Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

295

ON THE DESIGN AND OBJECT OF THE JEWISH SACRIFICE.

It is universally allowed by those who take the Scriptures for their guide, that the sacrifices of the Mosaic worship were of divine not human institution.* Not only were they approved and tolerated, but enjoined of God; and while they are insisted or throughout the whole of the Old Testament, their importance is especially to be traced in those expressions of abhorrence and contempt, with wbich the sacrificial observances were always spoken of, when instead of being practised from a principle of reverence for the divine authority, they degenerated into mere external ceremonies, and were regarded as the cold and cumbrous pomp of an unmeaning form. “ To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me, saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of he-goats—when ye come to appear before me, who bath required this at your hand to tread my courts ?-I bate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies; though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them, neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.”

What then, let us briefly inquire, was the object of these rites of sacrifice ? Had they of themselves any inherent power with God to turn away his wrath from those who bad offended him? Or do they point to any thing ulterior and mightier in accomplishment in the history of the divine administration, as it regards this fallen and degraded world ?

And here, we may remark, there is a satisfactory adjustment of the former of these questions, made in the epistle to the Hebrews. It is emphatic and decisive—“It is not possible,” says Paul, “ that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Well might the apostle bay without presumption, and in terms of absolute assurance, that it was impossible. For what, we ask, was that wbich by divine appointment was to be washed away? It was sin-sin in its guilt, in its punishment, and in its

* Dr. Magee, in bis work on atonement, tells us, if we recollect rightly, that Warburton and Tillotson represent the Jewish sacrifices as of human origin, and adapted into the divine ritual, in regard to bumar weakness, Epit.

power. Sin drove the hapless parents of our race from Paradise, and doomed their progeny to toil, and bitterness, and death. God stamped his hatred against sin upon the tablets of the law at Sinai, amid the “ thunderings, and lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking,” and by threats, and curses, and visitations, sore and manifold, he gave awful demonstration of his wrath. Strange! if all this show of the divine displeasure were to pass for nought, or if it were to be set aside by offerings so poor and valueless, as the very choicest of the inferior portion of creation. What a paltry compen. sation for the crimes committed against the majesty and holiness of the Godhead : and what a srail and perishable basis for the sinner's hope to rest upon in the day of his perplexity and dread! Eternal justice was despised and trampled on, and it needed to be satisfied by a reparation adequate to its demands. But there is no proportion be tween the magnitude of the offence, and the merit of such an expiation as that to which we have been adverting: And then where is there provision made in such a meagre mutilated scheme for that “everlasting righteousness," in which the saints of God are to be clothed for immortality? If man requires not merely to be pardoned, but approved and justified of God, how shall the blood of all the hecatombs that ever fell, suffice to cover all the guiltiness of all the sons and daughters of humanity ? And to push the question farther, (in doing which there is surely no presumption,) how can any subordinate intelligence, even the most exalted of created spirits, de se many works of supererogation as will save a single human soul from death, and entitle him with holy boldness to demand admission to the abodes of bliss, and honour, and immortality ? To suppose, indeed, that the insulted honour of the Deily could thus be vindicated, that his eternal and unalterable law could not only be satisfied, but magnified and made honourable, and that guilty sinners could be pardoned, justified, and saved, by the substitution of a nature not even cognate, but ineffably inferior to that of those who had offended ; this were to cast an imputation on the policy of heaven, inasmuch as it would degrade, (we speak with awe,) the justice and the holiness of Him who sitteth on the throne,

