Page images
PDF
EPUB

the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And when we think that general thankfulness is enough, or that our good actions are such as will procure for us forgiveness of our bad acts, we are very like Cain, when he thought that the fruits he had raised were a sufficient sacrifice and offering to God.

Here the account of the meaning and of the origin of sacrifices may be closed. It is a most important subject; for all religious worship is, and ever has been founded on that all-important truth which is pointed out by it, the necessity of an atonement by Him who is the Great Offering. These particulars were necessary to show the reason for the religious observances described in the following pages.

THE GREAT OFFERING.

Heb. ix.

With blood—but not his own-the awful sign

At once of sin's desert and guilt's remission,
The Jew besought the clemency Divine,

The hope of mercy blending with contrition.
Sin must have death: its holy requisition

The law may not relax. The opening tomb
Expects its prey : mere respite, life's condition;

Nor can the body shun its penal doom.
Yet there is mercy, wherefore else delay

To punish? Why the victim and the rite ?
But can the type and symbol take away

The guilt, and for a broken law requite ?
The cross unfolds the mystery. Jesus died :
The sinner lives: the law is satisfied !

With blood-but not his own—the Jew drew near

The mercy-seat, and Heaven received his prayer;
Yet still his hope was dimm'd by doubt and fear :

“ If thou shouldst mark transgression, who might dare
To stand before thee ?” Mercy loves to spare

And pardon ; but stern Justice has a voice
And cries, “ Our God is holy, nor can bear

Uncleanness in the people of his choice.”
But now one offering, ne'er to be renew'd,
Hath made our peace for ever.

This now gives
Free access to the throne of heavenly grace.

No more base fear and dark disquietude.
He who was slain—the accepted Victim-lives,
And intercedes before the Father's face.

CONDER.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The sacrifices mentioned under the patriarchal dispensation are, the whole burnt-offering, the thank-offering, and the sacrifice by which covenants were confirmed. An instance of one of each of these will be found, on referring to Gen. viii. 20; xxxi. 54; xv. 9—17. By the account respecting the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, the latter being accepted while the former was rejected, we must infer that laws or rules had been given respecting such sacrifices, the want of the due observance of which caused the offering of Cain to be refused. But few or no particulars are given, of the ceremonies with which these sacrifices were offered. For the burnt-offering, the patriarchs raised an altar, or heap of stones or earth, on which wood was piled, Gen. xxii. 9.

The animal being killed, probably its skin was taken off

, the carcase laid upon the wood, and a fire kindled, by which the animal was consumed. Or the animal, if a lamb, may have been bound, laid upon the wood, and heathens among

then killed. In the thank-offering, a part only of the offering would be consumed, the rest was eaten by those present, as when Jacob and Laban covenanted together and were reconciled, Gen. xxxi. We read in the margin of ver. 54, that they killed beasts and ate bread together; thus their meal doubtless was a feast upon a sacrifice. The heap of stones then raised to commemorate the event might serve as an altar. The offering upon the confirmation of a covenant is described more fully in Gen. xv. 9, 10. A heifer and a ram were divided, and the pieces laid apart, but opposite to each other. A similar sacrifice is mentioned Jer. xxxiv. 18, 19. In that case, the parties who covenanted, or agreed together, passed between the pieces of the sacrifice. By this ceremony was denoted, that if either of them broke the covenant, they might expect in like manner to be cut asunder by Divine justice. Such appears to have been the view taken by the Jews, and by the

whom this sort of sacrifice was common. And in the account of Abraham's sacrifice, ver. 17, we find that a “smoking furnace and a lamp of fire” passed between the divided carcases, as a testimony that the Lord accepted the sacrifice, and confirmed the covenant.

It is very probable that, in this instance and in some others, the offerings were consumed by fire from heaven, as a token that they were accepted; though that such was not usually the case, appears from Abraham's carrying fire with him, when preparing to sacrifice his son. In the offering described Gen. xv. 9. each sort of animal is mentioned that was afterwards directed by the Law of Moses, to be used in sacrifices, Levit. i. 3, 10, 14.

