Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

own implacable malice, suffered that malice to suggest no other things to them, than what himself had long ago determined, and his prophets foretold, should be so done. Blessed be that wisdom, which thus made sin instrumental to destroy sin; which, of the blood shed by wicked hands, opened a fountain to wash away uncleanness; and appointed the holy Jesus, treated as a vile malefactor, for a Prince and Saviour, nay, for the only, the efficacious Author of eternal salvation, to all that sincerely believe and obey him! Blessed, lastly, be that truth, which thus preserved an exact harmony between the law and the gospel, the prophecies and their respective accomplishments; which crowned the shadows of the Levitical dispensation with their proper substance; which provided a Lamb which did' indeed take away the sins of the world;' and which suffered no one circumstance to be wanting in his death, that could be necessary to make good the promises, or satisfy the justice, or convince men of the love and goodness, of God!

[DEAN STANHOPE.J

SERMON LIII.

WEDNESDAY BEFORE EASTER.

LEGAL AND EVANGELICAL SACRIFICE. Heb. ix. 24-28.--For Christ is not entered into the holy places made

with hands, which are the figures of the true ; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high-priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others, (for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world;) but now once, in the end of the world, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin, unto salvation.

[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.] St. Paul had said, in the verse which precedes the Gospel of this day, that Christ is the “Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death they which are called, might receive' remission of sins, and the promise of eternal inheritance.' He proceeds here to show the necessity of Christ's death, in order to that purpose : he argues, that to be sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, and so become qualified for being brought into the presence of him, who accepts them in the Beloved, is a privilege which Christ only could confer; a cleansing, which no other sacrifice ever did, ever could, effect. This point is at large asserted in the scriptures, which are very appropriately read to us at and about this season, and therefore most proper to be taken into our present consideration.

In this point there are two parts contained, first, the insufficiency of the legal; and then, the perfection and efficacy of the evangelical, sacrifice.

1. First, for the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices. This Epistle contains numerous arguments, which are very clear and full proofs of it. In the seventh chapter, St. Paul shows, that the law is changed, by reason of its being defective in this respect ; and he grounds this inference upon those passages of the Old Testament, which speak of the Messiah, not only as a priest more excellent than any other, but as a priest descended of a tribe, none of which had any right to minister in holy things; and of an order altogether distinct from, and foreign to, the constitution of the Levitical economy. Observe the Apostle's reasoning: • If perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law) what further need was there, that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron ? For, the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he, of whom these things are spoken, pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident, that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood. And it is yet far more evident; for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec: for there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh unto God.'

He proves it again, in the eighth chapter, from the forgiveVOL. I.

2 B

nėss of sins, and the more complete knowledge of God, and man's duty, being, by their own prophets, foretold, as blessings properly belonging to a new covenant, which God, in its proper season, promised to make with them. And the consequence he draws from hence, is, that God · finds fault with, and abolishes the old ; that, if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.' And thus he establishes the truth of what he had affirmed just before, that Christ • hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.' So agreeable is all this to the observation of St. Paul elsewhere, [Gal. ii. 21.] that if righteousness had come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain :' i. e., upon this supposition, there was no manner of need for that death : and all the provision for pardon made by it, and all the weight laid upon it, end in the most superfluous, the most absurd contrivance, that ever was in the world.

In this ninth, and at the beginning of the tenth chapter, the Apostle produces a further evidence of the insufficiency of those legal sacrifices, particularly of that most solemn one in the great day of atonement ; in that they were, by express order, frequently repeated: some of them made a part of the daily worship; others had their stated returns upon particular days and occasions. “The priests,” he urges, - went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God; but into the second went the high-priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people :' from whence he draws the following inference that the law can never with those sacrifices, which are offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not (the meaning is, * undoubtedly they would') have ceased to be offered ? Because that the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins: but in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. This rendered them not so properly cures, as convictions, of guilt; and representations, rather than remedies, of the sinner's danger. Each repetition confessed the impotence of the former act, and reproached the weakness of that ordinance, which left men under a necessity of fresh expiations. Nor will it suffice to answer, that, where the sins themselves are repeated, it is needful, that the propitiations for them should be so too :-for the certain character of a perfect sacrifice is, to be of inherent and eternal efficacy ; not limited to times; not invalidated by the return of the disease; not to be offered, but only to be applied anew, by such acts of faith and contrition, as the party's infirmities or relapses shall render expedient, for making that effectual to him in particular, whose efficacy, in itself, and generally speaking, is perpetual.

Thus are the legal sacrifices convicted of disability; and the other branch of the matter now before us, the sufficiency of the evangelical sacrifice, is at the same time established, by having those very perfections attributed to it, which are so justly denied to the legal, when set in opposition to it.

For to this purpose it is, that so much care is taken for showing our Lord's to be an endless priesthood ; that the blood he shed as our mediator in this affair, is styled 'the blood of the everlasting covenant;' that he is said to put 'away sin,' by the sacrifice of himself in these last days, and in the end of the world,' (that is, in this dispensation, to which no other shall, because no better can, succeed ;) that he shall, indeed, come again, but not as he did before, not to be made sin (that is, in the quality of a sin-offering) for us any more ; but without sin, without any such propitiatory sacrifice, unto salvation ; to bestow the blessings purchased at his first coming ; not then a Redeemer, but a rewarder of persons already completely redeemed. Hence so much stress is laid upon this offering being not made often, because the force of it is so far above need ing any repetition : • he by his own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. He hath appeared once to take away sin,' and · was once offered to bear the sins of many. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.' The merit and influence of this oblation were not confined to the age in which it was made, but had a retrospect to generations long since past and gone, and supplied the deficiencies of former dispen. sations. For, therefore, is Christ the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first testament, they which are called,

might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. And it looks forward to all generations yet unborn; for the promise (says St. Peter) is to you and to your children, and unto all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.' And he (says St. Paul) óbeing made perfect, and consecrated for evermore, became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; for he is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' In a word, on this account are the sacraments of the Christian religion memorials of a propitiation already made, and applications of our faith and thankfulness: not any offering of Christ again, but an offering of ourselves to God, by and for him.

There is yet one argument upon which the Apostle insists with great force, taken from the reason and nature of the thing. For thus we find him confining the effect of bulls and goats slain in sacrifice to the purifying of the flesh,' but ascribing to the blood of Christ' alone that of cleansing the conscience from dead works.' And, in terms yet more expressive and peremptory, pronouncing it . not possible, that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin.' The strength and ground of which assertion we shall best understand, by observing what is meant in scripture by taking away sin, and then by that impossibility of doing so, which the legal sacrifices are here concluded under.

Now, to take away sin,' is a phrase, which, in scripture language, denotes the freeing any person from the guilt of sins already committed, so as that they shall not any more be charged to him in account, or he suffer the punishment otherwise due for them. And when, as here, it is applied to sacrifices, the meaning is, that such punishment is so far inficted on them; that God accepts the death of the sacrifice, and, in consideration of this, remits the death of the offender, in whose behalf and stead such sacrifice was slain. This, then, is the Apostle's assertion ;-that Christ, by offering himself, and dying for mankind, bath released us from the guilt and punishment of our sins: but, that the beasts, slain in sacrifice under the law, did not, by their death, release men ; nay, that they could not possibly do so.

By which expression we need not, we must not, understand an absolute impossibility; as if God could not either remit sin

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »