LEVITICUS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

DISCOURSE 119

THE BURNT-OFFERING

Leviticus 1:3-4. If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering; and it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him.

THE institution of sacrifices may be considered as nearly coeval with the world itself. As soon as man had fallen, he needed an atonement; and an atonement was provided for him by God himself; who promised, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head:" nor can we reasonably doubt, but that God himself, who, we are told, "clothed our first parents with skins," appointed the beasts, whose skins were used for that purpose, to be offered up first in sacrifice to him. Whence, if God had not originally sanctioned it, should Abel think of offering up "the firstlings of his flock?" and why should that very sacrifice receive such a signal testimony of the divine approbation? Even the distinction between clean and unclean animals was known before the flood; and an additional number of the clean were taken into the ark, that there might be with which to offer sacrifice unto the Lord, when the deluge should be abated. Abraham also, and Melchizedek, and Job, all offered sacrifices, before the Mosaic ritual was known: so that Moses did not so much introduce new institutions, as regulate those which had existed before; and give such directions respecting them, as should suit the dispensation which his ritual was intended to prefigure.

Sacrifices are of two kinds, propitiatory, and eucharistical; the one to make atonement for sins committed; the other to render thanks for mercies received. Of the propitiatory sacrifices we have an account of no less than six different sorts; (all of which are stated in the seven first chapters of Leviticus;) "the burnt-offering, the meat-offering, the sin-offering, the trespass-offering, the offering of consecrations, and the peace-offering Leviticus 7:37. They were not altogether propitiatory; but are numbered with the propitiatory, because they were in part burnt upon the brazen altar." It is of the first of these that we are to speak at this time.

We shall notice,

I. The offering itself—

The burnt-offering was the most ancient and dignified of all the sacrifices, and at the same time the most frequent; there being two every day in the year, except on the Sabbath-days, when the number was always doubled. The things of which it consisted, varied according to the ability of the offerer: it might be taken from among the herd, or the flock, or of birds Note:, 10, 14; that so no one might have any excuse for withholding it at its proper season. By this accommodation of the offering to the circumstances of men, it was intended, that every one should evince the sincerity of his heart in presenting unto God the best offering that he could; and that no one should be discouraged from approaching God by the consideration that he was not able to present to him such an offering as he could wish. "The turtle-dove or young pigeon "was as acceptable to God as the "ram" or "bullock," provided it was offered with a suitable frame of mind. Indeed the directions respecting the poor man's offering were as minute and particular as any 4–17; which showed, that God has no respect of persons; and that his Ministers also must at their peril be as anxious for the welfare, and as attentive to the interests, of the poorest of their flock, as of the most opulent.

One thing was indispensable; that the offering, whether of the herd or of the flocks, must be "a male, and without blemish." It was to be the most excellent of its kind, in order the more fitly to shadow forth the excellencies of our incarnate God; who alone, of all that ever partook of our nature, was truly without sin. Had the smallest imperfection attached to him, he could not have been a atoning sacrifice for our sins. The utmost care therefore was to be taken in examining the offerings which prefigured him, that they might, as far as possible, exemplify his spotless perfection.

II. The manner in which it was presented—

Here also we notice very minute directions respecting,

1. The offerer—

He must bring his sacrifice "of his own voluntary will." He must feel his need of mercy, and be very desirous to obtain it. He must see that no mercy can be found, except by means of a sacrifice: and he must thankfully embrace the opportunity afforded him; not accounting God his debtor for the sacrifice offered to him, but himself a debtor to God, for his permission to approach him in such a way.

He must bring his sacrifice to "the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord." While, in doing this, he acknowledged that the Lord dwelt there in a peculiar manner, he publicly, before all the people, acknowledged himself a sinner like unto his brethren, and needing mercy no less than the vilest of the human race. Not the smallest degree of self-preference could be allowed; but all must be made to see and feel that there was but one way of salvation for ruined man.

Further, he was to "put his hand upon the head of his offering." By this significant action, he still more plainly declared, that he must perish, if ever his sins should be visited upon him; and that all his hope of acceptance with God was founded on the vicarious sufferings of this devoted victim.

2. The offering itself—

This must be "slain," (whether by the offerer or the priest, is uncertain We apprehend it was by the priest, or some Levite assisting him. See 5. The same ambiguity as to the meaning of the word, "they," may be seen in 2 Chronicles 29:22; but it is plain, from 4 of that chapter, that neither the priests nor the offerers killed the sacrifices; but the Levites killed them, and the priests received the blood,) and its "blood be sprinkled round about upon the altar." The slaughtered animal was then to be "flayed," and "cut into pieces," according to a prescribed rule: "the inwards and the legs," which might be supposed to need somewhat of purification, were "washed," and, together with the whole body, "burnt upon the altar." The skin alone remained, as a perquisite of the priest Leviticus 7:8. Do we not see in these things a striking exhibition of the sufferings of the Son of God, who was in due time to become a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world? Death was the wages due to sin, and that too under the wrath of an offended God. True it is, that the consuming of an animal by fire was but a faint representation of that misery, which we must to all eternity have endured; and of that which our blessed Lord sustained, both in his body and in his soul, when he died under the load of our iniquities.

The partial washing of the sacrifice might probably denote the perfect purity of Christ; or perhaps it might intimate the concurrence of the Holy Spirit, through whose divine agency he was fitted for a sacrifice, and by whose almighty aid he was enabled to offer himself up to God: for it was "through the eternal Spirit that he offered himself without spot to God."

III. The benefits resulting from it—

"It was accepted for the offerer, to make an atonement for him." As there were two kinds of guilt, ceremonial and moral, so there were two kinds of absolution, one actual in the sight of God, the other merely external and shadowy. We observe then in relation to these sacrifices, that they cleansed from ceremonial defilement really, and from real defilement ceremonially. There were certain things, not evil in themselves, but made so by the special appointment of God, (such as the touching of a grave or a dead body;) and the persons who had done them were to be accounted unclean, until they were purified in the way prescribed: and their observance of the prescribed forms did really purge them from the defilement they had contracted, so that no guilt would be imputed to them, nor any punishment inflicted, either in time or eternity. On the other hand, there were things really evil, (as theft or perjury,) which subjected the offender to punishment by the laws of man: now the guilt of these crimes was not purged away by the appointed sacrifices, any further than the exempting of the person from the punishment denounced by law: his conscience still remained burdened with guilt; and he must, notwithstanding all his sacrifices, answer for his crimes at the tribunal of God. This is the distinction made for us by God himself, who says, that "the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, did really sanctify to the purifying of the flesh:" but they "never could make a man perfect as pertaining to the conscience:" in that sense, "it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sins."

It may be asked then, What benefit was there to counter-balance the cost and trouble of the sacrifices? I answer, that an exemption from temporal judgments, whether inflicted by God or man, was a great benefit: but to be encouraged to come to God as a merciful and gracious God, and to have Christ so clearly and constantly exhibited before their eyes, was an unspeakable benefit, which would have been cheaply purchased by the cattle on a thousand hills.

In this ordinance we may find,

1. Much for our instruction—

Of all the subjects that can be offered to our view, there is not any that can bear the least comparison with that leading subject of the Gospel, Christ crucified: and I had almost said, that the New Testament itself scarcely unfolds it more clearly, than the ordinance before us. What would the most ignorant of the Jews imagine, when he saw the sacrifice led forth, the offerer putting his hand upon it, and the priest slaying it, and afterwards reducing it to ashes? Would he not see that here was a manifest substitution of an innocent creature in the place of the guilty, and that that very substitution was the means of reconciling the offender to his God? I will grant, that a person ignorant of the typical nature of those ordinances, might be led to ascribe the benefit to the ordinance itself, without looking through it to the sacrifice which it shadowed forth; but he could not be so blind as not to see, that acceptance with God was by means of a vicarious sacrifice. Yet, behold, we Christians, who live under the meridian light of the Gospel, need to be told, that we must be saved entirely through the atonement of Christ: yes, after all that a minister, or God himself, can say, the great majority of us will seek acceptance, in whole or in part, by our own righteousness. Go back to the Law: ask a Jew to teach you: let those whom you despise for their ignorance, be your preceptors. It is a shame and scandal that salvation by Christ is so little known among us 1 Corinthians 15:34, and that the preachers of it are yet represented as setting forth a "new doctrine Acts 17:19." Be instructed then, you opposers of Christ crucified, who are yet ignorantly "seeking to establish your own righteousness:" learn, even from the Law itself, to embrace the Gospel: and "kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way."

2. Much for our imitation—

Every one whose conscience convicted him of sin, offered, "of his own voluntary will," the best sacrifice he could; grudging nothing whereby he might honor God or promote his own salvation. An irreligious man might have asked, 'Why is all this waste of cattle, which, instead of being consumed by fire, might be sold, or given to the poor?' But the man who fears God, would reply, that nothing can be wasted which is in any way conducive to God's honor and our salvation. This is the spirit that should animate us. We may be called to make sacrifices for God: our reputation, our interest, our liberty, our very lives, may be called for in his service: and shall we be backward to make the sacrifice? Alas! too many of us are rather for a cheap religion; and their chief anxiety is, to get to Heaven at as cheap a rate as possible, and to sacrifice for God as little as they can: if they are poor, Their little can't be spared; and if they are rich, Their victim is too costly. Away with such low and niggardly thoughts: let the large and liberal spirit of Christianity possess your souls: let nothing that you have endured, move you; nor anything that you can endure: be willing to be bound, or even to die, for the Lord's sake. As for your lusts, let them be sacrificed, and utterly consumed: the sooner they are mortified, the better. And those things, which, if not called for by God in the way of his providence, you might innocently retain, bring to the altar with your own hands, and, of your own voluntary will, offer them to God: spare not anything one moment, if it stand in competition with your duty, and the maintenance of a good conscience before God. In a word, "present your own selves to him a living sacrifice; for that is your reasonable service; and it shall be accepted of your God Romans 12:1."

 

 

Leviticus 2:1-3

DISCOURSE 120

THE MEAT-OFFERING

Leviticus 2:1-3. And when any will offer a meat-offering unto the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour: and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: and he shall bring it to Aaron's sons, the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord: and the remnant of the meat-offering shall be Aaron's and his sons': it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the Lord made by fire.

IN order to a judicious exposition of the types, it is necessary that we should have certain canons of interpretation, to which we should adhere: for, without them, we may wander into the regions of fancy, and cast an obscurity over those Scriptures which we undertake to explain. Now it must be remembered, that Christ and his Church, together with the whole work of salvation, whether as wrought by him, or as enjoyed by them, were the subjects of typical exhibition. Sometimes the type pointed more immediately at one part of this subject, and sometimes at another; and sometimes it applied to different parts at the same time. The tabernacle, for instance, certainly represented Christ, "in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily:" and it represented the Church also in which God's presence is more especially manifested, and his service more eminently performed. The types being expressly instituted for the purpose of pre-figuring spiritual things, have a determinate meaning in their minutest particulars: and it is highly probable that they have always a two-fold accomplishment, one in Christ, and the other in the Church. For instance; every sacrifice undoubtedly directs our views to Christ: yet we ourselves also, together with our services, are frequently represented as sacrifices acceptable to him: which shows, that the sacrifices have a further reference to us also. But here, it is of great importance that we distinguish between those expressions of the New Testament which are merely metaphorical, and those which are direct applications of the types. Paul, speaking of the probability of his own martyrdom in the cause of Christ, says, "If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." Here he alludes to the drink-offerings, which were always poured out upon the sacrifices; and intimates that he was willing to have his blood poured out in like manner for the Church's good. This, as a metaphor, is beautiful; but if we were to make the sacrifices typical of faith, and the drink-offerings typical of martyrdom, and from thence proceed to explain the whole type in like manner, we should bring the whole into contempt. The rule then that we would lay down is this; to follow strictly the apostolic explanations as far as we have them; and, where we have them not, to proceed with extreme caution; adhering rigidly to the analogy of faith, and standing as remote as possible from anything which may appear fanciful, or give occasion to cavilers to discard typical expositions altogether.

The foregoing observations are particularly applicable to the subject of our present consideration. We apprehend that the meat-offering might be applied in every particular both to Christ and his Church: but in some instances the application would appear forced; and therefore we think it better to omit some things which may possibly belong to the subject, than to obscure the whole by anything of a doubtful nature. Besides, there are in this type such a multitude of particulars, that it would not be possible to speak satisfactorily upon them all in one sermon, if we were to take them in the most comprehensive view: we shall therefore confine ourselves to such observations as will commend themselves to your judgment, without perplexing you by too great a diversity on the one hand, or by anything fanciful or doubtful on the other.

That we may prosecute the subject in a way easy to be understood, we shall distinguish the meat-offering by its great leading feature, and consider it in that view only. The burnt-offering typified exclusively the atonement of Christ: the meat-offering typified our sanctification by the Spirit.

As for the meat-offerings which accompanied the stated burnt-offerings, they, together with their attendant drink-offerings, were wholly consumed upon the altar; but those which were offered by themselves, were burnt only in part; the remainder being given to the priests for their support. It is of these that we are now to speak. The different materials of which they consisted, will serve us for an easy and natural distribution of the subject.

The first thing to be noticed is, "The fine flour"—

Whatever we see burnt upon the brazen altar, we may be sure was typical of the atonement of Christ: whether it were the flesh of beasts, or the fruits of the earth, there was no difference in this respect: it equally typified his sacrifice. This appears not only from the meat-offering being frequently mentioned together with the burnt-offering in this very view See Psalm 40:6-8 and Hebrews 10:5-8, but from its being expressly referred to as a means of expiating moral guilt 1 Samuel 3:14; 1 Samuel 26:19. The mincha is the offering spoken of in both these places. It is on this account that we number it among the propitiatory sacrifices, notwithstanding its use in other respects was widely different. There is indeed, in the mode of treating this fine flour, something well suited to shadow forth the sufferings of Christ: it was baked (in a pan or oven) or fried, and, when formed into a cake, was broken and burnt upon the altar. Who can contemplate this, and not see in it the temptations, conflicts, and agonies of the Son of God? We cannot but recognize in these things, him, "who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities;" who himself tells us, that "He was the true bread, of which whoever ate, should live forever."

In the close of the chapter we are told, that, notwithstanding the first-fruits, when offered as the first-fruits, might not be burnt upon the altar 2, yet, if offered as a meat-offering, they would be accepted 4–16. ; and that in that case the ears must be dried by the fire, and the corn be beaten out, to be used instead of flour. The mystery in either case was the same: the excellency of Christ was marked in the quality of the corn, and his sufferings in the disposal of it.

The next thing that calls for our attention is, "The oil"—

Though the sacrifice of Christ is the foundation of all our hopes, yet it will not avail for our final acceptance with God, unless we be "renewed in the spirit of our minds," and be rendered "meet for the heavenly inheritance." But to effect this, is the work of the Holy Spirit, by whose gracious operations alone we can "mortify the deeds of the body," and attain the divine image on our souls. Hence, in approaching God with their meat-offering, they were to mingle oil with the flour, or to anoint it with oil, after having previously made it into a cake. We do not deny but that this part of the ordinance might represent, in some respect, the endowments of Christ, who was anointed to his work, and fitted for it, by a superabundant measure of the Holy Spirit Luke 4:18 and John 3:34; but, as it seems designed more particularly to mark the sanctification of our souls, we the rather confine it to that sense. And in this we have the sanction of two inspired persons, a Prophet, and an Apostle, both of whom, refer to the mincha as expressive of this very idea. Isaiah, speaking of the conversion of the Gentiles in the latter days, says, "Men shall bring them for an offering (a mincha) unto the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering (a mincha) in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord Isaiah 66:20." And Paul, speaking of that event as actually fulfilled under his ministry, goes yet further into the explanation of it, and says, that the sanctification of their souls by the Holy Spirit corresponded with the unction with which that offering was anointed: "I am," says he, "the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit Romans 15:16."

Here then we are warranted in saying, that all who would find acceptance with God, must "have an unction of the Holy One, even that anointing which shall abide with them and teach them all things 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27." We should "be filled with the Spirit," and "live and walk under" his gracious influences Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:25.

In a subsequent part of this chapter there is an especial command to add to this, and indeed to every sacrifice, a portion of "Salt,"—

Here we have no difficulty; for the very terms in which the command is given, sufficiently mark its import: "You shall not suffer the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meat-offering." Had salt been mentioned alone, we might have doubted what meaning to affix to it; but, being annexed to the covenant of God, we do not hesitate to explain it as designating the perpetuity of that covenant. It is the property of salt to keep things from corruption: and the Scriptures frequently apply it to the covenant, in order to intimate its unchangeable nature, and duration See Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5. In this view of it, we are at no loss to account for the extreme energy with which the command is given, or the injunction to use salt in every sacrifice: for we cannot hope for pardon through the sacrifice of Christ, nor for sanctification by the Spirit, but according to the tenor of the everlasting covenant. Nay, neither the one nor the other of these, nor both together, would have availed for our salvation, if God had not covenanted with his Son to accept his sacrifice for us, and to accept us also as renewed and sanctified by his Spirit. We must never therefore approach our God without having a distinct reference to that covenant, as the ground and measure, the pledge and earnest, of all the blessings that we hope for. Even Christ himself owed his exaltation to glory to this covenant: it was "through the blood of the everlasting covenant that his God and Father brought him up again from the dead Hebrews 13:20." And it is because "that covenant is ordered in all things and sure," that we can look up with confidence for all the blessings both of grace and glory.

Together with these things that are enjoined, we find some expressly prohibited: there must be "No leaven, nor honey 1. "—

Leaven, according to our Lord's own explanation of it, was considered as an emblem of corruption either in doctrine or in principle Matthew 16:12; Luke 12:1; and honey seems to have denoted sensuality. Now these were forbidden to be blended with the meat-offering.

There were occasions, as we shall see hereafter, whereon leaven at least might be offered; but in this offering not the smallest measure of either of them was to be mixed. This certainly intimated, that, when we come before God for mercy, we must harbor no sin in our hearts. We must put away evil of every kind, and offer him only "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." The retaining "a right hand or a right eye," contrary to his commands, will be as effectual a bar to our acceptance with God, as the indulgence of the grossest lusts. If we would obtain favor in his sight, we must be "Israelites indeed, and without deceit."

There was however one more thing to be added to this offering, namely, "Frankincense"—

The directions respecting this were singularly precise and strong. This was not to be mixed with the offering, or strewed upon it, but to be put on one part of it, that, while a small portion only of the other materials was put upon the altar, the whole of this was to be consumed by fire Note:, 16. "all, all." Shall we say, that this was enjoined, because, being unfit for food, it was not to be kept for mere gratification to the priests, lest it should be brought into contempt? This by no means accounts sufficiently for the strictness of the injunction. We doubt not but that its meaning was of peculiar importance: that it was intended to intimate "the delight" which God takes in the services of his upright worshipers Proverbs 15:8, of those especially who come to him under the influences of his Spirit, trusting in the Savior's merits, and in the blood of the everlasting covenant. Yes, their every prayer, their every tear, their every sigh and groan, comes up with acceptance before him, and is to him "an odor of a sweet smell," "a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable unto him through Jesus Christ." As the sacrifice of Christ himself was most pleasing unto God, so are the services of all his people for Christ's sake Compare Ephesians 5:2 with Hebrews 13:16; Philippians 4:18 and 1 Peter 2:5.

There is yet one thing more which we must notice, namely, that a part only of this offering was burnt, and that

"The remnant" was given to the priests Note:, 10. —

The handful which was burnt upon the altar, is repeatedly called "a memorial:" and it was justly called so, especially by those who had an insight into the nature of the offering which they presented: for it was a memorial of God's covenant-engagements, and of their affiance in them. Such also is, in fact, every prayer which we present to God: we remind God (so to speak) of his promises made to us in his word; and we plead them as the grounds of our hope, and the measure of our expectations.

"The remnant was given to Aaron and his sons." This, to the Israelites, would intimate, that all who would obtain salvation for themselves, must at the same time be active in upholding the interests of religion, and promoting the glory of their God. To us, it unfolds a deeper mystery. We are frequently spoken of in the New Testament as being ourselves "made priests unto God Isaiah 66:21 with 1 Peter 2:5 and Revelation 1:6; Revelation 20:6." Since the veil of the temple was rent in twain, there is a way, "a new and living way, opened for us into the Holy of Holies Hebrews 10:19-22. ;" and all of us, as "a kingdom of priests," have free and continual "access thither with boldness and with confidence Ephesians 3:12;" and we also have a right to all the provisions of God's house. It is our blessed privilege to feed upon that bread of life, the Lord Jesus, who has emphatically said, "My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed John 6:51-57." We may richly participate all the influences of the Spirit, and claim all the blessings of the everlasting covenant. Indeed, "if we feed not on these things, there is no life in us; but if we live upon them by faith, then have we eternal life."

Behold then, Brethren, "the remnant" of the offering: here it is, reserved for us in this sacred treasury, the book of God. Take of it; divide it among yourselves; eat of it; "eat and drink abundantly, O beloved Son. 5:1. ;" eat of it, and live forever. It is that "feast of fat things," spoken of by the prophet, which all of you are invited to partake of Isaiah 25:6. Only let not any hidden abomination turn it into a curse. If the bread be received even from the Savior's hands, and you partake of it with an unsanctified heart, it will only prove an occasion of your more entire bondage to Satan, and your heavier condemnation at the last John 13:26-27. But, if you "draw near to God with a true heart, and full assurance of faith," "he will abundantly bless your provision Psalm 132:15," and "your soul shall delight itself in fatness Isaiah 55:2."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 2:13

 

DISCOURSE 121

THE MEAT-OFFERING A TYPE OF CHRIST

Leviticus 2:13. Every oblation of your meat-offering shall you season with salt; neither shall you suffer the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meat-offering: with all your offerings, you shall offer salt.

THERE certainly is need of much sobriety and caution in interpreting the typical parts of Scripture, lest, instead of adhering to the path marked out for us by the inspired writers, we be found wandering in the regions of fancy and conjecture. But there are some types, which, notwithstanding they be soberly explained, appear at first sight the mere creatures of one's own imagination; which, however, on a more full investigation, evidently appear to have been instituted of God for the express purpose of prefiguring the truths of the Gospel. Of this kind is the ordinance now under our consideration: for the elucidating of which, we shall,

I. Explain the meat-offering—

The directions respecting it were very minute—

Meat-offerings were annexed to many of the more solemn sacrifices, and constituted a part of them Numbers 28 throughout. But they were also frequently offered by themselves. They were to consist of fine flour, mixed with oil, and accompanied with frankincense Note:, 2, 5. The quantity offered was at the option of the offerer, because it was a free-will offering. The wheat might be presented either simply dried and formed into flour, or baked as a cake, or fried as a wafer Note:, 7, 14; but, in whatever way it was presented, it must by all means have salt upon it 3. It was on no account to have any mixture in it, either of honey, or of leaven 1. A part, or a memorial of it, was to be taken by the priest (but with all the frankincense), and to be burnt upon the altar 6; and the remainder was for the maintenance of the priest himself, as holy food. "When it was duly offered in this manner, it was most pleasing and acceptable to God.

And this was altogether typical of things under the gospel dispensation.

It was typical,

1. Of Christ's sacrifice—

The meat-offering, or mincha, is often spoken of in direct reference to Christ, and his sacrifice. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have a long passage quoted from the Psalms, to show that neither the meat-offering (mincha) nor any other sacrifice was to be presented to God, after that Christ should have fulfilled those types by his one offering of himself upon the cross Compare Psalm 40:6-8 with Hebrews 10:5-10. And it is of great importance in this view to remember, that though the meat-offering was for the most part eucharistical, or an expression of thankfulness, it was sometimes presented as a sin-offering, to make an atonement for sin: only, on those occasions, it was not mixed with oil, or accompanied with frankincense, because everything expressive of joy was unsuited to a sin-offering Leviticus 5:11; Leviticus 5:13. See also 1 Samuel 3:14. This is a clear proof, that it must typify the sacrifice of Christ, who is the true, the only atoning sacrifice for sin 1 John 2:2.

Now there was a peculiar suitableness in this offering to represent the sacrifice of Christ. Was it of the finest quality, mixed with the purest oil, and free from any kind of leaven? this prefigured his holy nature, anointed, in a superabundant measure, with the oil of joy and gladness Psalm 45:7; John 3:34, and free from the smallest particle of sin 1 Peter 2:22. Its destruction by fire on the altar denoted the sufferings he was to endure upon the cross; while the consumption of the remainder by the priests, marked him out as the food of his people's souls, all of them being partakers of the sacerdotal office, a kingdom of priests Exodus 19:6 with 1 Peter 2:9. The frankincense also, which ascended in sweet odors, intimated the acceptableness of his sacrifice on our behalf.

2. Of our services—

The services of Christians are also frequently mentioned in terms alluding to the mincha, or meat-offering. Their alms are spoken of as a sacrifice well pleasing to God Hebrews 13:16, an odor of a sweet smell Philippians 4:18. Their prayers are said to be as the evening sacrifice, that was always accompanied with the meat-offering Psalm 141:2 with Numbers 28:4-5; and the prophet Malachi, foretelling that, under the Gospel, "all men," Gentiles as well as Jews, "should pray everywhere 1 Timothy 2:8," uses this language; "I have no pleasure in you (Jews) says the Lord, neither will I receive an offering (a mincha) at your hand: for from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering (mincha); for my name shall be great among the heathen, says the Lord of hosts Malachi 1:10-11." In a word, the conversion of sinners, and their entire devoting of themselves to God, is represented under this image: "They shall bring all your brethren, says the prophet, for an offering (mincha) unto the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering (mincha) in a clean vessel unto the Lord Isaiah 66:20." And Paul (alluding to the flour mixed with oil) speaks of himself as ministering the Gospel to the Gentiles, "that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit Romans 15:16."

Nor is it without evident propriety that our services were prefigured by this ordinance. Was the flour to be of the best quality, and impregnated with oil? we must offer unto God, not our body only, but our soul; and that too, anointed with a holy unction 1 Thessalonians. 5:23; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27. Was neither honey, nor leaven, to be mixed with it? our services must be free from carnality If we are to annex any other idea than that of leaven to "honey," that of carnality seems the most appropriate. Proverbs 25:16; Proverbs 25:27, or hypocrisy Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Was a part of it, together with all the "frankincense, to be burnt upon the altar, and the remainder to be eaten as holy food? thus must our services be inflamed with divine love, and be offered wholly to the glory of God; and, while they ascend up with acceptance before God, they shall surely tend also to the strengthening and refreshing of our own souls Isaiah 58:10-11.

There is, however, one circumstance in the meat-offering, which, for its importance, needs a distinct consideration; which will lead us to,

II. Notice the strict injunction respecting the seasoning of it with salt—

It surely was not in vain, that the injunction respecting the use of salt in this, and in every other offering, was so solemnly thrice repeated in the space of one single verse. But not even that injunction should induce one to look for any peculiar mystery (at least, not publicly to attempt an explanation of the mystery) if the Scriptures did not unfold to us its meaning, and give us a clue to the interpretation of it.

The whole ordinance being typical, we must consider this injunction,

1. In reference to Christ's sacrifice—

Salt, in Scripture, is used to denote savouriness and perpetuity. In the former sense, our Lord compares his people to good salt, while false professors are as "salt that has lost its savor Matthew 5:13." In the latter sense, God's covenant is often called "a covenant of salt Numbers 18:19, and 2 Chronicles 13:5." Apply then these ideas to the sacrifice of Christ, and the reason of this reiterated injunction will immediately appear.

