Page images
PDF
EPUB

comparison of these, to evince the superiority of the latter to the former.

With regard to the privilege of the Jews and the Jewish priests, it is quite plain, whatever superstitious notions might be entertained by them, that the flesh which had been offered in sacrifice was not better as food than any other flesh of the same quality, and that the mere eating it could be of no spiritual advantage to the individual; just as, whatever superstitious notions may be entertained respecting the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, they have no qualities as bodily nourishment different from common bread and wine, and the mere eating the one and drinking the other can communicate no spiritual benefit. Sacrifice was emblematical, and feasting on sacrifice was emblematical also. Eating the flesh of the sacrifice was, I apprehend, emblematical of two things, or perhaps, to speak more accurately, of two aspects of the same thing. Eating of the sacrifice was a natural emblem of deriving from the sacrifice the advantages it was intended to secure-expiation of ceremonial guilt, removal of ceremonial pollution, and access to the external ordinances of the tabernacle and temple worship. As the altar is in Scripture represented as God's tableMal. i. 7; Ps. 1. 12, 13; Ezek. xxxix. 20, xli. 22—eating of the sacrifice is emblematical of being in a state of reconciliation with God: sitting at His table, and eating of the sacrifice which had been presented to Him, interested in the blessings promised, and secured from the evils threatened, in the Old Covenant. This, whatever extravagant notions the Jews might entertain on the subject, seems to have been the true nature and value of the privilege of feeding on sacrifices.

Now let us inquire into the nature and value of the privilege enjoyed by Christians. They “eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man,” who gave Himself a sacrifice and an offering in the room of His people. I need scarcely say the language is figurative; that eating and drinking are not to be understood literally, but spiritually. But what is meant by spiritually feeding on the sacrifice of Christ-spiritually eating His flesh and drinking His blood ? It is, in plain words, our deriving from the sacrifice of Christ the blessings which it is intended and calculated to obtain. This we do by the belief of the truth respecting this sacrifice. Believing that truth, we

have the forgiveness of our sins, the sanctification of our natures, and spiritual favourable intercourse with God as our reconciled Father. We have in Him the redemption that is through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; we are washed and sanctified; we have access with boldness to the throne of grace. We have not merely the emblems of these in the Lord's Supper, but in the faith of the truth of the Gospel respecting the sacrifice of Christ we have these invaluable blessings themselves; and seated spiritually at the table of a reconciled Divinity, we feast along with Him. That which satisfied His justice, magnified His law, glorified all His perfections, and gave Him perfect satisfaction, is that which quiets our conscience, transforms our nature, rejoices our heart. We find enjoyment in that in which He finds enjoyment: “our fellowship is with the Father.” We hear Him saying, as it were, in reference to the sacrifice of His Son, I am fully satisfied ;' and our souls echo back, 'So are we.' He says, “ This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased ; ” and we reply, “This is our Saviour, and He is all our salvation and all our desire.'

It will not require many words to show the superiority, the infinite superiority, of the privilege of the Christian as to sacred food, above that of the Jewish people, and even of the Jewish priests. They had merely, in eating the sacrifices, the emblem of blessings; we, in spiritually feeding on the sacrifice of Christ, have the blessings themselves. They had but the emblems of expiation, and forgiveness, and purification, and fellowship with God; we have expiation, and forgiveness, and purification, and fellowship with God. But this is by no means all. The blessings of which, in eating the sacrifices, they enjoyed the emblems, were of a kind far inferior to the blessings of which we, in eating spiritually the sacrifice of Christ, actually participate. What is expiation and forgiveness of ceremonial guilt to the expiation and forgiveness of moral guilt? What is external purification to inward sanctification? What is external communion to spiritual fellowship? Nor is even this all. The circumstance that it was but a part of the sacrifice that was set before them that they were allowed to eat of, probably intimated -and the circumstance that there were certain sacrifices, and those of the most solemn and sacred nature, of which they were not permitted to participate at all, certainly intimated that complete atonement had not been made for them, and that God and the worshipper were not yet altogether at peace ; whereas we, in the faith of the truth, are permitted to feast on the whole sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We not only eat His flesh, but we do what none of the priests durst do with regard to any of the sacrifices, we drink His blood. We enjoy the full measure of benefit which His sacrifice was designed to secure. We are allowed to feed freely on the highest and holiest of all sacrifices. Our reconciliation with God is complete, our fellowship with Him intimate and delightful.

The bearing of this statement on the Apostle's object is direct and obvious. It is a striking illustration of the general principle of the Epistle. 'In Christ you have all that you had under Moses, and much more. Let your unbelieving brethren boast of their privileges with regard to sacred food : you enjoy far higher privileges than they, or even than their venerated priests. Even they durst not eat of the sacrifice of atonement for all the people of Israel. But you are permitted daily, hourly, without ceasing, to feast on the sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God, who suffered, the Just One in the room of the unjust, who gave Himself an offering of a sweet smelling savour in the room of all the sanctified ones.'

