading Christianity," not only in their native Scotland but to other lands as well, were two brothers, Robert (1764-1842) and James Alexander (1768-1851) Haldane. And though Robert is perhaps the better known of the two, most notably for championing evangelical Calvinism against the continental rationalism of the time during a visit to Geneva and Montauban in 1816-1819 and for his resulting Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (1836-1839), both brothers played a significant role in the revival of Calvinistic theology in Scotland in the nineteenth century.
James Alexander Haldane, the author of this Exposition of Hebrews, was born in Dundee on July 14, 1768. After a few years of study at Edinburgh University, James thought he would follow in the steps of his late father and commenced the pursuit of a maritime career in the service of the East India Company in 1785. Ten years later he and his wife decided to settle in Edinburgh where he was converted to faith in Christ through the instrumentality of an Independent minister, David Bogue. In 1797 he began his first preaching tour through the north of Scotland. Though at the time still a member of the Church of Scotland, Haldane began to question and challenge the established Church, disregarding parish lines and encouraging itinerant evangelism. By 1799 he had moved away from Presbyterianism and received ordination as pastor of an Independent congregation meeting at the former Circus building in Edinburgh known as the "Tabernacle." In reviewing both doctrine and polity in the light of the Bible, and through the influence of the writings of the Scottish Baptist Archibald MacLean, and Lachlan Macintosh, James Haldane came to embrace Baptist views, and was scripturally baptized in the spring of 1808. His brother Robert, who had also become a Baptist, was baptized later that same year. For over 50 years James Haldane faithfully ministered to his beloved congregation at the new Tabernacle, their association being terminated only by the death of pastor Haldane which occurred on Saturday February 8, 1851.
While James Haldane was pastor of the Tabernacle he took itinerating tours throughout Scotland, the Orkneys and Shetland. He also preached at important centres in England and Ireland. Much of his work was done in the open air during the summer months. He met with much opposition, but was never discouraged. He was always the Christian gentleman as well as the fervent Gospel Preacher. How far-reaching such evangelical preaching was instrumental in awakening the religious life of Scotland, no historian can put on record.
To this reprint of Haldane's valuable work we have appended what was deemed by his biographer "on the subject of faith one of the most useful and valuable of Mr. J. A. Haldane's practical works," his treatise on the Doctrine and Duty of Self-Examination (1806).
With the recommendation of C. H. Spurgeon and fittingly reprinted from Spurgeon's own personal copy, the publishers gratefully send forth this work, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12).
In the lives of Robert and James A. Haldane it is mentioned (p. 636 of Sixth Edition) that shortly before the death of the latter, in Feb., 1851, he had in his public ministrations completed an "Exposition of the Hebrews," which had long occupied his attention. It is added, that his correspondence shows how much his mind was interested in the work, and how clear and acute were his perceptions of its difficulties. Every posthumous work must appear at a disadvantage, and more especially when not finally completed, although obviously intended for the press. It was for some years doubted whether it would be desirable to publish it under these circumstances. But, on the whole, it is felt that it would be wrong to throw away what in his last years had cost so much thought and pleasant labour. It is, therefore, printed, not as a finished Exposition, but as "Notes intended for an Exposition;" and it is humbly committed to the blessing of Him whom it was the author's privilege for so many years to serve in the Gospel of His Beloved Son Jesus Christ.
