« AnteriorContinua »
Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat, which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces."1
At this moment, when all the tribes and multitudes of Israel were prostrated before the Lord, and loud in expressions of holy joy and reverence, Nadab and Abihu broke the blessed harmony existing between God and the camp; and brought his wrath upon their own heads. "They took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not." In so doing they committed,
(1.) A rash and presumptuous offence. God had arranged every part of the service of his sanctuary, with the most scrupulous minuteHe had sent fire from heaven to supply the altar of burnt-sacrifice; and from this flame the incense was to be always enkindled. Now surely it was not for the very men, whom he had made the guardians of his will, and administrators of his service, to disobey the one, and change the other. Their whole procedure was careless and irreverent in no common degree. The incense was to be burned about the
1 Levit. ix. 24.
time of morning and evening sacrifice. They seem to have taken their censers for this service, at another part of the day. One priest alone was to officiate. They presented themselves together before the golden altar, in the holy place. They had no order to officiate; for all the solemnities of this memorable day had been entrusted to their father Aaron. They aggravated their offence, by neglecting to take of that fire which had just before fallen so miraculously from heaven; and by enkindling the incense at a common unhallowed flame. Nay, we may probably collect from the 8th, and following verses, that, after feasting on the sacrifice, they approached the Lord under the inebriating influence of wine, and strong drink.
Are not delinquents, like Nadab and Abihu, still found in Christian temples, offering incense before the Lord, in a manner which he has not commanded, and therefore which he cannot approve? When professing worshippers bring into the house of prayer zeal without knowledge-culpable misapprehensions of the character of God-carnal affections-earthly, light, vain, trifling thoughts-the devices of a willworship, which they have substituted for the offering of soul and spirit required by him, the incense is enkindled by a flame which never descended from heaven, which the Spirit of a
holy God never introduced within their hearts; but which owes its origin to the suggestions of unsanctified and carnal minds, at enmity with him. The voice is Jacob's voice; but the hands are the hands of Esau. Such worshippers rashly intrude into the divine presence. They have neglected the solemn precept, "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools; for they consider not that they do evil." God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The Father seeketh such to worship him. The splendour of external service, unaccompanied by the offering of a broken and contrite spirit, can never fulfil his requirement. Reverence of his greatness, hope in his mercy, gratitude for his love, desire for his salvation, and prayer for the transforming influence of his grace, can alone prove that our lips have been touched, our incense enkindled, our hearts and service sanctified, by living coals from the altar of the Redeemer's sacrifice; and that we are not drawing nigh to him with the prayer that proceedeth out of feigned lips. In the one case we presumptuously offer a carnal and forbidden oblation; in the other, a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
(2.) The offence of Nadab and Abihu was
also highly dishonourable to the Lord. very minuteness and accuracy with which the whole ceremonial ritual had been defined, must have taught the men to whose care it was entrusted, with what jealousy the Most High regarded any infringement of his commands. When it is also remembered, that the fire which came down from heaven was the type and symbol of pardon of sin, and redemption from death, shadowed forth in the accepted victims, all attempt to use another flame, taken, it might be, from that employed in the most common purposes of life, was a flagrant insult against the majesty and mercy of Jehovah. When it is moreover considered, that the incense shadowed forth the intercession made for the souls of Israel, and for the acceptance of their persons and services, we may well be amazed at the conduct of men, who, admitted into the more intimate secrets of God, thus despised ordinances which he himself had given, and poured contempt on his purposes of love.
Do you ask, how the case is applicable to the circumstances of Christians in private or public worship? I answer-it applies with the same fitness, with which every type and emblem refers to the circumstances of the Gospel church. "The Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world," hath bled upon the altar of the
The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all; and the wrath of a sin-avenging God consumed the mortal nature which his eternal Son had taken, in order to make the full atonement for transgressors. The great High Priest is passed into the heavens. He has not only sprinkled the mercy-seat above with his blood; but he stands before it, with the incense of his resistless intercession. Without the shedding of that blood, there is no remission of sins. Without the employment and success of that High Priesthood there is no acceptance with God. In the incense then, which we profess to offer-in the supplications which we address to the throne of grace, whether from the privacy of the closet, or the congregation of the people, do we draw nigh in any other manner than that which the Most High has appointed? Is the fire, by which the prayer must be wafted up to heaven, inflamed at the altar of burnt-sacrifices? No man can come in supplication well pleasing to the Father, except by Christ. And, as the way to the golden altar of incense lay by the brazen altar of burnt-offering, so neither can any worshipper approach Jesus Christ, acceptably pleading his intercession, who comes not to the cross whereon he died, to remove guilt; and "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." How then do we come before the Lord? Is it