From this statement the Apostle draws an important practical inference in the 13th verse. “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."

The meaning and force of this exhortation are not difficult to perceive. If Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, in order to expiate our sins, submitted to become a sin-offering-voluntarily subjected Himself to so much suffering and shame, and if we, from our interest in this sacrifice, enjoy such invaluable privileges ; let us cheerfully submit to whatever suffering and shame we may be exposed to in cleaving to Him and His cause. There He is, hanging on a cross as one accursed --cast out of the holy city as unworthy even to die within its walls. But who is this? “A man approved of God”_“the Holy One and the Just”—“the Brightness of the Father's glory”—“God mani

I No Seceder should be ignorant that this was the text from which William Wilson of Perth, one of the illustrious four who were the fathers of the Scottish Secession, preached on the day that by civil authority he was prevented from officiating in the parish church.

fest in flesh;” and “He is wounded for our iniquities, and bruised for our transgressions, and the chastisement of our peace is on Him, and our healing is in His wounds.”. Shall we then seek to enjoy worldly honour and pleasure by remaining among His murderers ? Shall we not leave the city, and take our place by the cross of our Saviour, and willingly bear whatever reproach and suffering may be cast on us for our attachment to Him? Is it not quite reasonable and right that we should even be willing to be crucified for Him who was crucified for us?

It is impossible to conceive the duty of the Christian Hebrews, readily to sacrifice worldly advantages, and submit cheerfully to suffering and reproach for the cause of Christ, more cogently recommended than in these words. And it does seem probable that the Apostle meant to suggest, by this way of stating the truth, that an entire separation from their unbelieving countrymen, and an entire abandonment of the overdated Mosaic institution, were called for on their part, in order to an unreserved devotement of themselves to Jesus Christ; and that this, whatever it might cost them, should be immediately made by them.' The Apostle adds, in the 14th verse, a powerful additional reason for their thus willingly submitting to such reproaches and sufferings as an honest attachment to Jesus Christ might bring upon them. Ver. 14. “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.'

Some have supposed that the Apostle refers here to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and the final overthrow of the temple worship and the economy to which it belonged. We rather think his idea is, ' The sacrifices we may be called on to make, the sufferings we may be called on to endure, the reproaches which may be cast on us for our attachment to Christ, ought not to make any very deep impression on us. We are but pilgrims and strangers here; we have no fixed residence, no continuing city. This is not our home. But we have a home, at which in due time we shall arrive. To get safely

1 Chrysostom is a good interpreter in many cases, but he does not sustain his character when from this passage he, in his 32d Hom. on this Epistle, teaches that Christians, after the example of Christ, should be buried extra urbem. It would have been well, however, if the practice, for which so whimsical a reason is assigned by the Byzantine bishop, had been universally followed.

there, is the great matter. This is what we are seeking; and if we succeed in this—of which, if we be real Christians, there is no doubt that home will far more than make amends for all the toils and sufferings we have met with on our road to it. These reproaches and sufferings for Christ's sake will soon pass away; and in the heavenly Jerusalem above, from which we shall never be called on to go out, we shall meet with an abundant compensation for all the sufferings, the privations, and reproaches we may be called to sustain in the cause of our Lord while here below.'

While there is a peculiar propriety in these words, viewed as addressed to the Hebrew Christians, in their substance they are applicable to Christians in every country and in every age. All who by faith have feasted on the sacrifice of Christ, are bound by gratitude and duty cheerfully to submit to all the reproach and suffering which may be involved in an honest and open profession of attachment to Him, and dutiful observance of all His ordinances. It is their duty to renounce the world, and all that is in it, even their lawful enjoyments, when these come in competition with their adherence to Christ. They are not, as it has been very justly remarked, to steal out of the camp or city, but they are boldly to go forth, making a public profession of their dependence on Christ's atonement, and their subjection to His authority. And they are to do this under a deep conviction that all that is earthly is transitory, and that what is spiritual is alone permanent. All the worldly advantages which may be purchased by unfaithfulness to our Lord will soon be as if they had never been ; nothing will remain but the shame and punishment. All the worldly disadvantages which may be incurred by faithfulness to our Lord will also soon be as if they had never been, and nothing will remain but the recompense of reward,” the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” May we all who name the name of Christ be enabled to be “faithful to the death, that we may obtain the crown of life.”

CONCLUSION.

PRIVILEGE and duty are very closely connected under the Christian economy. All the Christian's duties, when rightly

« PreviousContinue »