How savory to God, and how sweet to man, is the atonement which Christ has offered! In the view of its acceptableness to God, and in direct reference to the meat-offering, it is thus noticed by Paul; "He gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor Ephesians 5:2." And, as having laid, by his own death, the foundation of his spiritual temple, he is said to be "precious unto man also, even unto all them that believe 1 Peter 2:7."

Moreover the efficacy of his atonement is as immutable as God himself. In this, as well as in every other respect, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever Hebrews 13:8." The virtue of his blood to cleanse from sin, was not more powerful in the day when it purified three thousand converts, than it is at this hour, and shall be to all who trust in it 1 John 1:7.

2. In reference to our services—

Let the ideas of savouriness and perpetuity be transferred to these also, and it will appear that this exposition is not dictated by fancy, but by the Scriptures themselves.

A mere formal service, destitute of life and power, may be justly spoken of in the same humiliating terms as a false professor, "It is not fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill Luke 14:34-35." Hence our Lord says, in reference to the very injunction before us, "Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its saltiness, with which will you season it? Have salt within yourselves Mark 9:49-50." What can this mean, but that there should be a life and power in all our services, an heavenliness and spirituality in our whole deportment? We should have in ourselves Matthew 16:23, and present to God 2 Corinthians 2:15, and diffuse on all around us 2 Corinthians 2:14, a "savor of the knowledge of Christ."

Nor is the continuance or perpetuity of our services less strongly marked: for in addition to the remarkable expressions of our Lord before cited Mark 9:49-50, Paul directs, that our "speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt Colossians 4:6." There never ought to be one hour's intermission to the divine life, not one moment when we have lost the savor and relish of divine things.

In order to a due improvement of this subject, let us reduce it to practice—

1. Let us take of Christ's sacrifice, and both present it to God, and feed upon it in our souls—

All the Lord's people are "kings and priests unto God Revelation 1:6;" all therefore have a right to present to him this offering, and to feed upon it: both of these things may be done by faith; and both must be done by us, if ever we would find acceptance with God. Let us think what would have been the state of the Jewish priests, if they had declined the execution of their office. Let us then put ourselves into their situation, and rest assured, that a neglect of this duty will bring upon us God's heavy and eternal displeasure John 6:53. On the other hand, if we believe in Christ, and feed on his body and blood, we shall be monuments of his love and mercy for evermore John 6:54.

2. Let us devote ourselves to God in the constant exercise of all holy affections—

All we have is from the Lord: and all must be dedicated to his service. But let us be sure that, with our outward services, we give him our hearts Proverbs 23:26. "What if a man, having good corn and oil, had offered that which was damaged? Should it have been accepted Malachi 1:8. ? Or, if he had neglected to add the salt, should it have had any savor in God's estimation? So neither will the form of godliness be of any value without the power 2 Timothy 3:5. ; but, if we present ourselves Romans 12:1, or any spiritual sacrifice whatever, it shall be accepted of God through Christ 1 Peter 2:5, to our present and eternal comfort.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 2:14-16

 

DISCOURSE 122

GREEN EARS OF CORN TO BE OFFERED

Leviticus 2:14-16. If you offer a meat-offering of your first-fruits unto the Lord, you shall offer for the meat-offering of your first-fruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears. And you shall put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon. It is a meat-offering. And the priest shall burn the memorial of it, part of the beaten corn thereof, and part of the oil thereof. It is an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

AS there was a great variety of offerings under the Law, such as burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, trespass-offerings, sin-offerings, meat-offerings, so was there a variety of those which I have last mentioned—the meat-offerings. Some of these were constantly offered with and upon the burnt-offerings: some of them were offered separately by themselves: and these also were of two different kinds; some of them being ordinary, and appointed on particular occasions; and others of them extraordinary, and altogether optional, and presented only when persons particularly desired to "honor God with their substance." The ordinary and appointed meat-offerings are spoken of in the beginning of this chapter Compare –3 with chapter 23:9–14; the extraordinary and optional are spoken of in my text. It is to the latter that I would draw your attention at this time. And for the purpose of bringing the ordinance before you in the simplest and most intelligible manner, I will set before you,

I. Its distinguishing peculiarities—

In some respects this meat-offering agreed with those which were common—

It consisted of corn: it was accompanied with oil: frankincense also was put upon it. A part of it and of the oil were burnt upon the altar, together with all the frankincense, as a memorial to the Lord: and the remainder of the corn and oil was given to the priests, for their subsistence.

Thus far it was an expression of gratitude to God for the mercies he had begun to impart, and of affiance in him for a complete and final bestowment of the blessings so conferred.

In other respects it differed from those which were common—

In the common meat-offerings the corn used was ripe, and ground into flour: but in this the corn was unripe, and incapable of being ground into flour, until a certain process had been used in relation to it. "The ears of corn were" cut when "green:" they were then to be "dried with fire:" and then were they to be offered in the way appointed for common meat-offerings Compare, 3 with the text.

Contenting myself with barely specifying the peculiarities under my first head, I proceed to explain them under my second head; and to mark, in relation to this ordinance,

II. Its special import—

As far as its observances accorded with those of the common meat-offering, its import was the same—

Burnt-offerings referred entirely to Christ, and shadowed forth him as dying for the sins of men. But the meat-offerings represented rather the people of Christ gathered out from the world, anointed with the Holy Spirit, and offered up upon God's altar, as consecrated to his service, and inflamed with holy zeal and love, for the advancement of his glory in the world. In this view the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the whole Gentile world, who shall be consecrated to the Lord in the last day: "They shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord Isaiah 66:20." (The Mincha, or meat-offering, is that which is here particularly referred to.) To the same effect Paul also speaks in the New Testament of this very conversion as actually begun under his ministry: "I am," says he, "the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit Romans 15:16." Here is not only the same mention of the meat-offering as we observed in the Prophet Isaiah, but a more distinct reference to it as accompanied with oil, and as denoting the sanctification of believers by the gift of the Holy Spirit. This, then, may be considered as marking the import of this ordinance, so far as it agreed with the common meat-offerings.

But so far as this meat-offering was peculiar, its import was peculiar also—

We cannot, indeed, speak with the same confidence on this part of our subject as respecting the meat-offerings in general; because the inspired writers of the Old and New Testament are silent respecting it: yet I cannot but feel assured in my own mind, that "the green ears" are intended to denote the younger converts, who by reason of their tender age seem almost incapable of being so dedicated to the Lord. God would have such to be presented to him: and, that their supposed incapacity to serve him might be no discouragement either to them or us, they are ordered to be gathered in, that so they may be prepared for the honor that is to be conferred upon them. Additional pains are to be taken with them, in order to supply by artificial means, as it were, what nature has not yet done for them; and to God are they to be presented, without waiting for that maturity which others at a more advanced period of life have attained. They are not to be desponding in themselves, as though it were not possible for them to find acceptance with God; nor are they to be overlooked by others, as though it were in vain to hope that any converts should be gathered from among them. God would have it known, that he is alike willing to receive all; and that he will be glorified in all, "the least as well as the greatest Jeremiah 31:34," in "little children, as well as in young men and fathers 1 John 2:12-14."

Having elsewhere explained the different parts of the meat-offering, I forbear to dwell on them See the Discourse on Leviticus 2:1-3, having no intention to speak of that ordinance any further than it is peculiar, and appropriate to the present occasion Confirmation, or Sunday Schools. But, as in that view it is very interesting,

I proceed to point out,

III. The instruction to be derived from it—

Assuredly it is highly instructive,

1. To Parents—

Does it not show you, that you should present your children to the Lord in early life? Yes; you should dedicate them to him even from the womb. See the examples of Hannah 1 Samuel 1:22; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 1:28, and Elizabeth Luke 1:15, and Lois, and Eunice 2 Timothy 1:5; are not these sufficient to guide and encourage you in this important duty? And is it no encouragement to you to be assured by God himself, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it Proverbs 22:6. ?" I say, then, labor with all diligence to promote the spiritual edification of your offspring; and while they are yet so green and young as to appear incapable of serving God with intelligence and acceptance, devote them to him, in the hope that, with the oil and frankincense put upon them, they may prove an offering well pleasing to God, and may come up with a sweet savor before him.

2. To Ministers—

"The pastor after God's own heart" will "feed the lambs," as well as the sheep, of Christ's flock. And we rejoice in the increased attention that has of late years been paid to the rising generation. But, after all, there is abundant occasion for augmented efforts in their behalf. Even the Apostles themselves had but very inadequate views of their duty in reference to persons in early life. When parents brought their children to Christ that he might bless them, the Apostles, judging that this was an unprofitable wasting of their Master's time, forbade them. But our blessed Lord was much displeased with them, and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them Mark 10:13-16." And who can tell what a blessing may attend the efforts of ministers, in reference to young people, even while the older and more intelligent reject their word? Certainly the appointment of the ordinance which we have been considering proclaims loudly the duty of ministers, and affords them all the encouragement that their hearts can desire.

3. To young people—

Persons in early life, though taken to God's house that they may serve the Lord in his instituted ordinances, rarely imagine that they have any personal interest in any part of the service. They think that religion is proper for those only who have attained a certain age; and that it will be time enough for them to serve the Lord, when their understandings are more matured. But the corn cannot be too green, provided only "the ears be full 4." There must be integrity, whatever be the age: for an hypocrite can never find acceptance with God. But as to intellectual capacity, God both can and will supply that to the youngest child in the universe that has a desire to surrender himself up to him: yes, "the things which are hid from the wise and prudent, he will reveal to babes; for so it seems good in his sight Matthew 11:25-26." Nay more, to those in early life God has given an express promise, a promise made exclusively to them: "They that seek me early shall find me Proverbs 8:17." Why, then, should young people despond, as though they were incapable of serving God? I have no hesitation in saying, that they are as acceptable an offering as can possibly be presented to the Lord: yes, in some respects God is more glorified in them than in persons at a more adult age; because the power of divine grace is more conspicuous in proportion as it is seen to be independent of man. Nor am I sure that such early monuments of divine grace do not render peculiar service to the Church; because their exhortations and examples are preeminently calculated to affect both the old and young: the old, as putting them to shame; and the young, as showing them the practicability of God's service even at their tender age. I say, then, that this ordinance is particularly instructive to the young, and should inspire them with a holy zeal to surrender up themselves to God at the earliest period of their lives.

ADDRESS—

1. The young—

Methinks I see you with your heads erect, and yourselves in all the greenness of early life; and I hear you saying, 'Leave me to myself; at least leave me until many more suns and showers have brought me to a maturity better suited to your use.' But no, my young Brethren; I would not leave you another day. God has appointed that the green ears be dried by the fire, and so be fitted for his use: and gladly would I use all possible means to qualify you for the honor to which he calls you: nor can I doubt but that, if you be willing, you shall be accepted of him. And think, I pray you, of the advantage of being consecrated to the Lord in early life: think how many sins you will avoid: think what an advance you may hope to have made in the divine life, while others are only beginning their Christian course. Above all, think what an honor it will be to serve the Lord; and what happiness to be regarded by him as his peculiar people. O, let me not speak in vain: but now vie, as it were, with each other, who shall be foremost in this blessed race, and who shall consecrate himself to God at the earliest period of his life. Happy am I to assure you, that the oil and frankincense are ready, and that the fire is already kindled on God's altar. Only be willing to be the Lord's, and this very hour shall your offering come up with acceptance before him.

2. Those who are more advanced in life—

If the green ears be sought for the Lord, surely you can have no doubt respecting the proper destination of those that are more matured. Affect, then, the honor which is now offered you, of being the Lord's. And remember, that, as a part only of the offering was consumed upon the altar, and the rest was given to the priests for their subsistence, so must you gladly give yourselves to the Lord for the advancement of his glory, and the establishment of his kingdom in the world. It is for this that so many suns have shone upon you, and so many showers have been given: and know, that in giving to God, you give only what you have received from him; and that, instead of conferring any obligation upon him, the more you do for him, the more you are indebted to him. Yes, know, that if the honor to which we call you were duly appreciated, there is not an ear in the whole field of nature that would not be anxious to attain it. May the meat-offerings, then, this day be multiplied on God's altar; and his name be increasingly glorified among us, for Christ's sake! Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 5:5-6

 

DISCOURSE 123

THE SIN AND TRESPASS-OFFERINGS COMPARED

Leviticus 5:5-6. And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing. And he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord for his sin which he has sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.

IN the words before us, the terms "sin-offering." and "trespass-offering" are used as signifying precisely the same thing: and in the 11th and 12th verses the trespass-offering is thrice mentioned as "a sin-offering." But they are certainly two different kinds of offering; though learned men are by no means agreed respecting the precise marks of difference between them. Indeed, almost all who have undertaken to explain them, confess, that they are not satisfied with what others have written upon the subject. The difficulty seems to lie in this; that the sin-offering seems to have respect to a lighter species of sin, and yet to require the more solemn offering; while the trespass-offering relates to considerably heavier offences, and yet admits of an easier method of obtaining forgiveness: for in the trespass-offering, pigeons or turtle-doves might be offered, or, in case of extreme poverty, a measure (about five pints) of flour: but in the sin-offering no such abatement, no such commutation, was allowed. This leads many (contrary to the plain letter of the Scripture) to represent the sin-offering as relating to the lighter, and the trespass-offering to the heavier, transgressions. But we apprehend that sufficient stress has not been laid on some peculiarities respecting the trespass-offering, which give by far the most satisfactory solution to the difficulties that occur in it. As for those things which the sin-offering has in common with the burnt-offerings or peace-offerings, we forbear to touch upon them, they having been already noticed in our discourses on those subjects: nor shall we enter very fully into the trespass-offering, because that is reserved for a future occasion See Discourse on Leviticus 5:17-19. We shall contract our present discussion into as short limits as possible, by omitting all that would lead us over ground already trodden, and fixing our attention on those few points, which will mark the peculiar features of these offerings, together with their distinctive differences.

We will,

I. Compare them together—

They agree in many things, each requiring that the blood of an animal should be shed and sprinkled as an atonement for sin. But they also differ very materially,

1. In the occasions on which they were offered—

The sin-offerings were evidently presented on account of something done amiss through ignorance or infirmity See the whole fourth chapter; but the trespass-offering was for sins committed through inadvertence or the power of temptation. Among these latter were sins of great enormity, such as violence, and fraud, and lying, and even perjury itself Note:, 4 and chapter 6:2, 3. There must of course be very different degrees of criminality in these sins, according to the degree of information the person possessed, and the degree of conviction against which he acted. It might be that even in these things the person had sinned through ignorance only: but, whatever circumstances there might be to extenuate or to aggravate his crime, the trespass-offering was the appointed means whereby he was to obtain mercy and forgiveness.

2. In the circumstances attending the offerings—

In the sin-offering, there was particular respect to the rank and quality of the offender. If he were a priest, he must offer a bullock; which was also the appointed offering for the whole congregation: if he were a ruler or magistrate, he must offer a kid, a male; but if he were a common individual, a female kid or lamb would suffice. The blood of the victim, in the priest's offering, was to be sprinkled before the veil, and to be put upon the horns of the altar of incense; while the blood of the ruler's, or common person's sacrifice, was not sprinkled at all, nor put on the horns of the golden altar, the altar of incense; but was put on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering only, (that is, the brazen altar,) and poured out at the bottom of that altar.

In the trespass-offering, no mention is made of a bullock for any one, but only of a female kid or lamb: even turtle-doves or young pigeons might be presented; or, in the event of a person not being able to afford them, he might offer about five pints of flour, which would be accepted in their stead Note:, 7, 11. This is the excepted case which Paul refers to, when he says, "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood Hebrews 9:22." Now thus far it does appear, that the heavier sins were to be atoned for by the lighter sacrifices: and this is the source of all the difficulty that expositors find in the subject. But there were three things required in this offering, which had no place in the sin-offering, namely, confession of the crime, restitution of the property, and compensation for the injury. Suppose a person had "robbed God" by keeping back a part of his tithes, (whether intentionally or not,) as soon as it was discovered, he must present his offering, confess his fault, restore what he had unjustly taken, and add one-fifth more of its value Leviticus 6:5, as a compensation for the injury he had done. The same process was to take place if by fraud or violence he had injured a man If the person injured could not be found, restitution was to be made to the priest, as God's representative. Numbers 5:6-8. This gives a decided preponderance to the trespass-offering: and shows, that the means used for the expiation of different offences bore a just proportion to the quality of those offences.

We shall now proceed to state,

II. What they were both designed to teach us—

The spiritual instruction to be derived from the sacrifices themselves, and the particular rites that accompanied them, we pass over, for the reasons before assigned. But there are some lessons of an appropriate nature which we may dwell upon to great advantage:—

1. Sin, however venial it may appear to us, is no light evil—

There are many branches of moral duty which are regarded as of but little importance. Truth, though approved and applauded as a virtue, is almost universally violated in the way of trade, and that too without any shame or remorse. Who that has ever bought or sold a commodity of any kind, has not seen that character realized, "It is naught, it is naught, says the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasts" of the good purchase he has made Proverbs 20:14. ? He must know little of the world, or of himself, who does not know, that "as a nail sticks between the joints of the stones, so does lying between buying and selling Ecclus. 27:2." Nor is honesty deemed at all more sacred than truth. Persons who would not rob or steal, will yet run in debt, when they know that they have not the means of satisfying their creditors. They will also defraud the revenue by every device in their power; purchasing goods that have not paid the customs, avoiding stamps where they are positively enjoined, and withholding, where they think they can do it without detection, the taxes which by law they are bound to pay. Such is the morality of many, who yet would be very indignant to be called thieves and liars. But God has given them no such licence to dispense with his laws; nor do they applaud such conduct when they themselves are the victims of deceit and fraud. Let them know therefore, that however partial they may be in estimating their own character and conduct, God "will judge righteous judgment:" and that, if sins of ignorance and infirmity were not pardoned without an atonement, much less shall such flagrant sins as theirs. It is true, they may plead custom; but before they venture to rest upon that plea, let them be well assured that God will accept it.

2. There may be much guilt attaching, where there is but little suspicion of it—

It is supposed in the sin-offering, that priests, and rulers, and common individuals, and whole congregations, may have committed sins, without being aware that they have done so. And may not the same thing occur among us? Let ministers, the priests of God, look back; let them consider the nature of their office, the responsibility attaching to it, the multitudes who have been, and yet are, committed to their care; the consequences of a faithful or unfaithful discharge of their duty; let them then compare their lives and ministrations with the lives and ministry of Christ and his Apostles, or with the express injunctions of Holy Writ; will they find no sins which they have overlooked? Will they see no occasion for the atonement of Christ? Truly, if it were not for the hope of mercy which we have through his atoning blood, we should be of all men most miserable; so great is the guilt which the most diligent among us has contracted by his defective ministrations. Let rulers proceed to make similar inquiries respecting their diligence, their impartiality, their zeal: let them see whether they might not have promoted in many instances a more active cooperation for the suppression of evil, and for the propagation of true religion: will they see no cause for shame and sorrow, when they see how little they have done for God, and in what a degree they have borne the sword in vain? Let any private individual institute a similar inquiry into all the motives by which he has been actuated, the dispositions he has manifested, the tempers he has exercised, and the use he has made of his time, his property, his influence: will he find nothing to condemn? Lastly, let whole congregations or communities be made to examine the maxims embraced, the habits countenanced, and the conduct pursued among them: will there be no room for them to acknowledge a departure from the ways of God? Is society in such a state, that all which we see and hear will stand the test, if tried by the requisitions of God's holy law?

Yet where are the consciences that are burdened with guilt? Where are the penitents applying to the blood of atonement? Are not the great mass of mankind, whether rulers or subjects, whether ministers or people, blessing themselves as having but little, if any, occasion to repent? Ah! well might David say, and happy would it be for us if it were the language also of our hearts, "Lord, who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from my secret faults Psalm 19:12. See also Psalm 139:23-24. !" And let none think that his ignorance is any excuse for him before God: for our ignorance arises only from inconsideration: and God expressly warns us, that that plea shall avail us nothing Ecclesiastes 5:6.

3. The moment we see that we have sinned, we should seek for mercy in God's appointed way—

As soon as the fault or error was discovered under the law, the proper offering (whether sin, or trespass, offering) was to be brought: and, if the offender refused to bring his offering, his sin became presumptuous; and he subjected himself to the penalty of death Compare Numbers 15:27-31, with Hebrews 10:28. To infinitely sorer punishment shall we expose ourselves, if we neglect to seek for mercy through the atoning blood of Christ Hebrews 10:29. The declaration of God is this; "He who covers his sins, shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy Proverbs 28:13."

But let us beware of one delusion which proves fatal to thousands: we are apt to content ourselves with general acknowledgments that we are sinners, instead of searching out our particular sins, and humbling ourselves for them. Doubtless it is right to bewail the whole state of our souls: but he who never has seen any individual evils to lament, will have but very faint conceptions of his general depravity. We should therefore "search and try our ways:" and not only say with Achan, "I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel," but proceed with him to add, "Thus and thus have I done Jos. 7:20." This is the particular instruction given in our text: the person who had transgressed any law of God. whether ceremonial or moral, was, as soon as he discovered it, to "confess, that he had sinned in that particular thing." O that we were more ready to humble ourselves thus! But we love not the work of self-examination: and the evils which we cannot altogether hide from ourselves, we endeavor to banish from our minds: and hence it is that so many of us are "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

4. We never can be truly penitent for sin, if we are not desirous also to repair it to the utmost of our power—

Certain it is that no reparation for sin can ever be made to God. It is the precious blood of Christ, and that only, that can ever satisfy the offended Majesty of Heaven. But injuries done to our fellow-creatures, may, and must, be requited. If we have defrauded any, whether individuals or the public, it is our bounden duty to make restitution to the full amount: and, if we cannot find the individuals injured, we should make it to God, in the persons of the poor. To pretend to repent of any sin, and yet hold fast the wages of our iniquity, is a solemn mockery: for the retaining of a thing which we have unjustly acquired, is, in fact, a continuation of the offence. Let us make the case our own, and ask, Whether, if a man had defrauded us, we should give him credit for real penitence, while he withheld from us what he had fraudulently obtained? We certainly should say, that his professions of repentance were mere hypocrisy: and therefore the same judgment we must pass on ourselves, if we do not to the utmost of our power repair every injury we have ever done. Look at Zaccheus, and see what were the fruits of penitence in him: "Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man, I restore him four-fold Luke 19:8." See also the effect of godly sorrow in the Corinthian Church; "What indignation against themselves, yes, what zeal, yes, what revenge, yes, what a determination to clear themselves" of the evil in every possible way 2 Corinthians 7:11. ! Look to it, beloved, that the same proofs of sincerity be found in you. Yet do not presently conclude that all is right, because you have made restitution unto man: (this is a mistake by no means uncommon:) the guilt of your sin still remains upon your conscience, and must be washed away by the atoning blood of Christ: that is the only "fountain opened for sin and impurity," nor, until you are washed in that, can you ever behold the face of God in peace.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 5:17-19

 

DISCOURSE 124

THE TRESPASS-OFFERING A TYPE OF CHRIST

Leviticus 5:17-19. If a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he knew it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with your estimation, for a trespass-offering unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred, and knew it not; and it shall be forgiven him. If is a trespass-offering: he has certainly trespassed against the Lord.

THE ceremonial law was intended to lead men to Christ, and was calculated to do so in a variety of ways. It exhibited Christ in all his work and offices, and directed every sinner to look to him. Moreover, the multitude of its rites and ceremonies had a tendency to break the spirits of the Lord's people, and to make them anxiously look for that period, when they should be liberated from a yoke which they were not able to bear, and render unto God a more liberal and spiritual service. It is in this latter view more especially that we are led to consider the trespass-offering, which was to be presented to God for the smallest error in the observation of any one ordinance, however ignorantly or unintentionally it might be committed. In order to elucidate the nature and intent of the trespass-offering, we shall,

I. Show the evil of sins of ignorance, and the remedy prescribed for them—

It is often said that the intention constitutes the criminality of an action. But this principle is not true to the extent that is generally supposed.

It is certain that ignorance extenuates the guilt of an action—

Our Lord himself virtually acknowledged this, when he declared that the opportunities of information which he had afforded the Jews, greatly enhanced the guilt of those who rejected him John 9:41; John 15:22. And he even, urged the ignorance of his murderers as a plea with his heavenly Father to forgive them; "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do Luke 23:34." Peter also palliated their crime upon the very same principles; "I know that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers Acts 3:17." And Paul speaks of himself as obtaining mercy because what he had done was done ignorantly and in unbelief 1 Timothy 1:13; whereas if he had done it, knowing whom he persecuted, he would most probably never have obtained mercy.

But it is equally certain that ignorance cannot excuse us in the sight of God—

A man is not held blameless when he violates the laws of the land because he did it unwittingly: he is obnoxious to a penalty, though from the consideration of his ignorance that penalty may be mitigated. Nor does any man consider ignorance as a sufficient plea for his servant's faults, if that servant had the means of knowing his master's will: he rather blames that servant for negligence and disrespect in not showing greater solicitude to ascertain and perform his duty.

With respect to God, the passage before us shows in the strongest light, that even the slightest error, and that too in the observance of a mere arbitrary institution, however unintentionally committed, could not be deemed innocent: on the contrary, it is said, "He shall bring his offering; he has certainly trespassed against the Lord." Much more therefore must every violation of the moral law be attended with guilt, because there is an inherent malignity in every transgression of the moral law; and because man's ignorance of his duty, as well as his aversion to duty, is a fruit and consequence of the first transgression. Hence is there an eternal curse denounced against every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them Galatians 3:10.

It is yet further evident that ignorance is no excuse before God, because Paul calls himself a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor, yes, the very chief of sinners, for persecuting the Church, notwithstanding he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus Acts 26:9 with 1 Timothy 1:15. And God declares that men perish for lack of knowledge Hosea 4:6, and that, because they are of no understanding, he will therefore show them no favor Isaiah 27:11.

The only remedy for sins, how light soever they may appear to us, is the atonement of Christ—

The high-priest was appointed particularly to offer for the errors of the people Hebrews 9:7 with Ezekiel 45:19-20. And as soon as ever an error, or unintentional transgression, was discovered, the person guilty of it was to bring his offering The offering was to be of proper value according to the priest's "estimation." Leviticus 27:2-8, and to seek for mercy through the blood of atonement. There was indeed a distinction in the offerings which different persons were to bring; which distinction was intended to show that the degrees of criminality attaching to the errors of different people, varied in proportion as the offenders enjoyed the means of information.

If a priest erred, he must bring a bullock for an offering Leviticus 4:3. ; if a ruler erred, he must offer a male kid Leviticus 4:22-23. ; if one of the

common people erred, he must bring a female kid, or a female lamb Leviticus 4:27-28; Leviticus 4:32, or, if he could not afford that, he might bring two young pigeons. And, to mark yet further the superior criminality of the priest, his offering was to be wholly burnt, and its blood was to be sprinkled seven times before the veil of the sanctuary, and to be put upon the horns of the altar of incense; whereas the offerings of the others were to be only in part consumed by fire; and their blood was not to be sprinkled at all before the veil, and to be put only on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering Leviticus 4:6-7; Leviticus 4:12 comp with Leviticus 4:25-26; Leviticus 4:30-31. Further still, if a person were so poor as not to be able to afford two young pigeons, he might be supposed to have still less opportunities of information, and was therefore permitted to bring only an ephah of fine flour; part of which, however, was to be burnt upon the altar, to show the offerer what a destruction he himself had merited 2. And this is the excepted case to which the Apostle alludes, when he says, with his usual accuracy, that "almost all things are by the law purged with blood Hebrews 9:22."

