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THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST SUPERIOR IN EFFICACY TO THE
HEB. IX. 13, 14.—“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?"
JESUS CHRIST, the High Priest of our profession, has received from God a more excellent ministry than that conferred on Aaron and his sons. This proposition is laid down by the Apostle in the 6th verse of the preceding chapter ; and the illustration of it occupies him down to the conclusion of the doctrinal part of the Epistle, at the 18th verse of the next chapter. The particular point which the Apostle states and establishes in our text, is the superior kind of efficacy which belongs to the expiatory sacrifice offered up by Jesus Christ, as the High Priest of our profession, when compared with that which belonged to the expiatory sacrifices presented by the Aaronical priesthood. It was intended to gain—it was fitted to gain—it has actually gained--a much, an infinitely higher, object than they gained, or indeed were intended or fitted to gain.
This most important proposition, lying at the foundation of all our hopes for eternity, is in the text clearly stated, and satisfactorily proved. The statement is in these words : “The blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the flesh. The blood of Christ purges the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.” The argument is thus expressed :-“ If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself, purge the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God ?” To point
out the meaning of the statement, and the force of the argument, are the two objects which I mean to prosecute in the remaining part of the discourse.
I. Let us then attend, in the first place, to the Apostle's statement; and first, to his statement as to the efficacy of the Levitical sacrifices. “ The blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the Aesh." “ The blood of bulls and of goats,” here plainly refers to the blood of animals offered as sacrifices for sin, according to the law of Moses. The phrase, “ the ashes of an heifer,” refers to a remarkable usage, of which we have a minute account in the 19th chapter of the book of Numbers, vers. 2-9. There it is commanded that a red heifer, or young cow, without blemish, on which no yoke had come, should be taken without the camp and slain in the presence of the priest, who was to sprinkle of the blood seven times before the tabernacle of the Lord ; that the carcase should then be burned entire; that into the midst of the fire should be cast by the priest cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool; that the ashes which remained should be preserved; and that, on a person having contracted ceremonial defilement, from contact or contiguity to a dead body, a portion of these ashes, mixed in running water, should with a bunch of hyssop be sprinkled on him by a person free from ceremonial defilement. The sprinkling of the blood of these sacrifices, or of this mixture of the ashes of the heifer and running water, was the appointed means of interesting the defiled individual in the expiatory and cleansing virtue of the death of the victims; and when the sacrifice had been offered, and the lustral water prepared according to the due order, this sprinkling availed to the removal of the ceremonial defilementunfitting for fellowship with Jehovah and His people in the services of the sanctuary—which had been contracted, freed from the punishment which had been incurred, and restored to the privileges which had been forfeited. It “ sanctified to the purifying of the flesh.” It “sanctified :" it set apart the individual from the great body of the common, or profane—those who were unfit for the divine service, who were by statute debarred from taking part in it-and anew consecrated him as a servant of Jehovah; it removed that which had excluded him from the congregation of the Lord; it made him, in a ceremonial sense, “ holy to the Lord.”
1 Lev. xvi. 14, 15; i. 2–5, 10, 11.
" It thus sanctified to the purifying of the flesh.” “ The purifying of the flesh” does not mean the cleansing of the body; for sprinkling with blood, or with a mixture of ashes and water, was fitted to soil rather than to purify. It marks the kind of sanctification or purifying. It was of the flesh, as contrasted with the spirit-of an external, not an internal kind of a ceremonial, not of a moral kind. The purifying of the flesh is contrasted with the purifying of the conscience—the inner man—the seat and subject of moral guilt and pollution, and of the corresponding forgiveness, justification, and sanctification. The sprinkling of the blood, and of the mixture of ashes and water, was the vehicle and the token of that forgiveness of ceremonial guilt and removal of ceremonial pollution, which the expiatory sacrifices procured—of the offering of which, this blood and mixture were, as it were, the evidence; so that the person thus sprinkled was, as to his relation to Jehovah, and his right and fitness for engaging in His service, in the same state in which he was before the guilt and defilement had been contracted, and thus placed on a level with his fellow-worshippers.
