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the temple along with His people. Now the question is, What is it under the new covenant which answers to this? How is a man interested in the expiatory, justifying, sanctifying efficacy of the sacrifice which Christ Jesus finished on the cross by pouring out His blood, His life, His soul unto death? An answer to that question will explain what the sprinkling of the blood of Christ on the conscience, so as to cleanse it from dead works, is. The priest who offered the sacrifice, sprinkled the blood on those for whom it was offered; and it is the work of the great High Priest of our profession to sprinkle His own blood on the conscience. Let us translate these figures into literal language. By the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit, Christ leads the individual so to apprehend the meaning and evidence of the truth respecting His sacrifice, exhibited in the Gospel revelation, as that, according to the arrangements of the new covenant, he becomes personally interested in the blessings obtained by that sacrifice. The expiatory, justifying, sanctifying influences of the atonement are thus shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost given us ; the man is pardoned, and accepted, and sanctified; the conscience is thus “purged from dead works.”
The phrase, “dead works,” is a singular one, and has been variously explained. It plainly denotes that from which the blood of Christ, when sprinkled upon the conscience, purifies. In other words, it refers to that spiritual pollution which makes man the object of the divine rectoral displeasure and moral disapprobation, which prevents favourable intercourse with God, making man both unworthy of it and unfit for it—that state of guilt and depravity in which all men are by nature; and it is likely that that is here described by the somewhat strange phrase, “dead works,” with a reference to that defilement by contact with dead bodies, from which sprinkling with the water of separation was intended to cleanse, spoken of in the preceding verse. “Dead works” are “defiling works,” having, in common with dead bodies, this quality, that they produce defilement.
The word “works" is not to be restricted to external acts, but includes all the activities of the thinking, feeling, acting being—the workings of the mind and heart as well as of the hands.
By these sinful works man is defiled ; and that defilement is removed by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. He who,
under divine influence sent forth by the Saviour, believes the truth respecting His sacrifice, is purified from the defilement of guilt, which sin's dead works produce. He that believeth is not condemned ; he is justified. He cannot be condemned, for he is united to Him who was delivered for his offences, and raised again for his justification. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth him from all sin. And he is also delivered from the defilement of depravity, which sin's dead works at once indicate and increase : his heart is purified by faith. The belief of the truth respecting the sacrifice of Christ destroys his natural alienation and enmity, and leads him to love God, and to delight in His fellowship and service. It becomes a fitting thing in God to admit him to favourable intercourse, and he is qualified for this high and holy privilege.
The conscience being thus purified from dead works through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ's sacrifice, the man formerly shut out from, as unworthy of, unfit for, favourable intercourse with God, in consequence of the pollution rising from his dead works, “now serves the living God.” meaning of the word “serve” here is, religious ministrationworship. The Israelite who violated Moses' law, and incurred ceremonial guilt and pollution, shut himself out of the enjoyment of his highest privilege—that which, indeed, may be considered as including them all—access to Jehovah as his covenant God. The sacrifices of the law, when duly attended to, restored him to this privilege. He went up to the temple and mingled with the congregation of the Lord. Men, by the pollution connected with dead works, are shut out from the favour and fellowship of God-i.e., from true holiness and true happiness. The sacrifice of Christ, applied to the conscience by the truth in reference to it being understood and believed, brings men to God-opens their way into the favourable presence of the Divine Being, as God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them ; seeing He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for them, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him. They are made priests to God, and are enabled, influenced by the mercies of God manifested in the sacrifice of Christ, to go boldly to the throne of grace, and to present themselves living sacrifices to Him, the living God, holy and acceptable, which is rational
worship, or service. They who are thus interested in the effects of the great sacrifice, are even here “a people near to Him.” They dwell in His house; they serve Him without fear, in righteousness and holiness; they offer to Him continually the sacrifices of praise; and the ultimate result of the great sacrifice, the blood shed and sprinkled, will be their being taken, like their great High Priest, body and spirit, fully sanctified, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, into the immediate presence of their God and Father, where they shall no more go out, but serve Him day and night in His temple, for ever and ever, the living worshippers of the living God. Such, then, is the Apostle's statement respecting the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ when applied to the conscience.