But, under the Gospel, there is no distinction whatever to be made. We must now say, without any single exception, that "without shedding of blood there is no remission." We need Christ as much to bear the iniquity of our holy things, as to purge our foulest transgressions Exodus 28:38; there is no other fountain opened for sin Zechariah 13:1, no other way to the Father John 14:6, no other door of hope John 10:9, no other name whereby we can be saved Acts 4:12. Christ is "the Ram See the text," "caught in the thicket Alluding to Genesis 22:13," if we may so speak, who must be our substitute and surety, whether our guilt be extenuated by ignorance, or aggravated by presumption.

This point being clear, we proceed to,

II. Suggest such reflections as naturally arise from the subject—

A more instructive subject than this cannot easily be proposed to us. It leads us naturally to observe,

1. What a tremendous load of guilt is there on the soul of every man!

Let but the sins, which we can remember, be reckoned up, and they will be more than the hairs of our head. Let these be added, which we observed at the time, but have now forgotten, and oh, how awfully will their numbers be increased! But let all the trespasses, which we have committed through

ignorance, be put to the account; all the smallest deviations and defects which the penetrating eye of God has seen, (all of which he has noted in the book of his remembrance,) and surely we shall feel the force of that question that was put to Job, "Is not your wickedness great? are not your iniquities infinite Job 22:5. ?" If we bring everything to the touchstone of God's law, we shall see, that "there is not a just man upon earth who lives and sins not Ecclesiastes 7:20. ;" and that "in many things we all offend James 3:2; Proverbs 24:16. ;" so that there is but too much reason for every one of us to exclaim with the Psalmist, "Who can understand his errors? O cleanse you me from my secret faults Psalm 19:12. !" Let none of us then extenuate our guilt, or think it sufficient to say, "It was an error Ecclesiastes 5:6;" but let us rather humble ourselves as altogether filthy and abominable Psalm 14:3, as a mass of corruption Romans 7:18; Isaiah 1:5-6, a living body of sin Romans 7:14; Romans 7:24.

2. How awful must be the state of those who live in presumptuous sins!

The evil of sins committed ignorantly, and without design, is so great, that it cannot be expiated but by the blood of atonement: what then shall we say of presumptuous sins? how heinous must they be! Let us attend to the voice of God, who has himself compared the guilt contracted by unintentional, and by presumptuous sin; and who declares that, though provision was made under the law for the forgiveness of the former, there was no remedy whatever for the latter: the offender was to be put to death, and to be consigned over to endless perdition Numbers 15:27-31. Let none then think it a light matter to violate the dictates of conscience, and the commands of God; for, in so doing, they pour contempt upon God's law, yes, and upon God himself also Numbers 15:27-31; and the time is quickly coming, when God shall repay them to their face Deuteronomy 7:10; Ecclesiastes 11:9. ; and shall beat them, not like the ignorant offender, with few stripes, but, as the willful delinquent, with many stripes Luke 12:48. Let this consideration make us cry to God in those words of the Psalmist, "Keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled and innocent from the great offence Psalm 19:13."

3. How desperate is the condition of those who make light of Christ's atonement!

Under the law, there was no remission even of the smallest error, but through the blood of atonement. Nor can any sin whatever be pardoned, under the gospel dispensation, but through the sacrifice of Christ Yet, when we speak of Christ as the only remedy for sin, and urge the necessity of believing in him for justification, many are ready to object, 'Why does he insist so much on justification by faith?' But the answer is plain: 'You are sinners before God; and your one great concern should be to know how your sins may be forgiven: now God has provided a way, and only one way, of forgiveness; and that is, through the atonement of Christ: therefore we set forth Christ as the one remedy for sin; and exhort you continually to believe in him.' Consider then, I pray you, what the true scope of such objections is: it is to rob Christ of his glory, and your own souls of salvation. Remember this, and be thankful, that the atonement is so much insisted on, so continually set before you. Pour not contempt upon it: for, if "they who despised Moses' law died without mercy," "of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing Hebrews 10:28-29. ?" Yes, to such willful transgressors, "there remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation to consume them Hebrews 10:26-27."

4. How wonderful must be the efficacy of the blood of Christ!

Let only one man's sins be set forth, and they will be found numberless as the sands upon the sea-shore: yet the blood of Christ can cleanse, not him only, but a whole world of sinners, yes, all who have ever existed these six thousand years, or shall ever exist to the very end of time: moreover, his one offering can cleanse them, not merely from sins of ignorance, but even from presumptuous sins, for which no remedy whatever was appointed by the law of Moses Acts 13:39. What a view does this give us of the death of Christ! O that we could realize it in our minds, just as the offender under the law realized the substitution of the animal which he presented to the priest to be offered in his stead! Then should we have a just apprehension of his dignity, and a becoming sense of his love. Let us then carry to him our crimson sins Isaiah 1:18, not doubting but that they shall all be purged away 1 John 1:7. ; and we may rest assured that, in a little time, we shall join the heavenly choir in singing, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion forever and ever Revelation 1:5-6."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 7:11

 

DISCOURSE 126

THE PEACE-OFFERING

Leviticus 7:11. This is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings.

IN the order in which the different offerings are spoken of, the peace-offering occurs the third; but, in the third chapter, the law of the peace-offerings is no further stated than it accords with the burnt-offering; and the fuller statement is reserved for the passage before us. Hence in the enumeration of the different offerings in verse 37, the peace-offering is fitly mentioned last. That we may mark the more accurately its distinguishing features, we shall state,

I. The particular prescriptions of this law—

Many of them were common to those of the burnt-offering; the sacrifices might be taken from the herd or from the flock: the offerer was to bring it to the door of the tabernacle, and to put his hands upon it: there it was to be killed; its blood was to be sprinkled upon the altar, and its flesh, in part at least, was to be burnt upon the altar. Of these things we have spoken before; and therefore forbear to dwell upon them now.

But there were many other prescriptions peculiar to the peace-offering; and to these we will now turn our attention. We notice,

1. The matter of which they consisted—

Though the sacrifices might be of the herd or of the flock, they could not be of birds: a turtle-dove or pigeon could not on this occasion be offered. In the burnt-offering, males only could be presented; but here it might be either male or female. In the meat-offering, either cakes or wafers might be offered; but here must be both cakes and wafers: in the former case, leaven was absolutely prohibited; but here it was enjoined; leavened bread was to be used, as well as the unleavened cakes and wafers Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 7:12-13.

2. The manner in which they were offered—

Particular directions were given both with respect to the division of them, and the consumption. The meat-offering was divided only between the altar and the priests: but, in the peace-offering, the offerer himself had far the greatest share. God, who was in these things represented by the altar, had the fat, the kidneys, and the caul, which were consumed by fire Leviticus 3:3-5. The priest who burned the fat was to have the breast and the right shoulder: the breast was to be waved by him to and fro, and the shoulder was to be heaved upwards by him towards Heaven. By these two significant actions, God was acknowledged both as the Governor of the universe, and as the source of all good to all his creatures: and from them these portions were called "the wave-breast, and the heave-shoulder 0–34." One of the cakes also was given to the priest who sprinkled the blood upon the altar, who, after heaving it before the Lord, was to have it for his own use 4. All the remainder of the offering, as well of the animal as the vegetable parts of it, belonged to the offerer; who together with his friends might eat it in their own tents. Two cautions however they were to observe; the one was, that the persons partaking of it must be "clean," (that is, have no ceremonial impurity upon them;) and they must eat it within the time prescribed.

We will not interrupt our statement by any practical explanations, lest we render it perplexed: but shall endeavor to get a clear comprehensive view of the subject, and then make a suitable improvement of it.

Let us proceed then to notice,

II. The occasions whereon the offering was made—

There were some fixed by the divine appointment, and some altogether optional. The fixed occasions were, at the consecration of the priests Exodus 29:28. ; at the expiration of the Nazarites' vow Numbers 6:14. ; at the dedication of the tabernacle and temple Numbers 7:17; 1 Kings 8:63. ; and at the feast of first fruits Leviticus 23:19. But besides these, the people were at liberty to offer them whenever a sense of gratitude or of need inclined them to it. They were offered,

1. As acknowledgments of mercies received 2. —

It could not fail but they must sometimes feel their obligations to God for his manifold mercies: and here was a way appointed wherein they might render unto God the honor due unto his name. In the 107th Psalm we have a variety of occurrences mentioned, wherein God's interposition might be seen: for instance, in bringing men safely to their homes after having encountered considerable difficulties and dangers: in redeeming them from prison or captivity, after they had by their own faults or follies reduced themselves to misery: in recovering persons from sickness, after they had been brought down to the chambers of the grave: in preserving mariners from storms and shipwreck: in public, family, or personal mercies of any kind. For any of these David says, "Let them sacrifice the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing Psalm 107:22."

2. As supplications for mercies desired—

These might be offered either as free-will offerings, or as vows 6. ; between which there was a material difference; the one expressing more of an sincere spirit, the other arising rather from fear and terror. We have a striking instance of the former, in the case of the eleven tribes, who, from a zeal for God's honor, had undertaken to punish, the Benjamites for the horrible wickedness they had committed. Twice had the confederate tribes gone up against the Benjamites, and twice been repulsed, with the loss of forty thousand men: but being still desirous to know and do the will of God in this matter, (for it was God's quarrel only that they were avenging,) "they went up to the house of God, and wept and fasted until even, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings unto the Lord:" and then God delivered the Benjamites into their hand; so that, with the exception of six hundred only, who fled, the whole tribe of Benjamin, both male and female, was extirpated Judges. 20:26.

Of the latter kind, namely, the vows, we have an instance in Jonah and the mariners, when overtaken with the storm. Jonah doubtless had proposed this expedient to the seamen, who, though heathens, readily adopted it in concert with him, hoping thereby to obtain deliverance from the destruction that threatened them Jon. 1:16. And to the particular vows made on that occasion, Jonah had respect in the thanksgiving he offered after his deliverance Jon. 2:9.

Between the peace-offerings which were presented as thanksgivings, and those presented in supplication before God, there was a marked difference: the tribute of love and gratitude was far more pleasing to God, as arguing a more heavenly frame of mind: and, in consequence of its superior excellence, the sacrifice that was offered as a thanksgiving must be eaten, on the tame day; whereas the sacrifice offered as a VOW or voluntary offering, might, as being less holy, be eaten also on the second day. But, if any was left to the third day, it must be consumed by fire 5–18.

Having stated the principal peculiarities of this law, we shall now come to its practical improvement. We may find in it abundant matter,

1. For reproof—

The Jews, if they wished to express their humiliation or gratitude in the way appointed by the law, were under the necessity of yielding up a part of their property (perhaps at a time when they could but ill afford it in sacrifice to God. But no such necessity is imposed on us: "God has not made us to serve with an offering, nor wearied us with incense:" the offerings he requires of us are altogether spiritual: it is "the offering of a free heart," or "of a broken and contrite spirit," that he desires of us; and that he will accept in preference to "the cattle upon a thousand hills." Well therefore may it be expected that we have approached God with the language of the Psalmist, "Accept, I beseech you, the free-will offerings of my mouth Psalm 119:108." But has this been the case? Have our sins brought us unto God in humiliation: our necessities, in prayer; our mercies, in thankfulness? What excuse have we for our neglects? These sacrifices required no expense of property, and but little of time. Moreover, we should never have brought our sacrifice, without feasting on it ourselves. Think, if there had not been in us a sad aversion to communion with God, what numberless occasions we have had for drawing near to him in this way! Surely every beast that was ever slaughtered on those occasions, and every portion that was ever offered, will appear in judgment against us to condemn our ingratitude and obduracy!

2. For direction—

Whether the peace-offering was presented in a way of thanksgiving or of supplication, it equally began with a sacrifice in the way of atonement. Thus, whatever be the frame of our minds, and whatever service we render unto God, we must invariably fix our minds on the atonement of Christ, as the only means whereby either our persons or our services can obtain acceptance with God. Moreover, having occasion to offer sacrifice, we must do it without delay, even as the offerers were to eat their offerings in the time appointed Hebrews 3:13-15; Psalm 119:60; 2 Corinthians 6:2; We must be attentive too to our after-conduct, "lest we lose the things that we have wrought, instead of receiving a full reward 2 John,." However carefully the offerers had observed the law before, yet, if any one presumed to eat the smallest portion of his offering on the third day, instead of being accepted of God, his offering was utterly rejected; and he was considered as having committed a deadly sin 8. O that those who spend a few days in what is called 'preparing themselves' for the Lord's supper, and after receiving it return to the same worldly courses as before, would consider this! for no service can be pleasing to God which does not issue in an immediate renunciation of every evil way, and a determined, unreserved, and abiding surrender of the soul to God. In coming to God, we must, at least in purpose and intention, be "clean;" else we only mock God, and deceive our own soul 0; and, after having come to him, we must proceed to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God 2 Corinthians 7:1."

3. For encouragement—

On these occasions a female offering was received, as well as a male, and leavened bread together with the unleavened. What a blessed intimation was here, that "God will not be extreme to mark what is done amiss!" A similar intimation is given us in his acceptance of a mutilated or defective beast, when presented to him as a free-will offering Leviticus 22:23. Our best services, alas! are very poor and defective: corruption is blended with everything we do: our very tears need to be washed from their defilement, and our repentances to be repented of. But, if we are sincere and without allowed deceit, God will deal with us as a Parent with his beloved children, accepting with pleasure the services we render him, and overlooking the weakness with which they are performed Proverbs 15:8; Psalm 147:11.

 

 

 

Leviticus 9:23-24

 

DISCOURSE 127

GOD'S ACCEPTANCE OF THE SACRIFICES

Leviticus 9:23-24. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the 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.

WHEN we see the great variety of ordinances instituted by Moses, and the multitudes of sacrifices that were, either in whole or in part, to be consumed upon the altar, we are ready to ask, Of what use was all this? and what compensation could be made to the people for all the expense and trouble to which they were put? But in the text we have a ready, and a sufficient answer. God did not long withhold from them such communications, as would abundantly recompense all that they did, and all that they could, perform for his sake: he gave them such testimonies of his acceptance as made all their hearts to overflow with joy.

Let us consider,

I. The testimonies of his acceptance—

Of these there were different kinds;

1. Ministerial—

Moses and Aaron, having finished all that they had to do within the tabernacle, came forth, and "blessed the people:" and in this action they were eminent types of Christ, and examples to all future ministers to the end of time.

As types of Christ, they showed what he should do as soon as he should have completed his sacrifice. The acceptance of all his believing followers being now certain, he blessed them; and was in the very act of blessing them, when he was taken up from them into Heaven Luke 24:50-51. Scarcely had he taken possession or his throne, before he "sent down upon them the blessing of the Father," even the Holy Spirit Acts 2:33; Acts 3:26, to be their Guide and Comforter: and, when he shall have finished his work of intercession within the veil, he will come forth to pronounce upon them his final blessing, "Come, you blessed of my Father! inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." When on earth, he offered himself a sacrifice, and died as a sinner under the malediction of the law: but at the day of judgment he will, "unto those who look for him, appear the second time, without sin, to their complete salvation Hebrews 9:28."

As examples to ministers, they showed what all ministers are authorized and empowered to declare unto those who rely on the great sacrifice. They are to stand forth, and, in the very name of God, to proclaim pardon and peace to every one of them without exception Acts 13:38-39.

2. Personal—

In two ways did God himself, without the intervention of any human means, condescend to manifest his acceptance of the sacrifices which were now offered.

He first displayed his glory before all the people. This on some occasions was done in testimony of his displeasure, and in support of his servants who acted under his authority Numbers 14:10; Numbers 16:19; Numbers 16:42; but here, as also on other occasions, it was altogether a token or his favor. In what precise manner this was done, we are not informed: but we are well assured, that it must have been in a way suited to his own glorious majesty, and in a way that carried its own evidence along with it.

Of course, such exhibitions of the divine glory are not now to be expected: but there are others, which, though not visible to mortal eyes, are very perceptible by the believing heart; and which shall be given to those who come to God by Jesus Christ. Our blessed Lord has assured his believing followers, that "he will manifest himself unto them as he does not unto the world:" which promise would be nugatory, if the manifestations referred to did not carry their own evidence along with them. It is not easy indeed to mark with precision the agency of the Holy Spirit, so as to distinguish it from the operations of our own mind: but in the effects we can tell infallibly, what proceeds from God, and what from ourselves. The views which we may have of God and his perfections, may, as far as relates to the speculative part, arise from human instruction; but the humility, the love, the peace, the purity, with all the other sanctifying effects produced by those views upon the soul, can proceed from God alone: they are the fruits of the Spirit, and of him only. Hence, though no man can conceive aright of the manifestations of God to the soul, unless he have himself experienced them, nor can know exactly what it is to have "the Spirit of God witnessing with his spirit," or "shedding abroad the love of God in his heart," yet we are in no danger of error or enthusiasm, while we look for these things as purchased for us through the sacrifice of Christ, and judge of them, not by any inexplicable feelings, but by plain and practical results.

In addition to this display of his glory, God sent fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice. By this he showed the people what fiery indignation they themselves merited, and that he had turned it from them, and caused it to fall on the sacrifice which had been substituted in their stead.

The observations just made, will apply also to this part of our subject. We are not to expect such a visible token, that our great sacrifice is accepted for us: but all the assurances of it which God has given us in his word, shall be applied with power to our souls, and be impressed with as strong a conviction upon our minds, as if we had seen a demonstration of it exhibited before our eyes.

From the testimonies themselves let us turn our attention to,

II. The effects produced by them—

It is common to visible objects to affect us strongly. Accordingly the people were deeply impressed by what they now saw. They were filled,

1. With exalted joy—

Had they not been taught to expect some extraordinary expressions of God's regard, they would probably have been terrified, as Gideon and Manoah were Judges. 6:21-22; Judges. 13:19-22; but being prepared, they were filled with triumphant exultation, and rent the air with their shouts See a similar instance, Ezra. 3:11.

How far a similar mode of expressing our religious feelings at this time would in any case be proper, we will not absolutely determine: but we apprehend that in the general it would not. Such manifestations as those we are considering, are calculated to make a strong impression on the mind, and to call forth the affections into violent and immediate exercise: but the truths of the Gospel, and the communications of God to the soul, affect us rather through the medium of the understanding; and, consequently, are both more slow, and more moderate, in their operation. Yet doubtless somewhat of the same emotions must be right, especially in our secret chamber, where our communion with God is usually most intimate; and where others who are strangers to our feelings, cannot be offended by what they would deem enthusiastic or hypocritical expressions of them. The inward triumph of the Apostle Paul seems more suited to our dispensation Romans 8:31-39; and that it is both the privilege and duty of every one of us to enjoy.

2. With profound reverence—

"They fell upon their faces," in humble adoration of their God and King. This union of humility and joy was exactly what one would have wished to see in them: and happy would it be if some who talk most of spiritual joys would learn of them! Even the seraphim before the throne cover both their faces and their feet, from a consciousness of their unworthiness to behold or serve their God: and the glorified saints, from similar feelings, cast their crowns at his feet. How much more therefore should we have our most exalted joys tempered with humility! This should never for one moment be forgotten: our affiance, our love, our gratitude, our assurance, our very triumphs, will all prove vain, if they be not chastised and softened with humiliation and contrition. If we look at the most eminent saints, and mark the effects of God's condescension to them, we find them invariably expressing their acknowledgments in a way of reverence and self-abasement Genesis 17:3; Exodus 3:6; and the more our devotion resembles theirs, the more acceptable it will be to the Supreme Being.

Let us learn from this subject,

1. To lay no stress on transient affections—

One would have thought that such a frame of mind as the people experienced at this time, must have issued well; and that they would henceforth approve themselves faithful to their God. But these were mere transient emotions, which were forgotten as soon as any temptation arose to call forth their unsubdued corruptions. And thus it is with multitudes under the Gospel; whom our Lord compares to seed sown upon stony ground, which springs up with great rapidity, but withers away as soon; because it has no deepness of earth to grow in, nor any roots to nourish it Matthew 13:5-6; Matthew 13:20-21,. We ought indeed to have our affections called forth into exercise; nor is that religion of any value that does not engage them in its service: but that religion which is seated only in the affections, will never be of any long duration. The understanding must be informed, the judgment convinced, and the will determined, upon the subject of religion; and then the affections will operate to advantage; but, unless the whole heart and the whole soul be engaged in the work, it will come to nothing.

2. To be thankful for the advantages that we enjoy—

We are apt to envy the Jews their exalted privileges, and to imagine, that, if we had enjoyed the same, we should have made a better improvement of them: but we see how fleeting and inefficacious are the impressions made by sensible manifestations, when of that whole nation two only were admitted into the promised land. They "walked by sight:" but we are "to walk by faith." This is the principle which we are to cultivate: we must look by faith to the great sacrifice: we must see our great High-Priest entered within the veil for us, and coming forth to "bless us with all spiritual blessings." Then shall we find, that, in proportion as this principle is brought into exercise, it will work by love, and purify the heart, and overcome the world, and render us meet for our everlasting inheritance.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 10:1-3

 

DISCOURSE 128

DEATH OF NADAB AND ABIHU

Leviticus 10:1-3. And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, 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. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them; and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

IN all that we behold around us there is a great degree of obscurity, so that we can judge but very imperfectly either of the actions of men, or of the dispensations of God. For want of an insight into the motives of men's conduct, we cannot form a correct estimate of their character; nor can we, without a revelation from Heaven, distinguish those events which come directly from God, and those which, though ultimately referable to him, proceed rather from secondary causes. But in the Bible we find certainty. We learn the principles by which men are actuated; and see the hand of God accomplishing his own unerring purpose. We behold sin in all its diversified forms; virtue in all its various degree; mercies in all their rich extent; and judgments in all their tremendous consequences. Had the event, of which we read in our text, happened in our day, we should probably have admired the zeal of Nadab and Abihu, and have represented their death as a translation from the service of God in an earthly tabernacle to the enjoyment of him in the tabernacle above. It is possible too that we might have ascribed the silence of Aaron to a want of parental affection. But, through the light which the Scripture casts upon these things, we behold in the death of the former, a judgment inflicted; and, in the silence of the latter, a virtue exercised.—Under these two heads we shall consider the history before us.

I. The judgment inflicted—

Nadab and Abihu were the two eldest sons of Aaron. They had been just consecrated, together with their father, to the priestly office: but,

They committed a grievous sin—

It should seem that they were elated with the distinction conferred upon them, and impatient to display the high privileges they enjoyed. Hence, without waiting for the proper season of burning incense, or considering in what manner God had commanded it to be done, they both together took their censers (though only one was ever so to officiate at a time) and put common fire upon them, and went in to burn incense before the Lord.

Now this was a great and heinous sin: for God had just before sent fire from Heaven, which he commanded to be kept always burning on the altar for the express purpose of being exclusively used in the service of the tabernacle. Their conduct therefore showed, that they had made no just improvement of all the wonders they had seen; and that they were unconscious of the obligations which their newly-acquired honors entailed upon them. It even argued u most criminal contempt of the Divine Majesty, in opposition to whose express commands they now acted.

For this, they were visited with a most awful judgment—

God, jealous of his own honor, punished their transgression, and marked their sin in their punishment. They had slighted the fire which God had given them from Heaven; and he sent fresh fire to avenge his quarrel. They neglected to honor God; and He got himself honor in their destruction. They, by their example, encouraged the people to disregard the laws that had been promulgated; and He, by executing judgment on the offenders, showed the whole nation, yes and the whole world also, that "he will by no means clear the guilty." Thus did God maintain the honor of his law, as he afterwards did the authority of his Gospel Acts 5:1-11.

While in them we behold with grief the enormity and desert of sin, in their afflicted father we are constrained to admire,

II. The submission exercised—

Doubtless the affliction of Aaron was exceeding great—

These were his own sons, just consecrated to the high office they sustained. In them he had promised himself much comfort; and had hoped, that the whole nation would receive permanent advantage from their ministrations. But in a moment he beholds all his hopes and expectations blasted. He sees his sons struck dead by the immediate hand of God, and that too in the very act of sin, as a warning to all future generations. It they had died in any other way, his grief must have been pungent beyond expression: but to see them cut off in this way, and with all their guilt upon their heads, must have been a trial almost too great for human nature to sustain.

But he submitted to it without a murmuring word or thought—

The consideration suggested to him by Moses, composed his troubled breast. God had given repeated warning that he would punish with awful severity any willful deviations from his law Exodus 19:22; Leviticus 8:35; Leviticus 22:9. Now, as a Sovereign, he had a right to enact what laws he pleased: and they, as his creatures, were bound to obey them. It became him to enforce the observance of his laws, and to vindicate the honor of his insulted majesty, if any should presume to violate them. What would have been the effect if such a flagrant violation of them, in those who were to be examples to the whole nation, were overlooked? Would not a general contempt of the divine ordinances be likely to ensue? For prevention then as well as punishment, this judgment was necessary. And the consequence of it would be, that God would henceforth be honored as a great and terrible God, and that the whole assembly of the people would learn to tremble at his word, and to obey it without reserve. Thus, however painful the stroke was to him, he submitted humbly to it, because it was necessary for the public good, and conducive to the honor of his offended God.

It is not improbable too that he would recollect the forbearance exercised towards him in the matter of the golden calf; and that, while he deplored the fate of his children, he magnified the mercy that had spared him.

From this subject we may learn,

1. To reverence God's ordinances—

Well may all, both ministers and people, learn to tremble when they approach God in the institutions of his worship. Were this example of divine vengeance duly considered, surely ministers would never dare to seek their own glory when they stand up to address their audience in the name of God. They would look well to their ministrations, and be sure that they presented before God no other fire than what they had previously taken from his own altar: The people too would never venture to come to the house of God in a thoughtless or irreverent manner, but would reflect on the holiness and majesty of the Supreme Being, and endeavor to approve themselves to him in all the services they offered Psalm 89:7; Beloved Brethren, it is no legal argument which we offer, when we remind you that God is jealous of his own honor, and exhort you from that consideration to take heed to yourselves whensoever you approach his house, his altar, or his throne of grace: it is the very argument urged by an inspired Apostle, and that too in reference to the history before us; "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29. "

2. To submit to his dispensations—

It pleases God sometimes to try in a peculiar manner his most favored saints. But from whatever quarter our trials come, we should view the hand of God in them, and say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems him good 1 Samuel 3:18. See also Psalm 38:13 and Job 1:21." It becomes not us to "reply against God;" or "the clay to strive with the potter." As a Sovereign, he has a right to do with us as he will: and, if only he be glorified, we should be content, whatever we may suffer for the attainment of that end. The recollection of our own deserts should always stop our mouths, or rather prevent even the rising disposition to murmur against him. He never did, nor can in this world, punish us more than our iniquities deserve: and therefore a living man can never have occasion to complain Lamentations 3:39. Let us then, whatever our afflictions be, submit with meekness to his chastising hand: "let us be still, and know that he is God:" yes, let us be thankful that "he is magnified in our body, whether it be by life or by death Philippians 1:20."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 13:1-59

 

DISCOURSE 125

FIRE ON THE ALTAR NOT TO GO OUT

Leviticus 13. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar: it shall never go out.