Man was created in the image of God, and in the glorious works of creation was surrounded with ample proofs of his Maker's eternal power and Godhead. He was also reminded of his absolute dependance on God by receiving permission freely to eat of all the trees of the garden in which he was placed, excepting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was to be the test of his obedience. All this, however, did not prevent Adam from starting aside from God like a deceitful bow, thus bringing himself and his posterity under condemnation. But God, who is rich in mercy, was pleased to reveal Himself as the God of salvation, and it deserves attention that He did so, not in the form of a promise to Adam, but of a curse upon the serpent. It was, indeed, impossible for God to hold friendly intercourse, or make any direct promise to sinful man. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon sin; but in the curse pronounced on the serpent, which is the devil and Satan, He revealed the great Mediator between God and man, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. 2 Cor. 1:20. He was described as the seed of the woman who should bruise the head of the serpent, while His own heel should be bruised in the conflict. It was at the same time intimated that salvation was not to be universal, for mankind were divided into two great families, respectively distinguished as the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; the seed of the woman being the children of that family, the members of which the Son of God is not ashamed to call His brethren, chap. 2:11; the seed of the serpent being the children of the wicked one, to whom the Judge will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you."
V. 1.—God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.
God spake.—Whatever was communicated by the prophets is here said to be spoken by God. He spoke whatsoever was uttered by His prophets. The Scriptures are very jealous on this subject; how different from the language of many who seem desirous to exclude God from being the Author of his own word!
At sundry times.—The wonderful plan of salvation was gradually unfolded. God did not fully communicate it at once, but at sundry times, or, rather, in sundry parts, here a little and there a little. The first intimation of the Saviour was made to Adam; His coming as the judge, to Enoch; the covenant, or solemn engagement was renewed to Noah, and a visible representation of the salvation of believers was given in the preservation of Noah and his family in the Ark, which, being warned of God, he had prepared for the saving of his house.
We have seen that the Saviour was first revealed as the seed of the woman; He was afterwards described as the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; His descent was next limited to the tribe of Judah, and finally to the house of David.
The gradual manner in which God communicated His purposes of mercy to man correspond with the other parts of the divine procedure. He could have completed in a moment the work of creation, but He was pleased to accomplish it in six days, and here we see His wisdom and condescension. It enables us to follow the wonderful process; it presents to us the stupendous whole in its various parts, thus preventing our being overwhelmed with its magnitude. So likewise the herb of the field does not at once arrive at maturity; there is first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full corn in the ear. Thus, too, man has his age of infancy, youth, and manhood, through all of which steps the Saviour passed, thus intimating that His salvation was not confined to any age.
Divers manners.—Revelation was not only communicated in different portions, but in different ways, by angels, voices, dreams, visions, and similitudes. Such were the different modes in which the prophets received their revelations.
In times past (rather, of old).—Here there appears to be a reference to the fact that the spirit of prophecy had long ceased. No prophet had arisen in Israel for the space of three hundred years from the days of Malachi.
To the fathers.—Here the term fathers includes not only the patriarchs of the Jewish nation, but all the prophets by whom God had communicated His will from the beginning.
V. 2.—Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
These last days.—This expression may, no doubt, refer to the present time contrasted with "time past," ver. 1; but it appears especially to apply to the last dispensation under the reign of Messiah. The expression is parallel to chap. 9:26, "now in the end of the world." The same expression is used Isa. 2:2; Acts 2:17, &c.
All the prophets declared that the days should come when the Lord would communicate His will in a clearer and more glorious manner than He had hitherto done, so that "the last days" appear to indicate the period of the new dispensation, to which those who feared God in Israel looked forward. Matt. 13:17.
Spoken unto us by his Son.—For four thousand years preparation was being made for the manifestation of the Son of God. Jesus is termed God's own Son, His only begotten, and when the fulness of the time had come He was sent forth, "born of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem sinners from the curse of the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons." Gal. 4:5. When He appeared, the darkness of the old dispensation fled before the beams of the Sun of Righteousness which arose with healing on His wings. The wages of sin is death, therefore as the head, the substitute, and representative of His people He was delivered for their offences; He was made sin for them, although He knew no sin, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him; and in token of the efficacy of His sacrifice He was raised from the dead, and became the first fruits of them that slept. No man took His life from Him, He laid it down of Himself; He had power to lay it down and power to take it again. Having offered Himself a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour acceptable to God, He rose to die no more, and because He lives His people shall live also. Adam was the source of natural life to all his children, but he forfeited it and they all died in him, but in Christ all His people are made alive; and when He who is their life shall appear, they also shall appear with Him in glory.
