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John, i. 29.
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin
of the world.
JOHN BAPTIST, the predicted forerunner of the Messiah, was doubtless well informed of his person, offices, and kingdom. He prepared the way of the Lord, by preaching repentance, as indispensably necessary to a participation of the blessings about to be communicated : and while he baptized the people with water, as an outward emblem of their souls being washed from sin; he declared that the Redeemer would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fore. He bare witness to the Saviour as the Son of God, the Bridegroom of the Church, and “the Lamb
of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." He cried, saying, “ This was he of whom I spake, “ He that cometh after me is preferred before me; "for he was before me: and of his fulness have we “ all received.” He added on another occasion, “ The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all
* Preached Good-friday, 1796.
things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son “ hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the " Son shall not see life : but the wrath of God abideth
It is evident, that this most eminent servant of God laboured to communicate to his disciples exalted apprehensions of the Lord Jesus, and to excite in them large expectations from him. In honouring the Son of God he was willing to abase himself, “as un“ worthy to loose his shoe-latchet.” He was astonished to think that the Saviour should come to be baptized of him, when he was conscious that as a sinner he stood in need of his spiritual baptism : and when we consider the excellency of John's character, with the extraordinary things spoken of him in scripture; we shall know what conclusions to draw from his testimony. Certainly he would not have concurred with those, who employ all their abilities in trying to persuade mankind not to think too highly of Christ, not to honour him too much, and not to depend on him too entirely in the great concerns of eternal salvation. -But the words of the text must be exclusively our present subject; and from them we may enquire,
I. On what account Christ is called “ The " Lamb of God.”
II. The import of the words,“ Who taketh away the sin of the world.”
John, iii. 35, 36.
III. The call to “Behold the Lamb of God."
IV. The peculiar instructions to be derived from meditating on this subject. I. On what account is the Lord Jesus called “The “ Lamb of God ?"
We should not forget, my brethren, that the language of scripture was dictated by the Holy Spirit, and demands our most reverent attention on that account. If then we interpret it in a general way, and treat those metaphors under which divine mysteries are revealed, as we would do the language of mere men, who often use pompous words and extravagant figures of speech without much meaning; we shall be found guilty of despising the sacred oracles. No doubt every metaphor or illustration was selected, in preference to all others, for some wise and holy rea. sons; and suggests important instruction to the teachable student. This must especially be the case, with that expression of the text, which engages our present attention : because it frequently occurs with reference to the character, sufferings, and salvation of Christ.
A lamb is a well known emblem of innocence, genJeness, patience, and purity : and no doubt an allusion was made to these things in speaking of the Redeemer as the Lamb of God. Yet we cannot suppose that this was the principal meaning of that appellation, when we duly consider the various passages in which it is used : for in what sense could a lamb take
away sin, except by becoming an atoning sacrifice ?
The slaughter of innocent animals, and consuming the whole or some part of their bodies tipon an altar,
was an essential part of religious worship, from the entrance of sin to the death of Christ. Those animals alone were used for this purpose, which were the valued and useful property of man, and the most perfect in the kind: but lambs were by far the most common oblation. Thus Abel by faith brought the firstlings of his flock as an offering unto the Lord, and was accepted; but faith must have reference to a divine testimony, command, or appointment: this Cain disregarded, “leaning to his own understanding,” and virtually denying his need of an atonement; and there fore he was rejected. No sooner was Noah liberated from the ark than he offered burnt-offerings to the Lord :* and doubtless the general opinion, that such sacrifices were proper to appease the anger of the gods, was derived from original tradition ; for it seems to have no ground at all in human reasonings.
When Abraham, at God's command, went with full purpose of heart to offer his beloved son for a burnt-offering, Isaac, as acquainted with the customary oblations, said, “ My father,—where is the lamb “ for a burnt-offering ?-And Abraham said, My son, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offer
ing. +” Under the law, a lamb was the daily sacrifice, morning and evening: and on the sabbath days this was doubled. Thus harmless lambs, free from all spot and blemish, were presented at the altar day by day; while the priest, as representative of the congregation, laid his hands on the head of the sacrifice, and doubtless confessed over it the sins of Israel, which
• Gen. viji. 20, 21:
ten. Gxxii. 7, 8.
typically were by imputation laid upon it. Then the blood of the lamb was shed; and its body prepared and burnt upon the altar, by the fire which came down from heaven, as an emblem of the divine justice inflicting vengeance on the guilty. And when the blood had been sprinkled and poured out, according to the appointment; the priest went into the sanctuary, and burned incense on the golden altar, while all the people prayed without in the courts of the temple. *
But the paschal lambs, which immensely exceeded in number all other sacrifices that were offered, (when the law was regularly observed,) were most emphatically prefigurative of Christ and his atonement. The unblemished lamb for every family was selected four days before the passover, when it was sacrificed in the presence of the elders and congregation of Israel : its blood was then sprinkled on the lintels and door-posts of their houses : and its body roasted whole was eaten within by all the professed people of God. The feast was celebrated with unleavened bread, and they were directed to eat it with bitter herbs, and with staves in their hands ; in remembrance of their affliction in Egypt, their preservation when the firstborn were slain, and their marvellous deliverance from bondage. The apostle teaches us how to interpret these things when he says, “ Christ, our Pass" over, is sacrificed for us : therefore let us keep the « feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven " of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened
• Lev. j. 4. xvii. 21. Num. xxvjū. 3-10. Luke i. 9, 10,