IT is a matter of deep regret that religious persons do not enter more fully into the Jewish Ritual, and explore with more accuracy the mysteries contained in it. And I am not sure that Ministers, whose office properly leads them to unfold the sacred volume to their people, are not chargeable with a great measure of this remissness, in that they are not more careful. to bring forth to their view the treasures of wisdom that are hid in that invaluable mine.

Of course, it will not be expected that on this occasion I should attempt anything more than to illustrate the subject that is immediately before me. But I greatly mistake, if that alone will not amply suffice to justify my introductory observation; and to show, that an investigation of the Law in all its parts would well repay the labors of the most diligent research.

The point for our present consideration is, the particular appointment, that the fire on the altar should never be suffered to go out. I will endeavor to set forth,

I. Its typical import, as relating to the Gospel—

Every part of the Ceremonial Law was "a shadow of good things to come." This particular ordinance clearly shows,

1. That we all need an atonement—

This fire, which was to be kept in, was given from Heaven Leviticus 9:24; and it was given for the use of all; of all Israel without exception. There was not one for whom an atonement was not to be offered. Aaron himself must offer an atonement for himself, before he can offer one for the people Hebrews 7:27. Who then among us can hope to come with acceptance into the divine presence in any other way? Our blessed Lord has told us, "No man comes unto the Father, but by me." And Paul assures us, that "without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." We must all, therefore, bring our offering to the altar; and lay our hands upon the head of our offering; and look for pardon solely through the atoning blood of Jesus. The fire, too, was for the daily use of all. And daily, yes, and hourly, have all of us occasion to come to God in the same way. There is not an offering that we present to God, but it must be placed on his altar: and then only can it ascend with a sweet smell before God, when it has undergone its appointed process in that fire.

2. That the sacrifices under the Law are insufficient for us—

Thousands and myriads of beasts were consumed on God's altar: and yet the fire continued to burn, as unsatisfied, and demanding fresh victims. Had the offerings already presented effected a complete satisfaction for sin, the fire might have been extinguished. But the repetition of the sacrifices clearly showed, that a full atonement had not yet been offered. In fact, as the Apostle tells us. they were no more than "remembrances of sins made from year to year;" and "could never take away sin," either from God's register of crimes, or from the conscience of the offender himself Hebrews 10:1-4; Hebrews 10:11; Hebrews 9:9. Thus, under the very Law itself, the insufficiency of the Law was loudly proclaimed; and the people were taught to look forward to a better dispensation, as the end of that which was, after a time, to be abolished.

3. That God would in due time provide himself a sacrifice, with which he himself would be satisfied—

From the beginning, God had taught men to look forward to a sacrifice which should in due time be offered. It is probable that the beasts, with whose skins our first parents were clothed, were by God's command first offered in sacrifice to him. We are sure that Abel offered in sacrifice the firstling of his flock: and it is probable that fire was sent from Heaven, as it certainly was on different occasions afterwards, to consume it: and that it was this visible token of God's acceptance of Abel's sacrifice, that inflamed the envy and the rage of Cain Genesis 4:4-5. From Noah's offerings, also, "God smelled a sweet savor," as shadowing forth that great sacrifice which should in due time be offered Genesis 8:20-21. To Abraham the purpose of God was marked in a still more peculiar manner. He was commanded to "take his son, his only son, Isaac," and to offer him up upon an altar, on that very mountain where the Temple afterwards was built, and where the Lord Jesus Christ himself was crucified. The fire, therefore, that was burning upon the altar, and the wood with which it was kept alive, did, in effect, say, as Isaac so many hundred years before had done, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Yes, it gave also the very answer which Abraham had done, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering Genesis 22:7-8." Thus, by keeping up the expectation of the Great Sacrifice which all the offerings of the Law prefigured, it declared, in fact, to every successive generation, that in the fullness of time God would send forth his own Son, to "make his soul an offering for sin," and, by bearing in his own person the iniquities of us all, "to take them away from us Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 53:10." In short, this fire, and every offering that was consumed by it, directed the attention of every true Israelite to that adorable "Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world John 1:29," and who in actual efficiency, as well as in the divine purpose, has been "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world Revelation 13:8."

4. That all who should not be interested in that great sacrifice must expect His sorest judgments—

The victims consumed by that fire were considered as standing in the place of men who deserved punishment. This was clearly marked, not only by their being set apart by all Israel, and offered with that express view, but by the offenders themselves putting their hands on the heads of their victims, and transferring their sins to the creatures that were to be offered in sacrifice to God Leviticus 4:4; Leviticus 4:15; Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 4:29; Leviticus 4:33. The fire that consumed them was expressive of God's indignation against sin, and declared the doom which the sinner himself merited at God's hands; yes, and the doom, too, which he himself must experience, if sin should ever be visited on him. It declared, what the New Testament also abundantly confirms, that "God is a consuming fire Hebrews 12:29. ;" and that they who shall be visited with his righteous indignation, must be "cast into a lake of fire Revelation 20:15," where "their worm dies not, and the fire never shall be quenched Mark 9:43-46; Mark 9:48 five times." Methinks, then, the fire burning on the altar gave to every person that beheld it this awful admonition; "Who can dwell with the devouring fire? Who can dwell with everlasting burnings Isaiah 33:14. ?"

In considering this ordinance, it will be proper yet further to declare,

II. Its mystical import, as relating to the Church—

The different ordinances of the Jewish Law had at least a two-fold meaning, and, in many instances, a still more comprehensive import. The tabernacle, for instance, prefigured the body of Christ, "in which all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt;" and the Church, where God displays his glory; and Heaven, where he vouchsafes his more immediate presence, and is seen face to face. So the altar not unfitly represents the cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified Hebrews 13:10-12. ; and the heart of man, from whence offerings of every kind go up with acceptance before God Hebrews 13:15-16. In the former sense we have its typical, and in the latter its mystical import.

Now in this mystical, and, as I may call it, emblematical sense, the ordinance before us teaches us,

1. That no offering can be accepted of God, unless it be inflamed with heavenly fire—

When Nadab and Abihu offered incense before God "with strange," that is, with common, "fire," they were struck dead, as monuments of God's heavy displeasure: "There went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them; and they died before the Lord Leviticus 10:1-2." And shall we hope for acceptance with God, if we present our offerings with the unhallowed fire of mere natural affections? Our blessed Lord has told us, that he would "baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire Matthew 3:11;" and every sacrifice which we offer to him should be inflamed with that divine power, even the sacred energy of his Holy Spirit, and of his heavenly grace. Let us not imagine that formal and self-righteous services can be pleasing to him; or that we can be accepted of him while seeking our own glory. Hear the declaration of God himself on this subject: "Behold, all you that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks! walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that you have kindled: but this shall you have of mine hand, you shall lie down in sorrow Isaiah 50:11."

2. That if God have kindled in our hearts a fire, we must keep it alive by our own vigilance—

I well know that this mode of expression is objected to by many: but it is the language of the whole Scriptures; and therefore is to be used by us. We are "not to be wise above what is written," and to abstain from speaking as the voice of inspiration speaks, merely from a jealous regard to human systems. True it is, we are not to attempt anything in our own strength: (if we do, we shall surely fail:) but we must exert ourselves notwithstanding: and the very circumstance of its being "God alone who can work in us either to will or do," is our incentive and encouragement to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling Philippians 2:12-13." If we cannot work without God, neither will God work without us. We must "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure 2 Peter 1:10." We must "keep ourselves in the love of God Judges , 1;" we must "stir up (like the stirring of a fire) the gift of God that is in us 2 Timothy 1:6. See the Greek;" we must from time to time "be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain in us, that are ready to die Revelation 3:2." In a word, we must be "keeping up the fire on the altar, and never suffer it to go out."

This, indeed, was the office of the priests under the Law; and so it is under the Gospel: and this is, indeed, the very end at which we aim in all our ministrations. We never kindled a fire in any of your hearts; nor ever could: that was God's work alone. But we would bring the word, and lay it on the altar of your hearts; and endeavor to fan the flame; that so the fire may burn more pure and ardent, and every offering which you present before God may go up with acceptance before him. But let me say, that, under the Christian dispensation, you all are "a royal priesthood:" there is now no difference between Jew and Greek, or between male and female: you therefore must from morning to evening, and from evening to morning, be bringing fresh fuel to the fire; by reading, by meditation, by prayer, by conversation, by an attendance on social and public ordinances, by visiting the sick, and by whatever may have a tendency to quicken and augment the life of God in your souls. The sacred fire must either languish or increase: it never can continue long in the same state. See to it, then, that you "grow in grace," and "look to yourselves that you lose not the things that you have wrought, but that you receive a full reward 2 John 1:8."

3. That every sacrifice which we offer in God's appointed way shall surely be accepted of him—

There is the fire: see it blazing on the altar. Why is it thus kept up? kept up, too, by God's express command? Why? that you may know assuredly that God is there, ready to accept your every offering. You think, perhaps, that you have no offering worthy of his acceptance. But do you not know, that he who was not able to bring a kid, or a lamb, or even two young pigeons, might bring a small measure of fine flour; and that that should be burnt upon the altar for him, and be accepted as an atonement instead of a slaughtered animal Leviticus 5:5-13. ? Be assured, that the sigh, the tear, the groan shall come up with acceptance before him, as much as the most fluent prayer that ever was offered; and that the widow's mite will be found no less valuable in his sight, than the richest offerings of the great and wealthy. Only do you "draw near to God;" and be assured, "He will draw near to you:" and, as he gave to his people formerly some visible tokens of his acceptance, so will he give to you the invisible, but not less real, manifestations of his love and favor, "shedding abroad his love in your hearts," giving you "the witness of his Spirit" in your souls, and "sealing you with the Holy Spirit of promise as the earnest of your inheritance, until the time of your complete redemption."

In concluding this subject, I would yet further say,

1. Look to the great atonement as your only hope—

I wish you very particularly to notice when it was that God sent down this fire upon the altar. It was when Aaron had offered a sacrifice for his own sins, and a sacrifice also for the sins of the people. It was. then, while a part of the latter sacrifice was yet unconsumed upon the altar, that God sent down fire from Heaven and consumed it instantly Leviticus 9:8; Leviticus 9:13; Leviticus 9:15; Leviticus 9:17; Leviticus 9:24. When this universal acknowledgment had been made of their affiance in the great atonement, then God honored them with this signal token of his acceptance. And it is only when you come to him in the name of Christ, pleading the merit of his blood, and "desiring to be found in him, not having your own righteousness but his," it is then I say, and then only, that you can expect from God an answer of peace. It is of great importance that you notice this: for many persons are looking first to receive some token of his love, that they may afterwards be emboldened to come to him through Christ. But you must first come to him through Christ: and then "he will send the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, whereby you shall cry, Abba, Father."

2. Surrender up yourselves as living sacrifices unto God—

On the Jewish altar slain beasts were offered: under the Christian dispensation you must offer yourselves, your whole selves, body, soul, and spirit, a living sacrifice unto the Lord. This is the sacrifice which God looks for; and this alone he will accept. This too, I may add, is your reasonable service Romans 12:1. This must precede every other offering 2 Corinthians 8:5. A divided heart God will never accept. Let the whole soul be his; and there shall not be any offering which you can present, which shall not receive a testimony of his approbation here, and an abundant recompense hereafter: for, "if there be only a willing mind, it shall be accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 13:45-46

 

DISCOURSE 129

THE LAWS RELATING TO LEPROSY

Leviticus 13:45-46. And the leper, in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, Unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

AMONG the various disorders with which the Jews were afflicted, the leprosy was marked as the most odious and disgraceful; and the rules for distinguishing it from all similar disorders were laid down by God himself with very extraordinary accuracy and precision. As existing in garments and in houses, it seems to have been peculiar to the Jews; and to have entirely vanished with their dispensation. But there doubtless was some important end for which God visited them with this disorder: and what that was, may be gathered from the various ordinances relating to it. In all the differences which God commanded to be put between things clean and unclean, he designed to teach us the evil and bitterness of sin: but from the leprosy more particularly may these things be learned. We may learn, I say,

I. The evil of sin—

Whatever resemblance the leprosy might bear to some other disorders, it differed materially from all others. It was,

1. Universally judicial—

This disorder was not, as some have thought, acquired by contagion; for it was not at all infectious: but it proceeded immediately from the hand of God; and was always considered as a punishment for sin. Miriam was smitten with it for her rebellion against Moses Numbers 12:10-15; and Gehazi, for his covetous and dishonest conduct towards Naaman the Syrian 2 Kings 5:27.

In this light also should sin be viewed. True, it first entered through the device of Satan: but from that time has it been, more or less, judicially inflicted by God, on those who have disregarded the divine commands. Frequently is God said to "blind the eyes," and "harden the hearts" of men. We must not indeed suppose, that he ever does this by a positive infusion of sin into the soul: this would not consist with his own glorious perfections: but he abandons men to the evil of their own hearts, and withholds from them that grace whereby alone they can overcome their corruptions. Multitudes are "given up by him to a reprobate mind, because they like not to retain him in their knowledge Romans 1:28." And he tells us plainly, that this punishment shall be inflicted on us, if we do not guard against sin in its first beginnings: "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways; he shall eat of the fruit of his own ways, and be filled with his own devices Proverbs 1:30-31; Proverbs 14:14." Who indeed has not found the truth of these declarations? Who does not see, that, if we harbor pride, covetousness, impurity, sloth, or any other evil principle in our hearts, it will gain such an ascendant over us, as at once to chastise us for our folly, and to augment our guilt? The truth is, that the very heaviest judgment which God can inflict upon us in this world, is, to give us over to the evil of our own hearts, and to say, "He is joined to idols; let him alone Hosea 4:17."

2. Pre-eminently hateful—

If there were but the smallest appearance of the leprosy on any one, he must instantly have it examined with all possible care. He must not trust to his own judgment, but must apply to those whom God had authorized to determine the point, according to the rules prescribed for them. If the disorder existed, though in ever so low a degree, the person was instantly visited with all its painful consequences: and if only a doubt of its existence was entertained, he must be shut up, and re-examined, week after week, until the point could be determined. Surely nothing could more strongly declare its odiousness in the sight of God.

In this respect it most emphatically marks the hatefulness of sin. "Sin is that abominable thing which God hates Jeremiah 44:4." He charges us to abhor it Romans 12:9, and to abstain from all appearance of it 1 These. 5:22. He solemnly assures us, that, if we harbor it in our hearts, it shall not go unpunished Exodus 34:7 and Proverbs 11:21. He requires us to "search and try our ways;" and to bring everything to the touchstone of his word Isaiah 8:20; nor would he have us satisfied with our own judgment, lest our self-love should deceive us: we must come to our great High-Priest, "whose eyes are a flame of fire;" and beg of him to "search and try us, and to see if there be any wicked way in us Psalm 139:23-24." However clear we may be in our own eyes, we must say with Paul, "I judge not mine own self: for I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but he who judges me is the Lord 1 Corinthians 4:3-4."

3. Absolutely incurable—

There was nothing prescribed, nor indeed anything to be attempted, for the cure of this disorder. Nothing but the hand that inflicted it, could remove it. Hence the removal of it is most generally expressed by the term cleansing; and those who were relieved from it are said to have been cleansed Luke 17:14; Luke 17:17.

And certain it is that none but God can deliver us from sin. No superstitious devices have ever been able to root it out, no human efforts to subdue it. The blood of Christ alone can wash away its guilt; and the grace of Christ alone can suppress its operation.

Clearly as the evil of sin is seen in this disorder, we behold yet more strongly marked,

II. The bitterness of it—

The person afflicted with the leprosy was put out of the camp or city in which he had dwelt, and was forced to live alone, being cut off from all fellowship with his dearest relatives 2 Kings 7:3; 2 Kings 15:5. How inexpressibly painful must this have been!.

Here then we see shadowed forth the miserable state of men by reason of sin. When it shows itself only in unallowed infirmities, it will consist with the divine favor; just as the leprosy, when it was turned to a kind of scurf that covered the whole body from head to foot, was considered as no longer rendering the person ceremonially unclean 2, 13; but, as long as it continues "deeper than the skin," with "quick raw flesh rising," and "white or yellow hair;" in other words, while it reigns within, and produces its accustomed fruits, it incapacitates us for,

1. Fellowship with God's Church on earth—

Social fellowship indeed with the Lord's people is not prohibited: but that fellowship which the saints enjoy with each other in spiritual exercises is altogether beyond the reach of those who live in willful sin. The Apostle justly asks, "What communion has light with darkness, or righteousness with unrighteousness, or he who believes with an unbeliever 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. ?" The views, desires, and pursuits of the ungodly are altogether different from those which characterize the children of God; and they make for themselves that separation, which under the law was the subject of an express command. Strictly speaking perhaps, the separation begins on the side of the Lord's people, because they are commanded to "come out from the world, and be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing 2 Corinthians 6:17;" but the effect is the same: in the one case, the unclean were but few, and therefore were separated from the mass: but in the other case, the mass are the unclean; and the clean are separated from them.

2. Admission into his Church in Heaven—

St. Paul appeals to us respecting this as a thing plain, obvious, and undeniable 1 Corinthians 6:9; and our blessed Lord repeatedly affirms it with the strongest asseverations that it was possible for him to utter John 3:3; John 3:5. When king Uzziah was smitten with the leprosy in the temple, all the priests with one accord rose upon him, and thrust him out of the temple; yes, and he himself also hastened to go out 2 Chronicles 26:20. And thus it would be in Heaven, if by any means an unrenewed sinner were admitted there: he would be thrust out Luke 13:28, as unworthy of a place among that blessed society; and he would haste to flee out, from a consciousness that nothing but redoubled misery could await him there Psalm 1:5.

ADDRESS—

1. Let us entertain a godly jealousy over ourselves—

Men are very apt to "think themselves something, when they are nothing." But we should diligently "prove our own work, that we may have rejoicing in ourselves alone, and not in another Galatians 6:3-5." As in the leprosy, so in the dispositions of the heart, it is often difficult to distinguish with certainty: the lines of distinction between unbelief and fear, presumption and faith, worldliness and prudence, and between a variety of other principles existing in the mind, are more easily defined on paper, than discerned in the heart: truth and error often so nearly resemble each other, that none but our great High-Priest can enable us to discern them apart. Yet if an evil principle be admitted into the mind, it will produce a thousand evils in the life. Hence a peculiar stigma was put upon the leprosy, when detected in the head: then the person was declared "utterly unclean 4. This expression does not occur anywhere else." Be on your guard therefore, beloved Brethren; and beg of God, that you may never be permitted to deceive your own souls. When doubts arose about the leprosy, the person was shut up for seven days; and this was repeated, until the point could be ascertained. And if you would occasionally retire from the world, and spend a day in fasting and self-examination, you would detect many evils of which at present you have very little conception, and acquire a perfection of character not to be attained in any other way.

2. Let us humble ourselves for our remaining imperfections—

However we may have been cleansed from our leprosy, there is, as was before observed, the leprous scurf still over us from head to foot 2, 13. We still therefore have occasion to cry with the prophet, "Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips Isaiah 6:5." "Our very righteousnesses are, in fact, but filthy rags Isaiah 64:6;" so that we still have reason, like holy Job, to "loath and abhor ourselves in dust and ashes Job 42:6." The external signs of sorrow which were prescribed to the leper, we should commute for those which indicate true contrition: "Rend your heart," says the prophet, "and not your garments Joe. 2:13." We should "walk humbly with God," and so much the more when we find that "he is pacified towards us Ezekiel 16:63." And, as they who had only been suspected of the leprosy were required to wash their garments 4, so let us, who yet retain such awful memorials of it, "wash ourselves from day to day in the fountain opened for sin and for impurity".

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 14:4-9

 

DISCOURSE 130

PURIFICATION OF THE LEPER

Leviticus 14:4-9. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed, two birds alive and clean, and cedarwood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel, over running water. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar-wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water: and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head, and his beard, and his eye-brows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes; also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

THERE is an indissoluble connection between duty and privilege, though that connection is, for the most part, but little understood. Our privileges are in general supposed to arise out of the performance of our duties; whereas the reverse of this is more generally true: privileges are freely bestowed upon us by God according to his own sovereign will and pleasure; and these operate as incentives to love and serve him. The blessings of election and vocation are not given to us on account of our antecedent merit, but in order that we may show forth the praises of Him that has called us.

We see this exemplified in the laws relating to the leprosy. Nothing was prescribed whereby people should first of all heal themselves: but, when God of his infinite mercy had first healed them, then were they to come and offer their acknowledgments in the way appointed.

The ordinances to be observed by them are here laid down: and from them we see, that the purification of the leper was two-fold;

I. Incipient—

Two birds were to be taken; one of which was to be killed over a vessel of spring-water; and the other, dipped in the bloody water, was to be let loose. Some interpret this as signifying, that Christ should die for us, and that the sinner, dipped as it were in his blood, should be liberated from sin and death, and be enabled to soar above this lower world, both in heart and life. But we apprehend that both the birds equally designate Christ. And, inasmuch as the living bird was dipped in the blood of that which was killed, this intimated, that all that Christ should do for us after his resurrection, was founded upon the atonement which he had offered; by which he obtained a right to justify us, and to send us his Holy Spirit, and to save us with an everlasting salvation Hebrews 9:12; Romans 5:10. As for the cedar-wood, the scarlet wool, and the hyssop, which were also dipped in the bloody water, and used in sprinkling the leper, we forbear to specify the spiritual import of each, because it must rest on mere conjecture, and will not prove satisfactory after all. But the circumstance of the blood being mixed with living water, most assuredly was designed to teach us, that Christ saves us no less by his Spirit than by his blood; by his Spirit, from the power of sin; and by his blood, from its guilt. Moreover, these are never separated. When his side was pierced, "there came out (as John, who was an eye-witness, testifies) both blood and water John 19:34-35." On which circumstance he lays great stress; assuring us, that "Christ came not by water only, but by water and blood 1 John 5:6." These two then being sprinkled upon the sinner, "the priest of God is fully authorized to pronounce him clean".

In confirmation of this statement we need only to refer to the two goats offered on the great day of annual expiation: that which was slain, and that which carried the sins of the people into the wilderness, equally prefigured Christ Leviticus 16:21-22. ; the one, as "dying for our sins; and the other, as rising again for our justification Romans 4:25." The two birds presented by the leper were in this respect precisely similar: and equally point us to that blessed Jesus, who says, "I am He who lives, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore Revelation 1:18. "

We only add further on this point, that it was the "sprinkling" of this blood and water upon the leper, that rendered the ceremony effectual for his good. In vain would the one bird shed his blood, or the other be dipped in it and let loose, unless there were an application of that blood and water to the leper himself. But being "sprinkled seven times," he was perfectly clean; so far at least as to be brought into the camp, and put into a train for that sanctification which was,

II. Progressive—

The leper was to wash both himself and his clothes, and to shave off all his hair, and then to come into the camp. But he was not fully restored to his place in society at once: he was not admitted into his tent, but was to live in some place alone for seven days more; and then, after again washing his body and his clothes, and shaving off all his hair, even to his eyebrows, he was reinstated in all his former privileges and comforts.

This was designed to show, that the defiling effects of sin yet remain, even after that we are cleansed in the blood of Christ, and renewed by the Spirit. We need still to be renewed, both in our outward and inward man, day by day. Sin cleaves to us, yes, it spontaneously rises up in us: so that though we be washed ever so clean, we shall need to be washed again: and though we be shaved ever so close, we shall not be many days without manifesting that the work of sanctification is not yet perfect. Besides, there are higher degrees of holiness to which the regenerate are to be constantly aspiring. They are "not to account themselves to have yet attained; but, forgetting the things which are behind, they are to press forward for that which is before Philippians 3:12-14." They are to be continually "putting off the old man, and putting on the new, even until they be renewed after the very image of their God in righteousness and true holiness Ephesians 4:22-24." Instead of regarding their restoration to the divine favor as a reason for resting satisfied with their attainments, they are to make their interest in the promises an occasion, and a stimulus, to "cleanse themselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God 2 Corinthians 7:1." "Having this hope in them," they are to stop short of nothing that can be attained in this life, but to "purify themselves even as God is pure 1 John 3:3."

Among Israel of old, the great mass of the population had never been infected with the leprosy at all: but that is not the case with us: the leprosy of sin has infected every human being: and there are now but two classes, under the one or the other of which we must all be arranged.

We will therefore address ourselves,

1. To those who are yet infected with the leprosy—

What was done at the time of pronouncing the lepers clean, is the very thing which must be done to make you clean. You must be sprinkled with the blood and Spirit of Christ, even of "Him who died for you and rose again." This is necessary; nor can any human being be saved without it: and it shall be effectual; so that no human being shall ever perish, provided he apply to his soul this divinely appointed remedy: "The blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse him from all sin John 1:7. ;" and the Spirit of Christ shall "cleanse him from all his filthiness and impurity Ezekiel 36:25." The priests of old could not heal the leper, but only declare him healed: but our High-Priest can heal us. Only cry to him, as the lepers did in the days of his flesh, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" and God himself shall acknowledge and pronounce you clean. The hyssop is even now at hand, with which you may sprinkle your own souls. Use it now by faith, and you shall experience with David both its incipient and progressive efficacy: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow Psalm 51:7." But sprinkle not yourselves once or twice only, but "seven times;" then shall you be "washed thoroughly from your iniquity, and be cleansed from your sin Psalm 51:2."

2. To those who have been cleansed from it—

Your state is beautifully represented by that of the healed leper. You are not yet admitted to your home, where your more perfect brethren enjoy without any intermission their Father's smiles: but you are brought into the camp; you are acknowledged as clean, notwithstanding your remaining imperfections: and there is yet only a single week before you will be brought into the full "liberty of the children of God." True, the intervening time must be spent in humiliating and painful exercises: but those exercises are all preparing you for the richer enjoyment of the promised bliss: "they are rendering you meet for the inheritance of the saints in light Colossians 1:12." Look forward then to the happiness that awaits you: and carefully attend to everything that God has enjoined; lest, when the appointed time shall arrive, you shall be found to have neglected the duties of the present moment. Labor then to the uttermost to get rid of sin: "Wash you, make you clean Isaiah 1:16." As for the deep-rooted evils that spring up within you from time to time, if they cannot be eradicated, let them be shaved off the very moment that they appear. And let the time now appropriated to mortification and self-denial, be sweetened by the anticipation of that blessed hour, when you shall enter into the joy of your Lord, and rest forever in the bosom of your God.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 14:14-18

 

DISCOURSE 131

THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER

Leviticus 14:14-18. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass-offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his oven left hand: and the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass-offering. And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord.