The sacrifices of the Mosaic institution are often spoken of by divines as if they had been utterly, and in every sense, inefficacious. This is, however, by no means an accurate representation. It is utterly irreconcilable with the statement in the text, which at once declares the efficacy of these sacrifices, and, in explaining the nature of that efficacy, defines its limits. If they had not had efficacy, complete efficacy, for their own purpose, they would have been quite unfit to serve the end for which we know they were intended—to foreshadow the all-efficacious sacrifice of the great Redeemer of mankind. They had no efficacy, indeed, for removing moral guilt and spiritual defilement. “It was not possible that the blood of bulls and goats, shed in sacrifice, “ should take away sin ;” and therefore it was not possible that that blood, when sprinkled on the body, could sanctify to the purifying of the conscience. It could not expiate moral guilt, so as to lay a foundation for forgiveness, and sanctification, and final salvation to him who had contracted that guilt. The sanctifying efficacy of a sacrifice must be appropriate and proportioned to its expiatory power; and both must correspond with the nature of the sacrifice, and the purpose it was appointed to serve.
These sacrifices, then, were efficacious, completely efficacious, for their own appointed purpose. This is very distinctly stated in the law of Moses, Lev. vi. 1, 7: “ If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the fold, to the priest, and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord; and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in transgressing therein.” And it is stated of the person defiled by the dead, that " if the water of separation has not been sprinkled on him, he defileth the sanctuary of the Lord,” if he approach it; but if he be sprinkled with it according to the due order, “he is clean.”
It is of importance to remark here, that though these rites were efficacious only to the purifying of the flesh, to the removal of ceremonial guilt and defilement, they were the figure of that which is efficacious to the removal of moral guilt and defilement. They were “shadows.” In these rites were embodied these principles : that God is displeased at sin ; that the violation of His law forfeits the high privilege of favourable intercourse with Him, and unfits for its enjoyment; that God is not inexorable ; that though He is disposed to restore sinning man to His favour and fellowship, this must be in the way of showing His displeasure at sin, and of their being qualified for the enjoyment of His blessings—it must be by the removing, the taking away, of the guilt and the defilement. And how this is to be done, was dimly shadowed forth by vicarious suffering, and by that vicarious suffering being made to bear on the conscience of the sinner. In the degree in which this reference was apprehended by the Jewish worshipper (and what that degree was, we have but imperfect means of determining- it was likely very different in different individuals, even among the truly pious of the Jewsbut in that degree), these rites were the means of a higher kind of purification. The Gospel in a figure, like the Gospel in plain words—in the promises and predictions—wherever it was understood and believed, produced its appropriate effects on the believing mind and heart ; but in this case it was not the efficacy of the Jewish sacrifices, but the efficacy of the Great Sacrifice prefigured by them, which produced the effect. The sins that were forgiven under the old covenant, were forgiven with a reference to the propitiation which was completed on the cross, and is set forth in the Gospel ; and all purification of the conscience under that economy proceeded from the same source. It is this purification the Psalmist prays for, under figures borrowed from the Levitical economy: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than the snow."
For the illustration of the Apostle's statement as to the efficacy of the Jewish sacrificial rites, it is only necessary further to remark, that this was an efficacy confined to the Jewish people, and the proselytes joined to them. It would have been a profanation of the sacrificial blood and the water of separation, to have sprinkled them on one of the uncircumcision. The Gentiles could have neither part nor lot in this matter. They had no portion, nor right, in these rites of expiation and lustration.
Of what the Apostle states on this point, this then is the sum : The sacrifices for sin under the law, when duly offered by the priests and applied to the worshippers, were effectual in expiating ceremonial guilt, and removing ceremonial defilement from the ancient people of God.
Let us now, secondly, consider his statement with regard to the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, offered by Himself, and applied to all who believe. “The blood of Christ purges your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.” The blood of Christ is the blood which He shed, when by His death on the cross He finished the great sacrifice which He came to offer for the sins of mankind. This blood is in the text represented as “sprinkled” on the conscience. The conscience is the soul, the spiritual part of our nature, the inner man. It is obvious, then, that the language must be figurative. The soul can neither be sprinkled with blood nor washed with water. It is not, however, difficult to perceive at once the meaning and the fitness of the metaphorical representation. It was by sprinkling the blood of the aniinal sacrifices under the law on the individual for whom they were offered, that that individual became personally possessed of the advantage to obtain which they were offered,—that is, deliverance from the ceremonial guilt and defilement which prevented him from drawing near to God in