The name of the Saviour is Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. In His wonderful person the Divine and human natures are united, and thus we have a manifestation of the closeness of that union which subsists between the head and the members of Christ's mystical body.
The Word was in the beginning with God, and was God. He was the Creator of all things visible and invisible, the fountain of life, and the only medium of communication of light to fallen man. John 1:2-4. He was made flesh and dwelt among us. When the angels sinned they were cast down to hell and reserved in everlasting chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Sin had interposed an impenetrable vail between them and the only source of light and joy; but by the incarnation and sufferings of Christ God was pleased to cause the light to shine out of darkness upon an innumerable multitude of our fallen race which had also come under condemnation. And, inasmuch as the children given to Christ were partakers of flesh and blood, He Himself also took part of the same, that by death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and by showing to His people the path of life, and becoming the firstborn of many brethren, might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Thus He magnified the law which they had broken, and made it honourable. He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross. Hence it is written, "As by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead; for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming."
Whom he hath appointed heir of all things.—As God, the Lord Jesus had an independent right to the sovereignty of the universe; but as God manifest in the flesh, at once the Son of God and the Son of man, the great Mediator, He is appointed heir of all things, He is termed the firstborn or heir of the whole creation. Col. 1:18. This was the joy set before him,—"Arise, O God, judge the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nations." Ps. 82:8. "Jesus, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2:6-11.
Thus, we are taught that as the reward of His obedience unto death all power in heaven and earth is committed to Him, and He employs this power in gathering in His blood-bought sheep. The exaltation of the Son of God at His Father's right hand, surrounded by a countless multitude delivered from the power of Satan and translated into His everlasting kingdom, was the grand end of the creation of the world, which was not only made by Christ, but for Christ as a theatre on which His glory should be displayed. Col. 1:16. It was God's eternal purpose to make known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom by the Church redeemed with the Saviour's blood. Eph. 3:10.
Christ is the head of the Church, and all of its members are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. They are brought into a state of union so close and intimate that their sins are His, and His righteousness theirs. Hence, although He did no sin, nor was guile found in His lips, He says, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me," Ps. 40:12; while they who drank up iniquity as the ox drinketh up water are enabled with confidence to demand, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" arrayed in His unspotted righteousness, they shall all sit down on His glorious high throne and reign with Him for ever. He is their elder brother, their surety, their life. They were given to Him by His Father in the everlasting council; He undertook for them, has cancelled all their debt, and has entered into His glory to prepare for them mansions in which they shall for ever dwell. The Church of Christ, ransomed with His precious blood, shall abide an imperishable monument of the manifold wisdom of God, showing that with Him nothing shall be impossible.
By whom also he made the worlds.—That is, the universe; all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. John 1:3. Such is the glorious Personage by whom God hath spoken to us in these last days. The prophets were employed to unfold the revelations which God thought fit to communicate, but the Son has completed the discoveries which are necessary for our instruction, and to Him alone we are directed to look.
This was strikingly exhibited on the holy mount. Moses and Elias, the two most illustrious prophets of the old dispensation, conversed with Jesus on His decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. The Apostles were desirous of detaining the heavenly visitors, but a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud which said, This is my beloved Son: hear ye him. They lifted up their eyes, and Jesus alone remained, the great Prophet of His Church. The darkness was past and the true light now shone.
V. 3.—Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Who being the brightness of his glory.—God has revealed Himself in the works of creation and providence, but the brightness or effulgence of His glory is only seen in His Son. In Him God has fully made known the glory of His character. Moses put a veil on his face when declaring the message from God to Israel, but we see the glory of God in the unveiled face of Jesus. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, intimately acquainted with all His counsels, He hath declared Him. John 1:18.
And the express image of