IF persons sought nothing more than entertainment in their studies, we know of no book that would afford them so much gratification as the Bible. Not to mention any particular beauties, such as the sublimity of its poetical parts, or the simplicity of the historical, there is something inexpressibly grand in the general harmony of the whole, and the fitness of every part to answer the ends for which it was designed. The great edifice that was to be erected, was Christianity: the model that was formed for the purpose of exhibiting it to the world in types and shadows, was Judaism: and the correspondence between the model and the structure in all its parts affords an inexhaustible fund of pleasing and useful instruction. Let us take, for example, the ceremonies observed at the cleansing of the leper; and we shall find that they set forth in a very striking light the most essential doctrines of the Gospel. They teach us more particularly,

I. The ends for which the blood and Spirit of Christ are to be applied to our souls—

It is scarcely needful to observe, that the blood of the sacrifices typically represented the blood of Christ; or that the oil which was used on various occasions with the sacrifices, represented the Spirit of Christ, with which every true Christian is, and must be, anointed 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.

The end for which they were put upon the leper is said to be, to "make an atonement for him We might suppose from the concluding words of the text, that the priest was to make some other atonement for him: but in 9 the matter is put beyond a doubt; for there it is expressly said, that these ceremonies were performed "to make an atonement for him." " But, in order to understand this aright, we must consider the state of the leprous person: he was banished from the house of God, and from all communion with his dearest friends: but, when he was healed, and the ceremonies appointed for his purification were performed, then he was restored completely to fellowship with God, and with his Church. The word atonement therefore is here used in a lax sense: strictly speaking, it was the blood of the sacrifice alone that made atonement: but the whole ceremony is said to make an atonement, because it was that which availed for the complete restoration of the leper to the enjoyment of all his privileges.

Moreover, he is said "to be cleansed" by these ceremonies, when, in fact, he was healed of his leprosy before any of these ceremonies could be used: so this was not an actual, but a declarative cleansing of his leprosy. Nevertheless it was intended to typify that which is actually effected by the blood and Spirit of Christ: these really cleanse our souls, and restore us perfectly to the service and enjoyment of God. The two together have a combined effect, to bring us to God: but they have separate and very distinct offices, which we ought carefully to notice:—

1. The blood of Christ must be applied to purge away our guilt—

There is no possibility of cleansing our souls from guilt by anything that we can do. As the blood of bulls and of goats cannot take away sin, so neither if we could shed rivers of tears, would they suffice to expiate one single offence; much less could they wash out the stain which we have contracted by a whole life of sin. It was because of the insufficiency of all other means, that God sent his only dear Son to die for us. The blood of Him who was "Jehovah's fellow," was an ample satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. No other atonement was necessary: nothing can add to the perfection of it. By means of it, God is reconciled to sinners; and nothing is wanting, but that the sinner himself should dip the hyssop in that precious blood, and sprinkle it upon his own conscience Hebrews 9:12-14. This is the use which we are to make of the blood of Christ: and if we apply it thus to our souls in faith, it will "purge us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleanse us from our sin."

2. The Spirit of Christ must be applied to renovate our nature—

As the leprosy denied the whole man, so does sin pollute our whole souls. Our nature is altogether corrupt: and we must be renewed in every part, before we can enter into the kingdom of God John 3:3; John 5. In our present state, we should not be capable of enjoying the divine presence, even if we were admitted to it. But how can this new nature be obtained? We can no more create ourselves anew, than we could create ourselves at first. We can no more give ourselves a spiritual nature, than vegetables can endue themselves with animation, or animals with reason. The spiritual life is, if we may so speak, a higher scale of existence: for though our faculties remain the same, they acquire a totally new direction as soon as ever the spiritual life is infused into our souls. Hence the true Christian is unequivocally called "a new creature 2 Corinthians 5:17;" and hence arises our need of a divine Agent to bring us to this state. For this purpose therefore the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the ever blessed Trinity, is given to us: he is offered to us, to sanctify us throughout Titus 3:5. To this end we must seek his influence, and submit to his operations. Thus shall the effectual working of his power transform our souls into the divine image Ephesians 4:23-24, and make us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light Colossians 1:12."

But these points will receive additional light, while we consider,

II. The manner in which the blood and Spirit of Christ are to be applied, in order to their being effectual for the ends proposed—

From the rites used in cleansing the leper, we learn, that the application both of the blood and Spirit of Christ must be,

1. Particular—

Doubtless our whole man needs purification both from the guilt and pollution of sin. But the application of the blood and oil to the ear, the thumb, and the toe of the leper, seems to intimate, that every member of the body, and every faculty of the soul, whereby we either receive or execute the will of God, needs a special purification from guilt and corruption. Great is the guilt we have contracted in hearing, since we have not been obedient to the voice of God. Great is the guilt we have contracted in the whole of our walk and conduct, since we have walked in our own way rather than in God's, and done our own will rather than his. Now it is proper that we should call these things to mind, and humble ourselves before God on account of them, imploring mercy for every particular offence, and seeking a renovation of every particular faculty and member; that so our powers may all become "instruments of righteousness unto God Romans 6:13." Not that we are to be so occupied with the consideration of our particular offences as to forget that we need a thorough renovation: no; after having put the blood and oil on the parts which seem most to need their influence, we should "pour the remainder of the oil upon our head," that it may flow over our whole body verse 18, and that we may "be sanctified wholly in body, soul, and spirit 1 Thessalonians. 5:23."

2. United—

Neither the blood nor the oil were on any account to be omitted in the purification of the leper: nor can either of them be omitted in the restoration of our souls to God. In vain shall we profess to be justified by the blood of Christ, if we be not also sanctified by his Spirit: and in vain shall we profess to have experienced a renovation of our souls by the influences of the Spirit, if we do not trust entirely in the blood of Christ for pardon and acceptance. In the consecrating of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood, almost the same services were performed as at the purification of the leper: the blood was to be put on their ears, thumbs, and toes, and then, together with the oil, to be sprinkled on their bodies and their garments Exodus 29:20-21. The same idea was suggested by the sprinkling of bleed mixed with water in the preparatory part of the leper's publication: and it was also intimated by the effusion of blood and water from our Savior's side, when he was pierced by the spear John 19:34-35. John, who alone records that remarkable? fact, lays great stress upon it in his first epistle, reminding us that "he came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and blood 1 John 5:6." Doubtless these things were designed to teach us, that God has united the pardoning virtue of Christ's blood, with the sanctifying operations of his Spirit: and that "what he has joined together, no man should presume to put asunder."

3. Orderly—

It is by no means an indifferent matter what order we observe in applying the blood and Spirit of Christ to our souls, or, in other words, whether we seek justification or sanctification in the first place. It is true, that, in speaking of them, our words need not always be placed with accuracy and precision; for even Paul himself, when speaking to the Corinthians, says, "You are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God 1 Corinthians 6:11." But it is highly necessary that we should have clear and determinate ideas on the subject. The order relative to the leper was, that the oil should be put (on the ear, thumb, and toe, "upon the blood of the trespass-offering 7;" and to prevent our imagining this to mean only that it should be applied in addition to the blood, it is added afterwards, that the oil must "be put upon the place of the blood of the trespass-offering 8." Surely this was not so minutely ordered for nothing: it plainly shows us that the blood of Christ must be first applied for our justification; and that then the Spirit will be given for our sanctification. And this is the more carefully to be observed, because it is the very reverse of what men, of themselves, are disposed to do. We are apt to seek sanctification first; and then to make our proficiency in it the ground (in part at least) of our justification: but we must come to God as sinners to be "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus Romans 3:24. ;" and, being united thus by faith to Christ as the living vine, we shall derive virtue from him for the bringing forth this fruits of righteousness and true holiness John 15:5; Romans 7:4.

4. Believing—

At the purification of the leper the priest was to "sprinkle the oil seven times before the Lord." This denoted that, while in the performance of these ceremonies they sought the glory of the Lord, they expected from him an abundant supply of those blessings which were typically represented by them. Thus in applying the blood and Spirit of Christ to our souls, we must feel a persuasion that we are using the instituted means of our salvation; and that, in the use of them, we shall receive from God the blessings we stand in need of. Such a confidence is not to be called presumption. Presumption is the expectation of benefits in a way wherein God has not warranted us to expect them: but the most assured expectation of them, when accompanied with a diligent discharge of our duty, and a humble dependence on his promises, is in the highest degree pleasing to God, and profitable to man. The "stronger we are in faith, the more do we give glory to God Romans 4:20," and ensure the accomplishment of his promises to our souls John 11:40; 2 Chronicles 20:20.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are conscious of their leprous state.

The lepers were not left to judge of their own state: they were examined by the priest, and necessitated to abide by his decision. Think you then, that, when our great High-Priest shall inspect your souls, he will not find out the marks of leprosy that are upon you? Be assured that, however they may be covered from the eye of man, they are all "naked and open (as the sacrifices were when flayed and cut down the back-bone) before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:13." O search out your iniquities, and "rend your hearts, and cover your lips, and, with the convicted leper, cry, Unclean, unclean Leviticus 13:45 with Isaiah 6:5. !" If you be not conscious of your disorder, you will never feel your need of purification from it; and consequently you will neglect the means prescribed for your recovery, and perish in your sins. May God avert from you so heavy a calamity, and incline you to accept with gratitude his offered mercy!

2. To those who desire deliverance from it—

The lepers, though in a most afflicted state For the true state of a leper, see Numbers 12:12, had reason to be resigned to their lot, because their disorder came from the hand of God. But your disorder comes from yourselves; and therefore you should not be satisfied with its continuance one day or hour. You do well to be solicitous about the removal of it: and we entreat you never to relax your solicitude about it, until the desired healing has been imparted to your souls. Know you then for your comfort, that the blood and oil are already prepared, and that your great High-Priest is at this moment ready to apply them to your souls. Only go to him, and he will rejoice to minister to your necessities. Go humbly, yet boldly to him: present your ear. your hand, your foot, yes, and your whole person before him. that he may put upon them the blood and oil: and doubt not but that instantly you shall be restored to God. and stand "faultless before his presence with exceeding joy Judges 4."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 16:21-22

 

DISCOURSE 132

THE SCAPE-GOAT A TYPE OF CHRIST

Leviticus 16:21-22. And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the coat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities, unto a land not inhabited.

OF all the types, under the Mosaic dispensation, there was not one more plain in its import, or more useful in its tendency, than that before us. Most other types receive light from their accomplishment in Christ: this reflects light on the Gospel itself. The high-priest, having before offered a bullock and a ram, was to take two goats; and, having determined by lot which of them should be killed, and which be kept alive, was to kill the one, and to sprinkle its blood, with the blood of the bullock, within the sanctuary, and then to present the other before the Lord in the manner described in the text: he was to confess over it the sins of the people, and, by putting his hands upon its head, to transfer to it the people's sins: and then to send it into the wilderness that it might never more be seen of men. This ceremony pointed out to them the true and proper object of faith: the operation of it on the believer's mind; and the fruit and benefit of it to his soul.

I. The true and proper object of faith—

When the high-priest put his hands on the head of the scape-goat, the eyes of all present must of necessity be turned towards that devoted creature. They indeed who were endued with a spiritual discernment, would look through the type unto Christ the great Antitype: but still the goat would be regarded by all as the immediate instrument used by God for the removal of their sins: their faith terminated on that as the instituted means of their deliverance.

Thus is Christ the one object to whom the eyes of all must be directed. He has been chosen of God from all eternity to bear in his own person, and to take away from his people, all their sins Revelation 13:8. In due time he was exhibited to the world in this very character Romans 3:25. See also John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; the iniquities of all mankind were laid upon him Isaiah 53:6; and his command to every living creature is, Look unto Me and be saved Isaiah 45:22.

There was indeed under the law another goat, whose blood was shed for the remission of their sins; which was therefore to be considered by them as a joint object of their faith. But the two together were, in fact, but one sacrifice, the one representing the death of Jesus, and the other his resurrection. While therefore we view Christ as dying for our offences, we must also, in conformity with the type before us, regard him as rising again for our justification Romans 4:25.

II. Its operation on the believer's mind—

The high-priest confessed over the scape-goat the sins of all Israel with their several aggravations, at the very time that he transferred them to him by the imposition of his hands. By this significant ordinance he clearly showed how faith always operates. It leads us in the first place to transfer all our guilt to the sacred head of Jesus. While we see the impossibility of removing our sins in any other way, faith will incline us to avail ourselves of that inestimable privilege of carrying them to the Savior, and thereby securing to ourselves an everlasting deliverance from them. But will it therefore cause us to think lightly of our iniquities, because they may be cancelled by such means? No: it will rather make them to appear exceeding sinful; and will dispose us to humble ourselves for them in dust and ashes. A true believer will not so much as desire pardon without being made to feel the evil and bitterness of sin: and the more sincerely he looks to Christ, the more sincerely will he bewail his manifold transgressions Ezekiel 16:63. While, with Mary, he boldly confesses Christ, with her he will kiss his feet, and wash them with his tears Luke 7:37-38.

III. The fruit and benefit of it to his soul—

No sooner was the ordinance before us duly performed, than the sins of all Israel were taken away, and God was reconciled to his offending people. This indeed being only a typical institution, the pardon obtained by means of it was neither perfect nor durable, except to them who looked through the type to Christ himself. But faith in Christ, whether exercised by them or us, will obtain a full and everlasting remission of all our sins. Under the law indeed, there were some sins for which no sacrifice was appointed, and which therefore could not be purged away by any ceremonial oblations whatever. But there is no sin from which we shall not be justified by faith in Jesus Acts 13:39. From the very instant that we are enabled to lay them upon his head, they shall be carried into the land of oblivion, and never more be remembered against us Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12; yes, they shall be cast into the very depths of the sea Mic. 7:19, and be put away from us far as the east is from the west Psalm 103:12.

From hence we may learn,

1. The different offices of repentance and faith—

Repentance can never make atonement for sin. However penitent we be, we must lay our hands upon the head of the scape-goat, and transfer our guilt to him. On the other hand, faith does not supersede repentance, but rather encourages and invites us to it. We must repent, in order to prepare our hearts for a grateful acceptance of pardon, and a diligent improvement of it in our future life: but we must believe in order to obtain pardon; that being bestowed solely on account of Christ's vicarious sacrifice. Repentance stirs us up to exercise faith on Christ; and faith stimulates us to further acts of penitence, for the honoring of the law, the justifying of God, the exalting of Christ, the purifying of the heart, the adorning of our profession, and the rendering of us meet for glory. To be in a state pleasing to God, we must be believing penitents, and penitent believers.

2. The folly of delaying to repent and believe—

Impenitence and unbelief keep us from Christ, and rivet our sins upon us. "We must all resemble either the oblation, or the offerer: we must either, like the goats, die under the wrath of God, and be forever banished, as accursed creatures, from his presence; or we must go with penitence and contrition to our living Surety, and cast our iniquities on him. And can there be a doubt which state we should prefer? Or would we continue another hour under the guilt of all our sins, when there is such a way provided for the removal of them? Let us then behold the Scape-goat, as in our immediate presence, and go instantly to lay our sins on him. It cannot, as under the law, be done by the priest for us; it must be done by every one of us for himself. Let us then go to him with penitence and faith, and rest assured that we shall not repent or believe in vain.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 16:29-30

 

DISCOURSE 133

DUTIES REQUIRED ON THE GREAT DAY OF ATONEMENT

Leviticus 16:29-30; Leviticus 16:33. And this shall be a statute forever unto you, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourns among you. For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord …And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar; and he shall make an atonement far the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.

THE wisdom and piety of the Church in early ages appointed, that a considerable portion of time at this season of the year should be devoted annually to the particular consideration of Our Savior's sufferings; and that the day on which he is supposed to have died upon the cross, should be always observed as a solemn fast. In process of time many superstitious usages were introduced; which, however, in the Reformed Churches, have been very properly discontinued. But it is much to be regretted, that, while we have cast off the yoke of Popish superstition, we have lost, in a very great measure, that regard for the solemnities which our Reformers themselves retained; and which experience has proved to be highly conducive to the spiritual welfare of mankind. The Nativity of our Lord indeed, because it is a feast, is observed by almost all persons with a religious reverence; but the day of his death, being to be kept as a fast, is almost wholly disregarded; insomuch that the house of God is scarcely at all attended, and the various vocations of men proceed almost without interruption in their accustomed channel. We are well aware that the Jewish institutions are not to be revived: but, though the ordinances themselves have ceased, the moral ends for which they were instituted should be retained; nor should any means, whereby they may, in perfect consistency with Christian liberty, be attained, be deemed unworthy of our attention.

The great day of annual expiation was the most solemn appointment in the whole of the Mosaic economy. Its avowed purpose was to bring men to repentance, and to faith in the atonement which should in due time be offered. Now these are the sole ends for which an annual fast is observed on this day: and, if they be attained by us, we shall have reason to bless God forever that such an appointment has been preserved in the Church.

In considering the passage before us there are two things to be noticed;

I. The objects for which atonement was made—

To have a just view of this subject, we must not rest in the general idea of an atonement for sin, but must enter particularly into the consideration of the specific objects for which the atonement was made. It was made,

1. For the High-Priest—

The persons who filled the office of the priesthood were partakers of the same corrupt nature, as was in those for whom they ministered: and, being themselves shiners, they needed an atonement for themselves Hebrews 5:1-3; nor could they hope to interpose with effect between God and the people, unless they themselves were first brought into a state of reconciliation with God. Hence they were necessitated to "offer first of all for their own sins."

And this is a point which reflects peculiar light on the excellency of the dispensation under which we live. Our High-Priest was under no such necessity: He had no sin of his own to answer for 1 Peter 2:22; and hence it is that his atonement becomes effectual for? us 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; for, if he had needed any atonement for himself, he never could have procured reconciliation for us Hebrews 7:26-28.

2. For the people—

"All the people of the congregation" were considered as sinners; and for all of them indiscriminately was the atonement offered. None were supposed to be so holy as not to need it, nor any so vile as to be excluded from a participation of its benefits.

But here again we are reminded of the superior excellency of the Christian dispensation. For though, among the Jews, the atonement was offered for all, it did not suffice for the removal of guilt from all: it took off the dread of punishment for ceremonial defilements; but left the people at large, and especially all who had been guilty of presumptuous sin, under the dread of a future reckoning at the tribunal of God. "It could not make any man perfect as pertaining to the conscience Hebrews 9:9-10." The very repetition of those sacrifices from year to year showed, that some further atonement was necessary Hebrews 10:1-4. But under the Gospel the reconciliation offered to us is perfect: it extends to all persons and all sins, in all ages, and quarters, of the world. No guilt is left upon the conscience, no dread of future retribution remains, where the atonement of Christ has had its full effect Hebrews 9:14; there is peace with God, even "a peace that passes all understanding:" He "perfects, yes, perfects forever, all them that are sanctified Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 10:17; Hebrews 10:21-22."

3. For "the sanctuary itself and the altar"—

Even the house of God, and the altar which sanctified every tiling that was put upon it, were rendered unclean by the ministrations of sinful men. The very touch or presence of such guilty creatures communicated a defilement, which could not be purged away but by the blood of atonement. The high-priest, even while making atonement for the holy place, contracted pollution, from which he must wash himself, before he could proceed in his priestly work 4. In like manner, the person who led away the scape-goat into the wilderness, and the person who burnt the sin-offering without the camp, must wash, both their persons and their clothes, before they could be re-admitted into the camp 6–28. What an idea does this give us of the corruption of human nature, when even the most holy actions, performed according to the express appointment of God, were, by a painful necessity, the means and occasions of fresh defilement!

From the atonement required for the sanctuary we learn, that Heaven itself, so to speak, is defiled by the admission of sinners into it; and that on that very account it could not be a meet habitation for the Deity, if it were not purified by the atoning blood of Christ Hebrews 9:23.

A just view of these things will discover to us the connection between the atonement itself, and,

II. The duty especially enjoined at the time of that atonement—

To afflict the soul is our duty at all times—

As for the penances which men have contrived for the afflicting of the body, they are neither acceptable to God, nor beneficial to man: they tend to keep men from true repentance, rather than to lead them to it. Doubtless such a measure of fasting and bodily self-denial as shall aid the soul in its operations, is good: but still it is the soul chiefly that must be afflicted. That is the principal seat of sin, and therefore should be the principal seat of our sorrows. Indeed, it is the soul alone which possesses a capacity for real and rational humiliation.

Now as there is "no man who does not in many things, yes, in everything to a certain degree offend," there is no man who does not need to afflict his soul, and to humble himself before God on account of his defects.

But it may be asked. How is this to be done? How can we reach our soul, so as to afflict it? I answer, By meditating deeply on our sins. We should call to mind all the transactions of our former lives, and compare them with the holy commands of God. We should, as far as possible, make all our sins pass in renew before us: we should consider their number and variety, their constancy and continuance, their magnitude and enormity: we should search out all the aggravating circumstances with which they have been committed, as being done against light and knowledge, against mercies and judgments, against vows and resolutions, and, above all, against redeeming love. We should contemplate our desert and danger on account of them, and our utter loathsomeness in the sight of God. This is the way to bring the soul to "a broken and contrite" state: and this is the duty of every living man.

But it was peculiarly proper on the great day of atonement—

The exercise of godly sorrow would further in a variety of views a just improvement of all the solemnities of that day.

It would dispose the person to justify God in requiring such services. Those who felt no sense of sin would be ready to complain of the ordinances as burdensome and expensive: but those who were truly contrite, would be thankful, that God had appointed any means of obtaining reconciliation with him

It would prepare the person for a just reception of God's mercy. An obdurate heart would reject the promises, just as the trodden path refuses to receive the seed that is cast upon it. The fallow ground must be broken up before the seed can be sown in it to good effect.

It would lead the person to acknowledge with gratitude the unbounded goodness of God. A person, unconscious of any malady, would pour contempt on any prescription that was offered him for the healing of his diseases: but one who felt himself languishing under a fatal, and, to all appearance, incurable disorder, would accept with thankfulness any remedy which he knew would restore his health. Thus it is the penitent sinner, and he only, that will value the offers of mercy through the blood of atonement.

Lastly, it would stimulate him to greater watchfulness and diligence in future. Suppose a person pardoned; if he felt not the evil and bitterness of sin, he would be as remiss and careless as ever: but, if his heart had been altogether broken with a sense of sin, if he had groaned under it as an intolerable burden, he would be doubly careful lest he should subject himself again to the same distress and danger: and the more assured he was of pardon and acceptance with God, the more desirous he would be to "render unto God according to the benefits received from him".

The reflections to which this subject will naturally give rise, are such as these:

1. How vain is the idea of "establishing a righteousness of our own!"

If the most holy actions of the most holy men, done expressly according to the divine appointment, rendered the persons unclean, yes and the very sanctuary of God and the altar itself unclean, so that the washing of water and the sprinkling of blood were necessary for their purification, who are we, that we should be able so to live as to claim a reward on the ground of merit? Let us lay aside this vain conceit, which, if not corrected, will infallibly issue in our own destruction. We need one to "bear the iniquity of our holy things Exodus 28:38," no less than the iniquity of our vilest actions: and, from first to last, we must receive "eternal life as the free unmerited gift of God through Jesus Christ Romans 6:23."

2. How transcendent must be the efficacy of our Redeemer's blood!

All these sacrifices which were repeated from year to year could never purge the conscience of one single individual: but the blood of Jesus Christ, once shed on Calvary, is sufficient to cleanse the whole world. Stupendous thought! Let us endeavor to realize it, and to get the evidence of it in our own souls.

3. How blessed is the issue of true repentance!

Men imagine that to afflict the soul is the way to be miserable: but the very reverse is true: to "sow in tears is the sure way to reap in joy Psalm 126:5." How beautifully was this represented on the day of atonement! It was on that day (every fiftieth year) that the Jubilee was to be proclaimed Leviticus 25:9. What a blessed termination of the day was this! What a balm to every afflicted soul! Think of the joy which pervaded the whole country, when every man was rendered free, and all returned to their lost inheritance Leviticus 25:10. ! Such shall be the happy experience of all who afflict their souls for sin and rely upon the atoning blood of Christ. "They that go on their way weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them Psalm 126:6."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 16:33

 

DISCOURSE 133

DUTIES REQUIRED ON THE GREAT DAY OF ATONEMENT

Leviticus 16:29-30; Leviticus 16:33. And this shall be a statute forever unto you, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourns among you. For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord …And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar; and he shall make an atonement far the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.

THE wisdom and piety of the Church in early ages appointed, that a considerable portion of time at this season of the year should be devoted annually to the particular consideration of Our Savior's sufferings; and that the day on which he is supposed to have died upon the cross, should be always observed as a solemn fast. In process of time many superstitious usages were introduced; which, however, in the Reformed Churches, have been very properly discontinued. But it is much to be regretted, that, while we have cast off the yoke of Popish superstition, we have lost, in a very great measure, that regard for the solemnities which our Reformers themselves retained; and which experience has proved to be highly conducive to the spiritual welfare of mankind. The Nativity of our Lord indeed, because it is a feast, is observed by almost all persons with a religious reverence; but the day of his death, being to be kept as a fast, is almost wholly disregarded; insomuch that the house of God is scarcely at all attended, and the various vocations of men proceed almost without interruption in their accustomed channel. We are well aware that the Jewish institutions are not to be revived: but, though the ordinances themselves have ceased, the moral ends for which they were instituted should be retained; nor should any means, whereby they may, in perfect consistency with Christian liberty, be attained, be deemed unworthy of our attention.

The great day of annual expiation was the most solemn appointment in the whole of the Mosaic economy. Its avowed purpose was to bring men to repentance, and to faith in the atonement which should in due time be offered. Now these are the sole ends for which an annual fast is observed on this day: and, if they be attained by us, we shall have reason to bless God forever that such an appointment has been preserved in the Church.

In considering the passage before us there are two things to be noticed;

I. The objects for which atonement was made—

To have a just view of this subject, we must not rest in the general idea of an atonement for sin, but must enter particularly into the consideration of the specific objects for which the atonement was made. It was made,

1. For the High-Priest—

The persons who filled the office of the priesthood were partakers of the same corrupt nature, as was in those for whom they ministered: and, being themselves shiners, they needed an atonement for themselves Hebrews 5:1-3; nor could they hope to interpose with effect between God and the people, unless they themselves were first brought into a state of reconciliation with God. Hence they were necessitated to "offer first of all for their own sins."

And this is a point which reflects peculiar light on the excellency of the dispensation under which we live. Our High-Priest was under no such necessity: He had no sin of his own to answer for 1 Peter 2:22; and hence it is that his atonement becomes effectual for? us 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; for, if he had needed any atonement for himself, he never could have procured reconciliation for us Hebrews 7:26-28.

2. For the people—

"All the people of the congregation" were considered as sinners; and for all of them indiscriminately was the atonement offered. None were supposed to be so holy as not to need it, nor any so vile as to be excluded from a participation of its benefits.

But here again we are reminded of the superior excellency of the Christian dispensation. For though, among the Jews, the atonement was offered for all, it did not suffice for the removal of guilt from all: it took off the dread of punishment for ceremonial defilements; but left the people at large, and especially all who had been guilty of presumptuous sin, under the dread of a future reckoning at the tribunal of God. "It could not make any man perfect as pertaining to the conscience Hebrews 9:9-10." The very repetition of those sacrifices from year to year showed, that some further atonement was necessary Hebrews 10:1-4. But under the Gospel the reconciliation offered to us is perfect: it extends to all persons and all sins, in all ages, and quarters, of the world. No guilt is left upon the conscience, no dread of future retribution remains, where the atonement of Christ has had its full effect Hebrews 9:14; there is peace with God, even "a peace that passes all understanding:" He "perfects, yes, perfects forever, all them that are sanctified Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 10:17; Hebrews 10:21-22."