What then, we again repeat, was the design of these rites of sacrifice ? To what purpose was all this waste of life under the old economy, unless we look upon it as an express appointment of the Deity, typical of a nobler and more illustrious sacrifice? The whole system of sacrifi. cial observances, (it is almost unnecessary to say to any one who has ever looked into the Old Testament Scrip. tures,) proceeded on the principle of substitution. The Paschal Lamb, for instance, was a substitute for the first born of Israel, on the night of Egypt's great and general desolation. The sacrifice offered on the great day of atonement was of vicarious import: and in fact all the sin and trespass offerings under the olden dispensation were slain in sacrifice instead of the guilty. Since then it cannot for a moment be supposed, either that the sacrifices of the Jewish ritual were instituted in vain, or that they possessed any intrinsic efficacy, let us inquire if there is any worthier or more honourable victim in whom they can be made to terminate. Turning to the history of the New Testament economy we will not have proceeded far till we find, in passages innumerable, a fulf and satisfactory assurance upon this question. There we read of one who offered sacrifice, not of the inferior elements of nature, but of himself-he gave himself for us an offering to God, and by one offering of kimself, he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. And to show that he was the antitype of all the ceremonial offerings, we find that he was made “sin for us," that he was made “a curse for us," that he “his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree," that “he suffered the just for the unjust,' that he by himself purged our sins," and that " he gave bis life a ransom for many." The New Testament indeed is so full of the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, and the effects resulting from it, that it were endless to quote passages in its confirmation. Let any one who is anxious to obtain a condensed and comprehensive view of the enlire argument read the epistle to the Hebrews. The writer of that epistle shows, with immense fertility and richness of illustration, that the deficiencies of the type were all completed in the antitype, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is both the priest and sacrifice, who, in virtue of his mighty and mysterious work, has now entered into the holiest of all, after having finished transgression and made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in an everlasting righteousness. And the same doctrine runs through all those passages in the New Testament, in which the drapery that hung around the mysteries of the divine administration in the old is drawn aside, and we are admitted to behold, in glorious prominence, those truths which to the saints of old were only seen by dim and shadowy representation. Yet even they, though far removed in time from the comple: tion of that scheme to which their ceremonial was subservient, glanced with the eye of faith along the vistas of an unrevolved futurity, and their spirits bounded at the prospect of a brighter and more glorious day. Their piety grew warmer at the contemplation, for they saw the day of the Messiah, and were glad. Though they wandered up and down the world “in sheep skins, and in goat skins,” yet their faith was not wrapt up in elements 80 poor and beggarly as the typical institutions of the law; but in the upholding confidence and hope of better “things to come," their hearts were elevated and sustained. Their prophets told them, and they were convinced in their own consciences, that He with whom they had to do would neither “ eat the flesh of bulls," or « drink the blood of goats ;” and although they were assured that the Most High was true to all his promises, and merciful to help and pity their infirmities, yet they knew right well thai he delighted not in ceremonious pomp, and that be could not brook the mockery of mere external acloration. And in the waitings, and the longings, and the fervent aspirations of these ancient wortbies for the consolation of Israel, and that too, even when their outward circumstances were fair and flourishing, do we see the operation of Gospel influence, and admire the riches and exuberance of Gospel grace. Surely their faith, ascended above the smoke and exhalations of their sacrifices ; surely it rejoiced and terminated in the “ Lord Christ.”

The patriarchs died, and one and all of them were ga. thered to their fathers. But the patriarchal faith still. lingered in the church, to bless and animate her children. The time drew nigh when sacrifice and oblation was to cease, when the Messiah was to be cut off, but not for himself, and when, according to divine prediction, his soul was to be made an offering for sin. The Baptist in the wilderness bad lifted up his warning voice, and cried aloud: and Simeon, that devout and just old man, had closed bis eyes in peace, after having blessed the Lord that he had lived to see the great salvation. The pro

mised Saviour at length appeared; and in familiar converse with the world, he went about continually doing good. He could indeed bave bied him to the world on wrathful errand, and arrayed in all that glory which he had with the Father from the beginning; but it was not in this wise he visited us. Wonderful condescension ! He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; not to condemn, but to reconcile; not to destroy life, but to save. When, from the altitude of heaven, he looked down upon our helpless world, and undertook to bear the weight of its atonement, this was a merciful and most compassionate design. But when, in the fulness of the time, he came to execute this great achievement, submitting all the while to foul indignities, and buffeting, and scorn, then was there an amazing instance of resigned and voluntary suffering. It was then, that borne on to the task by the sustaining energy of the Godhead, he trode the winepress solitary and alone; and after having felt the anguish of that agony through which he loiled, he died, a mighty and mysterious sacrifice. Who can conceive the suffering which he bore at the close of his sojourn on earth, when the time for sore and arduous conflict had arrived ? We vannot tell hom dire and bitter was that last encounter; but we know that it terminated in the complete discomfiture of all his enemies and ours, Oh! there have been patriots and philanthropists, (devoted men !) who gave their labours to their country's and their brethren's cause, and fell the victims of their own generous and noble daring; yet they must sink into eternal forgetfulness, and their memory perish with the records of their fame. But this Victor's wreath shall never fade-the trophies of his con, quest shall endure for ever. We shall make mention of thy name, thou glorious Conqueror! We, who are now toiling in this land of darkness and of sin, shall celebrate thy praise, and echo to the notes of nobler melody that are sung before thy throne! It is by the obedience, the sufferings, and the sacrifice of Christ, that the work of our reconciliation has been effected. Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us, and “he is our peace, who has made both (Jews and Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished, in his flosh, the enmity, even the law of eommandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new map, so making peace, and that he might reconcile

« AnteriorContinuar »