“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrew 10:19-25 esv
Sunday’s sermon at CPCC is on this text of Scripture. Briefly, the passage first (vv. 19-21) recaps the amazing person and work of Christ as displayed in the previous chapters of Hebrews which give the believer great confidence. Then, the inspired author presents us with three exhortations, all of which begin with the expression “let us” —
• (v.22) “Let us draw near…”
• (v. 23) “Let us hold fast…”
• (v. 24) “Let us consider…”
The connection here is important; those imperatives stand upon the truth of the indicatives. We can only obey the commands because of the reality of the work of Christ. And the invitation-like wording of these exhortations warmly draws the believer to find blessing and joy in obeying them.
May the Lord bless you as you feast upon His Word.
Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) died in Boston 120 years ago today. It is said that Christians throughout the world mourned his death, and his funeral was “like that of a king.” Brooks has been called by some “the greatest American preacher of the 19th Century.”
Yet sorrow soon turned to songs of triumph and praise of God for Phillips Brooks’ life. Over his tomb they would erect these words: “A preacher of righteousness and hope, majestic in stature, impetuous in utterance, rejoicing in the truth, unhampered by the bonds of church or state, he brought by his life and doctrine fresh faith to a people, fresh meanings to ancient creeds.” [Dan Graves in Christianity Today online article, June, 2007]
Brooks was the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts when he died, having also served important churches in Boston and Philadelphia. Most Americans know him as the author of the popular Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” — which he wrote a couple years after visiting Palestine in 1865. While there, Brooks journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on horseback, and there assisted with a midnight service on Christmas Eve. He would later write, “I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth.”
On his preaching, the Encyclopedia Britannica says
In Lectures on Preaching (delivered at Yale University in 1877), Brooks offered his most influential assay of his profession, defining preaching as “the bringing of truth through personality,” by which he meant a kind of radiant optimism. His own eloquence was matched by his commanding, handsome figure, standing six feet four inches tall and weighing (in his prime) 300 pounds. His charismatic preaching became so renowned that he was invited in 1880 to preach at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Royal Chapel at Windsor before Queen Victoria. In 1890 he conducted an acclaimed series of services at Trinity Church, New York City. Several volumes of his sermons were published during his lifetime and posthumously. [online EB article]
At the Trinity Church in Boston (which Brooks helped design) there was no pulpit until 1888, but Brooks preferred to preach from a modest lectern near the rector’s stall, typically only wearing his black academic gown. And later on, during communion, he would preach not from the pulpit but from the chancel steps.
It is said that he despaired of Anglo-Catholic ritualism, and championed more congregational singing. During his childhood, the Brooks family spent Sunday evenings singing hymns. He would grow-up to know over two hundred hymns by memory, and often quoted them in his sermons.
Brooks was also known for his vocal defense of the Trinity as Unitarianism was then on the rise throughout New England.
Brooks was a graduate of Harvard University and the Episcopal Seminary at Alexandria, Virginia. His close ties to Harvard led to the building of the “Phillips Brooks House” in the northwest corner of old Harvard yard (facing the small Holden Chapel). It was was dedicated on January 23, 1900, to serve “the ideal of piety, charity, and hospitality.” The Phillips Brooks House Association remains in operation to this day as a student-run consortium of over 80 volunteer organizations.
Phillips Brooks never married, or had children of his own. Dan Graves, in closing his Christianity Today article, observed that this famous preacher
…loved children and liked to romp on the floor and play with them. He often wrote delightful letters to his young friends. That explains why, when Brooks died on January 23, 1893, a five year old was upset because she had not seen her preacher friend for several days. Her mother told her Bishop Brooks had gone to heaven, and the child exclaimed, “Oh, Mama, how happy the angels will be.”
Yes, but happier yet would the man be, for he would now see Christ. He had written that the Christian’s goal should be “To know in one’s whole nature what it is to live by Christ; to be His, not our own; to be so occupied with gratitude for what He did for us and for what He continually is to us that His will and His glory shall be the sole desires of our life.”
Having commented on the biography of the great preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I thought it fitting to follow-up today with a quote from him. It’s an observation on modern cultures, who, in their affluence, do not perceive their true spiritual need.
This ‘affluent society’ in which we are living [c. 1972, no less true today] is drugging people and making them feel that all is well with them. They have better wages, better houses, better cars, every gadget desireable in the home; life is satisfactory and all seems to be well; and because of that people have ceased to think and to face the real problems. They are content with this superficial ease and satisfaction, and that militates against a true and a radical understanding of their actual condition. And, of course, this is aggravated at the present time by many other agencies. There is the pleasure mania, and television and radio [cf: internet and social media] bringing their influence into the home. All these things persuade man that all is well; they give him temporary feelings of happiness; and so he assume that all is well and stops thinking. The result is that he does not realize his true position and then face it.
[from the first lecture in his classic, PREACHING AND PREACHERS]
He points this out to rally churches and preachers back to the preaching of the gospel, which alone can waken men from their spiritual stupor. As he goes on to state, The business of the Church, and the business of preaching — and she alone can do this — is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner.
“Unfortunately, many Christians treat their Bibles as they would their local newspapers,” writes Anthony Carter, “because they have been taught to do so by their preachers.” I read this today in his fine book, Experiencing the Truth, Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church (Crossway 2008), loaned to me by good friend Brian Spivey.
Here’s the rest of the passage from Anthony Carter (emphasis added) —
The faithful preacher, however, understands the Bible differently. A newspaper is a composite of many parts and sections. There is the front page, the business section, the sports page, the living and entertainment section, and so on. All of these sections make up the one newspaper. And yet, no section is actually dependent upon the other. A person can read the sports page and completely understand the issues and concerns of the day in sports without ever looking at the front page. Likewise a person can read the entertainment section and understand it fully with little to no knowledge of the goings on in sports. The Bible is no such book. …
The Bible is indeed a collection of sixty-six separate writings. A person could indeed read one of the sections of the writings and get a sense of what is happening without much knowledge of other sections. However, that same person would never really know what any section of Scripture was communicating unless that person were interested in knowing how that particular section fits into the grand, overall picture the Bible is painting.
More than a newspaper, the Bible is a literary portrait. The subject of the portrait is Christ. Each division of the Bible adds something important and indispensable to the portrait. And while a person may be able to make out the picture without all the sections together, what a glorious experience it is when one sees all the sections fitting together! This is the role of the artist. This is the calling of the preacher. He is to show that the Bible, from cover to cover, is painting a picture of Christ…
“…for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”
It is taken for granted that the sermon in which there is much doctrine must necessarily be dry, unspiritual, full of sectarianism and almost necessarily incomprehensible…. In fact there can be no preaching without doctrine…. The attributes of God, the mysteries of the Trinity, the fall of our race, the incarnation, life, death, and ascension of Christ, salvation by his blood, faith, conversion, the Church, the resurrection, judgment, heaven and hell — what are all these but doctrines?