3. For "the sanctuary itself and the altar"—

Even the house of God, and the altar which sanctified every tiling that was put upon it, were rendered unclean by the ministrations of sinful men. The very touch or presence of such guilty creatures communicated a defilement, which could not be purged away but by the blood of atonement. The high-priest, even while making atonement for the holy place, contracted pollution, from which he must wash himself, before he could proceed in his priestly work 4. In like manner, the person who led away the scape-goat into the wilderness, and the person who burnt the sin-offering without the camp, must wash, both their persons and their clothes, before they could be re-admitted into the camp 6–28. What an idea does this give us of the corruption of human nature, when even the most holy actions, performed according to the express appointment of God, were, by a painful necessity, the means and occasions of fresh defilement!

From the atonement required for the sanctuary we learn, that Heaven itself, so to speak, is defiled by the admission of sinners into it; and that on that very account it could not be a meet habitation for the Deity, if it were not purified by the atoning blood of Christ Hebrews 9:23.

A just view of these things will discover to us the connection between the atonement itself, and,

II. The duty especially enjoined at the time of that atonement—

To afflict the soul is our duty at all times—

As for the penances which men have contrived for the afflicting of the body, they are neither acceptable to God, nor beneficial to man: they tend to keep men from true repentance, rather than to lead them to it. Doubtless such a measure of fasting and bodily self-denial as shall aid the soul in its operations, is good: but still it is the soul chiefly that must be afflicted. That is the principal seat of sin, and therefore should be the principal seat of our sorrows. Indeed, it is the soul alone which possesses a capacity for real and rational humiliation.

Now as there is "no man who does not in many things, yes, in everything to a certain degree offend," there is no man who does not need to afflict his soul, and to humble himself before God on account of his defects.

But it may be asked. How is this to be done? How can we reach our soul, so as to afflict it? I answer, By meditating deeply on our sins. We should call to mind all the transactions of our former lives, and compare them with the holy commands of God. We should, as far as possible, make all our sins pass in renew before us: we should consider their number and variety, their constancy and continuance, their magnitude and enormity: we should search out all the aggravating circumstances with which they have been committed, as being done against light and knowledge, against mercies and judgments, against vows and resolutions, and, above all, against redeeming love. We should contemplate our desert and danger on account of them, and our utter loathsomeness in the sight of God. This is the way to bring the soul to "a broken and contrite" state: and this is the duty of every living man.

But it was peculiarly proper on the great day of atonement—

The exercise of godly sorrow would further in a variety of views a just improvement of all the solemnities of that day.

It would dispose the person to justify God in requiring such services. Those who felt no sense of sin would be ready to complain of the ordinances as burdensome and expensive: but those who were truly contrite, would be thankful, that God had appointed any means of obtaining reconciliation with him

It would prepare the person for a just reception of God's mercy. An obdurate heart would reject the promises, just as the trodden path refuses to receive the seed that is cast upon it. The fallow ground must be broken up before the seed can be sown in it to good effect.

It would lead the person to acknowledge with gratitude the unbounded goodness of God. A person, unconscious of any malady, would pour contempt on any prescription that was offered him for the healing of his diseases: but one who felt himself languishing under a fatal, and, to all appearance, incurable disorder, would accept with thankfulness any remedy which he knew would restore his health. Thus it is the penitent sinner, and he only, that will value the offers of mercy through the blood of atonement.

Lastly, it would stimulate him to greater watchfulness and diligence in future. Suppose a person pardoned; if he felt not the evil and bitterness of sin, he would be as remiss and careless as ever: but, if his heart had been altogether broken with a sense of sin, if he had groaned under it as an intolerable burden, he would be doubly careful lest he should subject himself again to the same distress and danger: and the more assured he was of pardon and acceptance with God, the more desirous he would be to "render unto God according to the benefits received from him".

The reflections to which this subject will naturally give rise, are such as these:

1. How vain is the idea of "establishing a righteousness of our own!"

If the most holy actions of the most holy men, done expressly according to the divine appointment, rendered the persons unclean, yes and the very sanctuary of God and the altar itself unclean, so that the washing of water and the sprinkling of blood were necessary for their purification, who are we, that we should be able so to live as to claim a reward on the ground of merit? Let us lay aside this vain conceit, which, if not corrected, will infallibly issue in our own destruction. We need one to "bear the iniquity of our holy things Exodus 28:38," no less than the iniquity of our vilest actions: and, from first to last, we must receive "eternal life as the free unmerited gift of God through Jesus Christ Romans 6:23."

2. How transcendent must be the efficacy of our Redeemer's blood!

All these sacrifices which were repeated from year to year could never purge the conscience of one single individual: but the blood of Jesus Christ, once shed on Calvary, is sufficient to cleanse the whole world. Stupendous thought! Let us endeavor to realize it, and to get the evidence of it in our own souls.

3. How blessed is the issue of true repentance!

Men imagine that to afflict the soul is the way to be miserable: but the very reverse is true: to "sow in tears is the sure way to reap in joy Psalm 126:5." How beautifully was this represented on the day of atonement! It was on that day (every fiftieth year) that the Jubilee was to be proclaimed Leviticus 25:9. What a blessed termination of the day was this! What a balm to every afflicted soul! Think of the joy which pervaded the whole country, when every man was rendered free, and all returned to their lost inheritance Leviticus 25:10. ! Such shall be the happy experience of all who afflict their souls for sin and rely upon the atoning blood of Christ. "They that go on their way weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them Psalm 126:6."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 17:10-12

 

DISCOURSE 134

THE PROHIBITION TO EAT BLOOD

Leviticus 17:10-12. Whatever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you. that eats any manner of blood, I will even set my face against that soul that eats Hood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood; neither shall any stranger that sojourns among you eat blood.

THERE were many ordinances among the Jews, of which we cannot see the reason, though doubtless there was not one which Infinite Wisdom did not institute for some gracious end. But the particular enactment before us was of much longer standing than most others, having been given to Noah directly after the flood. The flesh of beasts and of birds was then given to man for food: but he was at the same time forbidden to eat the blood of either Genesis 9:4. In the foregoing parts of this book also the prohibition had been repeatedly renewed Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; and here the reason for such a repeated enactment of the same statute is assigned. Indeed from the peculiar strictness with which the law is here enforced, we might be sure that there was some very important reason for it, though none had been specified. But God, in this passage, has condescended to state the grounds of this solemn charge; namely, that "the blood was the life of the flesh, and that it had been given to man to make an atonement for his soul."

To elucidate this ordinance, I shall,

I. Confirm the fact here stated—

God had from the beginning appointed the blood of animals to be offered by man as an atonement for his soul.

This appears throughout all the Mosaic history—

If we go back to the time of Cain and Abel, we shall find Abel offering of the firstlings of his flock, and of his receiving on that account a testimony of God's acceptance, which was denied to Cain, who offered only of the fruits of the ground Genesis 4:3-5. This, we are assured, was done "in faith;" which shows, that it was done in consequence of an ordinance to that effect having been previously given by God, with a promise of acceptance annexed to it Hebrews 11:4. Noah likewise after the flood offered of every clean beast, and of every clean bird, upon an altar; and in that act was approved of his God Genesis 8:20-21. The Patriarchs also built altars to the Lord from time to time, and presented their offerings upon them. Job also lived in the habitual practice of the same rite Job 1:5. As for Moses, the whole of his law was one continued system of sacrifices, appointed as means of obtaining forgiveness with God; every kind of sin having its distinct sacrifices appointed to atone for it. In all of these, blood was shed, and poured out before the altar, and sprinkled on the altar; and on the great day of annual expiation, was carried within the sanctuary, and was sprinkled before the mercy-seat, and upon the mercy-seat. With one exception only, "there was no remission of sins without shedding of blood Hebrews 9:21-22." If a man was so poor as not to be able to offer a, lamb or a pair of turtle-doves for his transgression, he was to offer some fine flour; a part of which was to be burnt upon the altar, in token that he had merited destruction by his iniquities, and that he escaped destruction only by that being destroyed in his stead Leviticus 5:11.

The same is found throughout the whole New Testament—

It had been foretold by Daniel, that Jesus should "make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity." But how was this to be done? It was, as another prophet testifies, by being "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities," or, in a word, by "making his soul an offering for sin Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:10." Accordingly our blessed Lord himself tells us that he came to "give his life a ransom for many." And, when he instituted his last supper, he took the cup, and said, "This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins Matthew 26:28." The Apostles continually represent the blessings of salvation as being solely the purchase of his blood. "He has made peace for us through the blood of his cross," and "we have redemption through it, even the forgiveness of sins Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20." Are we "washed from our sins?" it is "by his blood Revelation 1:5." Do we wash our robes and make them white? it is in the blood of the Lamb Revelation 7:14. Do we overcome our enemies? it is by the blood of the Lamb Revelation 12:11, Are we justified? it is by his blood Romans 5:9. In a word, all on earth and all in Heaven bear testimony to this blessed truth, that "Jesus has redeemed us to God by his blood Revelation 5:9."

This fact then being undeniable, that "God has given us the blood as an atonement for the soul," we proceed to,

II. Consider the prohibition as founded on it—

Scarcely is such energy to be found in any other prohibition throughout the whole Scriptures, as in that before us. And how is it to be accounted for? What is there in the fact alleged that can justify such tremendous menaces as are annexed to this injunction? I answer, The prohibition was most beneficial for them, as tending,

1. To excite in them reverence for their sacrifices—

The Jews saw continually the same animals slaughtered for their own use as were slain for sacrifice: and, if no restraint had been imposed upon them in relation to the blood, they would soon have lost their reverence for the sacrifice altogether. Even the daily repetition of the same sacrifices had of itself a tendency to familiarize their minds with the offerings, and to weaken the reverence which a more sparing use of them might have generated. But when they were so strictly charged to abstain from the use of the blood themselves, and saw the blood of the sacrifices consecrated exclusively to the Lord, they could scarcely fail to reverence the blood, and consequently to reverence those ordinances in which the welfare of their souls was so deeply concerned.

2. To bring continually to their remembrance the way of salvation—

With the prohibition was communicated the reason of it, namely, that the blood was the life, and was given as an atonement for their souls. Now we are but too prone to forget the concerns of our souls: the mind naturally revolts from them, and puts the consideration of them far away. But this ordinance brought continually to their recollection, that they were sinners, needing an atonement; and that they were to be saved only through the intervention of a vicarious sacrifice. Of what incalculable value was the prohibition in this point of view! Not a day, or scarcely an hour, could pass, but they were reminded of these most essential articles of their faith, and taught how alone they were to obtain favor in the sight of God. Various other ordinances were appointed of God for reminding them of the way in which they should serve him; but here one was instituted for bringing constantly to their remembrance the way in which they were to be saved by him.

3. To direct their attention to the great sacrifice–

All the more intelligent and pious among the Jews saw that their sacrifices shadowed forth some sacrifice that was of infinitely greater value. It is true, their notions respecting Christ's sacrifice were not distinct: yet they could not but see that the blood of bulls and of goats was insufficient to take away sin; and that consequently they must look forward to some other atonement which these typical sacrifices prefigured. To these views they would be further led by the prophecies which represented Christ as bearing on himself, and taking away from us, the iniquities of us all. And even at this hour, I conceive that the prohibition, which is strictly observed by every religious Jew, is well calculated to lead the minds of the Jewish nation to the contemplation of their Messiah, and to the acknowledgment of Jesus in that character.

From the foregoing subject then we may see,

1. How plain is the way of salvation!

A Jew who had any reflection at all, could not be ignorant that he must be saved by blood, by blood shed in a way of atonement for his sins. He would not dream that he was to make an atonement by his own tears, or alms-deeds, or observances of any kind. Every sacrifice which he saw offered, yes, and every meal which he made on the flesh of animals, would remind him, that his soul could be saved by nothing but an atonement made for sin. Yet, strange as it must appear, Christians without number are ignorant of this fundamental article of our religion, and have no better hope towards God than that which is founded on their own repentances and reformations. Alas! that any who have the Christian Scriptures in their hands should be thus ignorant! and yet thus it is even with many who in other respects are well instructed and intelligent. But know you assuredly, that there is but one way of salvation either for Jews or Gentiles; and that, the shadowy sacrifices having all passed away, "Christ is now set forth as a atoning sacrifice for sin through faith in his blood," and that he is "a atoning sacrifice , not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

2. How awful is the state of those who reject it!

We tremble for those who despised Moses' law, and in contempt of the divine command ate of blood. But how much more must we tremble for those who make light of Christ! For, "if they who despised Moses' law died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment suppose you shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified a common thing Hebrews 10:28-29!" The command given to us to drink of the blood of our great sacrifice is not a whit less urgent than the prohibition given to the Jews. Our Lord expressly tells us, that "except we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us:" and Paul gives us this solemn warning, "How can we escape, if we neglect so great salvation! "Truly, if God set his face against the disobedient Jew, much more will he against the disobedient and unbelieving Christian. I charge you then, my brethren, to comply with the divine command in this respect: for if you do not, O consider "what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of Christ! "Truly, God has told us, and plainly too, that "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven in flaming fire, it shall be to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Let us now then avail ourselves of the opportunity afforded us, and both take of the blood of Christ, and "sprinkle it on our consciences, that it may purge us from dead works to serve the living God."

 

 

 

Leviticus 23:15-17

 

DISCOURSE 135

FEAST OF FIRST-FRUITS

Leviticus 23:15-17. And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave-loaves, of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first-fruits unto the Lord.

THERE is no blessing which is not enhanced by a sense of reconciliation and acceptance with God. An ungodly man has his very provisions cursed to him Deuteronomy 28:16-19. ; while to the righteous "God has given all things richly to enjoy." Indeed, it is to present, no less than to future, happiness, that God calls his people. He bids us weep, it is true; but he no-where bids us to be always mourning: on the contrary, he commands us to "rejoice in him always, yes, to "rejoice evermore:" and assures us, that, though our "weeping may endure for a night, joy shall come in the morning." We have this beautifully exemplified in the appointments under the law. One day in the year was appointed for national humiliation, namely, the day of atonement, wherein all were commanded to afflict their souls: but the very next day, and the whole week following it, was appointed for a feast Note:, 6. ; by which appointment it was clearly intimated, that they who had obtained reconciliation with God through the atonement of Christ, had reason to rejoice throughout the whole remainder of their lives.

The week succeeding the Passover was called "the feast of unleavened bread:" on the first day of which they were to present to God a sheaf of newly reaped barley; and, fifty days after that, two loaves of wheaten bread; both of them being the first-fruits, the one of the barley harvest, and the other of the wheat. Hence these two periods were called the feasts of "first fruits:" and the appointment of them may be considered in a three-fold view; as,

I. Commemorative—

The day on which the sheaf of barley was to be presented unto God, was that on which they had come out of Egypt: and it was to be kept in commemoration of that event; that, when they were enjoying the peaceful fruits of industry, they might call to mind the labor and travail they had endured in the land of their captivity.

The fiftieth day after that, was the day on which the law of God had been delivered to them from Mount Sinai. This was no less a mercy than the former: for while by the former they were rescued from bondage to men, by the latter they were brought into the service of God The two are spoken of precisely in this way, as equaled by each other, but by nothing else. Deuteronomy 4:32-35.

Both of these events were to be remembered on the days thus set apart Deuteronomy 16:9; Deuteronomy 16:12, in order that He who had done such great things for their bodies and their souls, might have the glory due unto his name.

And here we cannot but observe, how beneficial it is to the Church to have particular times set apart for the special remembrance of the various wonders of redemption. If indeed the observance of such institutions were required of us as necessary to salvation, or inculcated as contributing to work out for us a justifying righteousness, or represented as superseding the necessity of a more frequent remembrance of them, or enjoined, as Jeroboam's was, in opposition to the commands of God 1 Kings 12:33, we should be ready to join with those who reprobate such appointments. But experience proves, that the appointment of seasons for the distinct consideration of particular subjects, has been productive of the greatest good; and that the more solemnly those seasons are devoted to the special purposes for which they are set apart, the more will humility, and every Christian grace, flourish in the soul. And, if the annual remembrance of an earthly deliverance was pleasing and acceptable to God, there can be no reasonable doubt, but that the annual commemoration of infinitely richer mercies (provided only that we guard against self-righteousness and superstition) must be pleasing to him also.

But these feasts derived a still greater importance from being,

II. Typical—

Two of the greatest events which ever happened from the foundation of the world, and which are the source and warrant of all our hopes, occurred on the days appointed for these feasts, and were typically prefigured by them.

On the former of those days, that I mean on which the Israelites came out of their graves in Egypt, (which was the first-fruits of their deliverance, as the wave-sheaf was of the barley harvest,) Christ rose from the dead, and rose, not as an individual, but "as the first-fruits of them that slept 1 Corinthians 15:20. ;" and has thereby assured to us the resurrection of all his people to a life of immortality and glory 1 Corinthians 15:21-23.

On the latter of those clays, namely, the fiftieth day, on which the law was given, (which, like the first-fruits of the wheat harvest, was the pledge and earnest of those mercies which they were afterwards to enjoy under the immediate government of God,) on that day, I say, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles Acts 2:1. "Pentecost" means the fiftieth day; for which, it is evident, the communication of this blessing was reserved: and it was communicated when that day "was fully come.", who then "received the first-fruits of the Spirit Romans 8:23." As on that day God had proclaimed his law, so on that day he promulgated his Gospel; and gathered to himself three thousand souls, who were the first-fruits of that glorious harvest Revelation 14:4, which shall in due time be reaped, when "all shall know the Lord from the least even to the greatest," and "all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ."

In these views the feasts of which we are speaking become exceedingly important. It is true, they were but shadows, and very obscure shadows too: but to us who have the substance, and on whom "the true light shines," they are worthy of most attentive consideration; as being the first rude drafts or models of that glorious edifice which we inhabit.

But these feasts are of further use to us, as,

III. Instructive—

There is not anything which we are more interested to know than our obligations to God, and our consequent duty towards him: yet these are clearly and strongly represented to us in the ordinances before us.

Behold our obligations to God. In each of these feasts the first-fruits were "waved" before God 1, 17, in token that every earthly blessing was derived from him. This was done in the name of the whole congregation; so that, whatever diligence or skill any had used in the cultivation of their land, they did not arrogate anything to themselves, but gave glory to Him "from whom alone proceeds every good and perfect gift." Happy would it be for us, if we also learned this lesson, so as to have our minds duly impressed with the goodness of our God!.

Corresponding with our obligations to God is our duty towards him. If we have received everything from him, it is our bounden duty to devote everything to him, and improve everything for the honor of his name. And, as at the former of these feasts they offered only one sheaf, and one lamb, but at the latter they presented two loaves, and seven lambs 2, 18, so, in proportion as God has multiplied his mercies towards us, we also should enlarge our exercises of gratitude, liberality, and devotion.

Shall these sentiments be thought an undue refinement on the subject before us? They are the very sentiments which God himself suggests in reference to these very institutions. We are expressly told in this view to honor him with all that we have, and all that we are. Have we property? "We must "honor the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase:" and, lest that should be thought likely to impoverish us, and it should be deemed advisable rather to gather in our harvest first, and then give him out of our abundance, he particularly guards us against any such covetous and distrustful thoughts, and tells us that a believing and thankful dedication of our first-fruits is the most likely way to ensure to ourselves an abundant harvest Proverbs 3:9-10. Alas! how melancholy it is that, when we are receiving so many harvests at God's hands, not a few of us are found to grudge him even a sheaf!

But it is not our property only that we should devote to God: we should give him our whole selves. We are told that "God has set apart him that is godly for himself Psalm 4:3," exactly as he did the first-fruits of old, of which it would have been sacrilege to rob him: and every one that professes a hope in Christ is called upon to consider himself in that very view, namely, "as a kind of first-fruits of his creatures James 1:18." Yes, Beloved, "we are not our own; we are redeemed, and bought with a price: and therefore are bound to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his 1 Corinthians 6:19-20."

Only let these instructions be impressed upon our minds, and exemplified in our lives, and then we shall make the best possible improvement of these typical institutions. Yes, whether we contemplate the types or the things typified, the improvement of them must be the same. From the resurrection of Christ we must learn to rise again to newness of life; and from the outpouring of the Spirit we must learn to cherish and obey his sanctifying operations. Thus will both Law and Gospel be transcribed into our lives, and God be glorified in all his dispensations.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 23:23-25

 

DISCOURSE 136

THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS

Leviticus 23:23-25. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, In the first day of the month, shall you have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no servile work therein; but you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

THE ordinances of the Mosaic law, though dark in themselves, are, for the most part, rendered luminous by the Gospel: their true meaning is opened to us by inspired expositors; and little room is left for the exercise of fancy or conjecture. This however is not universally the case: the ordinance before us is a remarkable exception to the general rule: Moses himself does not inform us on what occasion, or for what particular end it was appointed: nor do the New-Testament writers give us any explanation of the subject. But as it was one of the great annual feasts among the Jews, it must of necessity be instructive. We shall endeavor therefore to search out the meaning as well as we can; and to show,

I. For what end this feast was instituted—

Some have referred it to the blowing of the trumpet on Mount Sinai: and others have supposed that it referred to all the different occasions whereon the trumpet was blown. But the former of these does not appear a proper foundation for a joyful feast; (when it made all Israel, not excepting Moses himself, to "tremble and quake:") and the latter opinion refutes itself: for if they were used on a variety of occasions, as the summoning of the people to the tabernacle, the directing of them in their journeys, the stirring of them up against their enemies, and the proclaiming of the year of jubilee, it is reasonable to suppose, that the appointment of a feast, called the feast of trumpets, was for some special and peculiar purpose. Accordingly, though the purpose is not specified, we may form a good judgment respecting it, from the peculiar day on which it was to be observed. That which in our text is called the seventh mouth, had been always deemed the first month of the year; but when God brought his people out of Egypt, he ordered them, in remembrance of that event, to reckon their year differently, and to begin it in the spring, instead of the autumn Exodus 12:2. Still however, in their civil and political matters, they retained the original mode of reckoning; and, except in their ecclesiastical concerns, this continued to be the first month in the year. This day then was the first day in the new year; and the feast of trumpets was to them "a memorial;" a memorial of mercies received, and of mercies promised:

1. Of mercies received—

It is possible that the creation of the world, which was supposed to have been in the autumn, (when so many of the fruits are ripe,) was then particularly commemorated. But we apprehend that the mercies of the preceding year were then reviewed; and grateful acknowledgments were made to God for them. This seems to be a fit employment for the commencement of a new year; and every succeeding year must of necessity bring with it many renewed occasions for praise and thanksgiving. Even though the nation should have been visited with judgments, still those judgments are so disproportioned to men's ill desert, and are always blended with so many mercies, that there could not fail of being always abundant reason for joy and gratitude.

The blowing of the trumpets would awaken the attention of the people to the duties of the day, and bring to their recollection some at least of those mercies, which they were now called upon to acknowledge.

2. Of mercies promised—

In this sense the term "memorial" is often used in Scripture. The stones on Aaron's breast-plate were a "memorial," to remind the people, that God regarded them as his peculiar care, and bore them upon his heart Exodus 28:12; Exodus 28:29. The atonement-money, which was to be paid on numbering the people, was also a "memorial" of the security which was assured to them under God's protecting hand Exodus 30:16. The frankincense which from week to week was put upon the shew-bread Leviticus 24:7, was of a similar nature; for while it reminded God of his people and their necessities, it was a pledge to them that he would supply their wants. Moreover, the Psalmist, expressly referring to this feast, says, "it was ordained for a testimony Psalm 81:1-5. Comp. also Numbers 10:9-10." Now when this "memorial" sounded in their ears, the various temporal mercies which they would need, would of course occur to their minds. But there were spiritual blessings, which probably came but little into the contemplation of the people, which yet were of principal importance in the sight of God, and were particularly shadowed forth on this occasion; I mean, the prosperity of Zion, and the enlargement of the Church of Christ.

That this was intended, an inspired Apostle assures us; for speaking of this very feast among others, he says, "Which things are a shadow of good things; but the body is of Christ Colossians 2:16-17."

The language used in reference to the Gospel, strongly confirms this truth. It is emphatically called, "the joyful sound;" and they who preach it are said, to "lift up their voice as a trumpet:" and when the fullness of time shall come for the universal establishment of Christ's kingdom in the world, the sound of this trumpet shall be heard to the remotest corners of the earth, and all, from the least even to the greatest, shall come up to his temple. Even "Assyria and Egypt," the most determined enemies of God's people, shall be stirred up by it to "come and worship in the holy mount in Jerusalem Isaiah 27:13. Mark this passage."

Such a prospect was a solid ground of joy. We rejoice in the partial accomplishment of this event that has already taken place: and we look forward with joy to its full and final accomplishment.

Let us proceed to consider—

II. In what manner it was to be observed—

The three great feasts, the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles, were greater than this; because, on them, all the males were required to assemble at Jerusalem: but next to them was the feast of trumpets. It was more holy than a common Sabbath; because no servile work at all might be done on this day; whereas on common Sabbaths an exception was made for preparing their necessary provision. Moreover on this day they were to be fully occupied in offering sacrifices to God. Besides the daily sacrifices, and those appointed at the beginning of every month, there were many peculiar to this occasion: and an express order was made, that neither the daily nor monthly offerings should be superseded, but that those for this day should be presented in addition to all the others Numbers 29:1-6.

Now from this feast, so peculiarly prefiguring the Gospel, and being observed with such extraordinary strictness, we may learn,

1. The scope and tendency of the Gospel—

When it reaches the ears and hearts of men, it calls them from the world to serve and delight in God, and that without intermission, from the morning to the evening of their lives. Not that it forbids all servile work; on the contrary, it requires "every man to abide in the calling wherein he is called," and to fulfill the duties of his station with assiduity: but, while it leaves our hands at liberty, it forbids that our hearts should be enslaved: they must be reserved for God, and fixed on him alone. The one occupation of our lives must be to offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise Hebrews 13:15; "Rejoice in the Lord always," says the Apostle, "and again I say, Rejoice." Every blast of the trumpet should remind us of the infinite obligations conferred upon us, and of the assurances which God has given us of final and everlasting happiness. It is not a deliverance from temporal bondage, or victory over earthly enemies, that we have to rejoice in, but in deliverance from the wrath of God, and in victory over sin and Satan, death and Hell. All this, too, is given us, not by a mere exertion of God's power, but by the death of his Son, and the influences of his Spirit. Shall not we then rejoice? Again I say, that the Gospel trumpet sounds these things in our ears continually: and therefore we should keep throughout our whole lives a feast unto the Lord.