It only remains, on this part of the subject, to remark, that the efficacy of the Saviour's sacrifice is not, like that of the Levitical sacrifices, confined to the Jewish people. He gave Himself a ransom for all ; He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. It was predicted, not only that He should bear the sins of many, but that He should “sprinkle many nations.” The guiltiest and the most depraved of our race are not excluded from the benefits of the blood of this sacrifice, shed and sprinkled. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all
However defiled the previous state of the inner man, the sprinkling of this blood purges from dead works, and converts the dead worker into a living minister of a living God—the holy, happy participant of the mind, and will, and enjoyments of the holy, holy, holy, ever blessed God. It must, however, never be forgotten, that though the value of the shed blood is in itself infinite, it is only in the event of its being sprinkled on the conscience that it is efficacious in reference to individuals. It is by the blood of sprinkling—the sprinkled blood-by it alone, that there is sanctification.
II. Having explained the Apostle's statement as to the superior efficacy that belongs to the sacrifice of Christ, in comparison with the sacrifices of the old economy, let us now proceed to illustrate the force of his argument in support of this statement. “ 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?” The argument is twofold. If the legal sacrifices had efficacy to cleanse from ceremonial guilt and defilement, the sacrifice of Christ has efficacy to cleanse from moral guilt, spiritual defilement; and if the legal sacrifice had efficacy for its appointed subordinate purpose, the sacrifice of Christ must much more have efficacy for its appointed far higher purpose. Let us endeavour to place in a clear light the force of these two arguments.
The first of these arguments rests on this fact, that the sacrifice of Christ possesses all that gave the legal sacrifices their efficacy. If the question be put, What was it that gave the legal sacrifices their efficacy ? the answer plainly is, Their divine appointment. In themselves, they could have no efficacy. They were instituted by God to serve a particular purpose, and they served it just because they were so instituted. Now, it is not more certain that these sacrifices were divinely appointed for their purpose, than that the sacrifice of Christ was divinely appointed to serve its purpose. “God gave His Son to be the Saviour of the world;" He “laid on Him the iniquities of 'us all;" He has set Him forth a propitiation in His blood;" He came, sent by His Father, to “take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself;” and “God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin in our room, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” He who said to Him, “ Thou art My son, this day I have begotten Thee,” said also to Him, “Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec.” The legal sacrifices were efficacious for their purposes, for they were divinely .appointed; and for the same reason, the sacrifice of Christ is efficacious for its purposes.
The second argument will require a somewhat more extended illustration. Its substance is, “If the legal sacrifices served their purpose,
much more must the sacrifice of Christ serve its purpose.” This argument rests on facts which the Apostle brings forward. Not only is the element which gave efficacy to the legal sacrifices for their purposes present in the sacrifice of Christ, but there are other and most potent elements, fitted to secure for it the far higher efficacy which was necessary to its answering its far higher purposes. The legal sacrifices owed all their efficacy to their divine appointment. The sacrifice of Christ could not have been efficacious, it could not have existed, without divine appointment; but it was in its own nature fitted to be efficacious, and it is to this fact that we are to trace its divine appointment. The legal sacrifices cleansed because of their appointment. The appointment of our Lord's sacrifice took place because it was fitted and adequate for cleansing. (1.) The blood of His sacrifice was "the blood of Christ; (2.) The sacrifice He offered was the sacrifice of “Himself; (3.) That sacrifice was offered “ without spot;" and, what most of all goes to prove its efficacy, (4.) That sacrifice was offered “through the eternal Spirit.” Let us look a little at these statements, and we will see that they fully bear out the Apostle's argument, that the sacrifice of Christ must be held much more to have efficacy to serve its purpose than the legal sacrifices to serve theirs.
The blood of His sacrifice is the blood of Christ.” And who is Christ? The Messiah, the Anointed One. And what does that mean? Nothing less than the divinely qualified, appointed, sent, accredited Saviour. His blood must surely be precious blood. His blood-His sacrifice-must be fitted to be effectual for any purpose, however great, that sacrificial blood can answer. What, in comparison of this, is the blood of the cattle on a thousand hills ? What, in comparison of this, the sacrifice of the whole race of man? It is likely that the Apostle meant here, a contrast not only between the Levitical sacrifices and our Lord's sacrifice, but between the Levitical high priest and our Lord Himself. They, the priests of a nation ; He, the Anointed One—the Priest of mankind—“the Christ,” according to the Samaritan creed, “the Saviour of the world.”
Then, the sacrifice offered by our High Priest was the sacrifice of “Himself.” There is much more in that expression than is ordinarily apprehended. What our Lord offered was nothing extrinsic; it was Himself, His whole self. The sacrifice offered by our Lord was all He was—all that He had done; that entire, most willing subjection both to the precept and to the sanction of the law—holy, just, and good, and exceeding broad—which man had violated; a subjection reaching from the moment of His incarnation to the moment of His death—so continuous and perfect as to be represented by the Apostle as one act of obedience, corresponding with the one act of him who was His figure, by which death and all our woe came into the world :