The distinction between clean and unclean beasts before the flood, see Gen. vii. 2, has been noticed as a proof that a revelation had been made respecting an appointed public worship, which is confirmed by the account of Noah sacrificing immediately after the flood, without any new direction: see Gen. viii. 20. The statement that Abraham kept the charge, commandments, statutes, and laws of the Lord, Gen. xxvi. 5, may also have reference to this subject, for the word rendered “statutes," afterwards is applied to the rules, decrees, and ordinances about God's worship. Although there is not a particular account of any ceremonies with which the patriarchs accompanied these offerings, it is very plain that they were seasons for prayer and thanksgiving And if, as already noticed, there is reason to believe that the patriarchs had some idea of the nature of the Great Atonement prefigured by these actions, we cannot doubt but that they called upon the name of the Lord with a lively faith, upon these occasions, looking for the promised Saviour, and for the better country, the heavenly inheritance God had prepared for them. A

very minute and particular account is given in Leviticus, of the rites and ceremonies with which the sacrifices were offered under the second or Mosaic dispensation. These will be noticed when we describe the tabernacle and temple services; hitherto we have spoken of the nature and design of the sacrifices. We have seen that they distinctly had reference to the promised Saviour, and thus the first two dispensations had the very same object in view as the third; all true religion has been the very same, in its object and leading principles, from the time when our first parents were sent out from Eden, to the present day. It is necessary to state this great truth clearly, that it may not be supposed there has been any change in true religion. In fact, there cannot have been any such thing as a new true religion. The promise directly after the fall, declared the Messiah, who was to destroy the power of Satan, Gen. iii. 15. The Lord Jesus Christ was the Saviour promised from the beginning; he is expressly called, " The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Rev. xiii. 8; 1 Pet. i. 19, 20. Believers were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, Eph. i. 4. Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,” Heb. xiii. 8; “the First and the Last,” Rev. i. 17. The heathen used to choose new gods for themselves, and they do so at the present day; but the patriarch, the ancient Jew, and the Christian of every age, have had but one common religion, although in the rites and ceremonies they have been permitted, and even directed, to differ from each other.

Thus the bloody sacrifices, that is, offerings in which there was the shedding of blood, were made for acknowledgments of guilt; and presented evidence of belief in the pardon of sin, through a great Atonement, or Sacrifice, of which these were emblems or types. Among the Israelites, only what were called clean beasts or birds were offered : among the heathen, other animals were also sacrificed, even those which the Israelites were especially directed to consider abominations, defiling whatever they touched.

The bloodless sacrifices, or MEAT-OFFERINGS, were solely from the fruits of the earth. Here it will be well to remark, that the word “meat,” as used in the English Bible, almost always means food in general, or anything that is to be eaten, not as we now often understand it, only animal food or flesh-meat. These meat-offerings were sometimes wholly consumed upon the altar; then they were also reckoned as burnt-offerings.

DRINK-OFFERINGS were of wine, and only used with other sacrifices, part being poured over the victim or any other substance which was offered.

Those offerings which were not wholly burned, are to be considered as expressing thankfulness to God for mercies, rather than to represent or typify the Saviour, the great sin-offering for the sins of the world; and further details respecting them need not be entered into in this place.

Thus the sacrifices, instituted from the fall of man, were intended continually to represent the Saviour as the Great Atonement for Sin, and the Way of salvation, before he came upon earth. Since his death the sacrifices have been done away, as is clearly stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The record of Christ, given in the New Testament, is so full and clear, that we do not need to have emblematical representations continually presented now, to remind us of his sufferings, their design, and of what they have accomplished. The spiritual sacrifice of prayers and praises, are what we are directed to offer under the Christian dispensation. But it would be wrong to suppose that this SPIRITUAL WORSHIP was less necessary, or less in use, under the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations, than it is now. The sacrifices offered by the friends of Job, were to be accompanied by the prayers of the patriarchs for them, Job xlii. 8–10. Divine worship always has been the same in these respects, it includes prayer for mercies needed, praise for mercies received. As every action of our lives calls for

prayer

and praise, so there is no place in which this spiritual worship may not be offered up. The apostle desired that men should pray everywhere, 1 Tim. ii. 8.

Solomon, even when dedicating the temple as a special house of prayer for Israel, spoke of their praying elsewhere, 1 Kings viii. 38, 47, 48. Malachi (i. 11) speaks of incense, as a figurative expression for prayer, being offered in every place. Manasseh prayed in his dungeon, 2 Chron. xxxiii. 12; and Jeremiah also, Lam. iii. 55, 56; Jonah ii, 1, in the whale's belly; the

« PreviousContinue »