2. The duty of those who embrace it—

We have already seen what abstraction from the world. and what devotedness to God, were required of the Jews on that day. If they then, who had only the shadow of heavenly things, were to serve God in this manner, how ought we, who enjoy the substance! Surely we should serve him without grudging, without weariness, and without distraction. If they grudged their numerous and costly sacrifices, or were weary of their long and lifeless services, or had their minds diverted from these poor and "beggarly elements," we should not wonder at it: their very feasts, though suited to the ends for which they were appointed, were burdensome in the extreme. But ours is a spiritual service. True, it may require some sacrifices; but none that are worthy of a thought, when we consider for whom they are made. As for sin, the mortifying of that should be deemed no sacrifice at all: it is rather like the removal of a leprosy, or the healing of a wound. As for time, or interest, there is nothing to be sacrificed in relation to these, that will not be repaid an hundred-fold even in this life, and with everlasting life in the world to come. And, if we engage heartily in the Lord's service, we shall find, that the more we are employed in it, the more delightful it will be: it is wearisome only to those who are formal and hypocritical in their duties. Doubtless "the flesh will often evince its weakness, even when the spirit is most willing:" but the more we seek to rejoice in God, the more we shall rejoice in God. Let us be on our guard against those worldly cares or pleasures that are apt to divert the mind from its proper duties. Paul particularly tells us, that "he would have us without carefulness;" and recommends us so to order our matters, that we may "attend upon the Lord without distraction 1 Corinthians 7:35." These things then are our duty: duty, do I say? they are our privilege, our highest privilege. So David thought, when he said, "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance: in your name shall they rejoice all the day; and in your righteousness shall they be exalted Psalm 89:15-16."

 

 

 

Leviticus 23:39-43

 

DISCOURSE 137

THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES

Leviticus 23:39-43. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath. And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And you shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year: it shall be a statute forever in your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know, that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

CHRISTIANS in general are deterred from the study of the ceremonial law, by the consideration that there is not sufficient light thrown upon some parts to determine their spiritual import, while in other parts we are distracted through the diversity of senses which the New Testament appears to affix to them. Certainly these are difficulties in our way; nor can we expect entirely to overcome them: but still there is much that is clear; and even that which is in some respects dubious, will be found in other respects highly edifying.

The feast of tabernacles was one of the three great feasts, at which all the males throughout the nation were to assemble at Jerusalem. Its importance therefore cannot be doubted. But, in our inquiries after the truths which it shadowed forth, we must be guided in some measure by conjecture; and consequently, cannot speak with that full confidence that we maintain where the inspired writers have led the way. Taking care however to distinguish what is doubtful from what is clear and certain, we shall proceed to consider this feast, and to open to you,

I. Its peculiar rites—

While it had some rites common to other occasions, it had some peculiar to itself:

1. The sacrifices offered—

These were very peculiar, and such as were offered on no other occasion. The feast lasted eight days: on the first of which, thirteen bullocks, with two rams, fourteen lambs, and one kid, and certain meat-offerings, were presented; and, on the six following days, there were the same sacrifices, except that the number of the bullocks, and of their appropriate meat-offerings, was one less every day: this went on to the eighth day, when there was only one bullock, one ram, seven lambs, and a goat, offered Numbers 29:12-39. The precise reason of this gradual diminution is not known, unless that it was to show, that the Mosaic dispensation would gradually decay, and at last vanish away, being terminated by that one great Sacrifice which should in due time be offered.

2. The services enjoined—

All were to leave their houses for seven days, and to live in booths constructed of the branches of trees, which they had previously cut down for that purpose. This would doubtless be attended with much inconvenience to them: but they were to rise superior to such consideration, and to spend the time in holy joy. Part of the command was, that they should "rejoice before the Lord their God." After the time of Joshua, when the piety of the nation had begun to decline, the observance of this ordinance was discontinued; or if it was now and then repeated for a single year, the institution was regarded only in a partial and formal way; until Nehemiah, after the return of the people from Babylon, revived and enforced the practice of former days Nehemiah 8:13-17.

The next thing to be noticed in reference to this feast, is,

II. Its primary end—

This was two-fold:

1. Commemorative—

All the time that the people sojourned in the wilderness, even forty years, they dwelt in booths or tents; in remembrance of which this feast was instituted 3. We are apt to forget the mercies which God has given to us, and especially those given to our forefathers at a remote period. But we ourselves inherit the benefits conferred on them: the descendants of those who were delivered from Egypt, owed all their liberty to God's miraculous interposition, no less than their fathers; and therefore were equally bound to keep God's goodness to them in remembrance: and by leaving their houses for a week, and living in booths, they would know precisely the situation of their ancestors, and learn to be thankful for their own more comfortable habitations.

2. Eucharistic—

This feast was after the harvest and vintage were finished; and it was intended to be a season of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth. Hence it was called "the feast of in-gathering Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:13-15. ;" which shows, that the time of keeping the feast was illustrative of one thing, and the manner, of another. Not but that there was a close connection between the two; for in the wilderness they had nothing but manna; but, in the land of Canaan, they enjoyed all the fruits of the earth in the richest abundance: and, consequently, while they glorified God for miraculously supplying the daily wants of their ancestors by food from Heaven, they were called upon to bless and adore his name for the continued blessings imparted to themselves.

Thus far the intention of the feast is manifest. Our ground is not so clear in what remains: yet we utterly disclaim all idea of giving loose to our imagination on sacred subjects: we propose to you what, though we cannot prove, we think highly probable; and leave you to judge for yourselves, while we point out,

III. Its mystical design—

That this was a shadow, we have no doubt: and that Christ is the substance, is equally clear and certain: this point is determined by God himself in reference to the feasts and Sabbaths in general Colossians 2:16-17, and therefore much more in relation to this, which was as sacred a feast as any, perhaps the most so of any, in the whole year. We apprehend then that this feast was intended to shadow forth,

1. The incarnation of Christ—

The three great feasts were, the Passover, or feast of unleavened bread, the feast of Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles. In the first, the death of Christ was typified: in the second, the out-pouring of the Spirit: and in this last, the incarnation of Christ. It was highly probable that this great event would be shadowed forth by some feast, as well as the other two: and there is good reason to think it was referred to in the feast before us. The very term used by the Evangelist in declaring the incarnation of our Lord, seems to mark this reference John 1:14. And though custom has led us to regard December as the time of his birth, the arguments to prove that he was born in the autumn are far more probable. Could this point be perfectly ascertained, it would strongly confirm the supposed reference of this feast to that event; and the conduct of the people, when they were persuaded that he was the Christ, corresponds very much with the rights prescribed at this feast: "They cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way, and cried, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest Matthew 21:8-9. !" It is true, this was at another feast: but still it marks the connection in their minds between the feast of tabernacles, and the advent of the Messiah. There was a remarkable circumstance which took place at the feast of tabernacles, which throws some additional light on this subject. The eighth day was "the great day of the feast." And though the dwelling in booths was discontinued, the people observed the season as a feast unto the Lord. They had indeed substituted a rite or ceremony on that day, bringing water from the pool of Siloam, and pouring it out as a libation to the Lord. The idea was perhaps adopted from that expression of the prophet, "With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation Isaiah 12:3." On this day, in the place of public concourse, our Lord stood and cried with a loud voice, "If any man thirst, let him come unto ME and drink John 7:2; John 7:37-38." This was in fact, as if he had said, You expect at this time the advent of your Messiah, from whom you will derive all spiritual blessings: behold, I am he: and, if you will come unto me, you shall receive more than tongue can utter, or imagination conceive.

We say not that these things amount to a proof of the point in question: but we suggest them for your consideration, and leave you to form your own judgment upon them.

2. The duty of his people—

Here we can speak with more decision. No one who knows the figurative nature of the Jewish ritual can doubt, but that this feast was designed to teach us, that "we are strangers here, and sojourners, as all our fathers were Psalm 39:12." When fixed in our habitations and enjoying every comfort of life, we are apt to think that this is our home: the language of our hearts is, "Soul, take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." But "this is not our rest." We are here only in a wilderness; and we must in the spirit of our minds resemble the patriarchs of old, "who, though in the land of promise, dwelt in tabernacles, declaring that here they had no continuing city, but that they sought another country, that is, an heavenly Hebrews 11:9; Hebrews 11:13-14; Hebrews 11:16." This is to be the character of all the Lord's people 1 Peter 2:11, who, "though in the world, are not of the world," and who "are looking for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God"

APPLICATION—

It may be asked, What is all this to us? I answer, Read what the prophet says, and you will have more satisfactory information than you are aware of Zechariah 14:16-19. Beyond all doubt he is speaking of those who live under the Gospel: and the repeated injunctions which he gives relative to our observance of this feast, are a strong confirmation, that there was in it a mysterious and most important meaning. I call upon you then to keep this feast, to keep it with holy joy unto the Lord. Think of the incarnation of our blessed Lord! What a stupendous mystery! God, even the most high God, leaving his blessed abodes, and sojourning here in a tabernacle of clay! Is not this worthy to be commemorated? Does it not demand our most ardent praise?: Think of the harvest of blessings which we obtain through him! Our corn and wine and oil are but shadows of that heavenly food which is prepared for us, and on which, if it be not our own fault, we are feeding from day to day. Let earthly things then not engross your affections, but lead you to seek those which are spiritual and eternal Colossians 3:2; And whether your temporal comforts be increased or diminished, ever remember where your home is; and that when your week is finished, "you have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens 2 Corinthians 5:1. ". If this subject were taken on a Christmas-day, or for a Harrest Sermon, the more appropriate idea must be most expanded.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 24:1-3

 

DISCOURSE 138

THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK

Leviticus 24:1-3. And the Lord spoke unto Closes, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto you pure oil-olive beaten, for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. Without the veil of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the Lord continually: it shall be a statute forever in your generations.

TO engage actively in the service of God is a duty that should not be delayed: nor should any expense or trouble that may be incurred, be regarded as any obstacle to the performance of our duty. The tabernacle being erected, and the sacred vessels prepared, an order was given that the appointed services should instantly commence; and the people were directed to bring such things as were necessary for the maintenance of divine worship. That part of the tabernacle which was covered in, consisted of two parts, the holy place, and the holy of holies. In the former of these, the daily services were performed: the latter was never entered but on one day in the year. The part devoted to the service of God was lighted by a candlestick with seven lamps, which were kept continually burning Doubts indeed have been entertained whether they were kept alight by day; because some passages of Scripture seem to intimate that they were not: see Exodus 30:7; 2 Chronicles 13:11; 1 Samuel 3:3 but the order that they should "burn continually," seems plain; and the occasion for it was perpetual; and, above all, Josephus, who could not but know the practice of his day, affirms that three lamps were kept burning by day, and all of them by night. The whole furniture of the tabernacle, no less than the tabernacle itself, was typical: some things were more illustrative of Christ and his character; and others more applicable to the Church: and some things referred to both. It is possible that the candlestick might be intended to represent Christ as "the light of the world:" but we are sure that it shadowed forth his Church; and therefore without Hesitation we shall consider it as typically representing the Church;

I. In its privileges—

The Church was justly exhibited under that figure—

Of what materials and form the candlestick was, we are distinctly informed Exodus 25:31-38. That it was designed to represent the Church, is declared by Christ himself Revelation 1:20. And, if we consider of what it was composed, and how it was supplied, and for what purposes it was used, we shall see a striking correspondence between the Church and that. It was formed of pure gold; in which respect it characterized the saints, who are not polished over for the purpose of glittering in the sight of men, but are really "renewed in the spirit of their minds," and "made partakers of a divine nature 2 Peter 1:4. ": It was supplied with the purest oil; which fitly represented that "unction of the Holy One which we have received 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27," for the enlightening of our minds, and the sanctifying of our souls: Its use was obvious: it was to shine in darkness, that all who were engaged in the service of their God might fulfill their duties aright; and that God might be glorified in them Revelation 1:12-13. Such lights are the saints to be in the midst of a dark world, that through their instrumentality others may be directed into the way of peace, and be constrained to "glorify their heavenly Father".

The priest, whose duty it was to trim the lamps, prefigured Christ—

This is a point on which there can be no doubt, it being affirmed on the authority of Christ himself Hebrews 4:14-15. He is constantly employed in inspecting and trimming the lamps: there is not a saint on whom his eyes are not fixed, and whose declensions, however secret, he does not behold: When necessary, he interposes, by his providence or grace, to correct their dullness, and to restore them to their usual splendor John 15:2.

While the Church was thus characterized in its privileges, it was also shadowed forth,

II. In its duties—

The duties of the saints are,

1. To shine—

It is justly observed by our Lord, that "no man lights a candle, to put it under a bushel or a bed; but sets it in a candlestick, that all who are in the house may see the light." It is not for themselves alone that the saints are endued with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, but for God, and for their fellow-creatures; for God, that his power and grace may be magnified on earth; and for their fellow-creatures, who are to be benefitted by their instructions, their influence, and their example Matthew 5:14-16; Our responsibility in this respect is not sufficiently considered. But if we are stewards even of our earthly possessions, and bound to lay them out for God, much more are we "stewards of the manifold grace of God 1 Peter 4:10," and bound to administer freely unto others what we ourselves have freely received Matthew 10:8.

2. To be receiving more grace from Christ in order to their shining with yet brighter luster—

It is from Christ that the Holy Spirit must be derived. It is "He who has the residue of the Spirit Malachi 2:15." "The Father gave not the Spirit to him by measure John 3:34," but in all his immeasurable fullness; and "out of that fullness must we all receive, even grace for grace John 1:16." This is strikingly represented by the prophet Zechariah, who, speaking apparently of the civil and ecclesiastical governors of his Church, Joshua and Zerubbabel, represents Christ In reality for he is both the King and Priest of his Church) as the inexhaustible source of that golden oil, which is continually communicated by him to every lamp in his sanctuary Zechariah 4:2-4; Zechariah 4:11-14; By prayer and faith we must keep that communication open, and entreat him, that, "as he has given us life, so he would give it us more abundantly".

We would take occasion from this subject to suggest to you,

1. An important inquiry—

Are you Christians indeed? If this question be too indefinite, then I ask, Are you as lights shining in a dark place? Surely this matter is not difficult to determine. You may easily see Whether you are living like the world around you, or whether you are reproving others by the brightness of your example. This idea is proposed by our Lord under the figure of a "broad and a narrow way;" the one easy and much trodden, the other difficult and unfrequented; the one terminating in destruction, the other leading to everlasting life. Paul expresses the same in language more accommodated to our text Philippians 2:15-16. Judge yourselves, Brethren, in reference to this matter: and never think that you are Christians indeed, unless you have an evidence in your own souls, that, through the influences of the Holy Sprit, you are exhibiting alight, which both instructs and "condemns the world" around you.

2. A solemn admonition—

If we profess ourselves to be the Lord's people, let us consider somewhat more distinctly what we profess. As lamps in God's sanctuary, we profess to be "of pure gold," truly, inwardly, substantially holy, and formed altogether according to the pattern which was shown to Moses in the mount Numbers 8:4. What that pattern was, we are at no loss to say: it is set before us with all possible clearness in the person of Jesus Christ. Let every one of us reflect on this, and search into our own hearts to see whether there be in us this resemblance? The inquiry before instituted is a comparison of ourselves with, others: the inquiry I now propose, is a comparison of ourselves with that great exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should examine, not whether we resemble him in those actions which he performed as a prophet, hut whether "the same mind be in us, as was in him Philippians 2:5." Our views, our principles, our habits, the great scope and end of our lives, these are the things that are to be inquired into, if we would have a solid evidence in our own souls that we are the Lord's. "We must be like Him," here as well as hereafter, "if we would be with him" forever. He himself warns us what will be the consequence of allowing ourselves in any deviation from the path of duty Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:5; and therefore, if we would not have "our candlestick removed," let us repent of every known defect, and seek to be "pure as He is pure," and "perfect as He is perfect."

3. An encouraging reflection—

How often has our great High-Priest, when he has seen us burning dim and languishing, revived us by seasonable communications, or merciful rebukes! Truly we are living witnesses for him, that "he will not quench the smoking flax Matthew 11:20 not extinguish the wick, the flame of which has been blown out. ": May we not then hope, that he will yet bear with us, and administer to us whatever, in a way of influence or correction, we may stand in need of? Surely we may look up to him with joyful confidence, and say with David, "You will light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness Psalm 18:28." Many are the storms to which we are exposed in this dreary wilderness, which threaten our extinction; but he is able to preserve us: and as he has made it our duty to "burn continually," so he will give us "supplies of his Spirit" for that purpose: he will "keep us by his power through faith unto everlasting salvation 1 Peter 1:5." "He will keep the feet of his saints; but the wicked shall be silent in darkness 1 Samuel 2:9. ".

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 24:5-9

 

DISCOURSE 139

THE SHEW-BREAD

Leviticus 24:5-9. And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth-deals shall be in one cake. And you shall set them in two rows. six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron's and his sons; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.

WHEN God appointed a dwelling-place to be erected for him in the wilderness, he ordered it to be furnished with such appendages as are common in the dwellings of men. There was in the sanctuary, as Paul observes, a candlestick, a table, and bread, called the shew-bread Hebrews 9:2. But there was an infinitely higher purpose to be answered by these things, than a mere accommodation of them to the habits of men: they were typical; every one of them was typical; "they were shadows of good things to come." The mystical import of some is much clearer than that of others. Where the writers of the New Testament have explained them, we are able to speak with confidence: but where they are silent, we must proceed in our explanation of them "with fear and trembling." The mystery of the shew-bread is applied by some to Christ, who called himself "the true bread," and, at the institution of his last supper, "took bread, and brake it, and said to his disciples, Take, eat, this is my body." The New-Testament writers give us little, if any, insight into this subject: but they speak so fully and plainly on the subject of the candlestick, that we can easily by analogy trace the import of the shew-bread also. It has been shown, that the candlestick represented the Church, and that the priests who trimmed the lamps represented Christ See the preceding Discourse. The same might therefore well be supposed in relation to the shew-bread: and the circumstance of the flour "being taken from all the children of Israel," and made into "twelve cakes," gives us sufficient reason to conclude, that those cakes did represent the twelve tribes, that is, the Church of God. Nor can we adopt a more satisfactory method of explaining the whole mystery, than that used in reference to the candlestick. Agreeably to the plan then which we pursued on the former subject, we observe, that the shew-bread shadowed forth the people of God,

I. In their privileges—

To elucidate this, consider what is here spoken respecting the twelve cakes;

1. Their solemn presentation before God—

They were consecrated to God in an orderly and solemn manner, and deposited on his table that they might be always before him. Being piled one upon another in two rows, frankincense was placed on each row, which at the appointed time was burnt "for a memorial, as an offering made by fire unto the Lord." Here we see the Church and people of God consecrated to him according to the terms of "his everlasting covenant," to be unto him a holy and peculiar people. As such they are esteemed by him; and "his eyes are upon them day and night for good:" and, as the frankincense was to God an odor of a sweet smell, so their persons and services shall be accepted by him: True it is that they are mean and worthless in themselves; yet, being "set apart for him Psalm 4:3," he will acknowledge them as his, and look upon them with delight and delight.

2. Their periodical renewal—

While one generation of men is passing away, another arises to fill their place; and among them all, God will have some, who shall be objects of his peculiar regard. The change of the loaves every Sabbath-day was intended to illustrate this: arid in reference to it they were expressly called "the continual bread Numbers 4:7." The regard shown by God to those who were first brought out of Egypt, shall be perpetuated to the end of time: never shall any be removed but others shall be ready to succeed; nor shall there ever be a period when God will not have a people truly and entirely consecrated to his service. Sometimes, as in the primitive ages, his saints maybe swept away by thousands at a time, so as to threaten their utter extinction: but others shall always be found ready to "be baptized for (that is, in the room of) the dead," as soldiers instantly come forward, to fill up the ranks which the devouring sword has thinned That is most probably the true meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29; nor shall the power of men or devils ever be able to extirpate the Christian name: "the Church is built upon a rock; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it".

3. Their ultimate destination—

The loaves at the close of the week were the property of the officiating priests ; and were to be eaten by them in the holy place, as being in themselves most holy. Now we are sure that the priests who attended on the lamps, prefigured Christ: and therefore we have no doubt but that he was equally prefigured by those who attended on the bread. Here then we see, that the saints, when they have abode their appointed time an earth, are the property of Christ: to which purpose it is written in the book of Deuteronomy, "The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance Deuteronomy 32:9." This is the high destiny of all who have given up themselves to God. Happy they are in the place which they are allowed to occupy in God's temple below; but happier far at their removal hence, when Christ shall claim them as "his peculiar treasure," and enjoy them forever as "his purchased possession".

We may further contemplate the shew-bread as representing the Lord's people,

II. In their duties—

Well may this ordinance teach us,

1. To consecrate ourselves entirely to God—

Let us contemplate the state of those loaves: they were "taken from the children of Israel," made on purpose for God, and presented to him that they might be wholly and forever his. And what says God respecting us? "This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise Isaiah 43:21." Yes; we should every one of us "subscribe with our hands, and say, I am the Lord's Isaiah 44:5." We should "give up ourselves to him by a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten Jeremiah 50:5." We should consider ourselves as "separated from mankind" for this very purpose Leviticus 20:24, that we may be "wholly sanctified unto him, in spirit, soul, and body 1 These. 5:23." This Paul declares to be "our reasonable service Romans 12:1." Not that we are to be inactive in the common duties of life, or to spend our days in nothing but contemplation and devotion: this would be to strain the parallel too far: but, in the spirit and habit of our minds, we are to be entirely given up to God, so that "whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to his glory 1 Corinthians 10:31. ": the Sabbath especially should this dedication of ourselves be repeated and confirmed. We should come up to the house of God with the same mind as the priests who brought the loaves: their purpose was known and fixed; and they went into the sanctuary determined not to leave it until they had executed their high office. O that we might go to God's house on purpose to consecrate ourselves to him afresh; and never leave our work dubious or incomplete!.

2. To be much occupied in prayer and intercession—

The loaves were, so to speak, representatives of the tribes of Israel; and the frankincense ascended up as a memorial to God for them. Thus should we consider ourselves interested, not for ourselves only, but for all the Church of God. As for ourselves, we are commanded to "pray always," to "pray without ceasing," and to "offer unto God the sacrifice of praise continually, giving thanks to his name;" so, for others are we required to "make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all men." Moreover, this duty is inculcated on all: the prophetic declaration is, that, wherever God is known, "from the rising to the setting sun, even there shall incense he offered unto his name, and a pure offering Malachi 1:11;" "all who make mention of the Lord," will be thus occupied; they "will not keep silence, nor give God any rest, until he establish his Church, and make it a praise in the earth Isaiah 62:6-7." How prosperous would individuals and churches be, if such a spirit prevailed more among them! O that "God would pour out upon us more of a spirit of grace and of supplication!" We should not long remain without manifest tokens of his approbation and love.

3. To wait patiently for our removal hence—

The loaves were left in the sanctuary until the time appointed for their removal. Thus we should "abide with God," performing diligently the work assigned us, until he shall be pleased to dismiss our souls in peace. Our week of life at all events is wearing fast away: but, whether its close be somewhat earlier, or later, than we expect, we should say, like Job, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, until my change come." If there were no future state of existence, we might wish to have our present lives terminated or protracted, according as our sorrows or joys abound: but as death will introduce us into the more immediate presence of our God, and into a more perfect union and communion with Christ, we may well be contented either to live or die. In some sense indeed we may rather "desire to depart;" yes we may be "looking for, and hastening to, the coming of the day of Christ:" but as it respects impatience or discontent, we may well tarry the Lord's leisure, doing and suffering his holy will, until he shall take us hence, to "rest from our labors." and to "be forever with the Lord"

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 24:13-15

 

DISCOURSE 140

THE BLASPHEMER STONED

Leviticus 24:13-15. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that has cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And you shall speak unto the children of Israel, Whoever cursed his God shall bear his sin.

SPIRITUAL subjects are generally most relished by a spiritual mind: and hence it is that in some places of worship they are exclusively brought forward for public discussion; and other subjects, which might be very instructive, are entirely overlooked. We consider it as one great advantage attending a course of sermons on the Holy Scriptures, that every subject must find a place in our discourses, and at some time or other be brought under the view of our hearers. The history before us would at first sight appear so ill calculated for general edification, that we should probably never fix upon it, if left to ourselves. But, occurring as it does in our present course, we shall turn your attention to it: and we trust, that, how unpromising soever it may seem, it will be found replete with very important instruction. There are two things in it which we seem particularly called to notice; namely,

I. The danger of ungodly connections—

To caution us against contracting an intimacy with the ungodly, we are told, that "evil communications corrupt good manners;" and that "the companion of fools shall be destroyed." But in the marriage union such a connection is peculiarly dangerous, because its influence is incessant, and operative to the latest hour of our lives.

1. It is injurious to the person himself—

It is from a hope of drawing over their partner to the same views and sentiments with themselves, that multitudes enter into engagements, which prove fatal to their happiness through life. Whatever were the views of this Israelitish woman, she seemed to have succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation in the alliance she had formed: for, instead of being detained in Egypt by her husband, she brought him out with her. But as it was an injury, rather than a benefit, to the Church, that a mixed multitude were united to it Exodus 12:38 with Numbers 11:4, so the society of a heathen could never render an Israelite happy. Supposing that the woman had any regard for God, how could she endure to see her husband pouring contempt upon him, and bowing down to idols of wood and stone?: It is precisely thus when a believer among ourselves becomes united to an unbeliever. However suitable in other respects the union may be, it cannot possibly be productive of happiness; for, in all those things which are most important, their views, their feelings, and their conduct must be dissimilar, or rather at variance with each other. The unconverted party can have no sympathy with the converted in the various exercises of mind peculiar to the Christian state; he cannot understand them; the hopes and fears, and joys and sorrows experienced by the believer, appear foolishness in the eyes of an unbeliever; and consequently, there can be no communion between them on those subjects which are most nearly connected with their eternal welfare: Hence that solemn injunction to form no such alliance 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, but to marry "only in the Lord 1 Corinthians 7:39. ".

2. It is injurious to their offspring—

Doubtless a true Christian will endeavor to give a right bias to the minds of his children. But the silent and unstudied influence of the ungodly person will operate far more forcibly than the most labored exertions of the godly. The natural bent of our affections is towards sin: and we are far more ready to justify what is wrong from the examples of others, than to follow what is right. We all know how much easier a thing it is to go with the stream than against it; or to spread contagion than to cure it. The son of this Israelitish woman, though in the midst of Israelites, did not become a worshiper of the true God, but remained to his dying hour a profane despiser of him. And in like manner it is to be expected, that, where one of the parents is ungodly, the children will follow his example, and tread in his steps: It is true, that the most godly parents cannot always prevail on their children to yield to their advice: but, if they have done what they could towards bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they will have the comfort of a good conscience to support them in their trials: but if a believer unites himself to an unbeliever, and his children turn out ill, he will always have himself to blame: and the children themselves will have to reproach them in the last day for having formed a connection which afforded so bad a prospect in relation to their offspring.

The history before us naturally leads us also to contemplate,

II. The danger of ungodly habits—

It is manifest that the habits of this man were altogether bad—

What was the subject of controversy between this man and the Israelite we know not; nor in what manner he blasphemed the God of Heaven. But it is evident that he was under the influence of a contentious spirit, and habituated to indulge himself in disparaging the God of Israel. Moreover, his dispute with the Israelite was the very occasion of his blaspheming God. Conceiving that he was injuriously treated by the Israelite, he was not satisfied with reviling him, but must revile his religion also, and his God. This is what was accustomed to be done in the days of old, when the heathen blasphemed the name of God on account of David's misconduct: and the same is done continually in the present day: men cast the blame of every evil, whether real or supposed, which they see among Christians, on Christianity itself. They make the Gospel answerable for all that profess it: which is just as absurd, as to condemn Christ and his Apostles, together with Christianity itself, for the treachery of Judas. Had this man been of a meek and quiet spirit, forbearing and forgiving, he would never have yielded to such a paroxysm of wrath: and, if he had cultivated the smallest regard for the Most High God, he would never have waged open war against him by his blasphemy and profaneness.

