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THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST.
Heb. x. 1-18. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the
very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not 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. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me : In burnt offerings and rifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein ; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins : But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfecied for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us : for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
These words conclude the masterly argument of our apostle on the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He here makes his last stroke to sever the cherished ties which yet bound many of his readers to Judaism. There were many reasons why the Jews should think highly of the Levitical institutions. From early infancy they were taught to look upon theirs as the only true religion on earth. The first lessons which they learned from maternal lips, told of the wonderful interpositions of God in their behalf in the days of the patriarchs-in Egypt-in the wilderness--and all along the thread of their history from Abraham to Moses, and Joshua, and David, and Solomon. The awful manner in which their law was given the long list of honored worthies who had lived, flourished and triumphantly died in the Jewish faith-together with the blessed and brilliant promises annexed to the sincere observance of its solemn rites and noble ceremonies, reasonably begat in all of them a deep reyerence and ardent attachment to the Mosaic religion. But at the
time when our epistle was written, salvation and life were no longer designed to be found in those honored institutions. Having fulfilled the purpose of their establishment, they were numbered among the things which belonged only to a past era. Having been alto. gether typical in their character, they had now passed into total desuetude at the presence of their great antitype. But though decrepid and ready to pass away, many still clung to them as the vine to the dead and decaying oak in whose branches and boughs it once found ample support. Paul in this letter labored hard to detach them from the old and lifeless trunk, and fix them on the green, tall and vigorous scion which presented itself in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His final effort to that effect is put forth in the text. Two points he here sets himself to prove: 1st. the impotency of the Levitical sacrifices; and 2nd. the entire sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I. Let us then briefly consider the arguments by which the apostle proves the impotency and imperfection of the legal sacrifices.
His first argument he draws from the nature of them. They were but “ shadows of good things to come, and not the very image of the things.” “ The word shadow here refers to a rough outline of anything, a mere sketch, such as a carpenter draws with a piece of chalk, or such as an artist delineates when he is about to make a picture. He sketches an outline of the object which he designs to draw, which has some resemblance to it, but is not the very image;' for it is not yet complete. The word rendered the very image' refers to a painting or statue which is finished, where every part is an exact copy of the original. The good things to come here refer to the future blessings which would be conferred on man by the Gospel. The idea is, that under the ancient sacrifices there was an imperfect representation; a dim outline of the blessings which the Gospel would impart to men. They were a typical represen. tation; they were not such that it could be pretended that they would answer the purpose of the things themselves which they were to represent, and would make those who offered them perfect. Such a rude outline ; such a mere sketch, or imperfect delineation, could no more answer the purpose of saving the soul than the rough sketch which the architect makes would answer the pur. pose of a house, or than the first outline which a painter draws would answer the purpose of a perfect and finished portrait. All
that could be done by either would be to convey some distant and obscure idea of what the house or picture might be, and this was all that was done by the law of Moses.” 1
The second argument adduced to prove the impotency of the legal sacrifices, is their continual repetition. They were offered year by year continually,” and hence would never make the comer thereunto perfect.” The simple fact that they were yearly repeated, and that in behalf of the same individuals, showed that there must have been some deficiency about them. If those sacrifices had power to atone for sins, they then certainly would have ceased after being once presented. “The worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.” That is, if they had so availed as to remove their sins by the procurement of a complete pardon, no more troubles of conscience would have any longer been felt on the subject. It would then have been unnecessary for these sacrifices to be repeated over and over again. From the fact then that in them there was “a remembrance again made of sins every year,” it was unquestionably to be concluded that there was something weak and imperfect in them.
Again, the apostle argues the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices from the inferior victims which were slain on such occasions. “For it is not possible,” says he, “ that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” No one would for a moment suppose that the blood of such animals was sufficient to expiate the sins of men. The blood of no mere creature, much less of such inferior creatures has sufficient efficacy to wash away the moral guiltiness of the sinner. This is a thing so clear, that the apostle asserts it without any fear of contradiction.
The fourth argument of Paul on this point is drawn from the Holy Scriptures. He quotes from the 60th Psalm, not exactly verbatim, but in its true sense and scope, where Christ when entering upon the duties of his Messiahship, is represented as addressing the Father, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sins thou hast had no pleasure : then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will O God.” In this representation the apostle argues that the impotency of the legal sacrifices is implied; and moreover that when Christ came they were to pass
1 Barnes in loc.
into obsoleteness. “Above, (i. e. in this quotation,) when he said, Sacrifices and offering and burnt-offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hast pleasure therein ; which are presented according to the law; then he saith, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; (thus) he abolished the first, that he may establish the second.” The pleasure and favor of God toward men did not depend upon the legal offerings. It was not these that he desired as a satisfaction for the sins of the guilty. His will was entirely something else, even that these should be totally abolished, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ substituted in their place.
By these several arguments the apostle has most conclusively shown the impotency and imperfection of the Levitical sacrifices, and that of themselves they could never secure the forgiveness and salvation of a single soul. But inseparably associated with the weakness of the old economy in the apostle's mind, was the glorious sufficiency of those provisions made in Jesus Christ. He declares that it is through that new arrangement which the Messiah came to establish that “we are sanctified, through the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ once for all.” Let us then consider:
II. The arguments wherewith he sets himself to prove the sussiciency of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. These are but two in number, though strong in force.
The first is the fact that it was made but once. Under the law "every high priest standeth daily ministering” says he, “and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins : but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” And as the continual repetition of the legal sacrifices most clearly proved their inefficiency, even so the fact of the once for all that Christ's sacrifice was offered most clearly proves, that its Author considered it entirely sufficient to cover the whole ground of human guilt from Adam down to the end of the world. It shows that in the estimation of the all-wise God and Sovereign of the universe, by whom it was accepted in covenant before the world began, it is competent for every expiatory purpose necessary to the complete salvation of believers. It being once made, our glorious high priest could take his seat at the right hand of the heavenly Majesty, and wait there
with sure expectation that he would one day see his enemies under his feet; because that one offering is entirely sufficient to secure the final and eternal forgiveness of all who believe on his name. If that one sacrifice were not sufficient, how could Christ now appear in heaven as the representative of man? Why is it that the Divine administrations go on so smoothly, and that the guilty earth has not been sunk and blasted and destroyed as it has deserved, if that blessed sacrifice was not entirely sufficient? Do not all the circumstances preceding, attending, and following it, show that it was correctly said, “by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified ?"
But the apostle introduces another witness—an infallible witness to the entire sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is the witness of the holy Ghost—" wherefore the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” The apostle quotes from the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the coming and dispensation of Messiah. In this prophecy Jehovah promises as one of the distinguished blessings of the new covenant, that his laws should be put into the hearts of believers, and their sins and iniquities forgiven for ever. “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.? Christ Jesus had already been shown to be the mediator of this new covenant which promised such glorious things; and hence the unavoidable conclusion that his sacrifice is entirely sufficient. If it were not so, the Holy Ghost which cannot lie could not have declared this free and full pardon. But no reserve whatever is made. No sort of conditions are laid down. To every subject of the new covenant it is said, “I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Upon this glorious doctrine then, the great doctrine of the entire sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, let us for a moment dwell. Oh that God may warm our hearts in the contemplation !
Let us then in the first place look at it as the grand desideratum of all the people of the earth. It is a fact, my hearers, that “wherever a human being is found, there will be found a conscience,