The consequences of them proved fatal to him—

Little did he think what would be the issue of those habits which he was so ready to indulge. The persons who heard his blasphemy, informed against him: and Moses, being as yet uninstructed by God how such iniquity was to be punished, sought direction from him: and was told that "the persons who heard him should lay their hands upon his head," and that "all the congregation of Israel should stone him." And from thence it was made a standing law that every similar offence should be visited with the same punishment. It was too late for the offender now to make excuses: the word was passed; the guilt was contracted; the sentence was fixed. It is thus that our evil habits also, if not repented of, will terminate, and we shall begin to bewail our misery when it is past a remedy: Even in this world many bring distress and ignominy both on themselves and families by their unhallowed tempers and their unbridled appetites: and in the world to come, every man, however light he may make of sin now, shall find it a burden too heavy to be borne.

The advice which we would suggest from this subject, is, to check evil,

1. In ourselves—

It is said of strife, that it is "like the letting out of water," which having once made a breach in a bank, soon defies all endeavors to restrain it, and inundates the whole country. It is thus with sin of every kind: when it is once permitted to act, none can tell where it will stop. Impiety is generally to be found in the train of ungoverned passions: and, from "walking in the way of sinners," it is no uncommon thing to "sit in the seat of the scornful." Let us be aware of this, and endeavor to oppose sin in its very first rise; ever remembering, that, "if he who despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses, a much sorer punishment awaits us," if we become the slaves and victims of any evil propensity.

2. In others—

The people gave information of the man's profaneness, and Moses, by God's direction, gave orders for the whole assembly to unite in executing judgment on him. This draws a profitable line of distinction for us. The magistrate did not use any compulsory measures to make the man an Israelite; but he did interfere to prevent his God and his religion from being exposed to derision. This is the proper province of a magistrate; he must not use the power of the sword to make men religious; but he may use it to keep them from being openly profane: and it is the duty of every man to lend his aid in this matter, and to co-operate for the maintenance of external order and decorum If this were a subject taken either for an Assize Sermon, or a sermon for the suppression of vice, this idea should be enlarged upon. Let us then not only "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove," and, if possible, suppress them.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 25:9-11

 

DISCOURSE 141

THE JUBILEE A TYPE OF THE GOSPEL

Leviticus 25:9-11. Then shall you cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound, on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall you make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you.

IN order that our Lord's descent from Judah and from David should be clear and acknowledged, it was necessary that the various tribes and families should be kept distinct. With this view many ordinances were appointed for the continuing of every man's inheritance in his own family A difficulty on this subject having occurred, God himself decided it, and grounded a new law on that decision. See Numbers 36:6-7. This seems to have been the primary intent of that ordinance which is mentioned in the text. A variety of circumstances in a length of time might produce alienations of property; and if this had been suffered to continue, a confusion of the families and tribes would have at last ensued. To prevent this therefore, God commanded that on every fiftieth year every inheritance should revert to its original possessor. This season was called the Jubilee; which, while it answered many other important purposes, served in a very eminent manner to typify the Gospel.

We may Observe a very strict agreement between the jubilee and the Gospel:

I. In the time and manner of their proclamation—

The jubilee was proclaimed with the sound of trumpets—

The tendency of great reverses of fortune is, in many instances at least, to produce a torpor of mind, and a stupid indifference to the things we once highly valued. Hence it was but too probable, that they, who had alienated their inheritance and reduced themselves to the lowest ebb of misery, might sink into such a state of ignorance or indolence, as to let the period appointed for their restoration pass unnoticed. To prevent this, God commanded the trumpets to be sounded throughout all the land; that so the attention of all being awakened, and their spirits exhilarated, every individual might be stirred up to claim the privileges to which he was entitled.

The precise time on which this sacred year commenced, was "the day of atonement"—

The day of atonement was the most solemn season in the whole year: the people were required to afflict their souls for sin; and peculiar sacrifices were to be offered for the iniquities of the whole nation. It should seem at first sight that this was an unfit season for the proclamation of such joyful tidings; but it was indeed the fittest season in the whole year: for, when could masters and creditors be so properly called upon to exercise mercy, as when they themselves had been obtaining mercy at the hands of a reconciled God? Or when could debtors and slaves so reasonably be expected to receive their liberties with gratitude, and improve them with care, as when they had been bewailing the sins, by which, in all probability, they had been deprived of them?

The Gospel also is to be publicly proclaimed in every place—

One would have imagined that it were quite sufficient for God once to make known the way in which he would pardon sinners, and that from that time every sinner would of his own accord exert himself to obtain the offered mercy. But experience proves that our bereavement of Heaven is not felt as any evil; our bondage to sin is not at all lamented; and, if no means were used to awaken men's attention to their misery, and to stir them up to embrace the blessings of salvation, the greater part of mankind would rest satisfied with their state, until the opportunity for improving it was irrevocably lost. God therefore sends forth his servants to "preach the Gospel to every creature," and commands them to "lift up their voice as a trumpet."

This too has its origin in the great atonement—

If, as some contend, the year of our Lord's death was the year of Jubilee, the coincidence was indeed very singular and important. But, however this might be, certain it is, that, "without shedding of blood, there could be no remission;" nor, until our Lord had expiated the sins of the whole world, could the Gospel be universally proclaimed. But no sooner was his sacrifice offered, than God was reconciled to his guilty creatures; and from that time must the commission given to his Apostles be dated. A very few days had elapsed, when they sounded the Gospel trumpet in the ears of that very people who had crucified the Lord of glory; and had the happiness to find thousands at a time "brought from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Thus clearly was the connection marked between the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the deliverance of sinners that was purchased by it.

But the agreement between the two is yet more manifest,

II. In the blessings conveyed by them—

The privileges imparted by the jubilee were many and of great value—

There was, in the first place, an universal exemption from every kind of agricultural labor. None were either to reap the produce of the last year, or to sow their land with a view to a future crop; but all were to gather from day to day what had grown spontaneously; and every person had an equal right to all the fruits of the earth –7, 11. A better mode of improving their time was provided for them: public instruction was to be given to all, men, women, and children: in order that none, however their education had been neglected, might remain ignorant of God, and his law Deuteronomy 31:10-13. Now also debts, in whatever way they had been contracted, and to whatever amount, were to be freely remitted Deuteronomy 15:1-2. But, besides these privileges which were common to other sabbatical years, there were others peculiar to the year of jubilee. If any persons had, by their own voluntary act, or by the inexorable severity of some creditor, been sold, they were to receive their liberty, and to be restored to their families, as soon as ever the appointed trumpets should sound 9–11. Yes, if they had formerly possessed an inheritance in the land, they were to be instantly reinstated in the possession of it 0, 28; so that in a moment they reverted to their former condition, with all the advantage of their dear-bought experience.

Analogous to these are the blessings imparted by the Gospel—

Varying their order, we shall first mention the forgiveness of sins. Though the debt we owe to God exceeds all possible calculation, it is all freely, and forever remitted, as soon as ever the Gospel trumpet is heard, and its glad tidings are welcomed to the soul Acts 10:43. Our bondage to sin and Satan is reversed; so that nothing shall ever lead us captive, provided we assert our liberty, and claim our privilege Romans 6:14; being made free by Christ, we shall be free indeed John 8:36. And, notwithstanding we have sold out heavenly inheritance, and alienated it for a thing of nothing, yet are we called to take possession of it: we are restored to our father's house; we are brought again into the family of saints and angels; and, with our title to Heaven, have the enjoyment of it renewed Ephesians 2:19. Now too are we commanded to rest from all the works of the law, and from all the works of the flesh; and, every one of us, to exist from day to day upon the bounties of divine grace Hebrews 4:10; Galatians 2:20. As we sowed them not, so neither are we to reap them as our own, but to receive them on the same footing as the poorest and meanest of the human race; all of us being alike pensioners on the divine bounty. Nor are we to lay up in store of what God gives us; but every day to gather our daily bread. To all these blessings is added that of divine instruction: as we are taught how to improve our leisure, so are eyes given us to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to understand 1 John 2:20; and henceforth it is to be our daily labor to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Such are the blessings bestowed by the Gospel; nor can any unworthiness in us deprive us of them, provided we thankfully accept them as the purchase of Christ's blood, and the gifts of his grace For most congregations it would be more edifying to pass over briefly what was common to the sabbatical years, and to insist only on the blessings peculiar to the year of Jubilee, namely, deliverance from bondage, and restoration to one's inheritance.

Infer,

1. In what way it is that sinners are to be converted to God—

The priest might have expostulated with the Jewish debtors or bond-slaves on the folly of their past conduct; but it was the sound of the trumpet alone that could bring them to liberty. So we may represent to sinners the evil of their past ways, and denounce against them the judgments threatened in the word of God; but it is the sweet voice of the Gospel alone that will enable them to throw off their yoke, and lead them to the enjoyment of eternal glory. This is told us by the prophet; who, speaking of the conversion of the world in the latter day, says, "In that day the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come who were ready to perish, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem Isaiah 27:13." O that this were duly considered by all who go forth as the Lord's ambassadors! It is not to preach a scanty morality that we are called; but to publish the glad tidings of a full and free salvation; a salvation founded in the blood of Christ, and suited to those who are weeping for their sins. Behold then, "this is the accepted time; this is the day of salvation:" now the trumpet sounds in our ears; let us all arise, and bless our Deliverer; and improve the privileges so richly bestowed upon us. Then, when the last trumpet shall sound, and the time, which God has fixed for the redemption of his purchased possession, "shall be fully come," we shall be claimed by him as his property, his portion, his inheritance forever.

2. How solicitous is God to counteract the folly and wickedness of man!

A subordinate end of the Jubilee was, to counteract the cupidity of some, and the prodigality of others. But it is a very principal end of the Gospel to remedy the miseries, which men have entailed upon themselves. Well might God have said to the whole human race, "You have sown the wind, and you shall reap the whirlwind:" but instead of that, He says, "You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money Isaiah 52:3;" "I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner: turn you, turn you, why will you die?" Let not then these gracious declarations reach our ears in vain; Behold, "the year of the Lord's redeemed is come Isaiah 63:1;" "the perfect law of liberty" is now proclaimed: the Lord himself now preaches "deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound Luke 4:18-19;" he says to the prisoners, "Go forth and show yourselves." The Lord grant that none may put from them these words of life, or receive this grace of God in vain!

3. How blessed are they who embrace the glad tidings of the Gospel!

We can easily conceive the blessedness of one, who is in an instant restored from poverty and cruel bondage to the possession of liberty and affluence. But who can estimate aright the happiness of those who are freed from the curses of the law, the fears of death, the bondage of sin, and the damnation of Hell? Who can fully appreciate the joy of a trembling and condemned sinner, who by the sound of the Gospel is enabled to call God his father, and Heaven his rightful inheritance? Well does the Psalmist, in reference to this very ordinance or the Jubilee, exclaim, "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound Psalm 89:15." Surely there is no state on earth to be compared with this. May we seek it as our supreme felicity; and may we all enjoy it as an foretaste of Heaven!

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 25:20-22

 

DISCOURSE 142

THE SABBATICAL YEAR

Leviticus 25:20-22. And if you shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then will I command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And you shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in you shall eat of the old store.

MANY of the commands of God to his people of old appear to be mere arbitrary impositions, without any other use than that of subjecting their wills to his. But I doubt whether there be one single law that will fairly bear this construction. The reasons of many are not known to us, and perhaps were not fully understood by the Jews themselves: yet we cannot doubt but that if God had been pleased to explain them fully to us, we should have seen as much wisdom and goodness displayed in those which are at present unintelligible to us, as in others which we understand. The command to give rest to the land every seventh year, when the extent of country was so disproportionate to its population, must appear exceeding strange to those who have not duly considered it. The generality of persons would account for it perhaps from its being conducive to the good of the land, which would be too much exhausted, if it were not permitted occasionally to lie fallow. But this could not be the reason: for then a seventh part of the land would most probably have been kept fallow every year, and not the whole at once. Moreover, it would not have been suffered to produce anything which would tend to counteract the main design; whereas all the seed that had been accidentally scattered on it during the harvest, was suffered to grow up to maturity. Nor can the idea of lying fallow be applied with any propriety to the olive-yards and vineyards, which, though not trimmed and pruned that year, were suffered to bring all their fruit to maturity. We must look then to some other source for the reasons of this appointment. Those which appear the most probable and most important, it is the object of this discourse to set before you.

The ordinance itself is more fully stated at the beginning of the chapter –7. (Read it.) See also Exodus 23:10-11; and it was given,

I. To remind them that God was the great Proprietor of all—

In the verse following the text. God says to his people, "The laud is mine." And it was his: he had dispossessed the former inhabitants, and had given it to his own people, assigning to every tribe its precise district, and to every family their proper portion. This they would have been likely to forget in the space of a few years: and therefore, as the great Proprietor, he specified the terms on which he admitted them to the possession of his land, reserving to himself the tithes and first-fruits, and requiring the whole to be left uncultivated and common every seventh year. Thus the people would be reminded from time to time that they were only tenants, bound to use the land agreeably to the conditions imposed on them.

Instructive as this thought was to them, it is no less so to us. Indeed, we should never for one moment lose the remembrance of it. "The whole world is mine," says God, "and the fullness thereof Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:12." Nay more, our very "bodies and spirits are his 1 Corinthians 6:20;" and consequently, all that we are, and have, should be used for him, and be entirely at his disposal. Of what incalculable benefit would it be to have our minds duly impressed with this truth! How would it lay the axe to the root of all those evils which arise within us from the diversity of our states and conditions in the world! Pride in the attainment of earthly things, anxiety in the possession, and sorrow in the loss of them, would be greatly moderated: Instead of being agitated with the keen sensibilities of an owner, we should feel only a subordinate interest, like that of a steward: we should be neither elated with prosperity, nor depressed with adversity, but in every change should be satisfied, if only we were sure that we had done our duty, and that no blame attached to us.

II. To keep them from earthly-mindedness—

When our corn and wine are multiplied, we are apt to be thinking how we may treasure them up, rather than how we shall employ them to the honor of God. To counteract this sordid disposition, God provided, that, when he had given his people the richest abundance, they should think only of the temperate and grateful use of it, and not of amassing wealth. By this ordinance he said to them, what he says to us also, "If riches increase, set not your hearts upon them Psalm 62:10." He would have us live above this vain world; and not, when running for such a prize, be "loading our feet with thick clay Habakkuk 2:6." If we could have the reasons of God's dispensations fully revealed to us, I have no doubt but that we should find that he has this end in view, when he sends us one bereavement after another: he does it, I say, that we may learn to "set our affections on things above, and not on things on the earth".

III. To lead them to trust in him—

Like the rich fool in the Gospel, they would have been ready to say, "Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry." But God is jealous of his own honor. He will not endure that we should "say to gold, You are my hope; or to the fine gold, You are my confidence." Indeed, he not only denounces against such conduct his heaviest judgments, but sets forth in most beautiful terms its practical effects Jeremiah 17:5-6; The cares of this world are as thorns and briers, which choke the seed which God has sown in our hearts, and prevent it from bringing forth any fruit to perfection. They also weigh down the spirits, and oftentimes prove an insupportable burden to the soul: whereas the person who has learned to confide in God, is always happy: "he knows in whom he has believed," and is assured that "he shall want no manner of thing that is good." Hence David not merely affirms that such persons are happy, but appeals to God himself respecting it; "O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you." This was the state to which God designed to bring his people of old; and in it he would have all his people live, even to the end of the world. "I would have you," says he, "without carefulness:" "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

IV. To make them observant of his providential care—

When they saw that the sabbatical year was at hand, how forcibly would they be struck with the provision which God had made for it! They would have "three years" to live on the produce of one single year Commentators appear to me to mistake in supposing that the sabbatical year began, like their civil year, in autumn: for then, the sowing and reaping being brought within one year, the loss of that whole time would be felt only for two years: but if their year began, like their ecclesiastical year, in the spring, then they would of course not sow in the sixth year, nor reap in the eighth year; because they could not reap or sow in the seventh year: consequently, they could only sow in the eighth year what they were to reap in the ninth. The language of the 22d verse seems to require this interpretation. Next to this interpretation, I should prefer that of making the words "three years" to signify "one year, and parts of two." But when they saw their barns overflowing with the produce of the earth, and their presses bursting out with new wine, methinks they would say, This is the hand of God: we will love him; we will serve him; we will trust in him: we will show, that we are not insensible of all his love and kindness.

Such sentiments and conduct would tend exceedingly to exalt and honor God; and would conduce very much to the happiness of all. We are apt to think that there is great comfort annexed to the idea of wealth and plenty: but the comfort which a poor man has in receiving his pittance as from the hand of God, far outweighs all that the rich ever felt in their unsanctified abundance: The more we enjoy God in the creature, the more we enjoy the creature itself.

V. To typify the felicity of Heaven—

Canaan was an acknowledged type of Heaven: and this ordinance fully represented the blessedness there enjoyed. All the land was common during the seventh year; and every person in it, whether rich or poor, a native or a foreigner, had an equal right to everything in it. None were to assert an exclusive claim to anything: none were to reap or treasure up the fruits of the earth: but all were to participate with equal freedom the bounties of Heaven. What a delightful picture does this give us of that blessed state, in which there will be no distinction of persons, no boast of exclusive rights, no want of anything to the children of God: but all will have a fullness of joy at God's right hand, and rivers of pleasure for evermore!: Even in the Church below there was a little of this, when the disciples had all things common, and none said that anything he possessed was his own; but in the Church above, this will universally prevail, and endure to all eternity.

This subject, in its different bearings, affords ample matter of instruction to,

1. The doubtful and undetermined Christian—

The Jews were required to sacrifice their worldly prospects for the Lord: and were threatened, that, if they did not obey this ordinance, God would expel them from the land. This threatening too was executed in the Babylonish captivity, according to the number of sabbatical years which they had neglected to observe Leviticus 26:33-35, with 2 Chronicles 36:20-21. Shall Christians then be backward to exercise self-denial, or to sacrifice their temporal interests for their Lord and Savior? Let them not hesitate between duty and interest: the calls, though apparently opposite, are indeed the same: if we sacrifice anything for the Lord, he will repay us an hundred-fold. If we will lose our lives for his sake, we shall find them: but if we will save them here, we shall lose them in the eternal world.

2. The careful and worldly-minded Christian—

If the Jews, whose principal rewards were of a temporal nature, were taught not to place their affections on earthly things, how much less should we! It is really a disgrace to Christianity, when persons who profess godliness are as anxious after this world as those who have no prospects beyond. Yet how common is this character! Happy would it be for them if they would study our Lord's sermon on the mount; and learn from the very birds of the air to live without anxiety for the morrow Matthew 6:25-30. Not that they should neglect their earthly business, whatever it may be: but, in the habit and disposition of their minds, they should "be content with such things as they have," and realize the prayer which they profess to approve, "Give us day by day our daily bread!"

3. The fearful and unbelieving Christian—

On the command being given respecting the observance of the sabbatical year, some are represented as asking, "What shall we eat the seventh year?" Now thus it is with many Christians, who are anticipating evils, and questioning with themselves what they shall do under such or such circumstances? and fearing, that, if they proceed in the way of duty, they shall not be able to stand their ground. But the answer to such persons is, "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." We have no right to anticipate evils; at least, not so to anticipate them as to distress ourselves about them. All that we need to inquire, is, What is the way of duty? True, to carnal minds we may appear to act absurdly, and to thwart our own interests: but the path of duty will always be found the path of safety. God is the same God as ever he was: and, if he call us to exercise faith on him, he will never disappoint us. Justly did Jesus reprove his disciples for fearing, when they had him in the same vessel with them. Let us remember, that he is embarked with us, and that they who trust in him "shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end."

4. The humble and believing Christian—

Did you ever, when exercising faith in God, find yourself disappointed of your hope? Did he ever leave you or forsake you? If the command have appeared formidable at a distance. have you not always found that your strength was increased according to your day, and that His grace was sufficient for you? Have you not found also, that, though your obedience might be self-denying, it has always been productive of happiness? In short, are you not living witnesses of the truth and faithfulness of your Lord? Go on then, and be examples of a holy self-denying obedience. Prefer the performance of duty before worldly prospects, how lucrative soever they may appear: and let it be seen in you. what it is to "live by faith on the Son of God, who has loved you, and given himself for you."

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 26:40-42

 

DISCOURSE 143

GOD'S PROMISES TO PENITENTS

Leviticus 26:40-42. If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, end that also they have walked contrary unto me: and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and alto my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

WE are apt to feel a jealousy respecting the divine mercy, as though a free and full exhibition of it would cause men to make light of sin. But the inspired writers seem never apprehensive of any such effects. In the passage before us God has set forth his promises to his people, if they should continue obedient to them; and the most tremendous threatenings, in case they should become disobedient. Yet even then, though he foreknew and foretold that they would depart from him and bring upon themselves his heavy judgments, he told them, that, if even in their lowest state they should return to him with humiliation and contrition, he would restore them to his favor, and to the land from whence they should have been expelled. What encouragement the pious Nehemiah derived from these declarations, may be seen in the prayer he offered: in which he reminded God of them, and sought the accomplishment of them to his nation in a season of deep distress Nehemiah 1:5-9. May the contemplation of them be attended with similar effects to our souls, while we consider,

I. What is that repentance which God requires—

We find in the Scriptures a great variety of marks whereby true repentance may be known: but we shall confine our attention to those which are set forth in the text. It is there required,

1. That we should acknowledge our guilt—

Our fathers' sins, as well as our own, are just grounds of national humiliation: in the repentance that is purely personal, our own sins, of course, are the chief, if not the exclusive, sources of sorrow and contrition. But our sins should be viewed in their true light, not as mere violations of our duty to man, but as acts of hostility against God. Sin is "a walking contrary to God," or, in other words, a willful, persevering, habitual opposition to his holy will: nor do we ever appreciate our own character aright, until we see our whole lives to have been one constant scene of rebellion against God: Even adultery and murder, though so directly militating against the welfare of society, were considered by David as deriving their chief aggravations from this source; "Against You, You

2. That we should justify God in whatever judgments he may inflict—

Though we think ourselves at liberty to "walk contrary to God," we do not consider him as at liberty to "walk contrary to us," but murmur and repine if at any time he punish us for our iniquities. But whatever judgments he may have inflicted on us, we must say, "You have punished us less than our iniquities deserved Ezra. 9:13. ": We should even view his denunciations of wrath in the future world as no more than the just desert of sin; and be ready to acknowledge the justness of the sentence, if we ourselves be consigned over to everlasting misery on account of our sins: I know that, when we consult only our proud reasonings on the subject, it is hard to feel entirely reconciled to the declarations of God respecting it: but a sight of sin in its various aggravations will silence us in a moment, and compel us to cry out, "Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments Revelation 16:7. !"

3. That we should be thankful, for any dispensation that has been the means of "humbling our uncircumcised hearts"—

This is one of the most decisive evidences of true repentance. Nothing but real contrition can ever produce this. We may submit to afflictive dispensations with a considerable degree of patience and resignation, even though we have no just view of our guilt before God: but we can never be thankful for them, until we see that sin is the greatest of all evils, and that everything is a mercy which leads us to repent of sin. Until we are brought to this, we can never be truly said to "accept the punishment of our iniquity." We must accept it as a fatherly chastisement, a token of love, a blessing in disguise: we must say from our hearts, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted "

These marks sufficiently characterize the repentance which God requires. We now proceed to mark,

II. The connection between that and the exercise of mercy—

It is strange that any should imagine repentance to be meritorious in the sight of God. Our blessed Lord has told us, that obedience itself can lay no claim to merit; and that "when we have done all that is commanded us, we should confess ourselves unprofitable servants." Who does not see that an acknowledgment of a debt is a very different thing from a discharge of that debt; and that, if a condemned criminal be ever so sorry for his offences, and acknowledge ever so sincerely his desert of punishment, his sorrow cannot cancel the debt which he owes to the laws of his country; much less can it give him a claim to great rewards? It is not then on a ground of merit, that God pardons a repenting sinner. Nevertheless there is a connection between repentance and pardon: there is a fitness and suitableness in the exercise of mercy towards the penitent;

1. On God's part—

Repentance glorifies God, as much as any action of a creature can glorify him. It expresses an approbation of his law, and of the penalties annexed to it: it exalts the goodness and mercy of God, by the hope which it entertains of ultimate acceptance with him. There is not any perfection of the Deity which repentance does not honor: Hence Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him Jos. 7:19."

2. On the part of the penitent himself—

If a man were pardoned without repentance, he would feel little, if any, obligation to God: and would be ready to commit the same iniquities again, from an idea that there was no great enormity in them. But when a person is truly penitent, he admires and adores the riches of that grace that is offered him in the Gospel: and, having tasted the bitterness of sin, he is desirous to flee from it, as from the face of a serpent.

Hence it is that so great a stress is laid on repentance, in the text: "If they be humbled, then will I pardon:" then I can do it consistently with my own honor; and then will they make a suitable improvement of the mercy given unto them.—It will be profitable yet further to inquire into,

III. The ground and measure of that mercy which penitents may expect—

The expressions in the text are very peculiar. Thrice is mention made of that covenant which God made with Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob. And why is this repetition used, but to show that that covenant is the ground and measure of all God's mercies towards us? As far as it related to the Jewish nation, it assured to them the enjoyment of the promised land. But it relates also to the spiritual children of Abraham; and assures to them all the blessings of grace and glory. It is that covenant whereby God engaged that" in Abraham's Seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed." Of that covenant Christ was the Mediator and Surety. He undertook to fulfill the conditions of it, that we might partake of its benefits. These conditions he did fulfill: "he made his soul an offering for sin;" and now claims the accomplishment of the promise, that "he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." This covenant God remembers on behalf of penitent transgressors; and all his engagements contained in it he will perform. It is not because penitents deserve mercy, that he will impart it to them, but because he has promised it in that covenant: and for the very same reason will he impart unto them all the blessings of salvation. All the riches of his glory shall be given them, because they lay hold of that covenant, and look to him to approve himself faithful to his own engagements.

As an improvement of this subject, we would suggest to you two things:

1. Be thankful that you are yet within the reach of mercy—

The state represented in the text is such as might be thought altogether hopeless. But God says. "If then they be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity, He will even then remember his covenant." Surely this shows us that none should despair of mercy, but that, whatever be our state of guilt or misery, we may yet "cry unto God, even as Jonah did, from the belly of Hell Jon. 2:2." But how many are there who are now beyond the reach of mercy! God does not say. that, if we cry unto him in another world, he will regard us. No: we shall then cry in vain for "a drop of water to cool our tongues." O that we might improve this day of grace, this day of salvation!.

2. Have especial respect unto the Covenant of Grace—

It is to that that God looks: and to that should we look also. It is that alone which is the real ground of all our hopes. This matter is by no means sufficiently understood among us: we do not consider, as we ought, the stupendous plan of salvation revealed to us in the Gospel. If we saw more clearly the nature and necessity of the covenant which God entered into with his only dear Son for the redemption of a ruined world, we should form a far better estimate of the malignity of sin, and of our obligations to the mercy of God. Beloved brethren, remember this covenant, both for the humiliation and encouragement of your souls. Independent of that, you must expect nothing: but by pleading it before God. you shall obtain what "neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived".